Disney’s Contemporary Resort is a deluxe resort at Walt Disney World located just steps away from Magic Kingdom. Everyone knows the building from its unique design and from the fact that it sits literally on top of the monorail line, but does it measure up to Disney’s other deluxe resorts? Read on to find out!
The Basics and Booking Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Contemporary Resort is a deluxe level hotel at Walt Disney World along the Magic Kingdom monorail, and connected to Magic Kingdom by a walking path. Deluxe resorts are Disney’s best hotels. If you’re considering Contemporary, you may want to read some of our other posts. We have a ranking of the Disney World deluxe resorts. We also have a guide to all the hotels of Walt Disney World. And here are our reviews of all the deluxe resorts (links open in new tabs):
Review of Disney’s Contemporary Resort (you are here)
For 2019, Contemporary rooms start at $461 per night (photo below is pre-tax). This compares to $657 at Grand Floridian and $546 at Polynesian.
We booked our Main Tower Club Level Theme Park View room through our choice Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, Lauren Quirk of Enchanted Escapes Travel. We paid $713.70 per night on an Annual Passholder offer rate. The rack rate for the room was $892 per night, which meant our offer rate was about 20% off.
Between standard offers and maybe discounted prices at Expedia or Priceline, there may be times when rates get down to around $400. Alternatively, you can rent Disney Vacation Club points to stay at neighboring Bay Lake Tower.
Guests at Disney hotels—including Contemporary—get a wide range of perks, including Extra Magic Hours and advance FastPass+ booking. While it’s a good hotel (as you’ll see) the real reason to stay at Contemporary in our mind is the location. You can get fantastic theme park views and have a walking path to Magic Kingdom.
Arrival and Check-In at Contemporary Resort
We arrived via Uber from our nearby apartment. Most guests will arrive via Disney’s Magical Express shuttle service from Orlando International Airport. There was no line to check in, but our room wasn’t ready. As we were Club Level guests, the Cast Member escorted us up to the Atrium Club - the Club Level lounge at Contemporary Resort.
If you check in online, or you arrive early, and your room isn’t ready, you can leave your bags with bell services and easily walk to Magic Kingdom. Our room was ready at 1:08PM, well in advance of the 3PM technical check-in time.
Contemporary Resort Grounds and Theming
There are four buildings on the Contemporary campus. The Main Tower is the building you’re probably most familiar with. It houses the restaurants, stores, some hotel rooms, and is the building the monorail goes through.
The South Garden Wing is a three floor structure next to the Main Tower that houses the lower-priced rooms (same quality rooms, worse location). Also on the south end is a Convention Center, which we won’t be discussing any further.
Finally, Bay Lake Tower is a 16-story Disney Vacation Club property located just north of the Contemporary’s Main Tower. Technically Bay Lake Tower is “Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort,” but we’re not going to discuss it at all in this review, as most of its amenities are restricted to its own guests.
There are two pools at Contemporary, both behind the hotel overlooking Bay Lake. (Note: Bay Lake is the lake behind Contemporary, not to be confused with the Seven Seas Lagoon that Magic Kingdom sits on. Bay Lake is beautiful, but nothing notable sits in view on it.)
The simply named Contemporary Feature Pool is the feature pool, and has a water slide and play area.
The Bay Pool is smaller but sits more directly on Bay Lake.
Most of the action on the Main Tower occurs on the fourth floor. This is where you’ll find restaurants, shopping, the monorail entrance, and the Observation Deck. The Observation Deck is a nice little “secret” spot to grab a view of Magic Kingdom. The space itself is not attractive, but it does have a decent view.
I don’t want to dedicate too much time to the theme of the Contemporary. The name of the hotel speaks for itself—the hotel has always tried to maintain a Modern, functional aesthetic.
There is scattered artwork, lots of geometric patterning, and the fourth floor is the gigantic, open space with the remainder of the floors around it.
The look is definitely not for everyone, and maybe especially for kids it may fall a little short (while kids will go nuts at, say, Art of Animation). That said, we like Contemporary for its functionality, particularly its location. The theme is fine and, to most, inoffensive, so let it be.
Our Contemporary Main Tower Theme Park View Room
The Contemporary rooms were last refurbished in 2013, putting them in the same era as BoardWalk Inn and Grand Floridian.
There’s no doubt that Contemporary’s feel is “in” right now. You honestly might not realize the age of these rooms if I didn’t tell you, unless you were familiar with the trends in Disney room design (e.g. presence of carpet, lack of USB ports).
A good example is this USB hub.
I found the same item terribly out of place in BoardWalk Inn, but it fits right in with the Contemporary rooms. I’d definitely prefer they update the electronic fixtures (the desks have LAN ports but no USB ports!!), but at least nothing looks out of place.
The bathroom was a bit of an issue. I like the design, but in some parts it’s painfully nonfunctional.
First, the good—sliding doors and a separate space for the toilet.
But there were three bad aspects. The lighting in the bathroom was really insufficient. Let’s be clear—neither of us is a diva. I look like I get dressed in the dark every day. But even I immediately felt like the bathroom was dark.
The sinks were a bigger issue. They’re a bit awkward to use because they’re a little short. Worse, though, is the square design is way too flat. Things don’t move toward the drain particularly well, and the sink collects debris (e.g. loose hair, anything you brush out of your teeth).
And if you look again at the sinks, you’ll notice there’s almost no counter space.
Besides those bathroom issues, the room is a treat. There is great desk space, as well as a large TV and some nice artistic touches.
This lamp looked like it might tip over…another sign of how Disney doesn’t always maintain their rooms perfectly (or is this just contemporary design?).
But the most important thing is definitely the view! Check out that view!! We have a post Comparing Theme Park Views of Magic Kingdom at the Monorail Resorts if you’re set on a special view.
With no reservations, I can confidently say that a Main Tower - Theme Park View room at Contemporary is a worthy bucket list item. It’s inarguably the best view on property, and the rooms are imperfect but still among the better rooms at Walt Disney World.
Location & Transportation at Contemporary Resort
We’ll first cover transportation to the parks and Disney Springs before covering the resorts that are easily accessible from Contemporary.
Getting from Contemporary to the Parks and Disney Springs
From Contemporary, you’re a ten-minute walk from the Magic Kingdom. During peak times, the walkway can get crowded and a line at the single security point will develop, but these are minor issues you can plan around. (If you’ve mastered Magic Kingdom rope drop strategy, you’ll arrive early enough to avoid any long security line.)
Before we go on, I want to emphasize how much I value this walking path. Magic Kingdom is a transportation nightmare. It’s the only park you cannot Uber or drive directly to, which means Disney transportation owns the day.
From all resorts outside the Magic Kingdom area, you’ll be relying on bus transportation to get to Magic Kingdom. This can go—and often does go—smoothly. But we’ve also had multiple trips between Magic Kingdom and other hotels that took 90 minutes.
The monorail and boats can be a bit better, but they’re far from perfect. Disney’s monorail system has many issues. In one recent example, guests at the Contemporary (ironic, I know) were just not allowed onto passing monorails with no explanation:
And with boats you’re always counting on frequency and capacity. The only way to guarantee convenient access to the most popular theme park in the world is to stay at Contemporary Resort. By the way—you also can take the monorail from Contemporary to Magic Kingdom, but it’s a longer trip of about 15 minutes. Coming back to Contemporary, you’re the first stop.
For every stellar perk, there’s a big drawback. Getting to Epcot from the Magic Kingdom resorts is unnecessarily complicated. From Contemporary, you’ll need to plan for around 30 minutes because you need to take a monorail one stop to Transportation and Ticket Center and then transfer to the Epcot monorail.
I might be in the minority, but I don’t really find it acceptable for a deluxe resort to not at least have bus transportation to Epcot. Now that the buses post wait times, I’d much rather plan to take a 10-minute bus ride to Epcot than have to play the monorail waiting game. Unfortunately, Disney feels the monorail is sufficient.
To Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Disney Springs, Typhoon Lagoon, and Blizzard Beach you’ll rely on bus. Contemporary sometimes shares buses with Wilderness Lodge, particularly during the middle of the day. We always recommend you also consider using Uber at Walt Disney World.
Visiting Other Resorts from Contemporary
Via the monorail, you can easily access Polynesian Village and Grand Floridian. Both of these resorts have excellent dining and drinking options, as well as enjoyable decor, so we recommend finding time to visit them if you can.
Via boat (from the docks behind Contemporary) you can access Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness. We’re big fans of both of these properties and their restaurants, but boat transportation is slower and less frequent than the monorail. Consider making a dining reservation as one of these, but don’t feel too obligated to ride the boat around just to see them.
Food and Drink at Contemporary Resort
Contemporary has a pretty standard lineup of restaurants for a deluxe resort—one casual table service, one buffet, one signature table service, one quick service, one pool bar, and one regular bar. Additionally, it has its own coffee shop in the lobby. We’ll go through these briefly.
Keep in mind that you’re also just a monorail ride away from dining at Magic Kingdom, Grand Floridian, and Polynesian. You’re also a boat ride away from Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness, the latter home to the famed Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue.
Quick Service Food at Contemporary
I’ll begrudgingly concede that there are some decent deluxe resort quick service options around, and Contemporary has one. Contempo Cafe, located on the fourth floor next to Chef Mickey’s and Outer Rim Lounge, serves standard quick service options (breakfast of eggs, waffles etc.; later meals of burgers, pizza, etc.) from 6AM to midnight, which are impressive hours, though not as good as the 24-hour quick service options at Polynesian and Grand Floridian.
Additionally, The Sand Bar pool bar has a limited quick service menu during midday.
Table Service Restaurants at Contemporary Resort
Contemporary Resort has three table service restaurants. While we have some meals at some of these years ago, for all intents and purposes we might as well assume we’ve never eaten at any of them. We’ll briefly describe the restaurants. For reviews we recommend you check out Disney Tourist Blog, easyWDW, and Disney Food Blog.
Chef Mickey’s, located on the fourth floor next to Outer Rim Lounge and Contempo Cafe, is the famed character meal spot at Contemporary. Frankly, we’ve eaten there multiple times and know several reviewers agree with us that you’re basically just paying for the “Big Five” characters (Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, and Goofy) here.
A lot of people complain that the experience is overpriced, and some people even go so far as to mock people who pay for breakfast here (uncool, bro). Personally, we think it’s a great way to get some breakfast and get your character greetings out of the way so the little ones don’t have to wait an hour at a park to meet Mickey. Chef Mickey’s serves breakfast, brunch, and dinner. Reservations highly recommended.
The Wave…of American Flavors is the casual table service option at Contemporary, located on the first floor next to the lobby and serving a pretty standard and varied deluxe resort menu of steak, fish, chicken, and pasta.
California Grill is the “big deal” restaurant at Contemporary. Sitting atop the Main Tower, this signature option requires two table service credits for guests on a Disney Dining Plan. While the food, service, and ambiance are deservedly heralded, the real highlight of the experience is the view of Magic Kingdom. Check-in is located on the second floor.
Bars at Contemporary Resort
Besides the Sand Bar pool bar, there is one dedicated lounge at Contemporary Resort plus two restaurant lounges.
Outer Rim Lounge is a bar overlooking Bay Lake right next to Chef Mickey’s and Contempo Cafe on the fourth floor of the Contemporary. This is actually one of our least favorite hotel bars on property. The view is okay, but the open environment means you’re constantly dealing with the noise from the nearby restaurants. There’s just no intimacy.
The Wave Lounge is the bar associated with The Wave…of American Flavors restaurant. While it gets busy during peak dinner time, we prefer it to Outer Rim for its stylish vibe and—in the later hours—quiet environment. Mostly, we like Wave for a quick stop after Magic Kingdom closes and before we grab an Uber home.
The California Grill Lounge is a great way to get up to the 15th floor to see the view and what it’s all about…if you can get space. With the check-in area on the second floor, it’s common for the California Grill staff to deny access to anyone without a reservation.
Contemporary Grounds Coffee Shop
On the first floor just off the lobby is the Contemporary Grounds coffee shop. There’s nothing particularly special about this spot, and it presumably is there mainly to serve people exiting on the way to the park or heading over to the conference center.
Recreation at Contemporary Resort
Contemporary Resort has a relatively robust menu of activities. The schedule is pretty typical of the resorts—campfires, movies, pool games.
Around the pool area behind Contemporary, you’ll find a pool table, foosball table, giant checkers board, bags boards, volleyball net, and complimentary sand toys.
There are also nice shaded seats overlooking Bay Lake.
From the Boat Nook Marina, you can pay to rent boats for a variety of excursions, including fishing and fireworks cruises.
Shopping at Contemporary Resort
Contemporary has three stores—Fantasia, Fantasia Market, and BVG (Bay View Gifts). All three are located on the fourth floor, opposite the restaurants. Fantasia is the spot to find toys, pins, novelty t-shirts, and other trinkets
BVG sells nicer clothes and some housewares, in addition to having a random pastry case.
Fantasia Market, which we don’t have a picture of, is hidden on the corner of the fourth floor behind Fantasia and sells snacks, medicine, newspapers, and DVC gear.
Disney’s Contemporary Resort — Conclusions
Overall Rating — 5/5
We rank Contemporary as the top deluxe resort at Walt Disney World, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. With rooms starting at $461, you basically have a choice at that price point between walking to Magic Kingdom from Contemporary or walking to Epcot and Hollywood Studios from Yacht Club and Beach Club.
With Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opening in late 2019, there’s a good argument that the Boardwalk resorts win the location battle, at least for the next two years or so. But (as of this writing), we’re not there yet, and I’m not going to go down that rabbit hole (with questions such as “when you have to arrive three hours before park open does it really matter whether you walk 20 minutes or paid $15 for an Uber?”).
As it stands, Contemporary puts you at the doorstep of the most popular theme park in the world. Throw in respectable dining options at the property and even more within a short monorail ride, and things are looking good.
Finally, throw in the views from the Theme Park View rooms, and you’ve got a “must do” Disney experience. Heck, even the fourth floor’s public observation deck, with its overhead monorail and ugly metal chairs is one of the best views on property.
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