by Jackie Perrin
One of two original Disney World lodgings opened in 1971, Disney’s Contemporary Resort has long been a popular spot to stay for families, and since the debut of an onsite convention center in 1991, it’s been a busy base for business travelers, too. Built around an A-Frame and overlooking Cinderella Castle and Seven Seas Lagoon, the 655-room, 15-story Deluxe category resort touts easy access to the Magic Kingdom as its major selling point, though many say that spectacular theme park views come a close second. In less than 10 minutes, visitors can travel by walkway to the Magic Kingdom, or be on a monorail bound for the Transportation and Ticket Center and Epcot.
Unlike most other Deluxe Disney resorts, the hotel doesn’t offer a childcare center or a playground, but many travelers are happy to forgo these features in favor of convenience and tradition.
Along with a renovated feature pool (reopened in 2009), recent family-friendly improvements include a high-tech, quick-service restaurant, a re-imagined fine dining venue and a new interactive water sprayground. The splash pad is located on the main deck next to the Contemporary Marina and Sammy Duvall’s — a top-notch water sports center where your kids can learn to water ski, wakeboard and tube, or even soar over Bay Lake on a sky-high parasailing adventure.
Today, the Contemporary still features a monorail running through its center, and since 1995, the property has played host to Chef Mickey’s, perhaps the most endearing classic character experience in all of Walt Disney World. In 2013, rooms were refreshed to evoke a more modern feel and in 2009, Bay Lake Tower — a Disney Vacation Club property — opened next door, expanding the array of spacious spots to sleep.
Our Editor Loves
- Direct access to the Magic Kingdom
- Classic character meals onsite
- Top-notch watersports center
- All Inclusive Rates
- Theme Park
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Game Room
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
Renovated in 2013, rooms evoke a sophisticated and modern ambiance. Yellow and green accents complement an eye-pleasing primary black and white palate. You'll find the same luxurious beds and linens as at other Deluxe Disney Resorts, as well as some features unique to the property -- such as a glass top desk, modern lighting fixtures and two sleek sinks that are pretty to look at, but less practical to use due to their shallow capacity.
In addition to a 32-inch, flat-panel TV, an armoire and an alarm clock with an iPod docking station, rooms feature complimentary Wi-Fi, a Pack 'N Play, a mini-fridge and a coffee maker. Standard rooms (437 square feet) sleep up to five with a crib sleeper for guests under the age of 3, and also have two queen beds (or one king bed) and a daybed.
Approximately two-thirds of rooms are located in the Main Tower, overlooking the resort's monorail station and Main Concourse, while remaining rooms are situated in an adjacent Garden Wing, close to waterfront activities and laundry facilities. Standard rooms in the Garden Wing are less convenient to the monorail, restaurants, shops and services, but feature the lowest rates on the property and the same amenities as Tower accommodations, with the exception of a balcony. Tower room balconies have a table and two chairs, allowing guests to enjoy the starring attraction of this visionary property -- the view.
If you hope to see Cinderella Castle, expect to pay extra for the privilege. Tower rooms facing the Magic Kingdom are around $50 to $75 more per night than those with a Bay Lake view. If you're traveling with kids of any age, the "wow" factor may be worth the splurge. Guests of Bay Lake View rooms enjoy a front row seat to the nightly Electrical Water Pageant, so either way you go, the scenery is pretty spectacular. For a great perspective and a good night's sleep, request a room on Tower floors nine to eleven, away from the commotion of Chef Mickey's and the fourth-floor Concourse.
Parents who don't want to be prisoners of the dark after the kids crash for the night have a number of space-stretching options. If you have the extra cash, you can book connecting rooms or spring for a Garden or Tower suite with a parlor. Tower suites are located on one of two Concierge Levels, where guests enjoy extra perks like plush robes, personal assistance and access to a private lounge serving complimentary food and beverages.
Of course, you could always check-in to a Villa at the family-friendly Bay Lake Tower next door -- this home-away-from-home Disney Vacation Club property offers a playground, a kiddie pool and a Community Center, plus flexible room arrangements with a washer and dryer and a full kitchen.
So I did have some nervousness about my family's weeks stay here. I read a lot of reviews and was on the alert for many of the problems other reviewers had. This was my family's first visit to WDW and did my due diligence before booking at the Contemporary.
My family and I were very happy here! The room was spacious and clean. Housekeeping came everyday, timely and professional. We left daily tips and never had any issues. Our room was in the Garden Wing, 3rd Floor, overlooking parking lot, Monorail, and view of Magic Kingdom in the background. Though this was one of the less expensive rooms at the resort, I was very impressed and didn't feel like I was missing out on the "tower" rooms. Plus the garden wing has its own parking lot, which was very convenient since we drove to AK and DHS.
Being close and within walking distance to MK was awesome! Plus you get your own private bag checkers on the walkway, which saves time. The monorail was quick, convenient, and dependable during our week's stay. We took it to the Polynesian and to Epcot twice. The pool was decent, nothing fancy. But we only used it a couple of times. They did have plenty of lifeguards on duty.
California Grill was awesome, Contempo Cafe was average, though the burger was quite good. Room service was the only area where I was really disappointed with the resort. It was expensive, but you expect that with room service. But the food was really bad! Don't do it.
We also enjoyed the arcade and my husband even did a quick load of laundry, which was really convenient. I didn't try the Wave or Chef Mickey's.
Lastly, if you are using gift cards to pay down your balance on charges, make sure you check with the front desk. It was confusing with their policies of pre-authorizing credit cards, and didn't have any notice when they charged my credit card even though I had gift cards I wanted to apply. It all got sorted out, but it was a little annoying and inconvenient.
My friends and I thought it would be a great idea to spend our birthdays at Disney World. We were told by Disney reps that the Contemporary was the most convenient place to stay to access the Magic Kingdom. Upon check-in we were told the best way to get to the Magic Kingdom is to walk, which really surprised us. Once in our rooms we were disappointed; frayed carpet, chipped furniture, filthy shower curtains, no radio/alarm clock, and not one premium (HBO) channel on the cable tv. Generally a room in need of refurbishing. You pay 5 star resort prices for a 3 star room. So onto the Magic Kingdom. We first noticed why walking was the best way to get there; the monorail heading to the MK from the Contemporary does not stop at the Contemporary! You need to take it all the way around the route to get to the MK. So we took the walk in the 86 degree heat. It's not a long walk, but it is totally uncovered. Not terrible at the beginning of the day, but after a long morning walking around the park, it gets difficult. We looked for a boat or a bus to take back, since the monorail was clogged with crowds and STROLLERS, but there were none to be had. It was either walk or wait.
On the positive side, the beds are very comfortable. Housekeeping does an excellent job. The view from the terrace was wonderful. The Contempo Cafe offers good food at reasonable (for DIsney) prices. Glen L. from Schaumburg, IL is a rock star. He addressed many of our concerns and the terrible service we received from a night front desk manager, in a respectable, professional manner.
Main Pool Area
Refurbished in 2009, the resort's main pool features jets, sprayers and a winding tube waterslide. There's no kiddie pool, but a new interactive water sprayground is suitable for little ones. Staff-led activities include Disney Trivia contests, Family Picture Scavenger Hunts and Jammin' Pool Parties. Swim vests and towels are complimentary and swim diapers (available at Fantasia Market) are required for non-potty trained children. The pool is open 24 hours a day; lifeguards and slides are available 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Quiet Pool and Cabanas
Behind the Main Pool, a 3- to 5-foot-deep, round Quiet Pool provides peace and luxury. For $110 per half-day (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 3 to 7 p.m.) or $185 for a whole day, you can rent one of a handful of poolside cabanas. Each stylish shelter features two padded lounge chairs, a flat-screen TV, plush towels and a mini-fridge stocked with water and soda. DVD's are available upon request and private dining (407-824-1786) and poolside massages (407-824-3410) can be arranged. Call 407-939-7529 for advance or 407-824-2464 for same day reservations.
A white, sandy beach fronts Bay Lake and features a sand volleyball court and daily activities ranging from Jumbo Croquet to "What's in Your Beach Bag?" games. Lounge chairs and strategically hung hammocks are ideal for watching the nightly Electrical Water Pageant (10:10 p.m.). A campfire with S'mores is held select nights starting at 6 p.m., and family-friendly Disney films are shown nightly at 7 p.m.
Pirate and Pals Fireworks Cruise
Appropriate for the entire family, a two-hour Pirate-themed night lights adventure begins with a greeting from Captain Hook and a land-based buffet of snacks like cotton candy, chips, baked treats and trail mix. The journey continues with an onboard sing-along, storytelling and a trivia contest with Pirate Patch, followed by a viewing of the Wishes fireworks show. Reservations (407-939-7529) are a must. The cruise departs one hour and 15 minutes prior to scheduled fireworks on Fridays through Mondays. Cost: $59 adults; $34 ages 3 to 9; free for those under 3.
Boat Nook Marina
Check out sand toys, volleyballs and tennis racquets for free, and for a fee, you can borrow boats ranging from small SeaRaycers ($32 per 30 minutes, $45 per hour; must be 12 years old and 5-feet tall to operate) to Boston Whalers and Sun Trackers (both $45 per 30 minutes or $90 per hour). Boat Nook Marine is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; call 407-824-2464 for more information.
Sammy Duvall's Watersports Centre
Experienced instructors will teach you and your kids how to water ski, slalom, wakeboard or tube, or lead you on a jet ski or parasailing adventure. Ski boat rates ($85 per 30 minutes; $165 for first hour; $135 per hour following; five-person maximum) include a driver, instruction and equipment -- a good value for the whole family. Complex hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., (opens 10 a.m. in winter), weather permitting. Call 407-939-0754 for advance reservations.
The Game Station
At this sprawling fourth-floor arcade -- one of the best on Disney property -- your kids can play more than 80 games. It's open 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Bikes and Playgrounds
If you want to ride bikes or let your kids burn off some steam, board a boat to Fort Wilderness or Disney's Wilderness Lodge. Both properties have playgrounds and offer bike rentals, and you can travel from one resort to the other along a peaceful three-quarter mile path, where you might spot deer, wild turkeys, rabbits or even armadillos. Bike rentals are $9 per hour or $18 per day, and baby bike seats are available. Surrey bikes cost $20 to $22 for 30 minutes.
Among visitors to the World, this 15th floor restaurant, with a panoramic view of the Magic Kingdom's nightly Wishes fireworks show, is a top choice for a special dinner. Re-imagined in 2013 to evoke a simultaneously modern and nostalgic aura, the new California Grill features an updated menu. Kids are welcome (children's selections include homemade pizza and pasta with fresh fruit kabobs), but ambiance and pace are geared towards an adult audience. Advance reservations (407-939-3463 or reserve online) are a must.
Classic Disney characters are the hosts for breakfast and dinner at this lively, loud and extremely popular fourth-floor venue, a feel-good buffet with views of the passing monorail and the Magic Kingdom. Advance reservations are (407-939-3463 or reserve online) strongly suggested. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for breakfast and 4 to 9:30 p.m. for dinner. The venue is open seasonally for lunch. Alert staff if you're celebrating an occasion -- special treats may be in store.
Kids get a kick out of the touchscreen ordering system at this casual, quick-service eatery and refillable mug station, located on the fourth floor. You'll find reliable favorites for the kids, as well as a Bakery Counter and a Grab-N-Go Section with drinks and healthy take-alongs like fresh fruit and veggies.
Poolside snack shack serves fast food favorites like hot dogs, chicken nuggets, cheeseburgers and French fries, as well as sushi and a couple of salad options, frozen novelties and frozen drinks. A limited number of highchairs is available.
Stylish first-floor space specializes in fresh market fare. Kids' selections (grilled fish, linguine with marinara sauce) lean toward the wholesome side, but cheeseburgers and popular boxed cereals (breakfast) are on the menu, too. Call 407-939-3463 for reservations or reserve online. Open for breakfast, 7:30 to 11 a.m., lunch from 12 to 2 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 9:30 p.m.
Lobby coffeecart serves up specialty drinks, pastries and create-your-own Dippin Dots sundaes. Nearby, you'll find cartoons on a big screen and kid-sized soft lounge furniture.
Kids can enjoy Mickey waffles in their pajamas, rainbow bread PB& J or grilled cheese for lunch or dinner and a Mickey-shaped brownie for dessert. Surprise parents with a special snack of strawberries and chocolate.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Family members of all ages will enjoy the many "magical" sights to see on the Grand Canyon Concourse, from modern art and the passing monorail to a lavish holiday gingerbread display.
Overnight guests enjoy a number of special perks, like early entry and late stay theme park privileges (Extra Magic Hours), free onsite transportation, free parking and the opportunity to participate in a Disney Dining Plan with a Magic Your Way Package. Additional family-friendly privileges include online room check-in (up to 10 days in advance), resort airline check-in and airport transportation service via Disney's Magical Express.
Olympiad Fitness Center
Recently redecorated, this third-floor space offers exercise equipment, as well as massages and facials (by appointment). An attendant is on duty 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and access is available 24 hours with a venue activated resort Keycard or Magic Band.
Guests can utilize the childcare center located at Disney's Polynesian Resort nearby, available for ages 3 to 12 and open 4 p.m. to midnight. You'll pay $11.50 per hour, per child, with a two-hour minimum required. Complimentary dinner is served 6 to 8 p.m.; for reservations, call 407-939-3463. Alternatively, the Cub's Den at Disney's Wilderness Lodge (open 4:30 p.m. to midnight) is accessible by boat from the resort. Kids Nite Out, an independent agency, provides in-room resort childcare. Rates are $16 per hour for the first child, with a four-hour minimum and a $10 caregiver transportation fee.
The Art of Smart Timing
When traveling to Walt Disney World Resort, it's best to avoid peak travel periods. Generally, these times include holidays and the summer months -- in other words, any time schools are out of session. If you do opt to visit in summertime, pack sunscreen, hydrate frequently and, unless you want to squander your souvenir money on ponchos at the parks, don't forget your raingear.
Fortunately for travelers on a budget, the least expensive times to visit Walt Disney World theme parks (Value Season) tend to coordinate with dates when crowds are the lightest. If your kids aren't in school yet, September is a great time to visit. Another prime time is after Thanksgiving through early December, when parks and resorts are decked out in holiday splendor.
From Orlando International Airport (MCO): Free roundtrip airport transportation via motorcoach is available to guests (advance reservation required; limited hours) via Disney's Magical Express.
To reach the resort by car, take the South Exit Road from Orlando International Airport to SR 417 Toll Road (GreeneWay) West and follow signs to Magic Kingdom/Disney's Contemporary Resort. Plan on about $3 in tolls.
You can reach the Magic Kingdom (five to 10 minutes) via a walkway (a stroller is a must), and both Magic Kingdom Park and the Ticket and Transportation Center and Epcot are a short express monorail ride away. Free transportation to and from Disney's Hollywood Studios,Animal Kingdom, Disney waterparks and Downtown Disney is provided by bus. From the Contemporary Boat Nook, you can travel by boat to Disney's Wilderness Lodge and Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort.
For Mom and Dad
Enjoy a leisurely dinner at The California Grill, or, for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, book a tandem parasailing adventure at Sammy Duvall's Watersports. ($170 to $195 for two; Call 407-939-0754 for reservations.)