Resort: Contemporary Resort
Rooms: Approximately 750
The Contemporary has always been a favorite of mine. It’s a staple at Disney and along with the Polynesian, is one of the original resorts at Walt Disney World. The location is an absolute dream. It’s only a short walk from Magic Kingdom and a monorail transfer away from EPCOT.
The resort is also home to Chef Mickey’s, one of the most popular and in-demand Table Service restaurants on property and California Grill, a Signature restaurant offering unmatched views of Magic Kingdom and the Seven Seas Lagoon.
The biggest (and probably the only) complaint about the Contemporary Resort is the theming. It seems to lack that “Disney feel.” Outside of Chef Mickey’s and the actual view of Magic Kingdom, there’s no true Disney feel. It feels like any other resort. The true draw is the monorail, which runs through the resort.
Of course, if you can afford a room with a view of Magic Kingdom, that’s all the Disney theming you need. As far as the actual theme of the resort goes, it’s tough to say. It feels very much like a forward-thinking resort that got it wrong. Remember in the 80’s and 90’s when everyone predicted the future? Back when everyone assumed we’d be flying places in the 2000s and wearing metallic suits? Well the Contemporary feels like it was created based on Walt’s view of a modern, futuristic resort that didn’t quite get it right. It has that tacky “stuck in the 80’s and 90’s” feel to it. That’s not quite a bad thing, but the resort does feel a bit dated. My best analogy? It feels like a place Clark Griswold’s neighbors in Christmas Vacation would stay.
Christmas Decorations & Theming: 7/10
One of my biggest recommendations for anyone heading to Disney during Christmas is to check out the resorts. Most Deluxe Resorts have very impressive decorations. The Contemporary is the first stop on the “monorail tour” and certainly worthy of a stop. While it’s not fully decked in traditional Christmas decor, it does hold its own. The Grand Canyon Concourse features a towering gingerbread display. The display has received a “Frozen”-themed overlay the past two years. The adorable display has a bunch of hidden Olafs, making it a fun game to find them all. The display also offers souvenirs, including gingerbread cookies, sugar cookies, cakes and candies. It’s a fun stop along the monorail tour and a must-see attraction during the holidays.
The Contemporary Resort is a fairly large resort, split into two sections. The Tower is 14 stories tall and houses approximately 500 guest rooms. The South Garden Wing is located south of the Tower and has approximately 250 rooms. The Contemporary also hosts DVC rooms, located in Bay Lake Tower. While it’s a large resort, it’s not too spread out, nor does it ever feel too crowded. The layout can be slightly confusing, however. The lobby feels a bit disjointed from the rest of the resort, but it does add some privacy.
The only downfall to its size and layout is that it’s very open on the inside. Many of the rooms face inside. With the monorail, Chef Mickey’s and so many people coming in to explore the resort, it can often be very loud for those wishing for some peace and quiet. For those looking to escape the noise and stay at the South Garden Wing, it can feel a bit removed. Guests staying at the South Garden Wing will have to walk to the Tower to access the monorail and restaurants.
When it comes to location, The Contemporary may be the best placed resort on property. It’s the closest resort to Magic Kingdom, allowing guests to walk to the park’s entrance. Not only does the monorail stop at the Contemporary, it goes through it! A novelty in and of itself, the monorail actually runs through the resort’s lobby, then makes stops at the Ticket and Transportation Center, the Polynesian Resort, Grand Floridian and Magic Kingdom. Guests wishing to go to EPCOT may transfer at the TTC (Ticket and Transportation Center) or hop on the bus located at the front of the resort. The resort also offers buses to Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Disney Springs.
One of the biggest things you pay for at the Deluxe resorts is the proximity to the parks. The Contemporary is a short distance from Magic Kingdom, making it the only walkable resort to and from the park. That really comes in handy after late-night EMHs at Magic Kingdom, when all you can think about is getting back to your room. While it’s not within walking distance to EPCOT, it is a just two stops from the park via monorail. If you plan on visiting Disney for Food & Wine and would like to drop into Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, this is the best resort to stay at.
The Contemporary is home to one of the most popular restaurants on property. While Chef Mickey’s is a far cry from fine dining, the restaurant is the only one to feature all five of the most popular Disney characters: Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and Pluto.
The buffet has received its fair share of criticism. Many guests claim that it feels like a giant childrens’ birthday party. Others compare the food to that of Golden Corral. Frankly, restaurant reviews are all subjective. There are only one or two bad restaurants at Disney World. If you’re willing to put up with the less-than-stellar food at Chef Mickey’s, the character experience is truly unmatched. I always recommend it as the first meal for younger families. Tell your kid(s) that Mickey is throwing a party for their arrival!
As with any Deluxe Resort, The Contemporary is also home to a Signature Restaurant. California Grill sits atop the Contemporary, offering views of Magic Kingdom and Seven Seas Lagoon that are truly in a class of its own. It’s arguably one of the most popular restaurants at Disney. The sunset and Wishes seating is one of the most in-demand ADRs on property. The food is pretty good, too! California Grill features a new American menu, sprinkled with a few out-of-the-ordinary offerings, such as sushi. It comes at a hefty price tag, but you pay for the view above all.
The Contemporary is also home to one of the most underrated and often overlooked Table Service Restaurants, The Wave. The Wave serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, offering seasonal, fresh ingredients. For breakfast, the restaurant offers both a la carte and a buffet, featuring fresh twists on breakfast favorites. The breakfast buffet features delicious items, such as Multigrain Mickey Waffles, Sweet Potato Pancakes and Eggs Benedict with Key Lime Hollandaise Sauce. For dinner, guests may enjoy anything from Braised Lamb Shank to a Seasonal Vegetable Stew.
Another great offering at The Contemporary is its Quick Service Restaurant, Contempo Cafe. Located right outside Chef Mickey’s Contempo Cafe is not your typical fast food restaurant. The menu features sandwiches, burgers and even a half chicken entree. We’re partial toward the lobster roll and I was a very big fan of the spicy chicken sandwich. Contempo Cafe is best known for its cupcakes. It often serves a seasonal cupcake, which is usually a peppermint flavor during the Christmas season.
Overall, The Contemporary is truly a fantastic resort. It’s a piece of Disney history, as one of the first resorts at Walt Disney World. While it lacks a true Disney feel, it does offer one of the best locations on property, with only a short walk to Magic Kingdom and one monorail transfer from EPCOT. The cavernous interior of the resort can often be a bit loud, but a room with a view of Magic Kingdom or the Seven Seas Lagoon can quickly override that.
Personally, if I had my choice between one of the monorail resorts, The Contemporary would be the last one I’d choose. The Polynesian has the most fun theme and I believe that the Grand Floridian is in a category of its own.
Tips & Tricks:
- Guests who dine at California Grill can return later that day with a receipt to view Wishes from the rooftop. It’s a nice benefit for those unable to secure the coveted Wishes seating.
- Rooms facing Bay Lake are treated each morning to a gorgeous view of the sunrise.