Wondering how the Contemporary Resort stacks up against the other Disney World Deluxe Resorts? Check out The Best Disney World Deluxe Resorts for a comparison of the eight Deluxes in a variety of categories including Best Layout, Best Dining, Best Transportation, Best Location, Best Rooms, Best Pool, and Best Overall Deluxe Resort.
4600 North World Drive
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-1000
Direct Phone: 1-407-824-1000, Fax: 1-407-824-3539, General Reservations: 1-407-WDISNEY (1-407-934-7639)
Resort Class: The Contemporary is a Disney Deluxe resort, the most expensive resort type. There are 18 different categories of rooms, suites, and views with prices ranging between $285 for a Garden Wing room during Value Season all the way up to $2,950 for the Presidential Suite during Holiday Season. The Garden Wing rooms at the Contemporary are $80 less per night than the Polynesian and $125 less than the cheapest room at the Grand Floridian, making the Contemporary the least expensive Monorail Resort. On the other hand, Tower rooms at the Contemporary cost a minimum of $400 per night, which is right in line with the other Monorail Deluxes.
Location: The Contemporary is the only resort where you can actually walk to the Magic Kingdom via a direct walkway. In addition, the Contemporary also shares Bay Lake, the only natural body of water at Disney World, with Fort Wilderness Camp Ground and the Wilderness Lodge. Along with the other Monorail Resorts, the Contemporary is about 30 minutes away from the Animal Kingdom by bus.
Size: The Contemporary is actually three buildings: the 14-story Tower, the three-story South Garden Wing, and the new “Bay Lake Tower” which opened on August 4, 2009. “The Tower” is the 14-story A-Frame building that most people envision when they think of the Contemporary. The monorail actually passes through and stops at the resort on the fourth floor concourse. All of the restaurants, shops, and the check-in area are located inside of the Tower. The Tower houses about 500 rooms, all of which have balconies. The South Garden Wing is a separate building and houses about 250 rooms. Only a couple of the Garden Wing rooms have full balconies; all other rooms either have a patio or a small terrace about one foot wide that guests can step out on, but it is not enough room for a chair or much else. The new Bay Lake Tower is attached to The Tower and is only accessible via a key card given to Disney Vacation Club guests staying in that section. There are an additional 295 two-bedroom equivalent villas in the Bay Lake Tower.
Room Amenities and Quality: There are a variety of room types available in both the Garden Wing and Tower. The Garden Wing offers Standard View, Garden View, Deluxe (there are only three of these), Hospitality Suite, and One Bedroom Suite. The Tower offers more than ten Concierge level room and suite types along with the more common Lake View and Theme Park View Standard rooms. All of the rooms were renovated in 2007 with an all new color palette, large mounted flat screen television, wood panel accents, and upscale bathrooms with a sliding pocket door, marble countertops, and flat-bottom sinks. Although the Contemporary is just as old as the Polynesian, the quality and style of the Contemporary’s rooms far exceeds those found at the Polynesian.
Standard rooms average about 420 square feet, which makes them some of the largest on property. Most rooms can accommodate up to five people, with the exceptions being the Garden Wing Deluxe room which sleeps four and the Standard King rooms which sleep only three. Rooms come with all of the Deluxe amenities including: two queen-size beds or one king size bed, day bed, small table, two chairs, ceiling fan, internet access ( $10 per 24 hours), 32” LCD television, small safe, telephone, hairdryer, iron, ironing board, alarm clock, coffeemaker, refrigerator, bathroom with two sinks, shower/bathtub combo, toilet, and mirror.
Lake View rooms in the Tower start at $400 per night during Value Season and go all the way up to $595 during the Holiday Season. For an additional $40-$60 per night, you can upgrade to a Tower room with a view of the Magic Kingdom. These rooms have a fantastic view of Wishes, the evening fireworks show, as well as any other fireworks shows that may occur during your stay (be sure to turn on the television to channel 20 to hear the Wishes soundtrack as the fireworks go off). Generally, rooms on higher floors have better views, but since there are no obstacles in your way, the view from the sixth floor is 98% as good as a view from the 11th floor (the 12th and 14th floor are only for concierge level guests). I usually don’t recommend upgrading to a “better view,” but the Contemporary is one exception. While the view of Bay Lake is pretty, there are few more magical places at Disney World than watching the fireworks with your loved ones from the balcony of your room at the Contemporary.
Garden Wing rooms have interiors just as nice as the Tower rooms, but the views are much less spectacular. Standard View rooms overlook the parking lot or trees. Garden View rooms feature views the swimming pool, garden, marina, or a limited view of the Lake. Garden Wing rooms are the most economical choice at the Contemporary, at more than $100 less than the Tower. If you don’t plan to spend much time at the resort, but want to take advantage of its location, then the Garden Wing may be your best choice.
Theme and Layout: The biggest complaint guests have about the Contemporary is its lack of a theme. Although it remains one of the largest A-Frame buildings in the world, nothing about its exterior is particularly “contemporary.” It basically looks like a tall concrete structure built at a slant. On top of that, the pools are entirely void of a theme and the common areas inside of the resort aren’t much more exciting. The lack of a coherent theme is unfortunate, because it’s really the only thing holding the Contemporary back from being the favorite resort of more guests.
Guests staying in the Tower are just a short walk and an elevator ride away from the monorail station, check-in area, restaurants, and shops inside the Tower. Guests will have to ride the elevator down to the first floor and exit the Tower to get to the marina or pool. On the other hand, the Garden Wing is detached from the Tower and rooms found inside of it are further away from the monorail station and check-in, but also closer to the pool and marina. The Garden Wing is generally quieter and less busy because there’s no reason to visit it unless your room is located inside. The fourth floor of the Contemporary Tower can get loud and busy, but it rarely disturbs guests in their room. I would recommend requesting a room on the highest floor possible to minimize noise.
Pool: There are two pools at the Contemporary, both of which are in back and adjacent to the marina. The main pool features a water slide that begins 17 feet in the air and the quiet pool is shallow all along the outside and gets deeper moving into the center. Unfortunately, the pool area isn’t themed and neither pool is more than “just a pool.” The large size is nice, but it’s a far cry from the Polynesian and its 40 foot tall volcano and waterfall or the three acre pool complex found at the Yacht and Beach Club. I’m not sure why Disney hasn’t done more with the space since 1971, but I suppose they would rather have it open instead of close it down and make it more exciting. On the plus side, there are two hot tubs and a newly opened play area for children.
Transportation: The Contemporary is the closest resort to the Magic Kingdom and is on the Disney resort monorail line which easily connects it to the Ticket and Transportation Center, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, and Magic Kingdom. There is also a direct walkway to the Magic Kingdom as well as boat service to the Wilderness Lodge, Fort Wilderness, and Magic Kingdom. Travel to the Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios is via bus. Most of the time, the bus service will be shared with the other Monorail Resorts.
The times below are calculated after the bus, monorail, or boat leaves for its final destination. If there are additional pickups at the Grand Floridian or Polynesian then it can take an additional 15+ minutes.
Hollywood Studios via Bus: about 15 minutes
Epcot via Resort Monorail then switch to Epcot Monorail: about 25 minutes, depending on how long it takes for the Epcot Monorail train to arrive.
Animal Kingdom via Bus: about 20 minutes
Magic Kingdom via Walking: about 10 minutes
Magic Kingdom via Monorail: about 15 minutes
Best Rooms: The Deluxes are a little bit different than the Moderates and Values because room location is less about knowing which room to request and more about paying extra for the additional benefits of a “good” room. For example, Tower rooms with a Magic Kingdom View are much more preferable than a Garden Wing room with a view of the parking lot. However, the price of the Garden Wing room is $285 and the price of the Tower room is $440 during the cheapest season. That’s a difference of $155 per night, or $930 for a six night stay. The question then becomes, is it worth upgrading?
My recommendation would either be to go “bargain basement” and book the Garden Wing Standard View or “go big” and get the Tower room with Magic Kingdom View. It costs $45-$50 per night to upgrade from the Garden Wing Standard View to the Garden Wing Garden View and that upgrade isn’t really worth it since there’s no balcony to enjoy the slightly upgraded view. On the other hand, it costs $40-$60 per night to upgrade from the Tower Lake View to Tower Magic Kingdom View. That upgrade is more desirable because you’ll be able to watch Wishes, the evening fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom, from your balcony. The Lake View Tower rooms are fine too, but if you’re going to spend $400+ a night, you might as well spend 10% more and get a much more magical experience.
On-Site Dining Options: Like the other monorail resorts, the Contemporary Resort has some great or otherwise popular dining choices. Chef Mickey’s is the most sought after character meal at Disney World. I’m not entirely sure why that is, considering it’s expensive, character interaction is poor, and the food isn’t particularly good, but I assume it’s because people aren’t aware of the superior options (Tusker House at Animal Kingdom, Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom, and Akershus at Epcot to name a few). If you’re going to do Chef Mickey’s, I would recommend it for breakfast if you’re not in a hurry to get to the Parks one day. Otherwise, there are better character meals and much better sit-down restaurants.
The Contempo Café is the resort’s counter service and it’s largely adequate. Although it’s small and gets crowded during meal time, the menu is diverse enough that it should satisfy most guests. There are better counter services at the Parks, but the Contempo is perfect if you need a quick meal or snack and don’t want to travel elsewhere.
The Wave is the Contemporary’s newest casual table service restaurant. It focuses on sustainable agriculture and healthy, fresh food. It’s on the expensive side with dinner entrées in the $20-$30 range, but the prices seem reasonable considering the high quality of food and excellent service. Lunch is slightly cheaper and features more common entrées, like salads, sandwiches, and burgers. Breakfast is served as well. The décor in the check-in area is cool, but the theme is not carried into the main seating area. I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat at The Wave, but it’s an above-average restaurant, especially if prefer substance over style.
The Signature Dining restaurant at the Contemporary is the California Grill. Located on the 15th floor, the restaurant is only accessible from a special elevator on the second floor to those with reservations. The restaurant is popular because it overlooks the Magic Kingdom from the highest point at Disney World. It’s best to request a window table at check-in, although they will tell you that they can’t promise anything. Even if you don’t get a window table, there is a special platform for California Grill diners with an excellent view of Wishes, the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks show. Guests who finish their meal before Wishes may return with their receipt if they’ve left the restaurant and will be allowed back up. Otherwise, you have to eat at the Grill to be able to access the platform. I would suggest trying to get reservations for about an hour before Wishes is scheduled to start so you can be sure you are seated prior to the fireworks starting. Unfortunately, the food and service at the California Grill are not as outstanding as they once were. The restaurant also tends to be louder and less intimate than other Signature restaurants. I would still recommend it because the view is outstanding and the food and service are well above average, but it’s not necessarily as special as it once was.
Full reviews coming soon.
Best For: Those who want to take advantage of the resort monorail and close proximity to the Magic Kingdom. People who prefer sleek room décor and Deluxe amenities to an extravagant theme.
Worst For: People who plan to spend most of their time at the Parks and don’t plan to dine at the Contemporary or monorail resorts. People who prefer an exotic theme.
Summary of Key Points: Unfortunately, the Contemporary Resort is not particularly “contemporary.” There’s nothing exciting about the architecture unless you have an uncle going on about how rare A-Frame buildings are and the fact that all of the rooms were built off-site and raised into position by cranes. Now that you mention it, that is sort of cool, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that the Contemporary is one of the least themed resorts on property. Considering the exoticness of the Polynesian or the prestige of the Grand Floridian, the Contemporary is downright boring. Luckily, the lack of style is only skin deep. The guest rooms have been refurbished with more modern décor and furnishings, giving the Contemporary a more up-to-date feel.
Despite the lack of a theme, the Contemporary has several substantial advantages. First, it is the most inexpensive of the monorail resorts. Rooms start at $285, compared to $365 at the Polynesian and $410 at the Grand Floridian. The Contemporary also boasts some of the best resort views in all of Disney World. You may enjoy Wishes, the Magic Kingdom fireworks show, every night from the comfort of your Magic Kingdom View balcony or the 4th floor observatory. On the opposite side of the resort, relish the magnificent sunrise or sunset over the water from your Lake View room. Tower rooms are also just a short walk and elevator ride away from the resort’s restaurants, shops, front desk, and transportation optiona, making the resort one of the most convenient. The Garden Wing, detached from the main Contemporary building, offers quieter rooms off the beaten path. The walk to the monorail station or Chef Mickey’s is longer, but the Garden Wing is close to the pool and marina. Finally, the Contemporary offers several of the most popular restaurants at Disney, including the exclusive California Grill and Chef Mickey’s, one of the most sought after character meal reservations.
I would recommend the Contemporary to anyone who appreciates substance over an elaborate theme. If being whisked away by the exoticness of Polynesia or being surrounded by 50 foot tall statues of Buzz Lightyear is more important than convenience, large rooms, and elegant furnishings, then you might be better off trying a different resort. Although the Contemporary’s Garden Wing is cheaper than other monorail resorts, prices for Tower rooms are in line with the Polynesian and Grand Floridian. The convenient location of the Contemporary, coupled with the easy navigation of the resort, make it an attractive choice to anyone who plans to take advantage of what it has to offer.
Overall Rank on The Best Disney World Deluxe Resorts: 5th out of 8