Review: Disney’s Contemporary Resort
By Dave Shute
OVERVIEW: DISNEY’S CONTEMPORARY RESORT
Our most recent visit in September 2015–our 7th, if I am counting correctly–confirms that Disney’s Contemporary Resort, a deluxe monorail resort, is the fourth best deluxe resort at Walt Disney World for first time family visitors.
However, this site recommends that first time visitors to Walt Disney World who can afford it should stay at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, a deluxe resort, and that those who can’t should stay at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, a value resort.
Compared to other Walt Disney World owned and operated resorts, the deluxe resorts are distinguished by having (on average) the most amenities, nicest views, best dining options, best transport options, largest rooms, best service, and highest prices.
Among the deluxe resorts, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, a monorail resort, stands out for having some kid appeal, terrific convenience, large rooms, great views from some rooms, and fun dining options.
(See this for much more on resort distinctions by price class–value, moderate, deluxe, etc.)
This review of the Contemporary has seven total pages:
- The overview of the Contemporary Resort that you are now on
- A photo-tour of a standard Tower room at the Contemporary Resort
- Details on the South Garden Wing of the Contemporary Resort
- The amenities at the Contemporary Resort
- Dining at the Contemporary Resort
- The pools at the Contemporary Resort, and
- More on theming and accommodations at the Contemporary Resort
ACCOMMODATIONS AT THE CONTEMPORARY RESORT
Rooms in Disney’s Contemporary Resort are in two areas–the Tower and the South Garden Wing. In the map above (click it to enlarge it) the Tower is in the center, and the South Garden Wing at the lower right.
The Tower is the centerpiece of the Contemporary, with all of its services and restaurants, and the rooms with, by far, the best views–in two flavors, Magic Kingdom views and Bay Lake views.
The old North Garden Wing–a favorite of many, including my parents–was demolished, and Bay Lake Tower, a Disney Vacation Club resort with its own review here, opened in its former spot in 2010. (On the map, it’s the near-round thingy in the upper right.)
South Garden Wing rooms can be a hike from the Tower and its services, and while a third have patios, none of the rest have balconies. They are, however, a good bit less expensive than Tower rooms–on the order of 70% of Bay Lake view Tower rooms (see above for the view from a Tower Bay Lake view room), and two-thirds the price of Tower Magic Kingdom view rooms.
That said, Garden Wing rooms are still more expensive than standard view Wilderness Lodge rooms, so if you are committed to a deluxe resort, but price is an issue–and you can fit into the Lodge’s 4-person rooms–I’d advise staying at the Wilderness Lodge rather than in one of the Contemporary’s South Garden Wing rooms.
Tower rooms, while more expensive, are much more centrally located. Those staying in the Tower are in effect in Walt Disney World’s most compact and easy to navigate resort.
Magic Kingdom view Tower rooms are about 15-20% more expensive than the cheapest Bay Lake view Tower rooms. But the views, especially of Wishes, can be really fun, so families that can afford this premium should request a Magic Kingdom view from as high a floor as possible.
You can add to this capacity of five a child younger than three who sleeps in a crib. A crib fits well between the closets and TV thingy.
For more about the South Garden Wing, see this.
DINING AT DISNEY’S CONTEMPORARY RESORT
- The California Grill has great dining for adults, but sound kid appeal as well, and is a fun spot to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks show Wishes from
- Chef Mickey’s is an expensive but fun buffet where families can meet Mickey, Minnie, and the crew
- The first floor Wave is the easiest place at Disney World to get quality dining on short notice.
Forevermore, the Contemporary has the best access to great dining at other hotels of any Disney resort, being just a monorail ride away from the options at the Polynesian and Grand Floridian, and a boat ride away from the options at the Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness.
THE POOLS AT DISNEY’S CONTEMPORARY RESORT
There are two pools at the Contemporary, right next to each other. Entirely adequate but essentially unthemed and uninteresting, they are the weakest pools among the Disney World deluxe resorts.
CONVENIENCE AND KID APPEAL AT DISNEY’S CONTEMPORARY RESORT
On this basis, Disney’s Contemporary Resort is the fourth-best deluxe resort for first time family visitors to Walt Disney World.
- Three of the deluxe resorts–the Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Polynesian Resort, in that order–have spectacular kid appeal. The Contemporary has some kid appeal
- None of the moderates do.
- All of the value resorts–Disney’s All-Star Sports, All-Star Music, and All-Star Movies, its Pop Century Resort, and its Art of Animation Resort–have strong kid appeal.
The moderate kid appeal of the Contemporary Resort comes from the sight of the monorail running right through its central atrium—the Grand Canyon Concourse.
Convenience. Disney’s Contemporary Resort is the second most convenient of all the Walt Disney World resorts after the Polynesian in carrying out the itineraries for first-time family visitors on this site.
It is unique among the Walt Disney World resorts in having a walking path to the Magic Kingdom.
The option of being able to get to or return from the Magic Kingdom in five to ten minutes without having to wait in line for a transport vehicle can be really valuable, especially right after fireworks or parades, or on peak attendance days when the park might be closed.
The Contemporary is also on the resort monorail loop. The Magic Kingdom is the fourth stop heading in, and the Contemporary is the first stop coming back.
Access to Epcot is from taking the monorail to the Ticket and Transportation Center–the first stop–and from there taking the Epcot monorail.
Transport to the other theme parks is by bus, each of which is shared by at least one other resort.
Boat service is available to Fort Wilderness (convenient for the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue) and to the Wilderness Lodge (convenient for Whispering Canyon).
BEST PLACES TO STAY AT DISNEY’S CONTEMPORARY RESORT
This site suggests that first time visitors stay in standard rooms, not preferred rooms.
This is because they won’t be spending much time in their rooms.
The single exception is visitors to the Animal Kingdom Lodge, who should always pay for savanna views.
When you reserve, you pick Garden Wing vs. Tower, and if you pick the Tower, Bay Lake vs Magic Kingdom (officially “Theme Park”) view.
At on-line check in, you can also pick, from among other options, an “Odd Room Number.” If you have a Magic Kingdom view, you can see Wishes from the queen beds in odd-numbered rooms, and from the couches in even numbered-rooms. Since most will wish to see Wishes from the balcony, anyway, this does not much matter.
In the Tower, higher floors always have better views. In the Garden Wing, there are no balconies, just patios.
Any first time family visitors who can afford it, but can’t get into or don’t want to stay at Disney’s Polynesian Resort.
Families seeking the highest degree of kid appeal. Families too large to fit its 5 person rooms. See this for more on large families at Walt Disney World.
This review continues here.