Top 9 Amazing Things About Walt Disney World’s Contemporary Resort

Monorail Disney's Contemporary Resort
Credit: World of Disney

9. Convention Center

Businesses can rent up to 120,000 square feet of convention space. This includes four ballrooms, 33 break out spaces, and a stage that is 1600-square feet big.  It was in one of these very ballrooms that President Richard Nixon televised his famous speech which included the phrase “I am not a crook.” This was during the Watergate scandal. Maybe RN was counting on Walt Disney World’s claim “Where Dreams Come True” to come through for him.

8. From the Beginning

Disney’s Contemporary Resort is one of the original hotels available when Walt Disney World first opened in 1971. During 2008-2009 the resort was renovated. Disney had the opportunity to make the resort a bit “warmer” during its renovation but chose to stay with the 70’s stark minimalist design. Bay Lake Tower opened in 2009. Originally the restaurant known as the “Top of the World” was a supper club bringing fine dining and a Broadway style salute to the American musical theater. Dancing was also available at the supper club when performers were not on stage.

7. Open Rooms

Resort rooms are between 340 to 436 square feet of space, with a focus on Feng Shui to make it modern yet comfortable. The rooms feel very open and the color scheme is shades of browns, golden yellow, and accents in moss green. The wood pieces bring dark brown into the mix. Each standard room sleeps up to five guests and offers 2 queen-size beds or one king-sized bed, flat-screen televisions, two closets, daybed and may offer a balcony or patio. There are one- and two-bedroom suites and two concierge levels. Suites sleep 4-8. The Concierge lounge has seasonal and organic offerings. Standard Rooms include in-room safe, complimentary newspapers, coffeemakers, refrigerator, hair dryer, voice mail, bath items, and upon request a turn-down service. Valet parking is available.  Bay Lake Tower is a DVC property yet is available for non-DVC owners to rent rooms. (However, if you want to view Happily Ever After from the Top of the World Lounge, you must be a DVC member or be with a DVC friend!) The Tower offers four types of accommodations: Studio, 1, 2 or 3-bedroom suites, and Grand Villas sleep up to 12 guests. They include in-room safe, complimentary newspapers, coffeemakers, refrigerator, hair dryer, voice mail, bath items, and upon request a turn-down service, bathrobes and triple sheeting. An elevated walkway connects the Tower to the main Grand Concourse for guests to have easy access to the monorail and other resort amenities.

6. Artwork

90-feet high murals done by the same designer of “it’s a small world” Mary Blair goes from the floor of the Grand Canyon Concourse sweeping up several stories. It is a salute to American southwest culture and truly amazing. Mary was the artist responsible for the beautiful backgrounds on the Sleeping Beauty and Alice in Wonderland feature films. She was by Walt’s side on many projects. Can you spot the goat that has one too many legs?

5. Architecture Modern Style

The Grand Canyon Concourse building is at the center of it all. This A-frame structure is 15-stories tall and it holds the majority of the resorts guest rooms. The resort holds 632 rooms, 23 suites, and 295 Villas. Steel and concrete construction along with the glass walls on each end make the main building quite loud and it lacks the usual warmth and theming you come to expect from Disney, especially at the top end of Disney pricing for resorts. Still, the rooms are comfortable and larger than most. The resort was built by U.S. Steel as an experimental modular building. The frame was built on site and the rooms were actually constructed a few miles away. They were actually assembled on a line that created everything from the steel frame to the placing of the furniture and then each room was trucked over and placed into its frame space using a crane.  Picture putting a drawer back into your dresser and that is the method they used. About 15 rooms were completed each day. Originally they projected each room to cost about $17, 00.00.  The forecasters were way off because it actually came to $100,000.00 for each room. When it opened the New York Times wrote “(This is) the best single building through which to observe the blending of technological innovation and far-out fantasy that is uniquely Disney.”

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4. Transportation Hub

The Contemporary has an amazing reach to resorts and parks with its combination of Monorail, Bus, Boat and Walking Path options. Monorail: Only three resorts have the benefit of being on the Monorail giving guests the easiest path to both Magic Kingdom and Epcot.  The Contemporary is the only resort that has the Monorail actually enters the resort building. It can’t get any easier than that! Guests hop on the Monorail to get to Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, and the Transportation & Ticket Center where guests have the option to jump on the other Express Monorail to Epcot. Boats will transfer guests to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground. There is a walking path to Magic Kingdom that takes about 10-minutes to walk to the entrance of the Park. Bus transportation will take guests directly to the other Parks, water parks and Disney Springs. To reach additional resorts just take that short walk to Magic Kingdom and instead of entering the park, turn to the left to find direct busses to each of the other Disney resorts.

3. Unmatched Views

Lakes surround the Contemporary on three sides giving many of the resort’s rooms stunning water views. Magic Kingdom views are what draws many to this resort. The Electrical Water Pageant passes by nightly. The view from the Observation Deck on the 15th floor of the Tower building will get you unparalleled views of Happily Ever After, the nightly fireworks show at Magic Kingdom, and they even have the soundtrack playing! From some upper level rooms you can view Epcot.

2. Recreation

The resort has two Swimming Pools with views of Bay Lake. Kids will love the 17-foot high waterslide that will take them on a wet twisting trail into the pool below. A fountain graces the center of the pool. There is a second pool that gets deeper in the center than the main pool. Zero-entry makes it easy for guests of all ages to walk into the water at the Towers pool which has a 20-foot high spiral water slide. While most resorts have one hot whirlpool spa the Contemporary boasts 3. Children have another advantage with a water play area just for them. There is plenty of space to sit in the sun lined with deluxe lounge chairs to work on that tan. Want shade? No problem because you can rent a private cabana for that extra level of service. Children love playing on the white sand beach. The pools and landscaping do lack the usual Disney theming.  Olympiad Fitness Center: exercise equipment, massages, and sauna. Due to the resort being surrounded by water, expect to find more water recreation here than any other Disney resort. You can enjoy boat rentals and watercraft rental options. There are shaded picnic tables and a barbecue pavilion.  At night there is a beach campfire and movie. Want to go fishing? Great, because there are guided fishing trips available.  Yoga sessions, Beach Volleyball, tennis and shuffleboard and bocce ball courts, jogging paths, large arcade bring this resort to the top when it comes to recreation. Contemporary Resort offers a special Pirate and Pals Fireworks Cruise- the adventure begins inside the resort with snacks and beverages, followed by a pirate parade to the ship. The party pauses to experience Wishes from a special vantage point, then the Electrical Water Pageant, and on the voyage home you will hear tales of the seas told by Patch, your pirate guide. A surprise waits on shore as you return.

1. Dining

You have 11 (yes Eleven!) Dining options at this resort.

  • California Grill is the Walt Disney World restaurant at the top of the list of must-do dining so it is fitting that at the top of the Contemporary Resort you must use a private elevator to take you to this exclusive restaurant. California Grill is on the 15th floor and the first time you see the panoramic view it will take your breath away. As much as the sight of Cinderella Castle pulls you to focus outside, the open, working kitchen will get you to refocus inside.  California is a combination of people from all over the world, so it stands to reason that California Grill combines culinary styles and the freshest of ingredients to create a beautiful dish. Watch the chefs create dishes from sushi to brick oven-fired flatbreads to oak-grilled filet of beef. There are several vegetarian options on the menu as well. Choose from over 300 wines mostly from California. Want to try them by the glass? No problem, you can choose from over 50 wines by the glass. They will even help you choose the best pairing to go with your menu choice. If you time your dinner just right you will be there for Happily Ever After, the fireworks show at Magic Kingdom. The lights in the restaurant are lowered to enhance the magic of the fireworks for diners inside. If you dine before the show you can show your receipt at the Check-in desk and they will grant you access to go back up to the 15th floor where you can choose to go outside on the Observation Deck, or from inside the California Grill Lounge. If your dining time is after the fireworks showtime you are welcome to come early and watch Happily Ever After from the California Grill Lounge or the Observation Deck. It is interesting to note that the California Grill Lounge is available first-come, first-served seating and that they offer the same menu as California Grill. The California Grill is a “signature dining” experience and as such has a dress code requiring men to wear khakis, slacks, jeans or dress shorts and shirts with a collar. Optional: Sport Coats. Women are required to wear Capri pants, skirts, dresses, jeans or dress shorts. Clothing prohibited includes: tank tops, swimsuits, swimsuit cover-ups, hats on men, cut-offs, torn clothing, t-shirts with offensive language/graphics. Since this restaurant is in constant high demand, you will want to make the reservations at 180 days out. You can check at the podium for the possibility of cancellations. The restaurant was refurbished in 2013.
  • Chef Mickey’s is a very popular character buffet meal. The Fab Five of Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald and Goofy are present for breakfast and dinner daily. Mickey appears as the Chef and his friends are his cooks. The restaurant seats 400 so the characters have to split their time between four rooms to try and get to everyone. You will be offered a group photo but you are not obligated to take it. It is known for having very large buffets and for being a great place to celebrate one’s birthday. The restaurant is located in the large cavern of the resort’s lobby and that makes it very loud.
  • Contempo Café is open from 6AM to Midnight and has an electronic ordering system, such as the one at Be Our Guest for lunch at the Magic Kingdom. You place your order and take the pager, when it goes off get your food. If you don’t want to wait there is a grab and go section.  It is located in the center of the Atrium.  Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night snacks until midnight.
  • The Wave is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and has a small lounge adjacent to it. This eatery concentrates on sustainable menu items and tends to be one of the quieter spots to eat at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Expect fresh, local, and organic food. You may purchase a la carte or the buffet for breakfast.
  • The Wave Lounge is adjacent to the restaurant that serves up specialty appetizers, organic beer, specialty alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, open during the evening.
  • The Sand Bar is a pool bar that has both an outdoor and indoor section where you can order alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages as well as small meals or snacks.
  • The Outer Rim Lounge is a  full bar that also serves non-alcoholic beverages. It is open in the evening only but has great views.
  • Contemporary Grounds is open early so you can start your day with that necessary cup of coffee. They also have breakfast items, snacks, and other beverages. They are also open late so you can pick something up after visiting the parks. They serve both hot and cold versions of coffees and teas.
  • Top of the World Lounge is only open to DVC members. It is at the top of the Bay Lake Tower. They have a full bar and offer items like pizza and snacks. The real draw is the view of the Magic Kingdom and Happily Ever After.
  • Cove Bar is a bar reserved for DVC members and other guests staying at Bay Lake Tower. They have an impressive menu of sushi, sandwiches, snacks, ice cream, fruit and lunch entrees. It has a full service bar, specialty cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages.

Let’s not forget about that perk that only comes with the Deluxe resorts: 24-hour Room Service.

Other services: Full service Salon, guest laundry, laundry services, business center, child care facility, children’s program, and shopping (Bay View Gifts, Fantasia and Fantasia Market).

TIPS: Consider taking the 10-minute walking path to/from Magic Kingdom at park opening and closing. This can be especially helpful in the morning on your way to Magic Kingdom because it will take the Monorail approximately 20 minutes due to going all the way around Seven Seas Lagoon and stops at the other resorts.  The Garden Wings are a long walk to the other resort amenities and are very quiet compared to the rest of the resort and have some nice water views. If you want to stay at the Contemporary, dreaming of a spectacular view of Magic Kingdom, you MUST request this view when making your reservation. If you specifically want a view of Cinderella Castle this MUST be requested when making your reservation at the Towers.

About Cassie

Cassie L. I am a lifelong Disney fan. I attended Walt Disney World in 1971, and was there during the opening week of EPCOT, and have visited the Disney Parks for than 30 times. I have had the privilege of visiting Disneyland as a child, and then again with my children. My family recently moved from the northeastern United States to the Walt Disney World area. I now have cast members in my family and enjoy hearing the magical stories at the end of a shift. I love visiting all of the parks and getting to try more Disney food and being able to share it with you to help you plan your own magical day at Disney.