Contemporary Resort at Christmas

As our tour of Walt Disney World hotels at Christmas-time continues, we continue in the Magic Kingdom area. At Contemporary Resort, we’ll take a look at the Cinderella Castle gingerbread display, outdoor icon tree, and holiday decorations at the hotel. (Updated November 5, 2019.)

This continues as we attempt to expand upon our Free Self-Guided Walt Disney World Yuletide Resort Tour with a series of individual resort posts. That Self-Guided “Yuletide Resort Tour” is what we recommend doing in the morning before attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party so you don’t waste a park day of your normal tickets.

Good news if you’re visiting early in the 2019 holiday season–the Contemporary Resort gingerbread display is already up! To get everything ready to go by the beginning of November 2019, the hotel’s team got a jump-start on the Cinderella Castle-themed gingerbread, which celebrates its 10th Anniversary this year. Let’s take a look at what you can expect…

Since we don’t have a ton to see at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, let’s start with some Christmas history (mixed with photos of current decorations and Christmas stuff at the Contemporary). While the Grand Canyon Concourse is now crowded with gift shops and all sorts of other stuff, this area used to be a sprawling atrium with plenty of seating and 1970s futuristic goodness.

Beginning in 1971 when Walt Disney World opened, a giant green tinsel tree towered in the Grand Canyon Concourse. This continued until at least the early 1990s, and would arguably be fitting once again given that mid-century modern is once again the prevailing ‘contemporary’ style. (Check out a couple photos of the tree here.)

Disney’s Contemporary Resort also offered premium Christmas-time entertainment. The Jolly Holidays Dinner Show was performed from 1992 through 1998 before being discontinued. For this Christmas spectacular, the Fantasia Ballroom was converted into a theater-in-the-round as 100+ performers–including Disney characters (like the Country Bears!), singers, and dancers–put on a musical extravaganza.

This elaborate show also contained an all-you can eat holiday feast, that–even by 1998 standards–was a pricey $62 per adult. (You can see video of the 1994 version of the show here.)

More recently, the Contemporary used to have an awesome Mickey Mouse wreath that hung outside its multi-story window, but that hasn’t adorned the building for the last several years.

Also recently retired is the Frozen Mary Blair style gingerbread display that predates the current Cinderella one. Before that, it was a Pinocchio gingerbread display about a decade or so ago.

This year, the Cinderella gingerbread display can be found at the back of the Grand Canyon Concourse by the giant windows that face, fittingly enough, Cinderella Castle and Magic Kingdom. This display features a gingerbread Cinderella Castle, plus her, Prince Charming, and Fairy Godmother.

Above is last year’s version, while the 2019 version of the Cinderella Castle gingerbread display is below. You can spot some slight differences between the two, but nothing major.

This Cinderella Castle gingerbread display contains 18 Hidden Mickeys, 655 pounds of sugar snow, 437 jars of honey, 1001 pounds of flour, 27 3/4 of spices, 428 eggs, 83 pounds of rolled fondant, 43 pounds of dark chocolate, 57 pounds of royal icing, 156 pounds of modeling chocolate, over 5000 gingerbread bricks.

Cinderella Castle tops out at 17 feet, 6 inches high with a width of 25 feet and 4 inches.

At the display itself, you can find a few different treats available for purchase. To my knowledge, this plant-based gingerbread loaf is new for this year.

If you head over to Contempo Cafe, you’ll also typically find other items there in the refrigerator, such as cupcakes.

Our top recommendation is the Chocolate Peppermint Cookie. This is one of the best-selling holiday snacks in all of Walt Disney World, and for good reason–it’s spectacular.

We recently attended the RetroMagic celebration at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and they had these bad boys on the lunch buffet. Let’s just say we got our money’s worth…

There are also a variety of limited edition souvenirs available for purchase.

Above is the 10th Anniversary pin.

Here’s the 10th Anniversary ornament.

If you’re looking for a Christmas ornament, the Mary Blair styled Mickey & Minnie in the Contemporary’s gift shop is way better. (Only tangentially related, but there are several cool new Contemporary Resort pieces of merchandise being sold there.)

Finally, my favorite item is the 10th Anniversary hot cocoa mug.

We haven’t purchased this yet, but I think we’re going to have to splurge and add it to our collection. After all, we did buy the mug last year…

We actually purchased last year’s mug shortly before Christmas for 25% off, which could be stacked with Annual Pass or Disney Vacation Club discounts.

We mention this only because you should keep an eye out for special offers if you visit Walt Disney World from mid-December on, as that’s when holiday merchandise starts going on sale.

Disney’s Contemporary Resort is one of the Deluxes with an ‘icon’ tree, which is basically just Walt Disney World-speak for really tall Christmas tree. The only downside is that this one is outside on a promenade where few guests go.

There’s really not much to the tree, and it definitely looks like a holdover from the 1970s, but I love it. Perhaps it’s nostalgia, but I think it’s a nice fit for the resort, and ‘good enough’ considering how few people venture over to see it up close.

I really have no criticisms about the gingerbread display or icon tree outside. The former is cool, even if it has less depth and visual interest than other gingerbread displays.

The icon tree is so out of the way that most guests aren’t going to seek it out for an up-close view, anyway. (Plus, it’s a cool nod to the hotel’s history.)

However, the decorations, wreaths, and garland throughout the resort leave a ton to be desired. There’s no semblance of theme here, and it’s just as if someone said, “what does a ‘contemporary’ Christmas look like?!” And someone else said, “uhhh…the kids these days sure love their lattes!” I’m almost surprised that faux iPhones and hoverboards aren’t in the mix, because the kids can’t get enough of ’em, either.

Overall, Disney’s Contemporary Resort does a serviceable job at Christmas. Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel that this is a case of squandered potential. With mid-century modern, Googie, and other styles being all the rage these days, there’s ample opportunity for the hotel to offer some highly-themed and unique decorations and displays in a retro-futurist style that would both be fitting for the period in which the hotel was built, while also being fairly timeless. To be fair, this is a criticism that could be directed at the Contemporary year-round, but the holidays would be the perfect time to ‘test’ decorations like this to see how they play with guests.

Finally, a few plugs. Our free Vacation Kingdom at Christmas eBook is now available for download! This free eBook is 90 pages, with 100+ photos, and tons of great tips & info for the holiday season at Walt Disney World. For more details on how to get this totally-free ebook, click here. Did we mention that it’s free?! 😉

For comprehensive tips for planning your Christmas-time trip to Walt Disney World, check out our Ultimate Guide to Christmas at Walt Disney World. For Walt Disney World trip planning tips and comprehensive advice, make sure to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide and related articles.


What do you think of Disney’s Contemporary Resort at Christmas? Are we being too hard on the Contemporary? Do you like the Cinderella Castle gingerbread display, or do you prefer the Frozen version? Miss the Mickey wreath, dinner show, or tinsel tree that used to be displayed here? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

7 Responses to “Contemporary Resort at Christmas”
  1. Julie H November 4, 2019
  2. heather_kg December 20, 2018
  3. Janis December 19, 2018
  4. Haley December 19, 2018
  5. Ithaca NY Guy December 19, 2018
  6. JimW December 19, 2018
  7. janet December 19, 2018

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