Disney’s Contemporary Resort is a Deluxe hotel at Walt Disney World, located within walking distance of Magic Kingdom and on the monorail loop, which connects it to Epcot. This review features updated room photos, the pros & cons of the Contemporary, info about amenities, and more. (Updated June 28, 2020.)
During Walt Disney World’s phased reopening, Contemporary Resort will be the first non-Disney Vacation Club hotel to reopen. The hotel will welcome its first guests on July 10, 2020, which is the night before Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom begin operations.
On that date, Disney’s Pop Century Resort also reopens, and most guests booked at Value Resorts will be moved to that hotel. Disney’s Contemporary Resort will be where many guests who booked Moderate or Deluxe Resorts will be relocated during the first month or so of Walt Disney World being reopened (said guests will also be moved to Villa Resorts as space allows). As such, we thought it’d be worth revisiting the resort and refreshing this review…
By way of overview, Contemporary Resort is a 600+ room A-frame tower hotel situated in such a manner that west-facing rooms have views of Cinderella Castle and Magic Kingdom, while east-facing rooms have views of Bay Lake. Inside the hotel is a cavernous and cacophonous atrium, which is home to the hotel’s dining and shopping.
Contrary to the name, Contemporary Resort is the oldest hotel at Walt Disney World. The architectural style is best described as modernist or perhaps brutalist, but imbues a sense of utopian optimism thanks to the layout and monorail gliding through. The “pure” design has been diluted over time thanks to visual hodgepodge cluttering the interior. These newer additions (most from the 1990s or early aughts) have ironically aged the hotel more than its more timeless core design.
If you’re unfamiliar with Walt Disney World hotels, most people—even first timers—will probably readily be able to identify the Contemporary as “the hotel with the monorail going through it.” That alone is going to be a big draw for many guests, and is what always drew me to it as a kid.
It’s important to know that many rooms at the Contemporary are not located in the central A-frame building through which the monorail passes. In addition to the main tower, Disney’s Contemporary Resort also features a cheaper Garden Wing as well as the Bay Lake Tower Disney Vacation Club villas.
We generally do not recommend the Garden Wing. Either pay more for a Main Tower tier room or pay less for another resort entirely. The Garden Wing is the worst of both worlds. With that background out of the way, let’s take a look at the hotel’s design, rooms, and amenities…
Disney’s Contemporary Resort is a somewhat divisive hotel: as serious architecture and a modern marvel, it’s pretty compelling. Even with the dated aspects, many guests interested in no-nonsense luxury who want a respite from the themed environments once they leave the parks but want Disney perks and a great location are likely to love the Contemporary.
As a themed resort, it’s less compelling. Guests visiting Walt Disney World in part to escape the real world and be transported to another time and place often are underwhelmed by the Contemporary. It has splashes of Disney and gratutious uses of Mickey Mouse, to be sure, but it’s more about the architecture than themed design.
The rooms at Disney’s Contemporary Resort are sizable at 394 square feet each. They also make good use of space, and are really quite nice for Walt Disney World resort hotel rooms. They are not my style for what I want from a Walt Disney World hotel room, but even I can recognize that, when looking at them objectively, they are some of the nicest rooms at Walt Disney World.
“Objectively” is a pretty dull way to approach a subjective review (just wait until I bust out my scientific instruments for the review of All Star Music to quantify its “enjoyableness”!). My subjective take is that, while nicely put together, the rooms are a bit ordinary as compared to other Walt Disney World resort hotels.
The bathrooms at the Contemporary are quite nice. They are split, which is fairly standard for Walt Disney World Deluxe Resort hotel rooms, but unlike most rooms, they place the dual sinks and the shower/bathtub in one area and the toilet in another area.
Personally, I prefer having the sinks outside of the shower area so it’s easier to get ready, but these bathrooms really look nice and classy.
The Contemporary’s rooms have some other nice features (I love the light up panel below the television) and are generally nice, they just lack the more “aggressive” theming I prefer of Walt Disney World hotel rooms.
In my view, the room above could just as easily be found at a Hyatt Regency anywhere in the world. This is one of our main issues with Disney’s Contemporary Resort: it’s style essentially puts it in direct competition with real world luxury hotels, and that’s generally an unfavorable comparison.
In short, Disney cannot compete with the luxury and boutique hotel brands of the world. If you look at something like the Waldorf Astoria or Four Seasons Orlando, they run circles around the Contemporary–and usually at lower nightly rates.
It’s no secret that Walt Disney World prices its on-site hotels at a premium as compared to their real world counterparts, but the difference with a hotel like the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, or BoardWalk Inn is that there are no direct comparisons to those hotels. You can’t point to a real world luxury hotel brand that has a fully-fledged Victorian theme, a South Seas theme, or an Atlantic Boardwalk theme. By contrast, the Contemporary is a modern-luxe hotel, so it’s a direct comparison.
In fairness, there’s one huge “amenity” offered by Disney’s Contemporary Resort that its real world counterparts don’t have: location. In fact, no hotel at Walt Disney World (period) has as good of a location. This is the closest resort to the Magic Kingdom (well, technically Bay Lake Tower is closer, but they’re basically one in the same).
It’s a short monorail ride to and from the park, and an even shorter walk. It’s really awesome to not have to hassle with any transportation in the morning or after a long night as you just walk 5-10 minutes to and from the Magic Kingdom. This convenience cannot be overstated–it’s a huge advantage at the beginning or end of a long day, and is enough to trump all of the downsides of the Contemporary.
Moving along to other advantages, there’s the dining scene. California Grill and Chef Mickey’s are obviously the restaurants with a strong reputation here, but don’t discount The Wave and Contempo Cafe. The Wave and Contempo Cafe are two overlooked gems–in fact, Contempo Cafe is one of our Top 10 Counter Service Restaurants at Walt Disney World!
California Grill is expensive and arguably a bit overrated, but we also really like it. In fact, California Grill’s Brunch at the Top is one of our favorite meals in all of Walt Disney World, and we highly recommend doing that if you have the opportunity.
At the other end of the spectrum, Chef Mickey’s is one of the worst restaurants at Walt Disney World when considering value and cuisine. Even accounting for Chef Mickey’s low quality, Contemporary Resort is still a top 5 Walt Disney World hotel for dining.
Add the Top of the World Lounge next door at Bay Lake Tower, and you have a really well-rounded hotel in terms of Disney dining. Note that upon reopening, only the Wave, Wave Lounge, Contempo Cafe, and Cove Bar will operate. The remaining restaurants–including Chef Mickey’s and California Grill–will reopen at a later date.
Throughout the year, Disney’s Contemporary Resort offers various entertainment and enhancements. At Christmas, there’s a gingerbread display. Around Easter, decorated eggs appear in the atrium. During “normal” times of year, there are movies and other offerings.
Other amenities include the on-site convention center, laundry facilities, arcades, shopping, and childcare. Olympiad Health Club is Contemporary’s fitness center and spa. Watercraft Rentals (kayaks, boats, and more) are available for use in Bay Lake.
The pools at Disney’s Contemporary Resort are another downside. The hotel has two pools, both of which are among the weakest at Walt Disney World. The Feature Pool, sits sits between the A-frame tower and the Garden Wing. This area is mostly unthemed, and offers a hot tub, kiddie pool, and water player area. There’s also a nearby quiet pool.
Overall, Disney’s Contemporary Resort is a hotel about which I’m of two minds. As someone who goes to Walt Disney World to be immersed in a themed design and escape from the real world, Contemporary Resort does next to nothing for me. The core design is cool, but various “improvements” made over the years leave it feeling dated and a bit dreary.
As someone who also values convenience and location, I love Disney’s Contemporary Resort. There are few better feelings at the end of a long night in Magic Kingdom than looking at the long bus and monorail lines…and walking right past that headache to your hotel.
For many people, whether to book Disney’s Contemporary Resort will likely be a matter of convenience v. theme. If you love the whimsical theming of Walt Disney World resort hotels, Disney’s Contemporary Resort may be a disappointment. If you want a hassle-free vacation, it’ll be a great option. For us, it ultimately comes down to what kind of trip we’re taking–if we plan on spending a lot of time at the hotel, Disney’s Contemporary Resort is not the right pick for us. If we’re spending a lot of time at Magic Kingdom, it’s a great choice.
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Do you love the Contemporary or is it not your style? If you’re a fan, do you think the monorail, proximity to the Magic Kingdom, and other perks make it worth the premium price? If you’re not a fan, is it because of the “plain” style? Do you agree or disagree with our review? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!