Disney’s Contemporary Resort Review
Disney’s Contemporary Resort is a Deluxe or luxury tier hotel at Walt Disney World, located within walking distance of Magic Kingdom and on the monorail loop, which connects to Epcot. This review features updated room photos, pool & restaurant info, pros & cons, and more. (Updated February 20, 2022.)
Over the course of the last year, at lot has changed at Disney’s Contemporary Resort as part of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebration. This includes new rooms inspired by the Incredibles, a redesigned lobby, changes to California Grill, and the debut of Steakhouse 71 Restaurant. See Photos & Review: Contemporary’s Hit & Miss Makeover for a full look at the changes.
Work continues on other areas of the resort, including rooms in the Garden Wing. Walt Disney World has been publicly silent about a timeline, but the Garden Wing isn’t expected to return until mid-June 2022. It’s possible that’s just the first phase, and construction won’t be fully-finished by then. Beyond that, more construction to the common areas is possible at the Contemporary, as some areas of woefully outdated. Keep an eye on our 2022-2023 Walt Disney World Hotel Construction Tracker for updates.
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 who 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 gratuitous uses of Mickey Mouse, to be sure, but it’s more about the architecture than themed design.
Recently, this has become even more muddied as the Contemporary debuted an “Incredibles Injection” to guest rooms. These now feature the films via characters, plus mid-century modern stylization, and various nods to the monorail and other design changes.
The end result is…interesting. Nowhere else in the hotel are there any references to the Incredibles, which arguably makes the Contemporary even more of a hodgepodge than it was before. The rooms are lighter and brighter with a crisp look and mid-century modern aesthetic, they also look cheap.
Other new rooms at Walt Disney World have used a variety of textures and higher-end finishings to convey quality alongside the character infusions. That’s not the case here, as the new rooms at the Contemporary are lacking in that regard.
From the flooring to the furniture to the surfaces, these rooms simply feel and look lower end. They’re not Pop Century quality, but they’re also not on par with the Riviera or Polynesian, which thread the character-meets-quality needle far better than the Contemporary.
The rooms at Disney’s Contemporary Resort are sizable at 394 square feet each.
The recent refurbishment makes them feel a tad smaller, but these are still more spacious than Value or Moderate Resort rooms.
On a positive note, 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.
The sinks are more practical, the visually-busy design has been decluttered, the mirror is fun–even the ceiling looks better.
Contemporary Resort’s Incredibles-inspired rooms have already proven polarizing among Walt Disney World guests. Personally, I’m not bothered by the character integration in theory, but I do think the execution is sloppy and doesn’t really excel at either of the things it’s presumably trying to do.
As a character-themed room, the new Contemporary rooms look weak and uninspired. As upscale hotel rooms, they’re over the top and unsophisticated. It’s hard to envision these having a ton of appeal to families with small children or business travelers attending a convention at the Contemporary.
On a related note, 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 Steakhouse 71 and Contempo Cafe. The latter are two overlooked gems that we very much enjoy.
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 Walt Disney World dining.
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, childcare, 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!
My family just got home from a 6 day stay at Contemporary and we loved it so much! I’m not sure I even want to risk trying another resort when we go back to WDW. We stayed in the garden wing and our room was perfect. The sliding glass door in our room opened directly onto the beach of Bay Lake and the pool. It made it seem like our room was bigger than it was because we had so much “extra” space right outside our door. Not to mention we could see the Magic Kingdom fireworks, and had a front row (and private) viewing of the electric water parade all from our room’s patio chair. I was actually glad we didn’t have a room in the main structure because of this added bonus. We could walk straight out the sliding glass door of our room and be in Magic Kingdom within 10 minutes. We also ate at the California Grill and it was phenomenal- not to mention probably the best view in all of Disney World. I would highly recommend staying at the Contemporary. We can’t wait to go back!
We are scheduled to stay in the Garden Wing in October. Did you request a ground floor room? Do you know what room you booked….was it a standard or a garden view room?
It’s probably because the Contemporary was where my family stayed during my first trip to Disney World when I was 7, but to me, the Contemporary is as Disney as Mickey Mouse. Things have undoubtedly changed since then, but the Contemporary was my introduction to turndown service, and the other amenities of a luxury hotel. To this day I would swear to you that the Contemporary was the nicest hotel I have ever been to, but that’s likely because of how impressed my first-grade brain was.
Having gone back to Disney and stayed on property each time – none have compared. The Mickey cookies on the pillows in the evening, the weird mod lobby chair that my little brother and I both squeezed into together while my parents checked in … the Contemporary simply has my heart. This point was made yet again in 2019, when on a boat ride back to Magic Kingdom from seeing the Hoop Dee Doo Review, I started shaking my husband’s arm to death when I caught a glimpse of the electric float parade that I had assume was 86ed decades ago. He had no idea what it was, but I remembered it clearly and it was magical.
Thoughts on theme park view rooms? We booked a trip for 2022 with two kids so the location seemed best for us.
Any insight on the Hospitality Suite in the Garden Wing? We have 5 small kids, so the appeal of avoiding a bus for MK loomed large in our selection…but we could do Art of Animation suite for 1/3 the cost and have the skyliner AND the visual awe of AoA. We are only doing MK & HS on this brief Feb trip so I am trying to weigh the pros and cons. Thanks
We just left the Contemporary this am. We stay in Disney several times a year in all different hotels. We have stayed 4 times in Disney since their safe Covid reopening. We were very disappointed with the service at Contemporary. The staff friendliness and the locked down feel was not the Disney we jave known in the past . As I said we have been taking advantage of Floridian specials since covid and the other hotels did not feel this way. We stayed at Key west, Yacht club, board walk, Grand Floridian and wilderness Lodge, they all were great in 2020. I would not spend the $ to stay at Contemporary. Art of An. is a great place, our children loved it when they were small. Pool is huge, food is good and places to walk…save your $, AofA better deal.
Thank you! We did move to AoA and loved it – the skyliner simply cannot be beat for park transportation
We have stayed at the Garden Wing Building at the Contemporary many times with all different ages, and our experience was different each time. If you are lucky and get assigned to a bottom floor room in the wing, then it’s wonderful bc you have a balcony and access to outside immediately. You might have a little hike to the main building if you are in the rear, but it’s a lovely walk. So…..your experience will really depend on your room location and floor. The pool side rooms and lake side rooms are my fav; we have requested them on every visit but only once landed a bottom floor. If you are assigned to the Garden Wing and are placed in the far end of the wing on upper floors then you will not have a balcony; and you have to travel the entire length of the building in order to visit the pool, if you depend on an elevator (the elevators are only available in the lobby area closest to the Main building). So….in the rear of the wing building, nearest the lake, you will have a hike. However, some rooms are in close proximity to the fire exits/stairs, and you can use the stairs to go outside which is much closer than walking the entire length of the building. So, it’s all about chance. You don’t have any say so, as to your room assignment, and paying more for a deluxe room will not guarantee your location. For this reason, since I don’t want to be on an upper floor in the rear of the garden wing, I will never book a garden view room, (until they change the bookings, and allocate some rooms on bottom floor of the garden wing; certainly at a higher price that I will gladly pay)
We are moved to the Contemporary from Yacht Club in July. We have two weekends (only keeping one) and ended up with Tower – Lake View and Standard Atrium Club Level. Basically getting the same room. We do like Contemporary and have stayed before. Really glad I booked an MK day for these stays because it will be easy to get to. One of my favorite parts of Contemporary. While the rooms aren’t themed, I would stay at Contemporary over Swan or Dolphin any day.
The Top of the World Lounge should not be considered since its access is limited to DVC members. At a minimum, the article should state the lounge access is limited to DVC members.
My wife must use an electric scooter due to a mobility problem. The Contemporary provides us with the best option to get to the MK. We usually come back to the hotel on the walking path which again is easy. The trip to EPCOT is a bit more difficult due to the change we have to make at the Ticket and Transportation Center, but is not that bad. The room allows us to bring the scooter in without loosing the ability to move around. We have stayed at many of the hotels in our visits and the only thing that comes close is the Polynesian, but your room can be a hike from the lobby. At the Contemporary you are always a short distance from an elevator to the lobby. We had often stayed at the Garden wing which has been taken down and found it one of the best areas in WDW.
We are booked at Port Orleans Riverside the week of August 1. Any idea when we will know where we are staying? I thought we would be moved to the Caribbean Beach since it will be open. Thoughts?
We have stayed at BLT several times and as much as I want convenience to win out the hotel always leaves me cold. I miss the warm welcoming lobby and I find the pools really lackluster for a deluxe hotel. The one big plus is Contempo Café which has excellent food. The walk is great after a long night or late party at MK but overall its my least favourite Deluxe.
I actually feel like the Garden Wing rooms at Contemporary are “hidden gem” rooms. For a far lesser rate than a tower room, you get the location perks of being on the monorail loop and being within walking distance to MK. I’ve stayed at BLT and in the Garden Wing at Contemporary and felt like the walk to the main tower amenities was similar from each spot. The ONLY negative IMO was the back of a balcony on the upper floors. I feel like that should be given in a deluxe level room.
Agreed. Those ground-level Garden View rooms facing Bay Lake are among Disney’s prettiest and most private. Watching the boat traffic on a winter night while sipping wine is one of my favorite WDW memories.
I can’t believe you don’t like the garden wing. This is our favorite part of the hotel if you are on the ground floor. Quiet part of the hotel all day but only a short walk to the hustle of the main building. Plus if you have kids you can throw open the door and there is grassy space right outside each room for them to play on. Some of my favorite Disney memories are waking back to this hotel after an extra late night in MK.
We were really hoping to be moved here for our trip since we’re at POR and saw lots of others were moved here during similar dates to our. Instead they put us at as Boulder Ridge, which is still an upgrade and we’ll happily take it, but I’m not sure we’d ever shell out the money to stay at the Contemporary otherwise, where as WL seems more reasonably priced and we might have paid out of pocket for it.
We love the Contemporary! It’s always so quiet and watching the electric boat parade from the room is always a fun time before bed. Watching the fireworks at MK from the viewing deck is also a big plus. The children love it even with the minimal theming. And of course the location seals the deal. The nightly stroll from MK is so relaxing.
Thanks for the review Tom. I’ll be staying there in a couple of weeks. We’ve been moved to the Contemporary (main tower, lake view) from WL for our stay. I personnally see it as an upgrade. Bigger room, closer to MK, monorail, and same rate! On a different subject, any clue when we’ll be allowed to make ADR’s for parks and resorts?