Disney’s Contemporary Resort is a deluxe resort located at Walt Disney World. It is the closest resort to Magic Kingdom. Being the building with the monorail running through it, it’s often a highly coveted resort. We stayed here for the first time and we have some thoughts. Here is our full review of Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World
The Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World is quite popular since it’s the hotel closest to Magic Kingdom. It consists of the main tower, garden wing and Bay Lake Tower, which is the home to Disney Vacation Club suites and villas. For the purposes of this review, we will only be talking about Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Not Bay Lake Tower, which is the DVC portion of this resort.
Many people can spot the Contemporary Resort right away thanks to its unique A-frame structure. And if you’ve ever ridden the monorail from Magic Kingdom, you’ve likely rode right through it! Most people know this resort for it’s Grand Canyon mural designed by Mary Blair. It’s cute and recognizable.
And one of the biggest perks of staying at the Contemporary Resort is being able to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the resort. You can watch them from the 4th floor observation deck, any of the platforms in the stairwell, or your room if it faces the Park. It’s pretty cool!
Disney’s Contemporary Resort Atmosphere
The atmosphere at Disney’s Contemporary Resort is….strange. Sorry, but unless you’re in the first-floor lobby, it just feels like you’re stuck in the 80s somewhere. I am not really old enough to remember the 80s, so the vibe doesn’t do anything for me. But for some, it’s very nostalgic. The Contemporary is also one of the original hotels from when Magic Kingdom opened in 1971. And for many, that’s also a very nostalgic thing too. Again, for me, I didn’t start going to Walt Disney World until my mid-20s in the mid-20s. So while this might be a really special thing for some, for me, it doesn’t hold any emotional weight.
I think this is important to note. It might also explain why I feel it has a somewhat cold, unwelcoming vibe. Some people love it. And that’s great! I just don’t get the architecture, or the random techno music played throughout.
The lobby on the first floor did recently get a refresh, with some mid-century modern furniture. And some artwork that matches the Mary Blair mural in the 4th-floor atrium. I know some people hate it. But I think it feels a lot fresher than it did prior. So that’s a win to me.
Disney’s Contemporary Resort Rooms
The resort rooms at Disney’s Contemporary Rooms were recently renovated and reimagined to the theming of the Incredibles. I had read complaints of the rooms being small. But we thought they were quite spacious and loved that they can sleep five. The design isn’t too in your face Disney. And we actually thought it was fairly well done. We had booked a water view but ended up getting pixie-dusted to a theme park view, which was incredible.
The balcony window was quite large, as was the balcony itself. Being able to see Cinderella Castle and Space Mountain from our room was such an amazing experience and one I know many people appreciate. The beds were comfortable and even the sofa bed was more comfortable than some of the Murphy beds we’ve stayed on at Walt Disney World.
One thing we noticed, unfortunately, was that these rooms were already starting to show signs of wear and disrepair. Much of this we attribute to Disney’s current issue of just doing everything as cheaply as possible. We noticed this when we sailed on the Disney Wish, and we noticed it here. Several things broke in our room during our stay, and nothing was ever done to fix any of them. The renovation is cute, but it feels like many things were done cheaply and in a hurry, and now they are breaking. And it’s not like we are aggressive travelers. When I say something would break, it’s like you pull the sliding door open, and then the handle comes off in your hand. Very weird.
We were also not big fans of the layout of the bathrooms. In many of the resorts, the vanity is separate from the toilet and shower. That’s not the case in these rooms. The shower and vanity share a room, and you have to walk through the shower room to get to the toilet. Again, not the most functional design really. Especially if you have a large party.
Grounds at Disney’s Contemporary
The grounds at Disney’s Contemporary are pretty basic. There’s some landscaping, a couple of beach areas, one with a beach volleyball court, and a walkway that goes along the water. They’re nothing remarkable. And definitely doesn’t make you feel transported to somewhere else, like many of the deluxe resorts often do. As someone who likes to get in a morning walk each day, yes even at Disney I do this, the grounds are very underwhelming.
But we love that there is a beach for some relaxing. And that there usually seemed to be plenty of available loungers.
Disney’s Contemporary Resort Pools
There are two pools at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The feature pool is located right behind the main lobby. And features a 17-foot waterslide. It’s….ok? I don’t get the hype about this pool whatsoever. It just looks boring, and when you compare it to other pools in the deluxe resort category, well, I’m just going to say it. It’s embarrassing for a deluxe resort. I would go so far as to say I prefer all of the Moderate Resort pools over this one. It’s a pool, and if you like pools just for being a pool, then it will suffice.
But if you’ve looked at any of the other Magic Kingdom Resort pools and thought, “Wow, these are incredible!” You probably won’t be thinking that about the pool at the Contemporary. And considering we stayed here when heat indexes were between 95-100 degrees, the lack of guests using the pool is a good indicator that people don’t book this resort for the pool.
There is also a quiet pool, Bay Pool, located pretty much right behind the feature pool, and overlooks Bay Lake, which is fun.
There is a splash pad right next to the feature pool. Again, this is really just ok, and not nearly as cool as many of the splash pads we’ve seen at other Disney hotels. With a very outdated Spaceship theme, and only about half the splash pad working at any moment, this is just another part of the resort I feel needs a major overhaul and update. Honestly, smaller kids probably won’t care. A water play area is fun for them regardless. But as the grown up who paid for the resort, you might be a little disappointed.
Transportation Options for the Contemporary Resort
Disney’s Contemporary Resort is the hotel closest to Magic Kingdom, and about a 5-10 minute walk to the front gates of the park. This deluxe resort is also located on the Disney Monorail, giving you easy access to the other Monorail Resorts and the transportation at Magic Kingdom. That being said, guests staying here will have access to the monorail for both Magic Kingdom and Epcot. The Contemporary is the first stop when coming from the Magic Kingdom, making it also the longest ride to the Magic Kingdom. There is also a walkway from the Contemporary to Magic Kingdom that will take you about 7-10 minutes. So if you can make the trek, walking will actually be faster when going to Magic Kingdom. And if you can’t the monorail ride is still pretty short.
To get to EPCOT, you’ll just take the monorail to the next stop, get off at the Ticket and Transportation Center, and transfer to EPCOT on the EPCOT monorail. Just follow the signs and you’ll be good! The monorail station is located on the 5th floor, with guests going through security on floor 4, and then going up the escalator to board. Guests with strollers have access to an elevator that goes between floors 4 and 5 to help them get on and off the monorail.
There are buses to take you to Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Disney Springs and the water parks. Currently, the ferry is still not back and up running at the Contemporary, so those are the two options for transportation here.
Dining and Restaurants at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Disney’s Contemporary Resort is home to many popular dining options. California Grill, which is one of the most sought after restaurants at Walt Disney World, is located on the 15th floor of this resort. Chef Mickeys, the popular character breakfast and dinner buffet, is also at this resort, and is located on the 4th floor. And Steakhouse 71, which is one of our favorite brunch spots at Walt Disney World and replaced The Wave, is located on the first floor.
Quick service options include the Contempo Cafe, which we are big fans of for meals outside of the Parks. Outer Rim is the resort’s bar on the 4th floor. And the Sand Bar is the pool bar at the Contemporary, which offers drinks and concession stand food like hot dogs.
Movies Under the Stars at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Movies Under the Stars is always a fun way to spend a night in at the resort! At the Contemporary Resort, guests can watch the Movies Under the Stars in the courtyard, which is located directly through the back entrance of the resort. You can find the schedule for Movies Under the Stars in the lobby on the first floor of the resort.
Disney’s Contemporary Resort Amenities and Recreation
Aside from Movies Under the Stars, Disney’s Contemporary Resort also offers a campfire each night, where guests can roast marshmallows, or purchase a s’mores kit. There’s also an arcade, as well as basketball courts. Beach Volleyball and tennis courts are also offered here. And guests can rent boats and go fishing on Bay Lake as well. Like most deluxe resorts, there is also a fitness center located on the third floor.
And our favorite, The Electrical Water Pageant, runs every night (weather permitting) at 10:05. This is such a cute little water parade and only lasts about 5 minutes. You can see it best from the beach or the marina.
The Elevator Problem at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Ok let’s talk about the elevator problem at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Because it’s a big problem. I have never heard any number of guests collectively complain about the same exact thing at any resort or hotel. Not ever. But these elevators, well they are conversation starters for sure. Many nights you could expect to wait about a half an hour to actually get on an elevator. And then of course, it would stop at every floor. Because why not.
The actual problem with this resort is the design. It’s just not good. It’s not efficient, and it doesn’t take into consideration that the resort needs to support not only the guests staying here, but also the guests visiting for dining. There are only five elevators to service the entire main tower and restaurants. When California Grill is open, there are technically only four elevators that can be used.
Considering that the Contemporary Resort is home to 2 extremely popular restaurants, this is a huge issue. Especially when you consider that many of the guests visiting Chef Mickey’s have strollers and need the elevator.
Add in the fact that the tower is 15 floors. And there are no inside stairs, escalators to the top, or any other elevators besides the central ones. Very strange to me that you’d build a tower with so few elevators and no inside stairs. I don’t mind taking the stairs. I actually usually prefer it. But even that can be a challenge!
First of all, the stairs are outside. And according to the cast member we spoke with, the doors leading to the inside from the stairs are sometimes locked. So you could get to the to the 11th floor, only to find out that you’re locked out. And since there are no inside stairs, if you make it that far and find yourself unable to get in due to a locked door, it’s not like you can just go down a floor and take the steps up one floor. You’d have to go all the way back to down the 4th floor, to take the elevator. Honestly, it’s a disaster.
Laundry Facilities at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
If you’re taking a longer Disney vacation, or just enjoy doing laundry on vacation, you can do laundry on the second floor of the Garden Wing. There is not a laundry room in the main tower though.
Map of Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Disney’s Contemporary Resort Review
Wow, do we have a lot to say about this resort. As I’m sure you can tell from this review so far, it is far from being our favorite. That doesn’t mean we hated it, or that it might not be right for you. It just isn’t really right for us. Let’s start with the positives.
Pros of Disney’s Contemporary Resort
The location is incredible and if you can manage to get a room with a theme park view, having a view of Cinderella Castle is pretty darn magical. Being able to walk to and from Magic Kingdom in less than 10 minutes is amazing. Especially if you’re staying here during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, not having to deal with the miles long transportation situation that happens after a party is a huge perk.
We did worry being in the tower that we would be able to hear the monorail or the loudness of Chef Mickey’s from our room. But the soundproofing is quite good. And we never had an issue with noise. That being said, there was a little bit of rumbling vibrations in our room from time to time. But nothing that was overly noticeable or disruptive.
Having access to the monorail to get to Epcot is also a huge plus. However, without being too negative here in the “pros section”, we experienced multiple occasions on two separate trips this fall where the monorail wasn’t working properly or even running at all. So just be aware that if this happens, Disney will make sure you have other transportation options, like buses.
And the fact that standard rooms at the Contemporary can sleep five adults is a big benefit for larger parties. A lot of the standard rooms at Walt Disney World only sleep 4 adults, so being able to have extra space for one more is definitely something we appreciate.
Additionally, being able to watch Happily Ever After fireworks from your room or the 4th floor observation deck, is a wonderful experience. Especially if you’re someone who doesn’t love fighting the crowds inside the Parks.
Cons of Disney’s Contemporary Resort
But that’s really where the positives end. This resort is tired, outdated and even the newly refurbished rooms are already showing signs of wear. We had several things broken in our room, and none of them were ever fixed.
This resort has a huge layout problem, which is something I don’t see ever being fixed, because, well, I think the initial design was a disaster to begin with. The elevator problem is one that was simply created by bad design. And exacerbated by the fact that the resort just cannot support the number of guests it has for both the resort aspect of the hotel and the guests who are arriving for meals or shopping here. And due to the fact that the Contemporary has two very popular restaurants, the 4th floor atrium is always busy. Either with guests going to Chef Mickey’s, or guests confused about how to get to California Grill, the atrium was packed and chaotic pretty much all the time.
While overcrowding at Deluxe Resorts isn’t anything new, most deluxe resorts have more sprawling grounds. Which helps disperse the crowds. Think about the Grand Floridian. There’s the main lobby. And yes, people gather there. But for those visiting the restaurants, the areas are further apart. Which helps keep the lobby much less crowded. That’s not the case at the Contemporary. So as a guest, you often just feel like there’s not much room for you to enjoy the resort.
The grounds were also very disappointing. In the words of my friend who is an avid collector of DVC properties, “There are just a lot nicer places to stay than at the Contemporary”. It’s fine. But for the money, you can do much better in our opinion.
How much does Disney’s Contemporary Resort cost?
The cost of a resort room at Disney’s Contemporary Resort will vary based on room type, location, season, and availability and demand. Garden Wing Rooms in 2023 had rack rates varying between $550-$988 per night. In the main tower, which is where we stayed, you can expect to see rack rates of $788-$1348 per night. We were able to get a phenomenal deal with the Disney Visa Credit Card discount that was offered in the fall. And like I said, we also were upgraded for free, so we got a theme park view on a discounted lake view rate.
The cost of this resort is actually the reason we rate it as low as we do. If this were a resort with a price tag closer to $350/night, then we would absolutely be more enthusiastic about it. But with all of its issues, we feel this one is extremely overpriced, especially when comparing it to other deluxe resorts. Of course, this hotel is always booked, and is often a favorite of many guests, so there are obviously many people who disagree with the value found at this resort.
Is the Contemporary Resort good for families?
We don’t love this one for families. The theming at deluxe resorts doesn’t often tend to be heavily themed Disney, and it’s not here either. But considering this has one of the least underwhelming pools and splash pad areas of all of the resorts we’ve stayed at, and the fact that this resort is super inconvenient for anyone who needs to use a stroller, we say this one is probably one of least we’d be likely to recommend to families.
Is Disney’s Contemporary Resort worth the price?
In a word, no. If you’ve read other Disney resort reviews of ours, you probably know that we usually say, it depends! We did not feel that this is the case at all for this resort. Is the location unbeatable? Absolutely! But considering you can often find much better resorts like Wilderness Lodge, Boardwalk Resort and Animal Kingdom Lodge for much less, we just can’t find any reason to justify the cost.
Would we stay here again?
Probably not. We have stayed at almost every Walt Disney World resort, and this one is at the very bottom of the list for us. As the Disney hotel closest to Magic Kingdom, the ease of getting to the park is truly magical, but Disney’s Contemporary resort itself is somewhat lackluster. We have discussed the possibility of trying out the Garden Wing rooms in the future to see if this sways our decision, especially when we have a late-night event like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. But we won’t likely be returning to the Main Tower any time soon. The price is just too high for long waits at the elevators, consistently crowded atrium spaces, and lack of ambiance and grounds with a super high price tag.
Some people love the Contemporary Resort. And that’s great! It’s just not for us. Hopefully, this post has helped you decide if this is the right resort for you or not. And maybe one day, we will stay in the Garden Wing and have more to say about it. It definitely has its perks. And some cute spaces. But it won’t be gracing the top of our must-stay list when it comes to Disney resorts.
Melanie Renee is a photographer, writer, designer and mom. Visiting Disney destinations since 2010, she is also an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. When she's not creating her next coffee recipe, or designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's seeking beautiful sunsets and planning her next trip .