Hailing from the Chicago area, my siblings and I yearly ask ourselves, “Why do we live here?” Well, as much as I hate the cold, the Chicago blizzard of 1979 was the catalyst for my first ever trip to the Walt Disney World Resort®. That first ever stay at Disney’s Polynesian Village sparked a love in my parents and we graduated to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa after it opened. Despite our many trips and our strong affection for the monorail, we had never stayed in the iconic Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Finally, my parents reserved a Garden Wing room at the Contemporary Resort, which was all that was available at the time. I couldn’t wait to actually stay in the classic symbol of Walt Disney World Resorts. As soon as we swung open the door to our room in the Garden Wing., my mom took one look and said, “We are NOT staying here!” The room was worn with stained carpet and a musty smell that permeated the air. Even the hallways seemed old and dated, certainly not “contemporary.” However, my mom has always been notoriously picky about resorts. Changing rooms was a norm for us, but changing resorts? This was a first! My dad quickly arranged for our departure and subsequent stay at our favorite Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, while we kids tried to hide our disappointment.
Fast forward many years. Recently, my family was set to embark on a cruise on the Disney Fantasy. The cruise itself had consumed the majority of our vacation budget, but we just couldn’t be that close to The Magic Kingdom and not stop by! My sister and I decided that it was time to give the Contemporary Resort a second try. We needed to be as close to the Magic Kingdom as possible to maximize our one park day. The Garden Wing rooms were the most economical, so we booked two standard view rooms for two nights and hoped for the best.
The check-in area of the Contemporary Resort is my least favorite of all of the deluxe resorts. Its high ceilings, slick marble-looking floors, stark décor and proximity to transportation options give it the feel of a large train station in a busy city. It is not a grab-a-drink-and-relax space like the other monorail resorts’ lobbies. However, a true lobby “atmousephere” can be found a few floors up. The Grand Canyon Concourse, located on the fourth floor where the ceiling looms 14 stories overhead, is where you will discover the iconic Mary Blair mural and the monorail station, as well as shops and dining options. I love to relax with a cocktail at The Outer Rim Lounge, with its million dollar views of Bay Lake and beyond!
We walked a very short distance outside (the walkway is covered) to reach the Garden Wing, adjacent to the main resort tower. Our standard Garden View rooms were connecting and had been upgraded to include a view of Bay Lake! Good luck or karmic gods making up for our past disappointment? Perhaps some pixie dust? Our room was modern, spacious and newly renovated. The dark wood and white duvet covers gave the room a sleek feel while retaining the welcoming Disney warmth. No stains on the carpet…check! Fresh-smelling…check! The Garden Wing of our past certainly was long gone and it its wake was a lovely, comfortable oasis. Each room is equipped with a small refrigerator, in-room safe, hair dryer, ironing board and iron, coffee maker and a flat screen television. Two comfy queen beds and an additional daybed meant my son and daughter each had their own bed…which meant hubby and I could enjoy a peaceful night without listening to a chorus of “She kicked me! or “He is hogging the covers!”
DIStracted Tip – All guest laundry facilities are located in the Garden Wing, making this area convenient if you need to wash the melted Mickey bar off your favorite Star Wars shirt!
We headed for the pool and spent the remainder of our check-in day enjoying the facilities. The Contemporary Resort boasts two pools. My kids spent most of the day in the Feature Pool, sliding down the 17 foot waterslide and participating in many poolside games. I have to admit, I was fascinated by the very unique Bay Pool, a completely round bulls-eye of a pool that juts out into Bay Lake. A splash area for small children rounds out the complex. We found plenty of lounge chairs by the pool and even grabbed some burgers and drinks at The Sand Bar without ever having to leave the pool area! The resort also features a fitness center, movies by the pool, beach volleyball and an arcade…all right on property! Sadly, we never had time to check it all out, but that may just be the incentive we need to return!
DIStracted Tip – Also unique to the Contemporary Resort is Sammy Duvall Water Sports Centre where guests can try their hand at waterskiing, tubing, parasailing or even rent boats. (www.duvallwatersports.com) Parasailing over Bay Lake is definitely on my bucket list!
For fast meals, in addition to The Sand Bar by the pool, the Contempo Café is the spot. My favorite table service restaurant when I was younger was the Concourse Steakhouse. It was a sad day for our family when it closed in 2008. Although it is no longer around, the Contempo Café has moved into its space on the 4th floor. We grabbed a quick breakfast before heading to our cruise port and it was convenient and fast, with plenty of seating. Plus, they make a mean Mickey waffle with bacon! Chef Mickey’s, an uber-popular character buffet is right next door. My kids, even as they get older, still love the excitement of meeting the Fab 5 all in one place. Plus, we always walk away with some amazing pictures!
In addition to Chef Mickey’s, the Contemporary Resort is home to two table service restaurants. California Grill is a signature restaurant high up on the 15th floor, with a birds-eye view of The Magic Kingdom and nightly fireworks. The Wave…of American Flavors is the easier of the two for which to secure an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR), but also a lovely place to dine. My extended family and I enjoyed one of our favorite meals here last Christmas and our service was impeccable.
DIStracted Tip – Be sure to make your ADR’s at 180 days prior to your magical vacation. They can be made on-line: http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/ or by calling 407–WDW–DINE.
Overall, I would definitely recommend The Contemporary Resort, especially to guests wishing to spend some time at The Magic Kingdom. It is just a short stroll to the most magical place on earth. Location, location, location! With a Disney-sized number of activities, pools and restaurant options, you can’t go wrong choosing this resort for your next magical vacation adventure. Even if your style is not necessarily “contemporary,” Disney’s Contemporary Resort is a Disney classic.