Disney’s Contemporary Resort
The top reason for staying at the Contemporary Resort is not the linens, the service, or the style, though all are fit a luxury resort – it’s because “the monorail goes right through the middle of it.” That was cutting edge technology when Disney debuted the hotel, and it still brings squeals of glee from kids.
As a hotel, the Contemporary is probably the most “normal” Disney-owned resort on the premises, and along with the Polynesian, one of the two original resorts. Top hotels generally opt for either a classic look with lots of wood, brass, and glass, or they pick an ultra-modern theme. The Contemporary falls into the latter category. As a themed hotel, it should be “the hotel of tomorrow,” but the future is expensive. To do it right, each Contemporary room should have a 3-D television, for example; but a) 3-D TV is no longer the future since every Best Buy carries the technology, and b) Disney can’t invest that kind of cash and keep room rates reasonable.
As a result, the Contemporary is a very nice upscale, modern hotel in an unusual shape with a monorail running through it. It also has a great location nestled between two lakes. Most guests get spectacular scenic views.
Important note about the A-frame, however: Not everyone stays in it. The Contemporary has two adjunct sections – the Garden Building and Bay Lake Tower, but selected rooms in both also have great views. Most Garden Building rooms lose sight of the Magic Kingdom (blocked by the A-frame) but, at only three stories, each room feels a bit more intimate and removed from the action. Outside tourists don’t wander through because nothing draws them, plus the lake (and an armada of boats) surround half of it.
Bay Lake Tower, completed in 2009, has 16 stories of one-, two-, and three-bedroom villas. Depending on size, a villa could include a full kitchen, but all rooms have some, such as a microwave. Located on a pseudo-peninsula, water surrounds about 75 percent of the Bay Lake Tower (towers, really). The location offers great views, a quieter atmosphere than the A-frame, and rooms that accommodate families. The downside: a longer walk to restaurants, shops, and the monorail.
Trivia note: When first built, Walt Disney truly wanted to make the Contemporary a showpiece. As designed, each room in the A-frame could be removed from the main building by sliding it out, like a drawer, allowing them to refurbish rooms offsite and then slide them back in. By keeping a few rooms in storage, they could refurbish the entire hotel without impacting total capacity. However, the building settled, the rooms got stuck, and the Contemporary became a little less contemporary.
Beyond the monorail, the Contemporary, above all other hotels, constantly reminds guests that they’re staying in the heart of the magic. With a view of the Magic Kingdom (if staying on the west side), guests never forget their location, especially at night when fireworks illuminate Cinderella’s Castle. Most Disney hotels go out of their way to theme rooms and nestle buildings within trees to help guests escape the action. The Contemporary proudly says, “I am Disney World,” and it’s arguably the most identifiable hotel in the world.
The pool, while nice, doesn’t have the pizzazz found at some other hotels, though it has a great lakefront location and a slide. The Contemporary has a couple decent restaurants on the main floor, though a lot of outsiders to stop by for a meal and to “see the hotel with the monorail.” California Grill, located on the top floor of the A-frame, has a commanding view of the Magic Kingdom at night along with a great menu of always-fresh entrees.
Who should stay here
Choose the Contemporary if you want a luxury resort and a feeling of oneness with the Magic Kingdom and easy transportation around the Disney World Resort. If staying in the A-frame is a bit too much, consider one of the outlying rooms to find a smidgen of peace. Most people don’t spend all their time in their home resort anyway, opting, perhaps, for dinner at the Grand Floridian followed by S’mores by a fire at the campground. If any single hotel screams “Disney vacation,” it’s the Contemporary.
Who shouldn’t stay here
First, those who want peace and quiet – who want to escape the parks at the end of the night rather than embrace them. The monorail hotels, by default, attract a lot of non-residents. Consider, instead, one of Disney’s non-monorail hotels, which the off-site tourists staying at a Motel 6 avoid. While kids may like the location, other heavily themed hotels might be preferable; older kids who consider the pool a No. 1 amenity might also favor a different resort.
The monorail offers direct service to Magic Kingdom and connecting service to the Epcot monorail. Guests may also walk the relatively short distance to the Magic Kingdom, and boats also access some of the other resorts. Other transportation is by bus.
Questions to ask when booking
Rule of thumb: The higher the room in any section, the better the view. Make the appropriate request when booking. Also pin down a request for the A-frame versus one an outlying room if that’s what you want. Those who want more bedrooms and kitchen appliances must focus on Bay Lake Tower.
Disney’s website: http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/contemporary-resort