Despite being nearly 50 years old, this sleek, luxury Disney resort still lives up to its name. Park hopping is a breeze if you choose to stay at the Contemporary, as it's close enough to the Magic Kingdom to walk, or hop on the monorail at the station in the lobby. Families seeking relief from the midday heat can be back in their rooms or taking a swim in moments. Rooms in the main tower (pricier) offer great views, including nightly fireworks and lighted boat parade. Bay Lake Tower offers one- and two-bedroom villas. For the fireworks, or a spectacular sunset view, at least one dinner at the California Grill (on the 15th floor of the main tower) is worth the tab. Perfect for families with youngsters eager to rub elbows with Mickey, the Contemporary also welcomes those on romantic getaways, and corporate travelers.
YOU SHOULD KNOW A family favorite because of its proximity to the Magic Kingdom, the Contemporary Resort's huge meeting spaces mean it is also popular with conventions. Vacationers and business travelers often have different requirements, and they can collide in the busy lobby.
The spacious rooms use neutral carpets and walls to best show off splashes of primary colors, reminiscent appropriately, considering the hotel's location, of Mickey Mouse's outfit. The unfussy furniture adds to the feeling of space. The rooms can sleep up to five adults, on a variety of bed options. Some rooms have balconies, some have views of the Magic Kingdom.
YOU SHOULD KNOW A room with a view of the Magic Kingdom and the nightly fireworks costs substantially more than a room with a view of the garden or of Bay Lake. Visitors should weigh the extra cost of views that can be had for free from the resort's grounds, against what those extra dollars could buy.
The roomy marble, tile, and chrome bathrooms have a vanity with two sinks, and a shower/bath. The WC is exactly that, a separate water closet.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The dual sinks are spacious, with separate mirrors, but there is almost no space on the vanity for bathroom necessities. Also, there are no rails or grab bars in the standard bathrooms, although they are provided in accommodations for guests with special needs.
The 4th floor lobby at the Contemporary, with its monorail station and multi-story mosaic, is pure, iconic Disney. As busy as Grand Central Station, this cavernous space, known as the Grand Canyon Concourse, houses several casual restaurants, and each day thousands of people grab a meal, watch the monorails slip silently into and out of the station, hope for a glimpse of familiar Disney characters, or simply sit and watch the hubbub.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The monorail offers swift transportation between the Magic Kingdom and the Contemporary, except at park closing time. Then the crowds mean you can wait on the crowded platform for up to 30 minutes or more. Either leave a little early, or if you still have any energy, and are able, simply take the 8-minute stroll back to the resort.
Two pools, one with a slide and water park, overlook the lakes. Towels are supplied, and there are lifeguards on duty seasonally.
No spa on-site, but Senses, a full-service spa at the Grand Floridian, is only one monorail stop away.
Treadmills, bicycles (regular and recumbent) and more are available at the Olympiad Fitness Center, along with free weights, and weight machines.
Dining options are varied, from fine dining to fast food. The California Grill on the 15th floor serves American cuisine and sushi, for dinner only, all accented by the superb views of the Magic Kingdom. You must have reservations. Chef Mickey's is headquarters for character meals, featuring buffets for breakfast or dinner, both featuring Mickey and his pals. The Wave offers full-service meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and is near the check in desk on the first floor.
For a very special fireworks experience, guests can reserve a spot for the nightly Celebration at the Top, featuring small plates, drinks and a private viewing terrace with a castle view. But, if you have pre-fireworks dinner reservations at California Grill, save your receipt, as you can come back at fireworks time to take in the show from the restaurant's terraces.
The California Grill Lounge serves up views and sophistication, with no need for reservations, although the first-come first-serve seating policy means latecomers will be left standing. There's no need to stand, however, if you want to sit and have a quiet drink, as there are several other lounges onsite. The Outer Rim offers serene views over Bay Lake, The Wave serves cocktails and craft beers, and the Sand Bar offers poolside libations.
No car is needed if you are focusing on Disney World, as all options of the onsite transportation system are available at this central resort. The monorail station transits the lobby, buses stop at the front door, boats ply the waters of the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake, carrying guests to and from the far corners of Disney World. But best of all, it's only a few minutes walk to the Magic Kingdom. The bus system can be slow, so for guests in a hurry to spend time in one of the other Disney parks, ride sharing and taxis are readily available, and are particularly handy for a visit to Disney Springs. City buses head to and from Downtown Orlando on a regular schedule.
A water taxi will deliver guests to the resorts around the Seven Seas Lagoon or Bay Lake, where some of the finest dining in the United States is available. The award-winning Victoria & Albert's in the Grand Floridian is only a couple of water taxi or monorail stops from the Contemporary, and Artist Point, a California-inspired fine dining restaurant, is only one stop away on Bay Lake. A bus ride or ride share away lies Disney Springs where guests can sample cuisine from celebrity chefs such as Morimoto, Art Smith, Kevin Dundan and Rick Bayless, in addition to choosing from more than 50 restaurants and lounges.
Each of the resorts around the Lagoon or Bay Lake has a wide variety of lounges and bars that can be reached by monorail or water taxi. Disney Springs offers the chance to sip sake on the outdoor roof terrace of Morimoto Asia, or hoist a Guinness at Raglan Road Irish Pub, or savor local bourbon at the bar at Art Smith's Homecomin' restaurant.
WHY WE LIKE IT
The rooms are spacious, the location cannot be improved on, the views are spectacular, and for anyone who has a soft spot for Mickey Mouse and pals, it's worth throwing the budget out the window for a very special vacation.