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Sue Holland

Disney's Contemporary Resort — A Photo Tour

Friday, July 27, 2001
by Sue Holland, MousePlanet staff writer

Disney's Contemporary Resort
Disney's Contemporary Resort

When Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom opened in October 1971, the Contemporary Resort was one of its few on-property resorts. It was by far the most striking and innovative for several reasons, including the A-frame design, the fact that the rooms were built separately and slid into the structure, and because it had the monorail running right through the inside. Thirty years later, it's still an impressive place that's worth a look, even if it's not the resort you stay in during your Walt Disney World vacation. What follows is a photo tour of the resort, since they say a picture is worth 1,000 words!

The front desk (photo by Sue Holland)
The front desk

The main lobby and check-in area has a very futuristic decor. If you've ever watched the Jetsons cartoon, you should see a similarity. The lobby tends to be pretty noisy, as there's nothing to absorb much sound. Just around the corner from the front desk is the Fiesta Fun Center, which is both a very large arcade and the very small snack bar.

The arcade in the Fiesta Fun Center (photo by Sue Holland)
The arcade in the Fiesta Fun Center

The snack bar is not a food court, but rather is a counter service place similar to Roaring Forks at Wilderness Lodge. There are a few tables, but it's far more pleasant to take your food up to your room or out to a table by the pool.

A very popular photo spot (photo by Sue Holland)
A very popular photo spot

Heading outside, it's hard to miss a very popular photograph spot. The whole family can easily get into the shot, and it's a great spot to take a family picture each year to document the kids' growing up! The picture could also be used as your holiday card if you wanted to make the rest of your family and friends envious that you went to Walt Disney World that year.

The Playground (photo by Sue Holland)
The Playground

Towards the garden wings on the left is a small playground. It has a few pieces of equipment and is a good place for very young kids to burn off some energy. Older kids aren't likely to be very impressed here, but would be happy with a roll of quarters in the arcade.

The Butterfly House (photo by Sue Holland)
The Butterfly House

Near the playground is this butterfly house that looks very similar to the resort itself. I saw no butterflies on the day I was there, but it was still interesting to see.

The resort has a full marina, and Sammy Duvall's WaterSports offers water skiing and parasailing adventures. The most popular rental item seems to be the water sprites: small speedboats that hold two passengers and rent for 30 minutes at a time. You must be at least 12 years old and stand five feet tall to drive one.

The resort's large, but unthemed pool (photo by Sue Holland)
The resort's large, but unthemed pool

Relaxing by the pool is my favorite activity at the Contemporary. There is a round, quiet pool, and a larger main pool shaped like a Mickey head. The main pool has a water slide at the main pool, and some water spraying up like a fountain. It's not very deep, but also usually not overly crowded. The deck area is quite large, so it doesn't feel overrun with guests. There is an outdoor snack bar as well as a bar selling delicious frozen drinks - including some without alcohol.

A great view of the restaurants, taken from above (photo by Sue Holland)
A great view of the restaurants, taken from above

Back inside, most public areas are on the fourth floor, where you find the Concourse Steakhouse for a la carte dining, Chef Mickey's for character buffet breakfasts and dinners, and the Outer Rim cocktail lounge.

Imagineer Mary Blair designed the Grand Canyon Concourse mosaic (photo by Sue Holland)
Imagineer Mary Blair designed the Grand Canyon Concourse mosaic

The center of the hotel is where the elevators are located, and that section is covered by a very large tile mural; try to find the five-legged goat if you are looking for a way to distract the kids. The mural was designed by Mary Blair and stands 90 feet tall, depicting Indian children and flowers, birds and trees from the Southwest.

The Contemporary Shop is one of several stores on the concourse level (photo by Sue Holland)The Contemporary Shop is one of several stores on the concourse level

Inside the Contemporary Shop (photo by Sue Holland)Inside the Contemporary Shop

Also on the fourth floor are the shops. They sell other items besides Disney merchandise, and it's one of the few resorts to which I'd make a special trip for the shopping. There is a large shop with children's Disney merchandise, but also one with everything from kitchen and bathroom items to chocolate Mickey truffles.

The resort monorail stops by at the station while the express monorail zips through the concourse (photo by Sue Holland)
The resort monorail stops by at the station while the express monorail zips through the concourse

The most impressive thing about the fourth floor is watching the monorails pass through the resort. Guests actually board and disembark on the fifth floor, and the sole access to it via a narrow escalator has been augmented by an elevator to provide access to guests in wheelchairs. One track takes you on the express route between the Ticket and Transportation Center and the Magic Kingdom, while the other track is the resort-route monorail that also stops at the Polynesian and Grand Floridian.

Surprisingly, the monorail is very quiet and cannot be heard from the guest rooms. The Contemporary boasts some of the largest rooms on Disney property, with about half of the 1,050 rooms located in the tower and the other half split between the two garden wings. The garden wings are three stories tall, and generally have no balcony. All tower rooms have a full balcony and a terrific view of either Bay Lake, which means you get a great view of the 10:05 p.m. Electrical Water Pageant, or the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom. All the rooms have the same size and decor, regardless of location. The decor is bright, bold, and may not be to everyone's taste. As I recall, the colors were red, purple, black - very vibrant! The preferred view means the tower rooms are significantly more expensive.

View of the Magic Kingdom from the Contemporary Roof (photo by Sue Holland)
View of the Magic Kingdom from the Contemporary Roof

At the top is the 15th floor and the California Grill, which recently expanded the former lounge area into an extended dining area. Considered one of the better dining spots at Walt Disney World, the restaurant has two roof-top observation decks, which are good vantage points for the fireworks.

Besides being a tourist resort, the Contemporary has a convention center and almost 100,000 square feet of meeting space. I attended a conference there in 1999, and it was a wonderful four days. Life must be pretty good any time your employer pays to send you to Walt Disney World!

This statue of Leopold Stokowski (the conductor of the original Fantasia) and Mickey is in the lobby of the resort. (photo by Sue Holland)
This statue of Leopold Stokowski (the conductor of the original Fantasia) and Mickey is in the lobby of the resort.

That concludes the tour of the Contemporary - one of Walt Disney World's original resorts. From time to time I'll do a photo tour of other resorts, so keep an eye on this column.

Contact Sue at sue.holland@mouseplanet.com.


MousePlanet's WDW Trip Planning Guide has some other pages on the Contemporary Resort that you may wish to look over.  The Contemporary Resort "Fast Facts" page has tons of information on the resort, restaurants, and shops.  Brian Bennett has another photo tour of the resort, too, if you'd like to see some more pictures of this hotel.  The WDW Resorts from A to Z page has more details about the resort including rack rate pricing information.


Sue has been hooked on Walt Disney World since her first visit in 1972 with her parents and younger brother. She kept returning more frequently until she moved to Florida in 1986.

After joining the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) in 1997, she now visits almost monthly. She also spends time at the DVC's non-WDW locations, and is experienced with the Disney cruise ships.

She takes many of these trips on her own, but she's also toured WDW with large groups of people, including families, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

She works as the Administrative Services Division Head for a large residential facility administered by the Florida Department of Children and Families. She currently resides in Southwest Florida with her teenage son.

Sue is one of our most prolific trip report writers. Read her trip report archive here.

You can contact Sue here.

Get the latest info about the resort at “Park Update: Walt Disney World.”


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