Disney's Contemporary Resort - Check-In Florida

There's always a slight tilt of the head when I tell people that Disney's Contemporary Resort is my favorite hotel in the world. See...you're doing it right now. It's an understandable reaction really; after all the Contemporary won't be found on any top 100 list, and certainly can't compete with names like Ritz, Waldorf, and Four Seasons in terms of service. Still, there is a powerful force which the Contemporary has in overabundance that no other hotel may ever match.

Nostalgia.

Disney Contemporary Resort

My love affair with the Contemporary began nearly three decades ago when our family started making annual trips to Walt Disney World. At the time, The Contemporary was Disney's flagship resort and supplied countless fond memories from my childhood. My brother and I wasted a year's worth of allowance in the resort's enormous arcade, we rented water sprites and jumped the wake of the giant ferries, and every night ended by watching the Magic Kingdom fireworks from our room. Not even the traumatic experience of being a five year old stuck in an elevator and separated from mom could offset the many wonderful memories from the Contemporary.
Disney Contemporary Resort Pool
Just as fun at 32 as 12...
Disney Contemporary Resort
Except MJ doesn't let me jump wake.

Today, rarely do I set foot on Disney property without making a visit to the Contemporary. During our frequent trips to the Mouse, nearly every day starts with a stop at Contemporary Grounds, the resort's lobby coffee bar and one of few places at Disney with drinkable java. In addition, I've been known to enjoy a nap or two on the comfy couches located outside the hotel's ballroom. The same ballroom where President Nixon once famously said...
Because people have got to know whether or not their President's a crook. Well I am not a crook. I've earned everything I've got.
My guess is our 37th President didn't share the same feelings of nostalgia that I do for the Contemporary, which is really a shame. Decades of memories make it easy for me to love this hotel, but why should you? Well, let's see...
Disney Contemporary Resort Mural
The famous mural which spans the entire atrium.

Vintage Disney

The Contemporary was one of the first two hotels built when Walt Disney World opened in October of 1971. The giant structure was, and still is, one of the largest a-frame buildings in the world, and featured a futuristic design which fit nicely with Mr. Disney's dream of "a great big beautiful tomorrow." What was once cutting edge design is now a stale and soulless facade of its former self, but serves to remind us of a time when Walt's "Florida Project" was in its infancy, and E-Tickets were as good as gold.
Disney Contemporary Resort
The monorail entering the atrium.

In the years after it opened, the Contemporary was left to watch as time and newer resorts at Disney passed it by. That all started to change about five years ago when the resort underwent a massive overhaul from top to bottom. The game room where I spent so many hours as a kid was replaced by a new restaurant dubbed The Wave, the Concourse Steakhouse was exchanged for a counter-service option doling out Mickey waffles, and the once open atrium floor was filled with yet another gift shop. Needless to say, I wasn't always a fan of the enhancements being made at the Contemporary, but looking at it objectively the changes were necessary to make it, well, contemporary once again.
Disney Contemporary Resort
The giant Mickey wreath for Christmas.

Besides the rest of the resort, the guest rooms at the Contemporary were also given a face lift, to bring them out of 1971 and into the 21st century. Sleek modern furnishings and the beloved white duvet are paired with a bathroom that one might expect to find at the always-hip W Hotels. The guestrooms at the Contemporary are also known as some of the largest on Disney property, which probably explains how we were once able to squeeze 8 of us in one double room.
Disney Contemporary Resort Room
Contemporary guestroom with Magic Kingdom view.
Bay Lake Tower Studio
Studio at Bay Lake Tower

Easily the biggest change to come to the Contemporary was the addition of Bay Lake Tower, a new addition to the Disney Vacation Club family of properties. For the first time, Bay Lake Tower offered members an option at a "monorail resort" - one of the 3 hotels located on Disney's iconic transportation system - and also brought with it the most modern rooms of all the Mouse's properties. Bay Lake Tower was one of the most celebrated openings at Disney in recent years, and for this lifelong Contemporary fan, it was nice to see so many people excited to visit this hotel once again.
Bay Lake Tower Disney Contemporary
Bay Lake Tower

In addition to larger rooms and access to the monorail, another benefit to Bay Lake Tower is the Top of the World lounge. This space offers the best vantage point for the Wishes fireworks display and, as I recently discovered, also happens to serve up a mean order of crab nachos. Sadly, the lounge is only open at night, otherwise it would be my go-to place for an afternoon with the Kindle and an adult beverage.
Disney Contemporary California Grill View
The Magic Kingdom from Top of the World Lounge

MJ and I recently stayed at the Contemporary following our epic meal at Victoria & Albert's, and as we stopped to admire the atrium below she asked the question which you may be thinking as well.

Why is the Contemporary your favorite hotel in the world?

I knew why she was asking the question; MJ understands my taste in hotels better than anyone, and the Contemporary doesn't really fit the mold. There were numerous reasons I could have tossed out in my case for the Contemporary, such as the location, history, and even the access to great coffee, but none of these reasons immediately came to mind. Just then, Monorail Teal pulled into the station, and a little boy ran ahead of his mom and dad who were pushing his little brother in a stroller.

Come on guys. Mickey will go to sleep soon!

I just smiled and shrugged my shoulders. She already had her answer.

Enjoy Your Stay