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  • Writer's pictureDana Birch

Resort Spotlight - Disney’s Contemporary Resort & Bay Lake Tower

As we talked about last week, On October 1, 1971, two resorts debuted with Magic Kingdom Park and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. The original two resorts were Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Disney’s Contemporary Resort. This year, on October 1, 2021, Walt Disney World will celebrate its 50th Anniversary. So, looking ahead, which original resort should you try? Let’s look at some of the features of each of these great resorts!

This week, we are going to spotlight..Disney’s Contemporary Resort & Bay Lake Tower!

As you drive up World Drive this A-frame beauty rises up in front of you as the monorails come gliding in and out of it and you know right away you are going somewhere special, and somewhere that only exists in Walt Disney World. The Contemporary was the original flagship resort of Walt Disney World before the Grand Floridian was built, and it shows it in every way. As you pull up to the porte-cochere of this soon-to-be 50-year-old resort, you can’t help but feel the history, and excitement that you are about to encounter inside. The lobby itself is low slung and surprisingly comfortable, yet formal.

The lobby, like the rooms above in the tower building, and the garden wing to the south are all very sleek and modern in styling, I find them relaxing, and comfortable. These rooms are very spacious, and fun fact, like those at the Polynesian, were all installed by sliding them into place from the exterior once the building had been built! There are a variety of rooms in the original buildings including standard rooms in the main tower with views of Bay Lake on one side or Magic Kingdom/Seven Seas Lagoon views on the other, standard rooms in the garden wing, one-bedroom and hospitality suites with very unique layouts due to the shape of the garden wing, and of course the atrium, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and presidential suites in the main tower building.

The tower and garden wing aren’t the only options at this resort. Just to the north is Bay Lake Tower, which took the place of the north garden wing-back in 2009 and is where you will find villa accommodations. Just like the villas at the Polynesian Village Resort, these rooms have even more to offer with galley-style kitchenettes in the Deluxe Studio Villas, and full kitchens in the one, two, and three-bedroom grand villas. If you want to take a large family reunion-style vacation, these villas are perfect to allow for multiple families to stay together but have their own space for sleeping.

The Contemporary doesn’t reveal itself all at once, you must take an elevator up to the 4th floor to really get a feel for how cool this hotel is. My favorite way to get up to the 4th floor is to meander up a set of escalators towards the rear of the lobby and pass through the ballroom facilities.

On the 4th floor is the Grand Canyon Concourse, a soaring nine-story atrium. This is the heart of the Contemporary Resort. Want more history? The floor-to-ceiling mural depicting a stylized version of the Grand Canyon was designed and painted by artist Mary Blair. My challenge to you in taking in this glorious artwork is to keep an eye out for the 5-legged goat! He’s so famous, he’s even been immortalized on Disney merchandise. The artwork isn’t the only amazing thing in this space, this is where the monorail station for the resort is located. Remember those monorails gliding through the building, they stop here. So, while you shop, play in the arcade, eat, or just sit below, keep an eye up for the highway in the sky, and see how many different monorails you notice as they glide through the building.

As for food, Contemporary is among the best. Two of my favorite restaurants, The Wave, and California Grill call this resort home. The Wave has amazing food in a relaxed yet modern style in the main lobby, focusing on local and seasonal fair, it is a must-try. At the top of the main tower building is California Grill, with the best view of the Magic Kingdom, and the surrounding resorts. The food here is as amazing as the view, with a focus on high-end and delicious cuisine. Sad you didn’t get that window side seat for the fireworks? No problem. If you dine here for dinner, you can return for the fireworks and be escorted out to the roof of the building for some amazing views.

This is also the resort you can meet Chef Mickey and his pals in the Grand Canyon Concourse at Chef Mickey’s. There is also Contempo Café a quick-service restaurant with some delicious fair, and like all resorts has a pool bar at each pool, and a little hide-away style bar called Outer Rim. This used to be an amazing and peaceful place to grab a drink and people watch, but during busy times for Chef Mickey’s, which is most of the day, this turns into the waiting area for the restaurant. The bartenders here are great, so if you find yourself at Outer Rim, grab a drink and enjoy watching the World go by.

Recreation here is plentiful. From lakeside yoga, to fishing, tennis, boat rentals, and pools, this resort has a lot to offer those preferring an active vacation. I personally enjoy watching the monorails go by and staring at the castle from my room, but to each their own. While the pools here are not as fantastically themed as that at the Polynesian, there are three of them. One feature pool with a water slide and zero-entry for each building, Bay Lake Tower, and the Main Tower. There is also a quiet pool nearer to the boat dock with poolside cabanas for rental, and it tends to be popular with adults looking to distance themselves a bit from the activity at the main pools.

Transportation may be the best feature of this resort; you can walk from the Contemporary to Magic Kingdom. Yep, that’s right, you can walk to the Magic Kingdom from this resort. Trust me, there is nothing like the feeling of walking out of Magic Kingdom at night with hordes of people headed to the monorail, buses, boats, and you are quietly walking back to your room that is just about 8minutes away. This resort is also the first stop for those getting on the monorail to head to the TTC to go to Epcot during normal operation and is the first stop for those heading home from Magic Kingdom via the monorail. Boat launches also make it easy to enjoy a wilderness escape at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground for the day and explore all the outdoor fun awaiting there, and at Wilderness Lodge.

The Contemporary Resort may seem stark and sleek from the outside, but the fun and magic inside is worth the stay. Also, having been the former flagship resort, you can feel an upscale difference when you stay there, but it isn’t a stuffy feeling, it is very warm and welcoming.

If you haven’t stayed at either of these soon-to-be 50-year-old beauties, what are you waiting for? Now is the perfect time to celebrate Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary by staying in one of the original two resorts. Personally, I love them both and can’t wait to get back and visit each of them. Whatever option you choose, we at Part of That World Vacations are here to help you when you are ready to travel again.

Until next time, what Part of That World would you like to travel to?

You can contact Dana Birch at or fill out the form here.

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