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The Magic Kingdom’s Next Door Neighbor

Friday, April 15, 2011

Location…Location…Location!  You’ve heard it a lot from your parents, friends, or people more experienced than you in real estate.  The proximity of any property can be just as important as the property itself.  As our resort hopping series continues we visit a place that’s about a driver and a 5-iron away from the front gate of the Magic Kingdom park.  Disney’s Contemporary Resort opened October 1st, 1971 at the same the Magic Kingdom Park opened its doors to its first guests.  The resort is quite recognizable and tends to catch your eye because of it’s large A-frame structure.  In some respects the exterior of the resort is what gives it character.  It’s one of the most unique looking resorts in the world. 

While you are admiring the exterior of the resort don’t forget to walk through its front doors and visit the inside.  The inside is just as unique as the resort’s exterior.  The theme of the resort is similar to its name.  You’ll find all of the guest rooms and common areas to be very contemporary looking and fashioned; including flooring, lighting, and furnishings with abstract shapes. 

Opening in 2009 was the Contemporary’s sister resort called Bay Lake Tower.  This semi-circular shaped resort was constructed specifically for the Disney Vacation Club.  It’s attached to the Contemporary resort by an open-air sky bridge which snakes approximately 40 feet high above the ground.  This gives DVC members and resort guests staying at Bay Lake Tower easy and simple access to the 4th floor, Grand Canyon Concourse amenities located at the Contemporary Resort.  Most importantly, the sky bridge allows BLT guests to easily access one of the biggest icons at Walt Disney World.  Guests can grab a monorail ride to the Magic Kingdom or even to EPCOT via the Transportation and Ticket Center.

There’s quite a bit to cover at this resort(s).  Let’s start on the 1st floor of the Contemporary where you’ll find the check-in desk and one of the resorts casual, sit-down restaurants called the Wave.  This restaurant replaced the old Food & Fun Center arcade about 5 years ago when the resort went through a major refurbishment of its amenities and common areas.

The check-in desk

The Wave restaurant

As you stroll out the back door of the Contemporary you will run directly into the resort’s pool and boat dock which provides transportation to the Wilderness Lodge and Ft. Wilderness Resort & Campground.  You can also find water craft for rent if you choose to take a boat around Bay Lake of the Seven Seas Lagoon. 

As you head back into the Contemporary you can take the elevator up to the 4th floor where you will find a myriad of resort amenities including restaurants, gift shops, a resort bar and arcade.  You’ll often here the 4th floor referred to as the Grand Canyon Concourse.  You can see most of the interior of the resort while standing in the open air 4th floor including the monorail which runs through the concourse.

If you are hungry or thirsty you’ll have a choice to make.  The Outer Rim Lounge provides guests with spirits, mixed drinks and other cocktails.  One of the most popular character meal restaurants is located here.  Chef Mickey’s is considered the flagship of character meal experiences at Walt Disney World.  The resort’s quick service restaurant is located here as well.  The Contempo Café has a refillable mug station and provides on the go meals you can take out or eat in its spacious seating area. 

Contempo Café refillable mug station

The gift shops include several Disney souvenir favorites and a place where you can purchase certain food staples and other sundries. 

Buena Vista Goods gift shop

Fantasia gift shop 

The Fantasia Market, where you can find limited food items and other sundries.

The Game Station arcade is one of the largest arcades on Disney property

The monorail station inside the Grand Canyon concourse

Located on the 3rd floor of the resort is the beauty salon and fitness center.  If you are in need of a hair cut and style or a relaxing massage this is the place you’ll want to visit. 

If you are looking for more of an upscale dining experience be sure to visit the 15th floor where you’ll find the California Grill.  It’s one of the more popular upscale dining experiences at Walt Disney World.  Not only is the food above par, but this restaurant provides one of the best views of the Magic Kingdom you will find anywhere.  This restaurant opened in May of 1995 replacing the famous Disney Top of the World bar and restaurant.

As we head back down to the 4th floor of the Contemporary Resort we head across the sky bridge to Bay Lake Tower.  One important note is the 4th floor of the Contemporary Resort connects to the 5th floor of Bay Lake Tower.  It can be confusing if you are not aware of it.  If you take the elevator at Bay Lake Tower to the 1st floor you will find the resort’s lobby.  It’s rather small because all Bay Lake Tower guests check-in at the 1st floor of the Contemporary Resort. 

The sky bridge entrance at Bay Lake Tower over to the Contemporary Resort

Just down the hall, off of the lobby you will find community hall.  Each DVC resort has a community hall where guests can play computer games and enjoy other family activities. 

Heading out of the back of Bay Lake Tower is the resort’s pool complex.  Here you will see a pool bar with limited food selections, hot tubs, a kiddy pool, and a very contemporary looking pool slide.  The pool bar includes a refillable mug station. 

Most Bay Lake Tower guests will tell you the best feature of this resort lies on the 16th floor.  The Top of the World Lounge is where DVC guests who are staying on points can visit to enjoy a cocktail, appetizers, and stunning views of the Magic Kingdom fireworks at night.  Before you can gain access to this lounge you have to check-in at the first floor where a DVC Cast Member will verify your room key.  The Cast Member will escort you and your guests to an elevator where he or she will grant you access to the 16th floor. 

At the Top of the World Lounge it's all about the view. 

If you are considering what resort to select when visiting Walt Disney World and location is high on your list of priorities the Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Tower are one of the best to consider.  Having the Magic Kingdom Park so close to your doorstep within walking distance is a huge plus.  If you enjoy visiting the park when it opens or staying until it closes knowing you only have a short walk back to your room is very gratifying.  In most cases it will encourage you to get there earlier or stay later so you can enjoy more attractions and shows. 

If you decide to stay at the Contemporary Resort or Bay Lake Tower keep in mind most of the amenities are located at different points throughout the resorts.  Restaurants and lounges are on different floors or in some cases different buildings.  Despite the scattered amenities one thing is for sure you’ll find the location of the Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Tower convenient.  Whether you choose to take the monorail, a boat, a motor coach or simply walk to your theme park destination rest assured you won’t have any problem getting back home when your day is over.  After all, staying next door to the most popular theme park in the world has its advantages.   

Next Up:  Pirates of the Caribbean 4 - On Stranger Tides will soon be released.  Here's your chance to join Captain Jack's crew. 

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About this column

Aaron DelPrince looks at the various activities you and your family can experience at Walt Disney World


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