The History of Disney’s Contemporary Resort

In 1971, Disney World was opened alongside two original property resorts. One of these was Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and the other was Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Disney’s Contemporary Resort was designed with the intention of bringing modern luxury to resort guests, as well as convenient transportation to Magic Kingdom with the Disney Monorail system. The monorail uniquely runs through the resort’s A-frame lobby with an indoor boarding station. Disney’s Contemporary Resort continues to delight guests even now, over 52 years since its original opening.

Construction and Design

Disney’s Contemporary Resort was designed by architect Wilton Becket. The resort’s unique A-frame design as well as its functionality as an indoor monorail train station was innovative and remarkable for the time of its construction. Becket’s goal was to creative a modern and futuristic resort, and it is safe to say that his goal was achieved. Construction for the resort only took around two years and the resort’s opening day coincided with the opening day of Magic Kingdom.  Disney’s Contemporary Resort has earned its way into history books for its design choices and structure. The idea of staying in such a large A-frame resort is thrilling to guests, both in 1971 and in 2023.

Disney's Contemporary Resort
Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Photo: Disney

Expansions and Changes

There have been a few notable expansions and changes to Disney’s Contemporary Resort throughout the years. In 1973 the South Garden Wing was added and with it brought several new rooms and a higher guest capacity. In 2006, a North Garden Wing was added and included DVC rooms. Disney is always updating resorts and conducting renovations, so Disney’s Contemporary Resort rooms have seen a few redesigns throughout the years.

Disney's Contemporary Resort
Disney’s Contemporary Resort in 1984. Photo: Alan Light

In 2021, a new restaurant was opened at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Steakhouse 71 opened in October of 2021 and correlated with Disney’s big 50th anniversary celebration. This restaurant replaced The Wave and aimed to provide an experience similar to that which would have been enjoyed in 1971 during the resort’s first operating year.

DVC and Bay Lake Tower

In 2009 construction began on Bay Lake Tower, a new resort connected to the main building via walkway. Bay Lake Tower is a DVC resort and is home to several DVC villas including three-bedroom grand villas, and villas with lake and theme park views. Bay Lake Tower opened in August of 2009 and attracted current and new members of the Disney Vacation Club. It also includes DVC amenities like a Community Hall, The Top of The World Lounge for DVC members, and its own pool and pool-area.

Bay Lake Tower

Other History and Notable Events

Being such an iconic building, Disney’s Contemporary Resort has seen its fair share of historical or notable events. Former President Nixon delivered his famous “I am not a crook” speech on November 17, 1973 at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. This speech was televised to thousands of Americans in their homes, and not many people realize that the Contemporary is the backdrop for this speech.

Disney’s Contemporary Resort is also home to a famous mural, designed by Imagineer Mary Blair. This mural has become famous and distinct to Disney’s Contemporary Resort, as it spans 90 feet and contains futuristic elements like sharp angles and geometric designs. The mural was constructed from hand-painted tiles, and is on prominent display inside Grand Canyon Concourse.

Contemporary Murals
Mary Blair’s Mural. Photo by Cory Doctorow

Overall, Disney’s Contemporary Resort is famous for good reasons. The unique design is something you won’t find anywhere else, and the accommodations are still deluxe and luxurious over 50 years after its opening day. Have you ever stayed at Disney’s Contemporary Resort? Tell us what you enjoyed about the resort in the comments below!

Written by

Megan Woodard

Contributing Writer

Megan was born into a Disney family. Her first trip to Disney World was when she was only 18 months old. Now as an adult, Megan loves to share the magic of Disney with her two toddlers. Keeping up with Disney news and Disney World knowledge is a fun hobby for Megan. Disney World is her favorite place to be and continuously brings back her childhood joy.

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