So, you’re planning a trip to Disney World, and you’ve narrowed it down between two of the most ICONIC Disney resorts in existence (you lucky, lucky person!).
Choosing between the Contemporary and the Grand Floridian, is like choosing a favorite child, a favorite Disney cupcake, or between a Dole Whip or a Mickey Pretzel — there’s enough love to go around! But just like cupcakes and classic Disney snacks (and maybe your kids, too… only you know your family dynamic…😂), there’s a certain flavor that might just hit the spot for what you’re looking for.
There’s no doubt that Disney vacations are expensive, and no one wants buyer’s remorse when it comes to what can usually be the most EXPENSIVE part of your Disney trip. We’re approaching this chaos-agent of a decision with as much logic as possible, so we’re breaking it down into five categories:
- Common Ground
We’re putting each resort through these paces to see where they stand and which one may be speaking to you for your Disney trip.
Before we start down the rabbit hole into the Wonderland of their differences, let’s review the similarities of these resorts. These resorts are both Disney Deluxe Resorts, so they will be at a similar price point, with similar room sizes, and the same perks. They both have the same resort layout with a central lobby building and outer buildings with rooms, and they are both considered Monorail Resorts, offering the same transportation to Magic Kingdom and the other resorts. And both offer Disney Vacation Club Villas as additional accommodations.
For the Contemporary, that means that for the cheapest room at the cheapest time to visit, you can expect to pay around $550 per night (not accounting for any tax or current discounts), and it goes up to $5,594 per night (not accounting for any tax or current discounts) for the most expensive rooms at the most expensive time to visit.
For the Grand Floridian, that means that for the cheapest room at the cheapest time to visit, you can expect to pay around $780 per night (not accounting for any tax or current discounts), and it goes up to $5,502 per night (not accounting for any tax or current discounts) for the most expensive rooms at the most expensive time to visit.
Both the Contemporary and the Grand Floridian are Deluxe resorts and offer the poshest of Disney’s accommodations and perks, but that doesn’t mean they look the same!
As the name suggests, the Contemporary has a very modern theme. It feels a little less immersive and more upscale and sleek. The lobby recently got an upgrade with colorful artwork and more modern furniture, which sets the tone for the resort. Ok, so maybe it is immersive, if you’re looking to be immersed into an art museum.
And the Top of the World Lounge in the neighboring Bay Lake Tower, has also recently reopened with a new Villains-themed look and refreshed menu. So even though this beauty is 50 years old, she’s gotten some TLC and looks better than ever!
Since the rooms face in on the hotel, it can be a bit noisy because all of the action is in one spot. From the rooms, you can look down and see Chef Mickey’s (which opens pretty early and gets noisy, so it can be hard to sleep in), and the Monorail runs through the resort.
There’s also a massive mural on the wall created by Mary Blair, a famous Disney artist. This is a super fun touch for Disney history fans. Remember that art museum vibe we mentioned earlier… um, yeah.
Cross the threshold of Disney World’s flagship resort into the Victorian age of high tea, dressing for dinner, and gloved-hands with pinkies-out. The lobby and restaurants are grandiose and luxurious, almost to the point of making guests reflect on imposter syndrome rather than a welcoming presence. The meticulous grounds and pristine white buildings with their brilliant red-tiled roofs definitely provide that grand allure you’d expect from a flagship resort.
And the lobby delivers on that jaw-dropping “oh wow” moment (especially around the holidays), but it seems like Disney blew the budget on the common areas, and then tightened the purse strings on the room sitch. There are some very nice, and perfectly adequate furnishings, but the rooms themselves just don’t scream lavish.
The Grand Floridian standard rooms haven’t seen the TLC that the Contemporary and Polynesian rooms have. So, there’s hope out there that the Grand Floridian rooms will be up soon for the next room renovation, but in the meantime, the Grand Floridian rooms don’t quite deliver for the price tag assigned to them.
This could boil down to your preference. Are you looking for a modern vibe on your vacation, or the chance to step back in time, back to a more elegant era? Both resorts deliver beautifully on their themes, but when it comes down to rooms, the Contemporary has the edge with having the most recently updated rooms.
Pools, splash pads, hot tubs, and lounge chairs, vacation just doesn’t feel completed without spending some time by the pool. Which of these resorts is the aquatic champion of water lounging? Only one way to find out…
There are two pools at the Contemporary: the aptly named Feature Pool and the quieter Bay Lake Pool. There is a waterslide, lounge chairs, and private cabanas to rent, but otherwise, it’s your standard resort pool. So the creativity for the names pretty much sums up any creativity with the pool area.
If you’re looking for a spot to cool down, these pools deliver, and there’s a splash area for the smaller kiddos.
The Grand Floridian also hosts two pools as well: the Beach Pool and the Courtyard Pool. And though both pools are pretty, the most memorable experience might be at the Mad Hatter splash pad.
And because it’s the Grand Floridian and sophisticated luxury is this resorts brand, there are plenty of poolside lounge chairs and cabanas available to rent for the day as you relax by the pool and nosh on some peeled-grapes and sip on some sweet tea, like we’re sure Victorian-age vacationers did back in the day.
Both have two pools, and both have pool bars, lounge chairs, and splash areas. The clear pool winner is the Grand Floridian. It provides some more picturesque pool landscapes, complete with a cascading waterfall, zero-depth entry, and a splash area for kiddos that could almost be described as an aquatic playground.
There’s no real loser in this category if you’ve found relaxation and joy, but our heart leans towards the Grand Floridian!
Because we are Disney FOOD Blog, we take food seriously. Very. Seriously. And we love it all. We love the cheap, comfort of plastic cheese, and we love the high-brow sophistication of a wine flight or a multi-course pre-fixe meal. We don’t discriminate; we are a lover of all foods. Since food is SO important, let’s see how these resorts stack up against each other in the restaurant category.
The Contemporary has ten (10!) dining options, including lounges and pool bars (because those count!)!
The Sand Bar is a modern poolside counter located in the Contemporary Resort’s marina and pool area. While the food menu is limited (you can grab a burger or hot dog here, or a snack like an ice cream treat), there is a full bar menu along with classic beachy cocktails like Mai Tais and Banana Cabanas up for grabs. A few stools are available right at the bar, or you can grab a seat at an umbrella-covered outdoor table. The Sand Bar is a great place to let the breeze blow on your face as you watch the watercraft move around Bay Lake or just enjoy your time by the pool. Or if you’re visiting the Bay Lake Pool, then the Cove Bar serves a selection of quick service meals (think wraps and salads), snacks, and cocktails.
The Contemporary Resort is one of the few resorts to host their own Joffrey’s Coffee bar. Contemporary Grounds is your go-to location. You’ll find coffee, pastries, and specialty coffee drinks. This spot also offers options for Disney-inspired Latte Art! Those early morning dashes to the parks won’t feel so taxing when you have tasty coffee so conveniently located.
Contempo Cafe is the main fast food spot here, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are some lighter options, including salads and grilled chicken, as well as your typical fast food fare like chicken fingers and burgers. This is also home to one of our favorite treats — the Peanut Butter Pie. It’s a must-try if you love peanut butter as much as we do!
If you need something to wash down your meal or seasonal cupcake from the Contempo Cafe, just a few steps away is the Outer Rim lounge. The Outer Rim is a great place to go for a pre-dinner drink or a relaxing evening right in the middle of all the action of the Contemporary Resort’s 4th Floor Grand Canyon Concourse. Indulge in one of the Outer Rim’s draft beers, wines, bourbons, martinis, or specialty cocktails
Still considered part of the Contemporary offerings, The Top of the World Lounge, exclusive to Disney Vacation Club members, is perched on the top floor of the Contemporary Resort’s Bay Lake Tower. Top of the World is open daily from 6PM to midnight, with seating available on a first come, first served basis. Disney Vacation Club Members with access to Membership Extras and who are staying in Disney World Resort hotels can enjoy this exclusive spot, and guests staying on Members’ reservations are also eligible! Grab a drink, an appetizer, and the best view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks here!
The Contemporary is home to one of the most iconic character meals on property. Chef Mickey’s is one of the most difficult reservations to get on property, and the reason is that at this all-you-care-to-enjoy restaurant, you can meet every single one of The Fab Five character set: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto
Steakhouse 71 is a NEW restaurant at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The “71” is a nod to the opening year of Walt Disney World, and the restaurant itself opened on October 1, 2021, which is the 50th Anniversary of the Resort! Steakhouse 71 offers casual dining for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (with varying menus for each meal and a steakhouse focus in the evenings) just steps away from the Magic Kingdom. And if you opt for dessert (which is always a good idea), you may want to try the Steakhouse 71 Chocolate Cake, made with “15 layers of whiskey-infused chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, and raspberries – one layer for every floor at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.” The accompanying Steakhouse 71 Lounge also provides a spot to enjoy a few bites and unique cocktails.
The California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort is truly a masterpiece of fine dining, and has been recognized by the Michelin Guide. California Grill is currently presenting a new, special dining experience for a limited time in honor of the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort! The 3-course prix fixe menu was created to “evoke the spirit of 1971″ — the opening year of Walt Disney World (and also the opening year of the Top of the World!). Disney has shared that the meal celebrates the past while offering a nod to the incredible future ahead, featuring dishes such as Braised Short Rib Wontons, Florida Coast Black Grouper, and a 50th Anniversary Celebration Dessert Grand Marnier Soufflé.
With two iconic Disney meal experiences and the rapidly growing popularity of a reasonably priced steakhouse, the Contemporary sure packs a 1-2 punch when it comes to food..
Grand Floridian is home to two Signature dining restaurants, Citricos and Narcoossee’s. Citricos is an upscale restaurant serving American dishes with Mediterranean influences. Reserve the Chef’s Domain for a private table and specially prepared menu. Narcoossee’s, another Signature Dining restaurant, specializes in seafood. This beautiful, Victorian-inspired building sits ashore on the Seven Seas Lagoon, offering dramatic views of the Magic Kingdom fireworks.
Enchanted Rose Bar and Lounge is inspired by the live-action Beauty and the Beast film. Guests can indulge in gourmet bites and crafted cocktails while enjoying any one of the four themed rooms.
Garden View Tea Room hasn’t yet reopened, but when it does, it offers Afternoon Tea with delicious finger sandwiches, pastries, cheese, and fruit. The beautiful view, elegant atmosphere, and fine china make this an exquisite experience.
Gasparilla Island Grill is a counter service restaurant with a standard food court menu, and it is open for guests 24-hours a day. Dine outdoors overlooking the Marina (with a view of Cinderella Castle) when the weather permits.
The more casual Table Service options at the Grand Floridian are 1900 Park Fare and Grand Floridian Cafe. 1900 Park Fare, when it reopens, provides popular character dining experiences! At breakfast, guests are entertained by Mary Poppins and friends while the young and young-at-heart feast on Mickey waffles. Dinner is a more stately affair hosted by Cinderella and Prince Charming. Grand Floridian Cafe serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner in an airy, casual setting. You’ll find American fare being served at your table overlooking the hotel’s elegant courtyard.
Victoria and Albert’s is a AAA Five Diamond Award winner offering an exclusive dining experience. This Signature Dining restaurant pampers guests with personalized menus, dedicated servers, and long-stemmed roses.
It’s so hard to designate a clear winner for food — because we love it all! When it comes to elevated food and dining experiences, Citrico’s, Narcoossee’s and Victoria & Alberts over at the Grand Floridian provide some impeccable options, and some of the might be easier to snag reservations at than California Grill. And for hearty food at a reasonable price, Grand Floridian Cafe or Steakhouse 71 will scratch that itch.
Dare we say, this category might be a draw?! Grand Floridian might have a wee bit of an edge with the Enchanted Rose, which is both beautifully themed and offers some scrumptious small plates, and whereas Top of the World Lounge is exclusive to DVC members, so much more difficult to gain access to.
Do these neighboring resorts offer anything different when it comes to transportation? Let’s see!!
The Contemporary is on the Monorail loop. It’s the fourth stop after the Transportation & Ticketing Center (TTC) on the way to the Magic Kingdom. If Magic Kingdom is your destination, guests can also walk a quick 7-10 minute jaunt right up to the front gate.
If Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, or Disney Springs is your destination, then you can board one of Disney’s busses to transport you over to these parks.
But if EPCOT is your park for the day, here is where the difference sets in. Because the Contemporary is just one monorail stop away from the Transportation & Ticketing Center, if you don’t mind transferring monorails at the TTC, you can board a Monorail to whiz you off to EPCOT.
The Grand Floridian is also on the Monorail loop. It’s the second stop after the Polynesian on the way to the Magic Kingdom. If Magic Kingdom is your destination, there is also a boat option to sail across Seven Seas Lagoon to the front steps of the Magic Kingdom. You can also get your steps in by strolling the walkway over to Magic Kingdom.
If Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, or Disney Springs is your destination, then you can board one of Disney’s buses to transport you over to these parks.
If EPCOT is your park for the day, the easiest option is to board a Disney bus and head over. If you want to take the Monorail, you can but you’d have to walk through the Polynesian resort, over to the Transportation & Ticketing Center to catch that Monorail, resulting in a 15-20 minute walk, and that doesn’t include waiting for the monorail. Or you can hop on the Monorail at the Grand Floridian and ride it past Magic Kingdom, past the Contemporary, and then transfer to the EPCOT Loop Monorail once you get to the Transportation and Ticketing Center, but that does add more time and complication to your already busy morning.
These neighboring resorts are pretty close in comparison, but the Contemporary is closer to the Magic Kingdom, so that ability to just take a short walk over can really be a game-changer. Additionally, transferring over to the EPCOT monorail loop is a few steps easier as well.
This means that the Contemporary provides a bit more convenient access to TWO Disney parks, over the Grand Floridian.
So, who is the ultimate winner in the Contemporary vs. Grand Floridian battle? We hate to say it, but it depends! The Grand Floridian wins in the pool and food categories, but The Contemporary wins in the transportation and room categories. And truthfully, they’re both about the same price. So, it’s truly up to you and your family’s vacation priorities for which resort is best suited for YOU.
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What do you think? Is Contemporary Resort or Grand Floridian Resort better? Let us know in the comments!