With twenty-two Disney Resort hotels to choose from when visiting the Walt Disney World Resort, you have quite a decision regarding accommodation. Disney hotels place you right in the heart of the magic. When you stay in Lake Buena Vista, you are guaranteed the Disney experience in every aspect of your Disney vacation.
If you are considering staying in a Disney Deluxe Resort, you have the most hotels to choose from. Half of the Disney hotels fit the Deluxe Resort category, meaning you have eleven to choose from. Some Disney Resorts are Disney Vacation Club Resorts, while others have dedicated areas for Disney Vacation Club Members. The Disney Deluxe Resorts are:
- Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Contemporary Resort
- Polynesian Village Resort
- Beach Club Resort
- Yacht Club Resort
- BoardWalk Inn
- Riviera Resort
- Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Wilderness Lodge
- Saratoga Springs
- Old Key West
But what if you’ve narrowed your choice of Disney hotel to two; Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Riviera Resort? How do you possibly choose between the two? Let’s look at each Resort in more detail. We aim to identify the best of the two Walt Disney World hotels when considering different things.
Each of the Deluxe Disney Resorts is uniquely themed. While they each have the general amenities you would expect in a Disney hotel, they emulate the theming perfectly. Therefore, staying in a Walt Disney World Resort hotel is an immersive experience. If you’re considering staying in a Disney hotel with a modern theme, clean lines, and sophistication, you should decide between Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Riviera Resort.
Disney’s Contemporary Resort is an original hotel of the Walt Disney World Resort. The Deluxe Disney Resort opened to Guests on October 1, 1971, along with Magic Kingdom Park and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Disney’s Contemporary Resort is easily recognizable as the A-frame hotel, located to the right if you are facing Magic Kingdom Park. The ultra-modern Resort feels futuristic in some aspects, from the Disney Monorail passing through it to the incorporation of The Incredibles (2004) theming within the hotel.
While Disney’s Contemporary Resort is amongst the oldest Disney hotels, Disney’s Riviera Resort is the newest Disney Resort hotel to have opened. Europe inspires the Disney Vacation Club Resort. You’ll see elegant marble finishes, white and grey colors, and charming features throughout Disney’s Riviera Resort. The Disney hotel is adorned with stunning art pieces inside and outside. Along the internal corridors and inside the lobby, you can admire giant canvases featuring favorite Disney characters and icons. Outside, you must admire the incredible mosaic art pieces that pay homage to Tangled (2010) and Peter Pan (1953).
Disney’s Riviera Resort is the best for theming of the two Disney Resorts. While Disney’s Contemporary Resort has received improvements over the recent years, Disney’s Riviera Resort’s theme is clearly defined. It offers an elegant space to relax away from the Disney Parks and exudes charm and sophistication while feeling modern.
Both Disney Deluxe Resorts have easy access to at least one Disney Park. Disney’s Contemporary Resort is one Disney Monorail stop away from Magic Kingdom Park. Therefore, it is ideal for Guests who plan on spending most of their Disney vacation in the Disney theme park. Being close to Magic Kingdom will make it easier for you to enjoy Early Theme Park Entry and Extended Evening Hours offered to you as a Deluxe Disney Resort Guest. Additionally, you can use the Disney Monorail to travel to EPCOT. However, Disney’s Contemporary Resort’s location means you will have a longer bus journey to get to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Meanwhile, Disney’s Riviera Resort is just a Disney Skyliner ride away from two Disney Parks. EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are near the Walt Disney World Resort hotel. It is also centrally located in Lake Buena Vista. Therefore, you can expect a short bus ride to Disney Springs, Magic Kingdom Park, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom as a Guest of Disney’s Riviera Resort.
Due to its central location and easy access to multiple Disney Parks, Disney’s Riviera Resort is our preferred Disney hotel compared to Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
Most of the Disney Deluxe Resorts have access to at least two modes of Disney transport. While you will need to use the bus to travel between some parts of the Walt Disney World Resort, having access to another transport mode can help reduce your wait times at transport stations.
The Disney Monorail runs through Disney’s Contemporary Resort. While the Express Monorail only passes through the Disney hotel, the Resort Monorail stops. When exiting Magic Kingdom Park, Guests of Disney’s Contemporary Resort only have to ride the Disney Monorail for one stop. As a Guest of the Disney hotel, you also have walking access to Magic Kingdom Park, which can be beneficial in the morning when taking advantage of Early Theme Park Entry. Access to the Disney Monorail also makes it easy for Guests of Disney’s Contemporary Resort to travel to EPCOT. You can change from the Resort Monorail line to the EPCOT line at the Transportation & Ticket Center. All other areas of the Walt Disney World Resort are accessed by the Disney Buses from Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
In contrast, Disney’s Riviera Resort has access to the Disney Skyliner, making access to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT easy. Guests traveling to EPCOT from the Disney Resort hotel will travel to EPCOT International Gateway. Guests traveling to Disney’s Hollywood Studios from Disney’s Riviera Resort will travel to the Disney Park via Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. You must change lines on the Disney Skyliner as part of your journey. All other areas of the Walt Disney World Resort are accessed by the Disney Buses from Disney’s Riviera Resort.
We love to ride on the Disney Skyliner and the Disney Monorail when visiting Lake Buena Vista. As such, choosing between Disney’s Riviera Resort and Disney’s Contemporary Resort is difficult. Our verdict links to the location and the transport, so our preference is Disney’s Riviera Resort. The Disney Skyliner makes it easy to travel between two Disney Parks. Additionally, you can expect a short bus ride to all other areas of the Walt Disney World Resort from Disney’s Riviera Resort.
As a Disney Deluxe Resort, Guest rooms in Disney’s Riviera and Disney’s Contemporary Resorts are spacious, with luxury elements, including a balcony.
Disney’s Contemporary Resort offers modern Guest rooms with stunning views. If you choose to stay in the Main Tower, you can have a theme park view over Magic Kingdom Park or a water view over Bay Lake. If you’d prefer to stay in a Garden Room, you can choose from a water or Resort view. The Incredibles inspire all Guest rooms within Disney’s Contemporary Resort. You can expect white, orange, and grey colors throughout the design. For a more luxurious experience, Club Level is available at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The Atrium Club offers beverages and snacks to Club Level Guests throughout their stay.
Bay Lake Tower is part of Disney’s Contemporary Resort. It’s also a Disney Vacation Club Villa Resort. Therefore, staying in Disney’s Contemporary Resort allows you to stay in a Deluxe Studio or Villa. Should you choose to stay in Bay Lake Tower, you will have access to your own kitchenette in a Deluxe Studio or a full kitchen in a Deluxe Villa. You can also enjoy more living space in Disney Vacation Club accommodations.
Disney’s Riviera Resort is a Disney Vacation Club Resort. Therefore, standard Guest rooms are not available in the Disney hotel. However, Disney’s Riviera Resort guarantees you at least a Deluxe Studio. Deluxe Villas are also available to stay in, and a different room type known as a Tower Studio. Tower Studios offer smaller living spaces with the same amenities as all other Deluxe Studios. Pull down the bed in the evening, then push it up during the day to enjoy the living space. Guest rooms at Disney’s Riviera Resort are elegant and sophisticated, yet modern, like the rest of the Disney hotel.
While we prefer the design of the rooms at Disney’s Riviera Resort, the variety of Guest rooms available at Disney’s Contemporary Resort makes the Disney Resort more attractive. However, we’d struggle to stay in a room other than one with a theme park view at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Who wouldn’t welcome the opportunity to watch Happily Ever After from their balcony every evening of their Disney vacation?
Disney’s Contemporary Resort has four quick-service restaurants. Contempo Cafe is the main quick-service restaurant from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. You can enjoy various meals, snacks, and beverages, with a view of the Disney Monorail from the Disney restaurant. The Sand Bar, Cove Bar, and Contemporary Grounds are also quick-service restaurants around the Disney Resort hotel. Each restaurant has hot and cold beverages, snacks, and a small selection of meals.
The use of the Disney Monorail makes it easy for Guests of Disney’s Contemporary Resort to access many other quick-service restaurants. Visiting Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa means you have many choices when wanting to eat something quick. You can also use the Disney watercraft to travel to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort from Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
Disney’s Riviera Resort has three quick-service restaurants. Primo Piatto is where you will have the most choice regarding beverages, snacks, and meals. The quick-service restaurant is open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. You’ll want to visit Le Petit Cafe for your morning pastry or late-night coffee. Enjoy a selection of snacks and beverages inspired by France here. When you need to rehydrate or refuel by the pool, you’ll want to visit Bar Riva. Bar Riva is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Disney’s Riviera Resort Guests have access to more restaurants than those at the Disney Resort hotel. Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, a Disney Moderate Resort, is a short walk from Disney’s Riviera Resort and offers additional dining places. Similarly, the Disney Skyliner travels to Disney’s Pop Century Resort and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort (both are a Disney Value Resort), providing additional quick-service restaurants to dine at. Furthermore, the Disney Skyliner takes Guests from Disney’s Riviera Resort to EPCOT International Gateway. Just a short walk from the Disney Skyliner station is Disney’s BoardWalk and Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts. Therefore, there is ample choice of quick-service dining locations that Guests of Disney’s Riviera Resort can easily reach.
While there is excellent access to quick-service restaurants from both Disney Resorts, we love the variety available within a short distance from Disney’s Riviera Resort. Therefore, we choose the Disney hotel over Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
Regarding full-service restaurants, Disney’s Riviera Resort has access to one. Topolino’s Terrace – Flavors of the Riviera is one of the most sought-after advanced dining reservations to secure a Disney vacation. Therefore, as a Guest of Disney’s Riviera Resort, you have an excellent restaurant on your doorstep.
Meanwhile, Disney’s Contemporary Resort has three full-service restaurants to dine at:
- California Grill – a fine dining experience located at the top of the Disney Resort hotel, offering stunning views over Magic Kingdom Park and the surrounding area.
- Steakhouse 71 – dine at a casual steakhouse for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
- Chef Mickey’s – a Disney character dining experience where you can enjoy an all-you-care-to-enjoy breakfast or dinner.
Both Disney Resort hotels are close to other Walt Disney World Resort hotels, providing Guests access to additional full-service restaurants.
For the selection of full-service restaurants, our choice is Disney’s Contemporary Resort, compared to Disney’s Riviera Resort.
There are three pool areas to enjoy when you are a Guest of Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The main feature pool is located at the rear of the Disney Resort hotel, where you will also find a water slide and play area. Overlooking Bay Lake, there is another smaller pool to relax at. Behind Bay Lake Tower is the Bay Cove Pool, located next to the Cove Bar. Bayside cabanas are available to rent daily if you want to relax by the pool in style.
As a Guest of Disney’s Riviera Resort, you can access two luxurious pool areas that overlook Barefoot Bay. Enjoy family fun at the Riviera Pool. Poolside activities occur daily here, and you can have fun using the water slide. Smaller Guests can enjoy the S’il Vous Play water play area. For a more relaxing experience, chill out at the Beau Soleil Pool.
While there are more pools at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, the pool areas at Disney’s Riviera Resort are more inviting. While taking a dip, you can also enjoy stunning views of the Disney hotel, the Disney Skyliner, and Barefoot Bay.
So where should you stay when deciding between Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Riviera Resort? You are guaranteed a magical Disney vacation at whatever Resort hotel you choose. However, based on our verdicts here, Disney’s Riviera Resort is our choice of Disney Deluxe Resort.
Which of the two Disney Resorts will you choose for your next Disney vacation?