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Tourism & Dining

Disney Resort Area

There are many options for fun recreational activities within and around the Contemporary Resort, including evening campfires with marshmallow toasting, movies under the stars (unofficial schedule), individual boat rentals, specialty cruises, guided fishing excursions, as well as swimming pools, a fitness center, and nice trails to walk or run. As we discuss more below the Disney monorail system has a stop inside the Contemporary Resort, and Disney buses stop at the Contemporary Resort, so guests can readily access other Disney resort areas, the theme parks (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom), and other sports and recreation activities including miniature (“putt putt”) golf. As mentioned below, the Magic Kingdom is a short walk from the Contemporary Resort. Discounted theme park, water park, and special event tickets are available through the private conference link provided with your registration confirmation email. And while the Contemporary Resort is located at the heart of Disney property, which makes getting to the theme parks and Disney Springs very easy, other areas will generally require a car, Uber, or Lyft.

From the Contemporary Resort itself, some of Disney’s entertainment is visible: from the waterfront, you can view the Electrical Water Pageant most evenings. The Happily Ever After Fireworks (the schedule varies - check the Disney mobile app) are visible from many locations in the hotel, although the best viewing is available at the restaurant’s premier hotel, the California Grill. Reservations are recommended here: the other venues in the resort are usually more flexible. To check availability, your hosts recommend downloading the Disney World app, which will also allow for mobile ordering (more info here) ahead at quick serve (or fast food) restaurants: this can save a lot of time, as many of the quick-serve restaurants both in and out of the parks have mostly converted their service to this model. One of the most convenient venues to the conference, the Contempo Cafe, accepts mobile orders. There’s also a coffee shop in the lobby. The resort also has a recommended running trail (reviewed here) and a gym. Not far away in the Polynesian is a gem of a tiki bar called Trader Sam’s. It opens typically around 3p, and has very limited capacity in the beautifully decorated and animated cozy interior, but there is additional seating and service outside if the wait list is too long. It can be reached via the resort monorail from the contemporary.

One unique way to get a bird's eye view is to take a ride on Disney Skyliner's gondolas. The gondolas travel between the following Theme Parks and Resorts : EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, and Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort (Skyliner map). One of our favorite things is to take the Disney Skyliner to the Riviera resort and get drinks or even dinner at the bar at Topolino's Terrace. From the Contemporary Resort, you can take Disney bus transportation to Hollywood Studios to pick up the Disney Skyliner. Do not go to EPCOT, because the Disney Skyliner picks up at the back entrance and monorail\bus transportation drops off at the front. If you are staying in a Disney Resort hotel, check at the front desk for your best transportation options. The Disney Skyliner operates 1 hour before early theme park entry begins at EPCOT or Disney’s Hollywood Studios and closes 90 minutes after the two parks close. You can find the hours for each day on the Disney App.

For the parks themselves, discounted tickets are available through the private conference link. The local hosts recommend both Magic Kingdom and EPCOT for both their iconic rides and proximity to the conference. Deciding on rides and how to spend time in those parks is extensively covered in publications such as the Disney Food Blog and other websites. We are particularly fond of EPCOT and its current Flower and Garden Festival where a number of small bites are available around the park at booths for between $7-$15 (not including admission).

Every hotel has its own theme, restaurants, and bars, and many of the resorts can be accessed easily using the Disney monorail system. The other locations connected via monorail include the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and the Disney Transportation and Ticket Center, which has additional buses to all other resort hotels. The Magic Kingdom is located a short walk away (about half a mile) and has a dedicated security entrance. The Contemporary itself also has a bus hub, with transportation to the other Disney parks (Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios) as well as Disney Springs. Boat transportation to other resorts is also available: Fort Wilderness (a campground with extensive trails) and Wilderness Lodge (home to a Snow White-themed restaurant). Disney Springs doesn’t require any ticket to enter, and has a movie theater, shopping, and lots of restaurants at a range of price points. In Disney Springs, your local hosts particularly recommend The Polite Pig, a local Florida BBQ joint; The Boathouse, a lakeside steak and fish restaurant; Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar, an Indiana Jones-themed waterside bar with small plates; and The Edison, a 1920s-themed restaurant and bar. There is also a resident Cirque de Soleil show, “Drawn to Life” which would require advanced tickets for performances on Wednesday-Sundays at 5:30p and 8p starting at $91. In the evenings, Disney Springs has live performers and features free parking for those renting a car. Check for Disney restaurant availability and make reservations in advance for evenings.

Greater Orlando Area

While we recommend that you take advantage of the Disney resort that is around the conference venue, if you were extending your stay, Orlando has other attractions that may be of interest. Universal Orlando Resort is a competitor that has three parks which are a short drive down I-4 if you have rented a car. Universal has a set of restaurants and shopping called “City Walk” which, like Disney Springs, doesn’t require a ticket to enter. Entertainment options include a movie theater, mini golf and bars and restaurants. There are ticket options for two or three-park tickets that include after 2 pm entry. The main current attraction at the parks beyond thrill rides is the Mardi Gras festival at Universal Studios which includes a number of featured food booths, parades, and decorations. You can find a guide to the food here. The local chairs would recommend allocating at least half a day to a trip to visit Universal. Other area attractions include SeaWorld; local botanical garden Leu Gardens; and downtown Winter Park, which is a great spot for local dining. There are also a number of breweries and bars in the area, including our favorites Deadwords Brewing with historical brews resurrected and Motorworks Brewing in downtown Orlando. The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown hosts a number of performances and touring acts throughout the year.

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