A few years ago my husband asked me where I would stay in Walt Disney World, if money was no object. I had no hesitation in saying that it would be at the Contemporary Resort, with a Theme Park View. That means you get a view of Magic Kingdom from your room. But it was, I thought, a pipe dream, because I couldn't see us ever paying to upgrade rooms at what is already a very expensive hotel.
Fast forward a few years and we decided to stump up the cash for the Contemporary, but with a standard view, because we had a young child and wanted the luxury of being able to walk to and from Magic Kingdom at nap time. We came to check in and were told we'd be given an upgrade on our room. This happens extremely rarely and I assume it was because we were in off-off-season. We'd been travelling for far too long and I was carrying a very heavy sleeping child, so I didn't ask any details, assuming it was something basic and just mumbled a thanks and we plodded off to our room. Holey moley, what an upgrade!!! We walked in, it was dark out, the curtains were open and there in the distance was Cinderella Castle. And it blew me away.
Of all the times in our lives, this holiday was probably the one where we were most in our room. We had a child that wouldn't nap anywhere but a bed, so we were back in the afternoons. We also believe that the key to happy children and therefore a happy holiday is to stick to their schedules as much as possible - which meant being back in the room early evening nearly every night. And we would stand on the balcony and watch the fireworks over the castle. At least one of us watched them every night. If they weren't on too late, we'd play the music on the special TV channel, and watch them with the accompanying soundtrack, hugging our little girl and telling each other how bloody lucky we were. She and I still sing 'Wishes' to each other at night now. After she was in bed we'd sit and watch the castle, lit up and changing colour in the distance. It truly was special.
Will you see much of your Theme Park view?
So it sounds like I'm saying that yes, the Theme Park view of Magic Kingdom is 'worth it', right? It certainly is magical. But when you're considering whether to upgrade yourself, there are a few things to bear in mind. How much will you really be in your room? Prior to having kids we'd leave the room between 6am and 7am each morning, and return back there late, after having watched the night time entertainment at one of the parks. More of an endurance test than a holiday, but we loved it. There certainly wasn't any time for sitting on the balcony and watching the castle. Paying for an upgrade at that point would have been a complete waste of money.
It is also worth knowing that while you have a view of the Magic Kingdom, it really is quite some distance away. Be aware that you can't see Cinderella Castle in much detail, and that the fireworks are some distance behind it. At Contemporary, between you and Magic Kingdom is an expanse of car park. Looking straight down from your balcony is a lot less magical! Grand Floridian and Polynesian have the much prettier Severn Seas Lagoon between them and Magic Kingdom, but it is still far.
Having the view of Magic Kingdom truly was the icing on the cake that holiday - it left us with so many happy memories. And yet, I still wouldn't necessarily recommend it for everyone. The upgrade to a Theme Park view is a significant cost on what is already an expensive holiday. If money isn't an issue then absolutely do it, you won't regret it! However, it might be telling that with another young daughter, our next holiday will be similar to that one, in that we'll be heading back to our room early each night. And yet we won't be paying for the upgrade. It is incredible, and I really wish we could, but staying in one of the Magic Kingdom area hotels is already very extravagant for us, we could never justify spending so much extra just for what we can see out of the window. When we win the lottery though...