Recently we had an opportunity to attend what may be one of the better Disney 50th anniversary celebrations so far and it takes place at the Contemporary resort. If you have been to Disney since Oct 1st, 2021 you may have noticed some additional decorations, shows, culinary dishes and experiences dedicated to the 50th birthday of Walt Disney World's opening.
The Contemporary resort was one of the original hotels open for business back in 1971, as such the Wave which was a California inspired restaurant on the 1st floor has been recently remodeled to recreate the steakhouse experience in, you guessed it - 1971. However, the Contemporary hotel has its signature dining restaurant on the 15th floor where the Top of the World 50th Celebration actually takes place. The California Grill has been delighting foodies and hosting diners looking for a place to celebrate or enjoy the finer times of the vacation for years. If you visited Disney World before May of 1995, you may remember it as it's original name, the Top of the World Restaurant and Lounge. Because of the signature dining experience and the prestigious location overlooking parts of the Seven Seas Lagoon and to some even more importantly, providing a panoramic view of the Magic Kingdom, it can be difficult to get a reservation.
Disney decided to take the experience for the 50th to the next level. This celebration actually does not take place in the common dining room but it gets split in between two of the private rooms, the Napa and Sonoma which both afford access to a private outdoor fireworks viewing area. Disney has also updated the fireworks experience for the 50th as well and is now showing Disney Enchantment as the nightly show.
By now, I know what many of the Disney faithful may be thinking - oh it's just another Dessert party. I can assure you at this time, it far exceeded any dessert party we have attended at Disney. For one, this from a culinary perspective, is a 3-part experience. As you can see here, there are a wide range of hors d'oeuvres including Sushi, Sliders and Lobster Bisque to name a few. The small plates were self serve and all you care to consume with the food items expertly prepared just like you would expect from the California Grill culinary team.
If there are food allergies please let the servers know and they can help provide some great alternatives. Since one of us had an aversion to seafood, a cast member offered the choice of any menu item off the current California Grill offerings, including the shaved apple salad to start. The table next to us also was able to order off the menu due to their food allergens. Every cast member was there to help.
The second part of this 50th Celebration is the open bar in which they did serve all of the typical beers you may find around Disney property. There was everything from light lagers to decent IPAs available. The celebration did not skimp on the wine list. They had great selections from the California Grill wine list, including Duckhorn Merlot which you won't typically find at a Disney dessert party. In case you were wondering, yes there is a full bar available and they made a fine Malibu Bay Breeze I was told. We finished our experience with a chilled limoncello. But not before we watched the fireworks, took pictures and dove head in to the desserts which were visually stunning and inventive as usual. One of our favorites being the Key Lime pie which was tart and luscious all at the same time.
The verdict is in. This is an extravagant cocktail hour, two and a half hours to be exact. It invites you in to enjoy some fine foods paying homage to the opening of Disney that have been reimagined and paired with your favorite beverages and delectable desserts. The listed price for this experience is $129 plus tax for all ages, although Disney recommends children be at least 10-years-old to enjoy this experience. There is no theme park ticket necessary and the price includes Valet parking.
As this is a signature experience, be sure to check the current dress code on the Disney World website listed below as we did see a number of folks in sport coats and fancy dresses. At the time of this printing, Disney will not allow tank tops, flip flops, hats, torn clothes, or swimsuits to name a few items.
Is this experience worth it? For us, the answer is a solid yes. We based this on the food, drink and experience collectively. If you are going to only look at the cost versus the food or drink, then it may be harder to justify it's worth. For perspective, a traditional Disney Dessert Party usually runs $99 plus tax. For an extra $30 per person, you get valet parking, hors d'oeuvres, an intimate indoor gathering with upscale dessert and bar offerings.
For additional details, to check availability and pricing, visit the Disney World website here - Celebration at the Top: 50th Flavors & Fireworks at Disney's Contemporary Resort | Enchanting Extras Collection | Walt Disney World Resort (go.com)