More Walt Disney World Resort Stories

Vintage Walt Disney World: The History of California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Nate Rasmussen

by , Librarian, Walt Disney Archives

Today, back in 1995, the California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort opened. This signature restaurant atop the 15th floor was recently reimagined and here is a look at the lobby in 1995 and today.


When Disney’s Contemporary Resort opened in 1971, the 15th floor was known as the Top of the World Restaurant and looked quite a bit different than it does today.

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In June of 1981, the “Broadway at the Top” dinner show debuted at the restaurant and ran until September of 1993. Below is a look at the show and its performers in January 1985.


What’s my favorite part of the California Grill? It’s a toss up between the delicious food and the amazing view.



  • My husband and I saw Edie Adams at the Top of the World supper club while on our honeymoon in April, 1977. I still remember it all these years later as a highlight of our trip!

  • oops…maybe it isn’t older. Ha.

  • As a kid, I saw so many people perform at the Top of the World it was scary. So many big name people would come through the restaurant back in the late 70’s early 80’s. I actually have a menu that’s older than the one you have a picture of. It’s from the mid-70’s and is all silver and black. It’s one of my most prized WDW items (next to the Mark IV sales brochure from WED Enterprises). I miss those days.

  • I managed to get up there without reservations about 15 years ago and ended up eating at the dessert bar (Dessert chef’s name at the time was Trudi). It has been a tradition each of the last 13 times I have returned to Disney to eat there, only to find this year that with the remodeling the seats at the dessert bar are gone :-(. It will still be a tradition……just not as charming an experience!

  • Too expensive 🙁

  • We’ve reservations to dine here in October for my birthday. It will be our first experience with California Grill and we’ve scheduled it to coincide with the Hallowishes fireworks! We’ve heard amazing things about the dishes and the view – cannot wait to experience it for ourselves.

  • Will be making reservations tomorrow for November. Can’t wait to see the renovations.

  • I remember the show as a child seeing “Broadway at the top” and then having a great breakfast buffet before heading off to to the Magic Kingdom.

  • My favorite restaurant anywhere, not just in WDW. We make a point to go there everytime we visit.

  • My fiancé proposed to me there. It will always have a special place in my heart… and my stomach 🙂

    • Hahaha. Mine too! (Stomach that is.)

  • My wife and I celebrated our engagement with a dinner there, complete with customized menus, take-home champagne glasses and a special table for Wishes. Everything was 100% perfect. With as many trips as we’ve taken to WDW, I’m still amazed every time the cast members completely outdo themselves.

    • Very cool!

  • That should be “splurge.”

    • 🙂

  • Wow – $8 for app, salad and entree in 1971! That won’t even buy a side salad today. Still, California Grill is fantastic and worth the slurge!

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