Sitting next-door to Disney’s Contemporary Resort is Disney’s Bay Lake Tower, a Disney Vacation Club resort. When we first started planning our visit, the Contemporary wasn’t at the top of our list of resorts we were anxious to stay at. We thought it might lack the warm, inviting and immersive theming that other deluxe Disney resorts have.
At first glance, Bay Lake Tower and the Contemporary didn’t strike us as being quite as interesting as Animal Kingdom Lodge, and it’s definitely not as affordable as a moderate or value resort. So why did we choose to stay here…and on our honeymoon of all trips? Well, the more we considered which resort to book for our honeymoon, the more appealing Bay Lake Tower was looking.
We decided to splurge on a theme park view room for a few nights during our honeymoon. We’re certainly glad we did, because Bay Lake Tower and the Contemporary completely delivered in terms of a resort experience. It has also become one of our favourite Disney resort stays to date. To say we fell in love a little bit with this resort would be an understatement.
Here’s our take on Bay Lake Tower and The Contemporary Resort:
Although Bay Lake Tower is a DVC resort, like all the other DVC resorts, you don’t have to be a DVC member to stay here. You can book a room here with cash or by renting points if you aren’t a DVC member. The modern and elegant theming of the Contemporary continues over at Bay Lake. The buildings are quite simple and somewhat plain on the outside, but inside both Bay Lake and the Contemporary offer comfort and warmth, which surprised us. We thought this resort might feel sterile and cold, but we were happy to be wrong about that. Instead, we were greeted with a Disney subtlety and elegance.
We stayed in a deluxe studio, which was perfect for the two of us. Up on the 11th floor, we had a spectacular view of both Magic Kingdom and the A-frame Contemporary building. We absolutely loved watching the monorails come and go from the Contemporary and spent quite a bit of time doing this (more than an average person would, anyway). It never got old seeing the monorails glide into the resort.
We spent a good chunk of our late evenings sitting out on our balcony eating snacks and watching Cinderella castle shift colours at night. Did you know the Cinderella Castle is always lit up at all hours? We didn’t know this until we stayed in the theme park view room. It’s like a Disney night-light, where even if you wake up in the middle of the night, you could open the curtains and see the castle in all it’s brilliance.
The Theme Park View
We made a point of watching Happily Ever After from our balcony as well. We figured that if we were going to splurge on a theme park view, we might as well experience all the perks. The audio for the show can be played on the TV in the resort, so you don’t miss out on any of that magic either. While we still prefer to watch Happily Ever After from inside the park, it was wonderful to be able to relax on the balcony and watch the fireworks. From this vantage point we could see where the fireworks actually come from, and just how enormous this nighttime spectacular really is.
We did prefer this viewing spot to that of the outdoor viewing area at California Grill. Although it’s not a huge difference, with the location of Bay Lake and being on the 11th floor, we felt just a little bit closer and the view was better for us.
Was it worth it for us to splurge on the theme park view? Absolutely. It was the perfect way to celebrate something special and we made use of the view whenever we were in the room. The magic never felt like it wore off during our stay here, and I think that was largely due to the fact that we could see Magic Kingdom at any point, just by looking outside. Bay Lake Tower is one resort that guests seem to have a better chance at getting a good theme park view.
Technically a theme park view room will have a view of the castle or Space Mountain, or if any part of the park can be seen your room. You could pay for a theme park view room and only see Space Mountain, or just a tiny speck of the castle. But we felt like Bay Lake offered a great view of the park, with nothing really to get in the way of the view. We definitely feel more comfortable booking and spending the money for a theme park view room here, rather than at a different resort, which could still charge a premium rate but actually offer little in terms of a Magic Kingdom view.
Our room was extremely comfortable. We had a queen bed, a couch (pull out queen bed) small kitchenette, and a clean and sleek bathroom. The art on the walls was subtle in Disney theming but once we spotted those familiar Mickey ears, we couldn’t not see them. We were concerned we wouldn’t see Disney incorporated as much here in the theming, but we clearly didn’t give Disney enough credit and of course there are plenty of Disney touches throughout the resort.
Behind the Bay Lake Tower is a serene bamboo garden and Bay Cove Pool. The pool is a zero entry pool and has a waterslide. The pool has a relaxed atmosphere, and while there’s nothing overly special in the way of theming (apart from the very apparent Mickey shape), it felt intimate and removed from the busyness of the park.
There’s nothing quite like catching the monorail inside the resort. It’s a novelty that will never get old as far as we’re concerned. From Bay Lake Tower, it’s a quick walk over the Sky Way Bridge directly to the Contemporary’s 4th floor. From there, the monorail will take you to the Transportation and Ticket Center where you can take the Epcot monorail, or you can stay on the monorail and visit the Polynesian, the Grand Floridian and Magic Kingdom.
All of your dining options are over at the Contemporary Resort. It’s extremely easy to get over to the Contemporary, thanks to the aforementioned Sky Way Bridge. Once over at the Contemporary you’ll find the quick service location Contempo Café, and the table service restaurants Chef Mickey’s, The Wave of American Flavors and California Grill.
We had dinner at California Grill (up on the 15th floor) and had some of the best food and service we’ve ever experienced on Disney property. The Wave of American Flavors is also located at the Contemporary and we have enjoyed dinner there as well, though the experience doesn’t compare to that of California Grill. It’s worth mentioning that California Grill is a Signature Dining location (2 credits on the Disney Dining Plan) and The Wave isn’t. I enjoyed the Wave more than Ryan did. It doesn’t have much to boast about in terms of theming but my gnocchi was top notch, and our friend Jaclyn (who is gluten-free), said they have the best gluten-free bread she’s encountered at Disney.
All that to say, guests have quite a few dining options at the Contemporary. There is also the California Grill Lounge, the Wave Lounge, the pool bars, and the Outer Rim lounge. There are no shortages of places to grab a drink or a bite to eat here.
Over at the top of Bay Lake Tower, there is the Top of the World Lounge. This is one section of Bay Lake that you do need to be a DVC member to access, or at least be with a DVC member. The lounge opens at 6pm and does fill up quickly.
For us, one of the absolute best things about the Contemporary and Bay Lake Tower is the proximity to Magic Kingdom. I am not overstating this when I say one of the best feelings in the world is walking to Magic Kingdom from your resort in under 10 minutes. The walking path even has a Mickey face in the pavement. The path to Magic Kingdom also has its own dedicated security bag check along the way, so it’s much easier and faster than going through the conventional entrance to the park.
We were both surprised how much we loved Bay Lake and the Contemporary. I was expecting to enjoy our stay here, but I wasn’t expecting to miss not being there, or that we would want to stay there again immediately.
I can understand why people prefer resorts like the Polynesian or Wilderness Lodge over the Contemporary. The outside of the resort lacks any real theming apart from large white structures surrounded by a parking lot, but inside, they are much more than that. They’re modern (some would say contemporary), fun and they have a bustling urban atmosphere inside. And one of their shops is called Fantasia, which is a movie that doesn’t get enough love, so I definitely appreciate that!
I can’t say it enough, I love the Contemporary and cannot wait to stay here again! If you’re looking at a deluxe resort stay, the Contemporary should be high on your list!