Bay Lake Tower is a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Resort that is adjacent to Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The resorts are connected via an elevated walkway and sidewalks, essentially resulting in a connected experience. So, what exactly sets Bay Lake Tower apart from the rest? I’m glad you asked.
Location. Most DVC resorts offer theme park proximity that gives guests an advantage. Think of how Animal Kingdom Lodge sits peacefully adjacent to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, or how both the Boardwalk Inn Resort and Beach Club Resort are in walking distance to EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Depending on who you ask, Bay Lake Tower has them beat, thanks to its distinction as the resort that is closest to the Magic Kingdom. For that reason, Bay Lake Tower gets you in and out of the most magical place on earth with ease. On my last stay at Bay Lake Tower, I timed my walk, and I made it to the entrance to the park in less than ten minutes. It saved my family from waking up our kids–a toddler and an infant–super early, allowed us to walk them home for nap time, and made it easy for me to head back to the park on my own solo adventure in the evening. For that reason, to me, Bay Lake Tower enjoys the best location of all Walt Disney World resorts.
Theming. This could be a hot take, so let me just say it: I love the aesthetic of Bay Lake Tower. If you are just dipping your toes into the Disney world (sorry, I couldn’t resist), just know that many within the Disney community outright hate Bay Lake Tower’s (and Disney’s Contemporary Resort) theming (or lack thereof). And I get it, to an extent. The resort does not have a distinct theme, and boasts a lot of concrete. Disney resorts are expected to be a lot of things, but mostly they are expected to be two things: distinct from a non-Disney resort, and worth their above-average cost per night. For the sake of time, I cannot get into what is really worth the price to different people and their different budgets. But I can discuss theming, and I understand the appeal of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (a resort I will be covering as part of my Disney Resort Series), and Wilderness Lodge (to name just a couple of great examples). Those resorts are distinct and immersive, resulting in a lasting impression. In contrast, Bay Lake Tower prioritizes function over form, embracing a simple, perhaps dated aesthetic that is rooted in its tower-focused design. Bay Lake Tower’s colors are muted, its lobby small and surrounded by glass, its hallways not too different from a library. Its carpeting consists of simple, mickey shapes, its outdoor area mostly concrete, its pool not too large, punctuated only by a simple Mickey shape that illuminates when the sun goes down. Bay Lake Tower is sandwiched between the Contemporary Resort’s iconic A-Frame and the futuristic dome of Space Mountain, but instead of attempting to compete with either structure, it slips quietly in between. On its east lies Bay Lake, providing unobstructed, tranquil views of the water. In my opinion, there is a theme in the resort’s quiet resolve, one that is quintessentially Disney. In so doing, Bay Lake Tower does what many resorts can’t: it lets you bask in your Disney-filled surrounding without pretense, without an apparent theme coloring your experience.
Monorail Loop. There is a reason the resorts on “the monorail loop” are so sought-after. The ability to exit the park and avoid the mad rush to the monorail, ferries, and buses arguably makes this resort worth the coins, but that’s not all its location offers. Because it’s connected to, but not part of the Contemporary Resort, you essentially have monorail access via a skyway that puts you on the same level where the monorail stops (that level is called the Atrium level). From there you can visit two resorts: Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (which, in what appears to be page from the Bay Lake Tower and Contemporary Resort setup, is getting its own neighboring DVC tower in 2024–-for my article on that, see here), and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa,. You can also visit EPCOT (after a transfer at the Transportation and Ticket Center, of course). Essentially, you can walk to Disney’s Contemporary, and take the monorail straight to two (very popular) resorts, and access EPCOT (plus the resorts in the EPCOT area) without needing a car, bus, or ferry.
Pools. Bay Lake Tower has two of its own pools: the larger one, Bay Cove Pool, has a twenty-foot waterslide and an iconic Mickey sign that lights up with neon lights at night. The second, smaller pool, includes a splash pad, providing safer place for little ones. Because you are so close to the Contemporary Resort, you can also walk to the pools at that resort, which are bigger and arguably better.
Food. Bay Lake Tower does not have its own dining options. Instead, guests can choose from the options at the Contemporary Resort–and there are plenty. For quick-service, there is Contempo Cafe, located in the Atrium of the Contemporary. There you will find you standard breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and also snacks. (Make sure you mobile order using your MyDisneyExperience App to save time!) For breakfast or dinner, you can also try Chef Mickey’s, a legendary, fixed-menu character dining experience. For a moderately-priced table-service option, you can try Steakhouse 71 (which was recently renovated, and formerly known as The Wave). For an upscale meal, you need to try the California Grill, a fine-dining option perched on the top floor of the Contemporary Resort offering views of Seven Seas Lagoon and the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom. Make sure you plan early and dress the part: reservations at the California Grill are hard to find, and there is a dress code requirement. For coffee, try Contempo Grounds (on the first level of the Contemporary Resort), and for drinks, try Outer Rim (located on the Atrium level of the Contemporary Resort).
Fireworks. The Magic Kingdom fireworks are a must-see, and if you want to watch away from the crowds, Bay Lake Tower is the place to do it. You can watch from either the elevated walkway between Bay Lake Tower and the Contemporary Resort, or from a viewing area just outside the Contemporary Resort (on the Atrium level). And don’t worry about missing out on the music–the music from Disney Enchantment plays over speakers in both areas. You can also enjoy the view of the fireworks from your own room if you can snag a Theme Park View option when making your reservation.
Electrical Water Pageant. One thing to know about me: I am a huge fan of the Electrical Water Pageant, which is a nighttime, light-filled water show. The pageant starts in Seven Seas Lagoon right after the fireworks, before cruising around the resorts along both Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake. It features bright lights, boats, and music, effectively extending the evening’s celebration into the night. Growing up I would stare in wonder at photos and videos of the Electrical Water Pageant—it seemed mysterious, colorful, magical. To me, in many ways, it stands as a symbol of Walt Disney World and all its magic. It’s a shame it’s only viewable by the resorts that abut Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake. There’s something truly special about watching the pageant from your resort room after a long day at the Magic Kingdom. You can do so if you stay at Bay Lake Tower.
The Villa Difference. If you haven’t yet stayed at a villa at a DVC resort, I encourage you to do so, especially if you need a larger space. The villas at Bay Lake are good-sized compared to other DVC resorts, and they are updated. The one-bedroom villa we stayed in had two bathrooms, a full refrigerator, washer/dryer, table, television, balcony, and a sofa that converted to a bed. Having the ability to store and cook food saved us money and made a huge difference in our trip planning. Also, I enjoyed the ability to let our kids sleep in their own, quiet space.
Do you have any questions about Bay Lake Tower? About the difference between DVC resorts and other resorts? About DVC? Let me know in the comments below.
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