Which Disney Resort Is Better, Bay Lake Tower Or the Contemporary?
In 2009, Disney did something unexpected. The company utilized some space beside Disney’s Contemporary Resort to construct an adjoining hotel.
We received a rare opportunity to stay at both resorts during a recent trip and can now finally answer a longstanding question.
Which resort is better, Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort or the Contemporary?
Just the Facts
The two resorts in question embody Disney’s ambition for top-notch logistics.
The Contemporary resides a 10-minute walk away from Magic Kingdom…or one monorail stop away.
Well, technically, it’s one stop from Magic Kingdom. When you board the monorail at the Contemporary, you must ride through other stops to reach the park.
Bay Lake Tower resides at a former extension of the Contemporary, one that’s even closer to the front gate of Magic Kingdom.
I’m not joking when I say that a fast walker can reach the temperature check tent at Magic Kingdom in five minutes.
The only catch is a stubborn crosswalk light that seems to hate me and everything I stand for.
When you don’t catch the light, you get delayed a couple of minutes.
Both resorts feature standalone facilities, although the ones at the Contemporary are undisputedly superior.
Bay Lake Tower includes its own lobby and check-in area, pool, pool bar, and laundry facilities, among other amenities.
The Contemporary comes with some of the best features of any Disney resort.
The hotel lobby includes several check-in stations, and The Wave… of American Flavors is right beside them.
On the second floor, guests with reservations can ride a special elevator up to the top floor for a meal at California Grill.
Or, people may take an escalator from the second floor to the Grand Canyon Concourse, the legendary fourth floor of the Contemporary.
Here, you’ll find Fantasia, Fantasia Market, and Bayview Gifts, plus Chef Mickey’s and Contempo Café.
The monorail’s security area also resides here, allowing guests to depart the fourth floor and head elsewhere, usually Magic Kingdom.
Differences between the Resorts
While you’ll share amenities between the two resorts, you will notice a few differences.
For starters, the hotel room views differ a bit due to the buildings’ styles and their locations near Bay Lake.
You’ll also probably spend more time at the closer pool, which means the Main Pool if you’re at the Contemporary or Bay Lake Pool for Bay Lake Tower.
I actually prefer the latter pool due to its thoroughly enjoyable waterslide and nearby pool bar.
Conversely, guests at Bay Lake Tower must walk quite a bit more to reach the amenities at the Contemporary.
A covered walkway connects the two structures. It crosses from the fifth floor of Bay Lake Tower to the fourth floor/Grand Canyon Concourse of the Contemporary.
Sometimes, you’ll hear guests get confused regarding which floor they’re on, and this quirk explains why.
Guests walk a straight path across a covered bridge from one resort to the other, but they somehow change floors in the process.
People staying on the far side of Bay Lake Tower must walk a few minutes to reach the amenities on the Grand Canyon Concourse.
Also, the only official restaurant at Bay Lake Tower is Cove Bar, the pool bar at the pool.
That statement is a bit of a nitpick, though. Any guest at Bay Lake Tower can/will take the elevator down to the fifth floor.
Then, you’ll exit and cross the bridge to the Grand Canyon Concourse, where you’ll find Chef Mickey’s and Contempo Café.
Pros and Cons of Bay Lake Tower
I already established the biggest pro. When you stay at Bay Lake Tower, you’re always at the closest place possible to Magic Kingdom.
All you need to do is ride an elevator down to the lobby, exit the front entrance, and follow the sidewalk. You’ll arrive in minutes.
Bay Lake Tower also features the Top of the World Lounge, which resides on the top floor here.
Guests may eat and drink to their heart’s content and, during non-pandemic times, watch nighttime fireworks presentations.
This view matches the one at California Grill, but you don’t need to eat an expensive meal to enjoy it.
Bay Lake Tower also operates an excellent pool with an accompanying pool bar, and its laundry facilities on the bottom floor are easily accessible and convenient.
In terms of cons, the only real knock on Bay Lake Tower is one that’s mostly out of your control.
A connecting bridge allows Bay Lake Tower guests to enjoy the amenities on the Grand Canyon Concourse.
Half the hotel enjoys closer access to this bridge than the other side. When you stay close to the bridge, your room view won’t be quite as good.
However, you’ll get to the Contemporary quickly, a significant benefit.
On our most recent trip, we stayed about as far away from the bridge as we ever have, and we definitely noticed the inconvenience. It’s a tiny quibble, though.
Overall, Bay Lake Tower lives up to its billing as Deluxe Tier Disney accommodations.
Pros of the Contemporary
In describing the two resorts, I’ve effectively enumerated the pros of the Contemporary.
When Disney designed its first official resort, Imagineers went all out with the look and style.
The A-frame design allows monorails to enter the open structure and operate within the facility.
So, when you stay here, you always have ready monorail access.
However, you shouldn’t expect a view of the monorail or the action on the Grand Canyon Concourse.
All hotel rooms beneath the fourth floor have their view of this area blocked. Meanwhile, people above the seventh floor cannot see much of it, either.
We recently stayed on the 11th floor, and we had no view of the concourse anywhere. Still, we were always a quick elevator ride away from the action.
Our party also relished the lack of a significant walk to the Contemporary’s amenities.
Ordinarily, that would have been counterbalanced by the longer walk to Magic Kingdom.
However, Park Passes and a lack of Park Hopping negated those concerns on this trip. We couldn’t enter Magic Kingdom whenever we wanted anyway.
During the pandemic, Bay Lake Tower’s most significant advantage is somewhat muted.
Meanwhile, all the Contemporary’s advantages shine through.
Where Should You Stay?
I’m gonna give a cop-out answer here, but it’s also the truth.
You should pick whichever one of these resorts offers a cheaper hotel room during your visit.
You can tell from the pros of each one that the hotels claim individual identities.
Each one features benefits that will enrich your Disney vacation and make you feel better about life.
You really cannot go wrong with either one, as you’ll stay close to a monorail station and have access to all the Contemporary’s exquisite amenities.
For that reason, I’d suggest that you focus on your budget first and foremost.
However, should you want to pick between them, here’s what I’ll say.
The principal advantage of the Contemporary is that you’re staying right by all the resort’s amenities like stores, restaurants, and the monorail station.
The best part of Bay Lake Tower is that you’re a few minutes closer to the Magic Kingdom entrance.
So, Magic Kingdom fans like me will favor Bay Lake Tower.
Conversely, those guests who desire ready access to the Contemporary’s amenities will pick it.
You’ll relish spending a vacation at either one, though. The amenities embody the best of Disney.