Are you considering staying at Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort with your highly sensitive kids? Let’s look at things like the proximity to theme parks, comfort level of the rooms, crowdedness, amenities, and theming to help you make your decision.
If you’re not familiar, Bay Lake Tower is the Disney Vacation Club part of the Contemporary Resort.
What is Disney Vacation Club?
Disney Vacation Club (DVC) is a timeshare program operated by Disney. Compared to traditional timeshare programs, it’s pretty flexible! You’re not locked in to a certain week of the year or a specific property, even though you do have a “home” resort.
Even if you’re not a timeshare owner, you can stay at a DVC resort by renting points through DVC rental companies like David’s Vacation Club Rentals or DVC Rental Store. It is cheaper than going directly through Disney, though cancellation policies are much less flexible.
Full disclosure: we are DVC members. We joined in January 2019. What I love about DVC is that if you stay in a 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom, or a 3-bedroom grand villa, you get a full kitchen and in-unit washer & dryer. It feels more like “home” than a standard hotel room, which is something I really appreciate with highly sensitive kids.
Disney’s Contemporary Resort
There are also two other sections of the Contemporary Resort: the South Garden Wing, and the Contemporary Tower. While Bay Lake Tower is fairly new, the Contemporary Resort itself is one of two original Walt Disney World hotels.
It’s located in between Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon. It is also known as one of three “monorail resorts”, with the others being the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian. When you book your room, you get to choose between a theme park view, a lake view, and a standard view. It does cost a little more to stay in a theme park or lake view room.
In this review, I’ll be focusing mainly on Bay Lake Tower but will also discuss other aspects of the Contemporary Resort as a whole. Let’s see if Bay Lake Tower is a good choice for your family with highly sensitive kids!
Proximity to Parks 4/5
Walk to Magic Kingdom
Bay Lake Tower, and the entire property of the Contemporary Resort, is SO close to Magic Kingdom. We are talking a 10 minute walk. Yes, walk.
Being walking distance to a park is really helpful with highly sensitive kids. Why? There is no rushing to try to make it onto the bus or the monorail.
There are less transitions involved with getting on and off transportation, or going through extra security (like for the monorail). Walking means you get to take your own pace, and that can sometimes make all the difference.
Bus to the Other Theme Parks
Currently as of March 2021, the monorail to Epcot is not running. So if you’re staying at Bay Lake Tower, you will have to ride a bus to get to Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot.
The bus is probably the least ideal Disney mode of transportation for highly sensitive kids, since it can be crowded and loud (especially during pre-pandemic times).
However, the good thing about taking the bus from Bay Lake Tower is that there is only one bus stop, compared to some resorts like Saratoga Springs, where there are multiple internal bus stops. This means fewer stops, less waiting, possibly less crowded buses, and a more direct ride to your destination.
Pros and Cons of Staying Close to Parks
Proximity to the theme parks is a mixed bag when it comes to highly sensitive kids. The best thing about being so close to the parks is that it makes it an easy escape when your kids need a break. If they are getting overwhelmed and overstimulated at Magic Kingdom, it’s a quick walk to get back to your room and get some reprieve.
But because you are so close, it doesn’t feel like you are completely “getting away”. Depending on your room views, it’s possible for you to be able to see and hear the fireworks at Magic Kingdom.
There is also the nightly Electrical Pageant display on the lake, which is a nighttime floating parade accompanied by music and lights.
While some people love staying here for these exact reasons, this could be a deterrent for some families with highly sensitive kids who want somewhere secluded and quiet once they leave the parks.
This is why I put the rating as a 4 out of 5, because highly sensitive kids could experience more sensory overload due to Bay Lake Tower’s proximity to Magic Kingdom.
Uncomfortable Rooms 1/5
As mentioned before, Bay Lake Tower is a Disney Vacation Club property. We usually stay in at least a 1-bedroom when we stay at any DVC resort, because of the separate bedroom, a full kitchen, and in-unit laundry. This makes sleeping and eating so much more comfortable for all of us.
Highly sensitive children thrive off routines, so having their own beds is always a priority for our family. I even travel with a toddler size inflatable mattress if I know there won’t be enough beds for us all.
Studios at Bay Lake Tower
The studios (which are like a standard hotel room) at Bay Lake Tower are known to be one of the smallest among the DVC options at a mere 339 square feet. It is listed to be able to sleep 4 people, but it probably won’t be comfortable for more than 2 people (or 2 adults with a baby).
While it is still very small, it does include a kitchenette. There’s a separate sink, a mini fridge, a coffee maker and a microwave. So if your highly sensitive kids are very particular about their food, even having the kitchenette makes it easier to keep familiar foods on hand.
1-Bedrooms at Bay Lake Tower
The 1-bedrooms at Bay Lake Tower are pretty awesome. It is one of the few DVC 1-bedrooms that have two full baths. Yes, you read that right. TWO full baths. If you’re traveling with multiple potty-trained children, having more than one bathroom can make all the difference.
It is also more than double in size than a studio at 803 square feet. There is a king-size bed in the bedroom, a queen-size sleeper sofa in the living room, and a sleeper chair (30” wide = 2 inches wider than a toddler bed, and 78” long = 3 inches longer than a twin mattress).
We found the 1-bedrooms at Bay Lake Tower super comfortable for highly sensitive kids. It was great for the kids to have their own sleeping spaces. And having a full kitchen is ideal for having quiet low-key meals in the room. Because it feels a bit like a condo, there is a certain level of comfort and familiarity of being like at “home”. I feel like it helps my highly sensitive kids adjust and get comfortable in their new surroundings.
Highly sensitive kids get overwhelmed easily by crowds, and thankfully, Bay Lake Tower itself is not very crowded. It has a separate entrance and lobby from the Contemporary Resort, which cuts down a lot on foot traffic.
From the 5th floor of Bay Lake Tower, you can walk over to the Contemporary Tower (4th floor) via Skybridge. This area of the Contemporary Tower is called the Grand Canyon Concourse. This is the iconic part of the Contemporary Resort that makes it so memorable—you can see the monorail run right through the building!
This main area often feels crowded, particularly at meal times. The Grand Canyon Concourse has several gift shops, entrances to the monorail station, and two restaurants.
Chef Mickey’s is a popular table-service (read: sit down, full service) restaurant known for it’s character dining. This is a coveted dining reservation by many families, including those who are not staying at this resort. It’s common for many families to do a breakfast reservation here on their Magic Kingdom day, and then walk on over to the park afterwards. Contempo Cafe is the other restaurant on this floor, which is a quick-service option.
The great thing about having a lot of amenities on-site is that it’s a great incentive to spend a rest day at your hotel. Bay Lake Tower is good for highly sensitive kids in this area. There are a lot of relaxing things to do without being too overstimulated, which is why I give this a score of 1 out of 5.
There are three pools at the Contemporary Resort. Bay Lake Tower has its own pool called the Bay Cove Pool, which is a zero depth entry pool and it has its own slide. It includes a little splash pad area (in the shape of Mickey) for the littlest ones.
On the Contemporary Tower side, there are two more pools: a large free form pool which has a 17 foot high curving slide, and a small round pool called Bay Lake Pool. There isn’t anything particularly special about these pools, which is kind of good because we didn’t experience any big crowds or fighting over lounge chairs.
Kids in general often love having a relaxing pool/resort day. Highly sensitive kids in particular will enjoy vegging out and not rushing from place to place.
You don’t even have to leave the resort to eat because there are so many options to suit anyone’s taste. **But I highly recommend venturing to other resorts to dine and explore.** The different dining options while staying at Bay Lake Tower include:
- California Grill (signature dining, aka fancy pants dining) at the top of the Contemporary Tower
- The Wave (table-service), located on the 1st floor of the Contemporary Tower off the main lobby
- Chef Mickey’s (table-service, character meal), on the 4th floor of the Contemporary Tower
- Contempo Cafe (quick-service), on the 4th floor of the Contemporary Tower
- Sand Bar, poolside dining next to the main pool at the Contemporary
- Cove Bar, poolside dining next to Bay Cove Pool by Bay Lake Tower
There are also several other activities available at Bay Lake Tower that could appeal to some highly sensitive kids, such as tennis courts, boat rentals, beach volleyball courts, and an arcade.
Bay Lake Tower, like several other DVC properties, has a wonderful Community Hall. It’s basically like a little hang out center. There are usually board games you can play, a TV or gaming system, many DVDs available to borrow, art supplies, books, building toys, and sometimes organized activities like Bingo.
Some of the more intensive crafts like tie-dying or jewelry making have a nominal cost, but many of the activities available are free.
Every time we spent time in the Community Hall, it was very quiet and relaxing. We encountered really friendly and helpful Cast Members while there as well. If your highly sensitive child wants to chill out, play a board game, or do a Disney coloring sheet, this is the perfect place to go.
Noise Level 4/5
Another aspect to consider about Bay Lake Tower for your highly sensitive kids is the noise level. Highly sensitive and sensory sensitive kids have heightened senses, which includes their hearing. They are more likely to be bothered by sounds that don’t bother non-highly sensitive people.
As mentioned earlier, Bay Lake Tower itself is pretty quiet and laidback. This is mostly due to its separation from the main part of the Contemporary Resort. It has its own lobby and check-in desk.
But it is quite noisy in the main concourse of the Contemporary Tower, which you can access from the 5th floor of Bay Lake Tower via Sky Bridge. This area, known as the Grand Canyon Concourse, is loud due to the sounds from the monorail passing through, people dining at Chef Mickey’s and Contempo Cafe, and guests chatting and walking around as they visit gift shops and wait for the monorail.
The Grand Canyon Concourse has ceilings that tower at 90 feet high, which only amplifies the noise. It is definitely an intriguing and iconic sight to see, but your highly sensitive child may not enjoy spending a prolonged period of time there.
The location of Bay Lake Tower puts itself close to other loud sounds. Because it’s so close to Magic Kingdom, you might be able to hear fireworks from some of the rooms. As mentioned earlier, the Electrical Pageant runs every night on Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon. We were in a lake view room, and we totally heard it from our rooms every night. I was really thankful that we packed our white noise machines, as we usually do when we travel.
People are always talking about “theming” when it comes to Disney. This is one thing Disney is so good at, since so much thought is put into all the details of what they do.
The theming at Bay Lake Tower, and the Contemporary Resort, is pretty controversial. Words like “sterile”, “cold”, and “boring” are often used by guests who aren’t a big fan of the theming here. Some complain that it’s the same as any other standard “modern-luxe” hotel. It does have a minimal, sleek, and modern flair, with subtle Disney touches.
The most unique aspects of the theming at the Contemporary Resort is in the Grand Canyon Concourse. The architecture involved with having the monorail run right through the building is amazing. And there is an enormous mural on the wall by Mary Blair, who is also famous for creating character designs for Disneyland’s “it’s a small world”.
But Bay Lake Tower might be a good choice for highly sensitive kids because of its subtle theming. You won’t be bombarded with endless bright colors, elaborate decorations, and in-your-face images of Disney characters. Basically, it’s the opposite of resorts like Art of Animation.
Total 15 out of 30
How do we understand the rating? A lower score means less sensory overload while staying at this resort, while a higher score means a greater likelihood of being overwhelmed and overstimulated.
Bay Lake Tower could be a good choice for your highly sensitive kids if its important to you to be able to walk back and forth from Magic Kingdom, and your children would appreciate more subtle theming. Staying in a 1-bedroom DVC villa is ideal if you want access to a full kitchen, in-unit laundry, and two full bathrooms.
But if you’d like a more quiet, secluded experience for your family, Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary Resort probably isn’t the best choice for you. The location, while amazing for its own reasons, can be overwhelming for some. And the fact that there are some really popular dining options here (read: Chef Mickey’s and California Grill) attracts so many non-resort guests.
What has YOUR experience been at Disney’s Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort?
Are you considering staying there on your trip to Walt Disney World? Do you think Bay Lake Tower will be a good fit for your family and your highly sensitive kids? Comment below and let me know!
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