Top of the World Lounge is a bar in Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort that offers sweeping views of Walt Disney World comparable to those of California Grill. It’s more or less exclusively for Disney Vacation Club members, although there are some exceptions to that “rule.” In this post, we’ll take a look inside the Top of the World Lounge, and share some thoughts and photos of their light menu.
The requirements for admission to the Top of the World Lounge are shrouded in mystery. Basically, you show up to the downstairs check-in desk, are asked a series of questions to test your wits, and are allowed up if deemed worthy by the guardian of the sacred order of the Disney Vacation Club. Well, sort of.
The official word on gaining entrance to Top of the World Lounge is this: Disney Vacation Club Members staying at any Disney-owned-and-operated hotel at Walt Disney World Resort (whether they booked with vacation points or cash) may enjoy access.” Blockout dates apply, and are basically the evenings when there are 360-degree fireworks shows (New Year’s and Independence Day, plus the days before) and whenever else special events are planned. This rule has been relaxed a couple of times already, probably due to the fact that the Top of the World Lounge is almost never even remotely busy. I’ve gained entrance to Top of the World Lounge every single time I have tried by showing my Disney Vacation Club Member ID, and that includes the Fourth of July. Your mileage may vary.
With that said, is it worth the effort to head up to this ghost town of a lounge? Let’s take a look…
The decor is in keeping with the rest of Bay Lake Tower: a sleek modernist look accented with some Disney touches. I think it works pretty well. There were two other parties here during our visit–hardly crowded.
I’m not quite sure what purpose this secluded, Tomorrowland-centric booth served, but it’s pretty cool. (And before you get any ideas, just remember the Chris Rock song about rooms of this sort…)
The monorails behind the bar are another nice touch.
Let this view sink in for a moment. This is why Top of the World Lounge could serve cheap dog food and I’d still recommend it.
In addition to the main viewing platform that overlooks the Magic Kingdom, there’s this observation area behind the bar that overlooks the pool, with Epcot in the distance.
Unfortunately, Top of the World Lounge rocks the Generic Disney Parks Bar Menu, but there are a few unique options, and plenty of craft beers.
Here’s the Florida Rock Shrimp Salsa that someone in our party got. I recall that it wasn’t quite what they had expected, but that wasn’t completely a bad thing.
Someone else in our party ordered the Bay Lake Tower flatbread. I didn’t have a chance to try this and am not sure what they thought of it, but I recall thinking that it was on the small side, even for a flatbread.
These are the soft pretzels and dip, which were another big hit among our party. Now, you might be thinking that at the end of the day, they are just pretzels, but they are surprisingly good for what they are. I wouldn’t make the trek to Top of the World Lounge just for these, but I’d definitely order them again.
Being the irresponsible one of the group, I ordered the 7 layer cake as opposed to “real” food. Best decision ever. I’ve since learned that this cake is for 2, and that’s probably for good reason, but I ate the entire thing myself.
It was incredible. Not only was the presentation excellent, but the cake was moist, the cake wasn’t overly rich, and the lightly salted caramel taste was the perfect touch. I really can’t sing its praises loudly enough. It’s actually a shame that it’s available to such a limited audience, because this thing would have a cult following if it were sold elsewhere, I think. Skip the other snacks and get this at Top of the World Lounge–you’re on vacation, after all.
For many people, the menu probably doesn’t matter. I’ll be honest: I had been up here 6 times before my most recent trip and never once ordered food. The view is a feast for the eyes, and that alone justifies a visit to the Top of the World Lounge. It’s a similar view as offered by the viewing deck at California Grill, but I actually find this view to be better. Not only do you have all of the Magic Kingdom, but you have better panoramic views of the rest of Walt Disney World from Top of the World Lounge.
Then there’s the fireworks view. Frankly, the view of the regular fireworks from up here isn’t my favorite. It’s not a bad view, but the bursts adjacent to Cinderella Castle appear small, and the bursts shot from behind the park are off-center. As a photographer, this probably bugs me more than the average guest. However, the view when there is a show with perimeter bursts is spectacular.
On nights when we don’t have tickets for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party or Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, we sometimes watch the fireworks from this location. The scope and scale are amazing–perhaps superior to being anywhere in the Magic Kingdom. The 360-degree New Year’s Eve and July 4th shows from up here aren’t just spectacular, they are mind-blowing. If you ever have the chance to see either from Top of the World Lounge, jump on it. Not only is the view incredible, but it’s a great way to avoid the crowds in the Magic Kingdom.
Overall, the Top of the World Lounge is one of the best bars at Walt Disney World, and is one of the few that is “so much more” than a bar. While Disney Vacation Club’s ‘Best Kept Secret’ moniker became such a running joke that it was ultimately abandoned, Top of the World Lounge might actually be Disney Vacation Club’s best kept secret. Most of the time the indoor lounge and outdoor areas are collectively at 33% or less of the area’s total capacity, the snacks are great, the drink menu sufficient, and the views spectacular. Think of it as the poor man’s version of California Grill (just ignore the cost of the DVC membership for that “poor” label 😉 ).