Top of the World Lounge Review
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 😉 ).
Want more dining tips? Check out our 101 Delicious Walt Disney World Dining Tips. If you are planning a Walt Disney World trip, make sure to also read our comprehensive Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide to make the most of your experience!
To read other Disney restaurant reviews from Walt Disney World and dining resources, check out our Walt Disney Dining Reviews Index.
Have you been to Top of the World Lounge? Any menu recommendations? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment or the lounge? Any other tips? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Your review was spot on . The place “was” fantastic. The problem now being that the bean counters are in charge and have shut it down for a year and a half! What a waste of prime real estate. Covid was the excuse to take a little more magic away from DVC owners. My family has Bay Lake as our home resort & loved coming here . We also enjoyed the magical express which has been slated for removal as well. The magic is being removed by a thousand cuts – parades, magical express, Top of the World & many other things that made Disney … Disney.
For party fireworks (not 4th of July/NYE), do you think the view is better here or Poly beach?
We have watched MNSSHP several times from both locations.
Because the launched some fireworks from all around MK, some of them were very close to TOTWL.
On the other hand, Poly beach has the straight on view to MK for the fireworks. If staying at Poly or PVB, it’s also nice to watch the fireworks from the pool area.
We were happy with both locations.
Not one comment on cost one way or the other. Is this a free perk for members or cost?
I am renting points from a DVC member and staying at Saratoga Springs in early December 2018. Will my wife and i be able to access the lounge even though we do not have a card?
I don’t think so. I had to show my DVC member card to get in, and I was renting points from another member at Bay Lake Tower at the time.
no. someone with you has to be a dvc member staying at a DVC property
I’m so sorry to have to ask, but I don’t know if this was specifically answered above. We are staying at BLT in 2018, but are not DVC members. Do we get access to Top of the World? I see that other parts of BLT are open to anyone staying there regardless of DVC membership but it’s hard to figure out if TotW is one of those. (Imagine that…WDW info that’s confusing! 🙂 )
no, at least one person in your party must be a dvc member staying at dvc property
Thank you for the review. We are planning on heading there in a few weeks and are curious if they take Tables in Wonderland. I do not see it on the official disney site, but it’s listed at other sites as taking it. Thanks!
Hi! Can we access the observation deck without visiting the lounge? Is the lounge kid-friendly?
We ordered this cake for my birthday in July on this recommendation. Definitely worth it. The dusting of chocolate to look like the Sea Serpent from the Electrical Water Pageant was a nice extra touch too.
Is it kid friendly?
I’m a DVC member, was at TOTW lounge September 2014. Beautiful location, but the use of the space could be so much better. They want to serve drinks (as they should) but the food service was poor. The sound system was about what one would expect in an elevator. The cast member staff were bored, and not up to Disney standards. Granted we were there late in the evening, but Disney should do much better with such a neat location
You definitely have to be a DVC member OR be with a DVC member to gain access to that lounge. They have you check in at the front desk and will scan your Magic band. You then have to enter your 4- digit pin code. For guests without a magic band you would need your DVC card and photo ID. I would make friends with a DVC guest while your there and tell them how much you would LOVE to go up and try the cake (and a magical star cocktail). I am sure someone would bring you up. 🙂
Yep. This was the procedure on my most recent visit.
and maybe offer to buy said “member friend” a piece of cake 🙂
The photo of the sunset over the Magic Kingdom is spectacular. And they have multilayered cake, too? As a mere non-DVC plebeian, I will quietly grumble to myself: no fair no fair no fair no fair.
How fortuitous – I have just booked a 7 night stay at BLT for April 2016 this very morning and was about to start researching how to get into the Top of the World Lounge!! Though I have been to WDW 6 times in my 42 years, this is the first time we are staying on site and I am beyond excited!!
We are not DVC members and have booked direct through the WDW UK website. You tell us how to “officially” gain entry – any tips on how to “unofficially” gain entry? Is there any chance at all? I know a friend of a friend who is a DVC member – though I imagine my innocent/truthful children will reveal my true identity at the drop of a hat if I try subterfuge!!
If you’re in Bay Lake Tower, just use the elevator. 🙂
The elevator only goes up to 15…. Take the stair up to 16
Funny story about that little alcove… some friends and I sat in there after Wishes one evening (there was half-eaten food on the tables, but it looked like it had been abandoned for the evening). For fun, we pulled the curtains across to block us from the commoners. 😉 A few minutes later, an older gentlemen sticks his head through the curtains and asks if the space is occupied. My friends laughed him off, but I stared… and stared… and then checked his Disney-issued name tag just to be sure it was who I thought it was. Bob Gurr. I fangirled. We threw open the curtains and chatted him up for quite some time. And yes, he was wearing his sweet sneakers even with a suit and tie. It was awesome.
He also informed us that he had signed the monorail mural behind the bar. Good times.
That story is GREAT, and actually not all that surprising. I’ve heard of him having random encounters with fans on several occasions.
Just another reason that Bob Gurr is my spirit animal.
Wow. I really need to make friends with DVC members so I can visit this bar. The place looks incredible!
BLT is our home resort, so we tend to visit TOWL at least once per trip, and we’re big fans. It’s also a great safety valve if you don’t have an ADR and want to grab something to eat that isn’t CS — pretty easy to cobble together a meal with a few small plates if need be. Great sanctuary for those looking for a breather from the energy of the theme parks or even the rest of the resort…
Maybe a good time to look into Disneyworld History.
The name “Top of the World” was the name of a nightclub on top of the Contemporary. It was adults only..having Broadway type shows and Adult Comedy Acts like Phyllis Diller, Bob Hope..and Don Rickels.
There was also a Liquor Store in the Contemporary called “The Spirit World” that was Adult only…just to walk in the door. I remember My 10 year old self was disappointed and confused I could not enter what I thought was a Haunted Mansion shop.
The Contemporary was the ‘adult” hotel. With Vegas style entertainment, nightclub, etc.
With kid activities like the arcade and movies and going to the park.
Yes…in the 70’s kids on the monorail loop would be ‘free range’.
Thanks for that. I’m familiar with the history of the Tempo Bay, but I’m sure others aren’t. I actually find all of this to be quite depressing, and seeing photos of how it was back in the day versus how it is now is a bit depressing.
Fortunately, I think Top of the World Lounge is a step in the right direction…but many more steps (that will never happen) are needed.
I need to figure out how to visit Top of the World to enjoy those fabulous views you photographed. I am not a DVC member, don’t plan to become one and don’t plan to stay in a DVC location.
I don’t know how they can claim that cake slice serves two. It only looks like a single serving. When family asks what size slice of cake I want, I always say “a serving” if it is the right flavour. I never know what size I will end up with.
That plate that the cake is on is larger than a piece of copy paper…. I finished about a third of a slice before I had to tap out! Also that flatbread in the picture was small…. I went and it is now twice as big.
My mother pays $3,500 USD in member dues. Not exactly cool on your part to try & sneak in & think you’re entitled to that. Go find a DVC member & accompany them, or put your adult pants on & purchase a membership to enjoy perks…she doesn’t get enough perks for the outrageous money handed over annually, it’s about time something is DVC member only.
If you are a DVC member, can you take guests up with you that are staying on property but are not DVC members?
Yes and they do not have to be staying on property. We just took a group up from Kingdom Camera rentals without issue.
Staying at BLT for the first time in 2 weeks. I am not DVC but am staying on my aunt’s DVC points. Will I be able to get in? Also, is it kid friendly? Thanks!!!
We had no problem getting in a year ago when staying on rented points! Although I did have my aunt’s DVC card, and can’t remember if we showed it or not. If you are able to borrow the card for your stay it probably wouldn’t hurt. 🙂
The *technical* rule is that you would have to have the card, but I have never heard of anyone staying on rented points having any issues. You can access the lounge via the same elevator you’ll be using to get to your room, so there’s almost no chance you’ll have a problem. Only those staying at other hotels need to show their DVC cards.
You do need someone to keycard access to the top floor though, IIRC.
I am a current DVC member. As long as you are staying on a DVC reservation they will let you in. (If they are not at capacity.) I have rented points and stayed with an RCI exchange certificate and never had an issue. The only time we ALMOST had a problem was 4th of July this year I stayed at another DVC resort. The 4th of July is blacked out to DVC staying at BLT only.