If at first, you don’t succeed, try again. Originally, the area now known as Disney’s Saratoga Springs was another resort, The Disney Institute. In 2003, Walt Disney World made the decision to walk away from the Disney Institute Resort concept and reimagine the area as a new Disney Vacation Club (DVC) resort. By May 2004 we had the largest DVC resort on Disney property, Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. Let’s dive into our DVC Duo resort review.
Saratoga Springs Resort brings you back to the 1880 Victorian era of upstate New York. Designed to be a lakeside retreat, the resort ties in aspects of the Victorian period from its color palette and architecture to the theme of the area – horse racing. Making our way around the resort we see subtle racing-related details from the furlong markers around the main lake to the sound of the bugle to start the day. The only thing missing is the race track. The rooms are appointed with similar decor – think elegant Fox and the Hound.
Room for All
With 1,320 rooms Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort is spread out over 65 acres with 5 distinct sections: Congress Park, The Paddock, The Carousel, The Grandstand, and The Springs. The centerpiece of the resort is the lake which is situated just outside the main lobby area with the majority of the buildings centered around the lake. Similar to Disney’s Old Key West Resort each of the 18 buildings has a variety of room types that vary in size and amenities. Below are the options:
- Deluxe Studio – Similar to your normal hotel room with two queen-sized beds and a bathroom. Sleeps 4 people.
- 1 Bedroom Villa – Similar to 1 bedroom apartment, as these rooms have a kitchen, laundry facilities, living room and large master bedroom with a jacuzzi tub. One bathroom with a standup shower. The living room couch can convert into a pull out queen bed. Sleeps 4 people.
- 2 Bedroom Villa – The 2 bedroom villa is made up of a deluxe studio and 1 bedroom villa. The only difference is the addition of a walk-in closet in the deluxe studio portion where the entrance would normally be located. Sleeps 8 people.
- 3 Bedroom Villa – A two-story “house” that has the same facilities as the 1 and 2 bedroom villas with the following additions: a larger dining room, 4 bathrooms, and 3 bedrooms (1 king bed, 2 queen beds in the same bedroom, 2 double beds in the same bedroom ). The couch in the living room converts to a queen bed. Sleeps 12 people.
- Treehouse Villa – Unique to the resort, the Treehouse Villas are standalone rooms that sit on 10 foot high pedestals nestled within the trees. These rooms have a kitchen, laundry facilities, living room, large deck with patio set, and a master suite with a shower/jacuzzi tub. The sleeping arrangements include 2 queen beds, a set of bunk beds, a queen sleeper sofa and a twin size sleeper chair. The sleep sofa and chair are both in the living room area. Sleeps 9 people.
Passholder Insight: Please be aware that the Treehouse Villas are non-accessible. Additionally, there is no bus stop for the parks within the Treehouse Villas area. To access the park buses you would need to either take an internal bus or walk over to the Grandstand bus stop.
We’ve stayed in all the room types except for the Treehouse Villas. In our opinion, the Treehouse Villas are unique and a great concept, but we have not stayed due to the “remote” feeling. We definitely enjoy getting away from everything when we travel, but when we’re at Walt Disney World, we prefer easy access to the park transportation. We would definitely recommend the Treehouse Villas if you’re looking to spend more time at the resort relaxing and would like a quiet place.
Passholder Insight: If you’re staying at the Treehouse Villas it is recommended you pack bug spray, especially during the summer months. Similar to any wooded area, you could have flies. Disney does a great job managing it, but it’s better to be safe than bitten!
Main Lobby Area – The Springs
The main area of Saratoga Springs Resort, the lobby area, is where you’ll find the majority of the amenities at this resort. This is where the Magical Express will drop you off as well as any Uber or taxi. Walking into the resort you’ll be greeted by bell services for any bags you would like to have brought to your room. We would recommend having bell services bring your bags, as Saratoga Springs Resort is vast and moving a lot of luggage can be challenging on those forearms.
Within the lobby building, you’ll find the gift shop area. The gift shop is always where you would pick up any packages you had delivered to the resort from the parks. That’s right, when you stay on Disney property they will send your park purchases back to your room for you. Additionally, you’ll find the Artist Palette in the lobby building, which is the quick-serve option on property.
Outside the lobby is the main pool area where you’ll find activities including poolside games, surrey bikes rentals, basketball, and tennis. Additionally, there is a poolside bar if you’re looking for an adult timeout while the kids splash in the pool. Around the resort, you will find two other main pool areas. Our favorite is the Grandstand pool area which is where you’ll find us on our rare pool breaks. There is a snack shack that has your pool basics, as well as non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages. We were rather impressed that they had a couple of decent craft beer options. A similar style of pool area can be found in the Paddock. Still looking for more pools? There are a few quieter pools sprinkled throughout the resort, with our recommendation being the Congress Park area.
Get Your Sweat On!
If you haven’t figured it out yet, we are those people that like to get in a workout while on vacation. For us, Saratoga Springs Resort is the best resort when looking at gym facilities. Situated within the spa, you can find the largest gym on Disney property, with everything you’ll need for a solid vacation workout.
Are you looking to head out on a jog? There is a running path between Old Key West and Saratoga Springs/Disney Springs. We really enjoy this running path as it’s the longest on property and you don’t feel like a hamster running in circles. The path is easy to find and well-marked. If you head down to the Congress park area you can pick up path towards Disney Springs. Just be careful not to get on the golf cart path – we have definitely made this mistake before
Passholder Insight: One of the great things about the location of the Saratoga Springs Resort is the ability to easily walk over to Disney Springs in a short 5-minute walk. You can also pick up a boat to head over near the lobby area.
After that hard workout, you may need a massage. In the main lobby area, you’ll find Senses Spa with all the treatments you’re looking for. We haven’t taken advantage of the spa yet, but we’ve heard other DVC members tell us it’s great!
One of our favorites aspects of Saratoga Springs is that the Lake Buena Vista golf course is attached to the resort. We love heading out in the morning to play a quick nine holes before heading into the parks. The best part is we can walk from our room to the course!
Food, Yes Please!
Saratoga Springs Resort has several food options ranging from a sit-down restaurant to quick bites. The main restaurant is the Turf Club Bar and Grill, a casual sit down restaurant themed around a country club dining room. The restaurant is open for dinner and serves up traditional Northeast foods, like prime rib and seafood. We’ve heard the French onion soup is a must-try!
For us, one of our favorite quick-serve locations is at Artist Palette. Open for all meals, including that late-night bite, Artist Palette offers a variety of food options including gourmet sandwiches, salads, thin-crust pizza, and some quick-grab items. We would recommend the breakfast burrito, so cheesy and yummy! Best part is it’s big enough to share. Artist Palette is also where you will find your grocery items at Saratoga Springs Resort.
Around the resort, you’ll find lighter fare at each of the pools. These are great if you’re looking for a snack while working on your tan.
Overall we’ve enjoyed our stays at Saratoga Springs. The resort has many things that fit our vacation style from running and golf to being able to easily walk over to Disney Springs. One change we would like to see is an update to the rooms. They are always clean and well maintained, but they are reaching a refresh point. We would definitely recommend Saratoga Springs Resort if you’re looking for additional activities outside the parks. We meet you at Artist Palette for a breakfast burrito!