Saratoga Springs – Part Three

Jack Spence Masthead

Yesterday I covered the various services and amenities offered at Saratoga Springs. Today I will be discussing the different sections of the resort, the pools, and the rooms. As I mentioned yesterday, I will not be discussing the Treehouse Villas in this article. To learn more about these unique rooms, check out an article I wrote in 2009 by clicking here.

Saratoga Springs is divided into five sections: The Springs, The Paddock, Congress Park, The Carousel, and The Grandstand. Each section is marked by a sculpture on building sides and signs posted along the roadway.

Saratoga Springs Exterior

Saratoga Springs Exterior

Saratoga Springs Exterior

Saratoga Springs Exterior

Each area of the resort also has its own bus stop. Don’t automatically assume that your designated bus stop is the closest to your room. In some cases, it’s not.

The buses begin operation as early as one hour before a park’s opening and continue operation until one hour after a park’s closing. Buses to Downtown Disney run from 8:45am to 2am. The buses make pick-up and drop-offs every 20-30 minutes depending on traffic and other conditions.

Bus Stop

Bus Stop

In years past, the same bus that serviced the five sections of Saratoga Springs proper also picked up guests at the Treehouse Villas’ two bus stops. This made for a very long pick-up and drop-off experience. Today, the Treehouse Villas have an “internal” bus system that transports guests to The Springs bus stop where they must transfer for transportation to the theme parks. The Treehouse Villa bus runs from 6am to 2am.

Now let’s take a look at the five lodging sections of the resort. Although each building has a myriad of details and architectural aspects, the basic styling is the same from building to building. The motif is copied after that of Saratoga Springs, New York during the late 19th century.

Saratoga Springs Exterior

Saratoga Springs Exterior

Saratoga Springs Exterior

Saratoga Springs Exterior

The grounds surrounding the buildings are beautifully landscaped and dotted with ornamentation.

Saratoga Springs Exterior

Saratoga Springs Exterior

Saratoga Springs Exterior

Saratoga Springs Exterior

Saratoga Springs Exterior

Saratoga Springs Exterior

Saratoga Springs Exterior

A simple but charming bridge crosses Willow Lake. Not only does this create a shortcut between The Paddock and The Carriage House, it also offers some beautiful views of the resort.

Willow Lake and View

Willow Lake and View

Willow Lake and View

Willow Lake and View

The Paddock, Congress Park, and The Grandstand each have their own swimming pool. The Springs uses the High Rock Spring pool mentioned earlier. The Carousel section does not have a pool, but has the most creative barbeque area of the resort.

When approaching The Carousel barbeque area, guests first encounter a lovely fountain. Beyond the fountain is a carousel shaped gazebo.

Fountain

Carousel Barbeque Area

As you near the gazebo, you find four carousel horses poised on the perimeter of the structure. In the center of the gazebo are several picnic tables. A grill is located off to the side.

Carousel Barbeque Area

Carousel Barbeque Area

Carousel Barbeque Area

This is a wonderful spot for an alfresco meal. The ambiance is charming and the surroundings can add “flavor” to the simplest of meals.

To stop children from climbing on – and falling off of the horses, clear Plexiglas has been added to the steed’s backs. If you look closely at the next picture, you can see what I’m talking about.

Safety Horse

If you’re staying in The Carousel section of the resort and want to take a dip, it’s only a short walk over to The Paddock pool.

The Paddock pool is of decent size and offers zero-entry access. The pool also features a waterslide that originates from within an old wooden water tower. A hot tub is also on hand.

The Paddock Pool & Slide

The Paddock Pool & Slide

The Paddock Pool & Slide

The Paddock Hot Tub

A relatively new feature seen at Disney pools is a device that lowers and lifts guests with mobility issues in and out of the pools and hot tubs. This is a wonderful addition and long overdue.

Pool Chair Lift

The Paddock pool also has a children’s play area that features a water slide, water tube, and a number of water jets. Overhead is a large barrel that occasionally dumps several gallons of liquid-delight onto the youngsters below.

The Paddock Splash and Play

The Paddock Splash and Play

The Paddock Splash and Play

In the mood for breakfast, lunch, or a relaxing beverage? The Paddock Grill located poolside can fill all of these needs.

The Paddock Grill

Now let’s move to The Grandstand section of Saratoga Springs. Within moments of arriving at this pool area, you’ll notice that red and white make up the color palette here.

The Grandstand Pool

The Grandstand Pool

The Grandstand Pool

The Grandstand Pool

Although The Grandstand pool doesn’t have a water slide, it does offer an imaginative splash and play area. Here, the racehorse theme is in full force. To begin with, a starting gate sprays water on those beneath. A short distance away, the thoroughbreds have begun the race and they too are spouting water. More fountains can be found on the soft-surface ground covering.

The Grandstand Splash & Play Area

The Grandstand Splash & Play Area

The Grandstand Splash & Play Area

The Grandstand Splash & Play Area

The Grandstand Splash & Play Area

The Backstretch Bar offers libations and soft serve ice cream. The hours vary here, but service usually begins around noon each day. When visiting this spot, be sure to check out some of the details.

Backstretch Bar

Backstretch Bar Details

The last pool of the resort is located in the Congress Park section. Of the four, this is probably the most adult in nature. The color scheme is subdued and there is no splash and play area for the children. However, the spouting frogs do add a touch of whimsy. The Congress Park pool also does not have a bar or refreshment stand.

Congress Park Pool

Congress Park Pool

Congress Park Pool

Congress Park Pool

But for those of you with children, a play area is located nearby as is the picnic area.

Congress Park Play Area

Congress Park Picnic Area

All three of these pools offer laundry facilities and restrooms. Towels are also on hand so there is no need to bring them from your room.

Towels, Laundry, Restrooms

Pictures are wonderful. But sometimes a movie can tell the story better. I have created a twelve minute video that recounts the journey I have written about here.

This final section of the article will briefly discuss a studio and one bedroom Saratoga Springs unit. I use the word “unit” rather than “room” because these accommodations are much more than a room.

Although there might be subtle differences between studio units, most are laid out pretty much the same. First there is the vanity area that includes a single sink nestled in a granite countertop. This well lit room features a large mirror, a hairdryer, and an assorted collection of toiletries.

Vanity

To one side of this vanity area is a mirrored door. Behind this door are a toilet and a tub/shower.

Mirrored Door

Tub & Shower

Toilet & Shower

To the other side of the vanity is a closet. In it you’ll find a wall safe, vacuum, iron and board, crib, and additional blankets and pillows.

Closet

Closet

Opposite the vanity is a kitchenette. This spot is perfect for making coffee, cooking a frozen dinner, or reheating last night’s pizza. But it is entirely inadequate for cooking a “real” meal.

Kitchenette

The kitchenette comes with a small sink, a small refrigerator, a microwave oven, a toaster, and a coffee maker. The plates are paper and the eating utensils are plastic.

Kitchenette

On one wall of the main room you’ll find a queen bed, nightstand, and convertible sofa. On the opposite wall are a table & chairs and a dresser/TV cabinet.

Studio Unit

Studio Unit

Studio Unit

The drawer space is adequate, but not outstanding. All rooms come with a DVD player (not Blu-ray).

Chest of Drawers & TV Stand

Studio units are advertised as able to sleep four – and they can. However, when using the convertible sofa, the room will be crowded.

Convertible Sofa

All rooms will have either a patio or balcony. I found this patio especially cozy and I savored my time sitting here one evening.

Patio

To see a short film of a studio unit, check out the video below.

Now let’s move onto the one bedroom units. When entering these accommodations, guests find themselves in a small entry. This room has a table which is perfect for storing the contents of your pockets. A mirror hangs on the wall for last minute checks before leaving the room.

One Bedroom Entry

Unlike the studio accommodations, one, two, and three bedroom units have full kitchens. These are nicely arranged and feature a decent sized sink, a dishwasher, a microwave, a cooktop and oven, a coffee maker, a toaster, and a reasonably sized refrigerator. The countertops are granite.

One Bedroom Kitchen

One Bedroom Kitchen

One Bedroom Kitchen

One Bedroom Kitchen

One Bedroom Kitchen

One Bedroom Kitchen

These kitchens contain everything you need to prepare a full meal (except food). Behind cabinet doors you’ll find pots, pans, bowls, baking dishes, a pitcher, a strainer, and a complete set of cooking utensils. In addition, the plates are ceramic and the flatware is metal.

One Bedroom Kitchen

One Bedroom Kitchen

One Bedroom Kitchen

Mealtime can be enjoyed at a nearby table and at an adjacent breakfast bar.

Dining Table

Breakfast Bar

The living room features a convertible sofa, end table, a chair, a combination coffee table/storage bin, and a combination chest of drawers and TV cabinet.

One Bedroom Living Room

One Bedroom Living Room

One Bedroom Living Room

The horseracing theme of Saratoga Springs is continued in the rooms. Pictures, curtains, and pillows all display this equine subject matter.

Horseracing Theme

Horseracing Theme

Horseracing Theme

Horseracing Theme

A patio or balcony is located off of the living room. Some of the views can be quite nice.

Balcony

Balcony

Balcony View

Near the dining table you’ll find a washer and dryer behind louvered doors. With the ever increasing costs the airlines are charging for baggage, these puppies can save you some money. Pack less and do a few loads of laundry during your stay.

Washer and Dryer

The bathroom in one bedroom units has been divided into two sections. This design was devised to help families overlap morning ablutions when everyone is getting ready at the same time.

The first “half” of the bathroom features a pedestal sink and a large, but oddly-shaped shower.

Vanity and Shower

Off of this room is a large water closet. The exhaust fan in here automatically turns on when entering and runs for several minutes after the room is vacated.

Water Closet

Water Closet

The second half of the bathroom contains a large vanity area with a single sink and plenty of counter space.

Vanity and Sink

Vanity and Sink

Next to the sink is a large whirlpool-jet bathtub. Louvered doors can be opened between the vanity area and the bedroom.

Bathtub

Behind a door sporting a full-length mirror is a large closet. Just like with the studio units, this closet contains a wall safe, vacuum, iron and board, crib, and additional blankets and pillows.

Closet

Closet

Closet

The bedroom is furnished with a queen-sized bed, a nightstand, desk, cushioned bench/storage unit, overstuffed chair, floor lamp, and a combination chest of drawers/TV cabinet.

Bedroom

Bedroom

Bedroom

Bedroom

Disney always welcomes DVC members with the phrase, “Welcome home.” “Home” describes a one-bedroom unit nicely. The room is comfortable and welcoming. It’s definitely nice to have something to sit on other than a bed when returning after a long day at the parks. In addition, the kitchen is well appointed and makes grabbing a snack easy.

To see a short video of the one bedroom unit, check out the video below.

Now for the downside of Saratoga Springs”¦

I can unofficially tell you that Saratoga Springs is the least popular of the Disney World Vacation Club properties. It’s usually the last to reach capacity during busy times and rooms are almost always available here.

Much of this has to do with the resort’s size. It’s just too big. A walk from most rooms to The Carriage House is a major trek. When I stayed here, I opted to drive rather than walk. And even at that, the parking lot that services The Carriage House really isn’t all that convenient.

Disney suggests using the resort buses when traveling between your room and The Carriage House. They even provide you with instructions on this topic in the handout you’re given at check-in. But come on, who really wants to take a bus just to hop over to Artist Palette for a quick snack? Not to mention, the bus stop for The Carriage House is The Springs. From here guests must cross a street, walk through the pool area, and up a flight of stairs to get to the resort’s restaurants and shop.

This “distance issue” isn’t something Disney can fix. It’s just the way things are.

Other than that, I like Saratoga Springs. I think Disney did a wonderful job of transforming this acreage from the Lake Buena Vista Villas, to the Disney Institute, and finally to a full-fledged resort. Saratoga Springs is lovely to look at and I enjoy the ambiance of the grounds and pools.

For you non-DVC members wondering what it might be like to have a full kitchen while vacationing at WDW, Saratoga Springs might be a good place to start as reservations are often available here. As long as you know in advance that transportation within the resort can be arduous, you’ll be mentally prepared to deal with it. A good time can definitely be had here!

17 Replies to “Saratoga Springs – Part Three”

  1. Wonderful insight. I have to say we stayed in the Springs building on our last trip and we absolutely loved it. This resort is so very peaceful and tranquil, and it truly provides a lovely respite from the park craziness. I have planned over a dozen trips for friends and family and I always recommend this resort to those who need a little tranquility while vacationing. I feel like this resort is commonly overlooked – thanks for providing such a great in depth look at this Disney gem.

  2. Great stories on SSR. Enjoyed learning about the history of the area, starting with Lake Buena Vista Villas. We have stayed at SSR twice. The first time was not great–only place we could stay with points in a 2BR. Nice villa, but too big and transportation was slow. Last year, we had a 3BR and a few studios for extended family. Amazing! We were in the Paddock, near the pool and the grill. Great food. Near the bus stop. We enjoyed the walk across the bridge to get to Carriage House, Artist’s Palette, and Rock Springs Pool. We are going back again in 4 weeks, staying for two nights at Bake Lake Tower, and six nights at SSR–trying to stay in the Paddock!

  3. I’m not a big fan either bec of the size but I have to admit that we stay in a section that was an easy walk to downtown Disney which was a nice option for eating and entertainment. We stayed there during my wife’s recovery period which she was limited to her mobility, so I would run over to downtown Disney for dinner and bring it back. Plus we had a very nice very of downtown Disney from our balcony which was very nice in the evening with all the lights on.

  4. We stayed here years ago in a studio in Congress Park overlooking Down town Disney. However, because it was so far from everything I remember saying “Never again” Well, we are sting in a one bedroom unit this April for our anniversary! We usually always stay at Fort Wilderness cabins, but I thought this would be a nice change. My suggestion is for here as well as OKW Let’s get some golf carts on these properties! How convenient that would be, so a few changes would have to be made I know but look what that would add. Thanks, love reading all your blogs

  5. What a great series! We first stayed at Saratoga in 2009 when we became members with a promotion of extra points that could only be used at Saratoga. We live just outside of the real Saratoga Springs in upstate New York so have been curious how Disney would interpret this. Like many areas, ths is the interpretation of what many imagine Saratoga was/is like with some very genuine references…and without the snow!

    The size of the resort doesn’t overwhelm us. No real difference to our home resort of Kidani Village and the endless corridors. With a little advance planning, it’s all manageable. Thanks for the great report!

  6. We bought points at SSR in 2005, and have stayed there several times since while also using our points at many other DVC properties. We’ve also stayed off-propery, and at the various Disney resorts several times since the eighties, and traveled widely on the east coast to other non-Disney properties. I know this is rote for most Allears readers, but my punch line for this blog is that my daughter, when allowed the choice of any place she wanted to go to celebrate her high school graduation, picked WDW and SSR, her very favorite places. We always enjoy SSR.

  7. Great wrap up to the Saratoga Springs series, Jack.

    I think the level of detail you have put into the photography and videos really pays off. I appreciate all of the work you put in doing research, taking multiple trips for photography/video, and then all the editing, and sound mixing, along with writing your clear and entertaining text. I realize there is a TON of work necessary to pull off something like this at such a high level of professionalism. Well done!

    I guess, when it comes down to it, my wife and I are still “Disney Park Commandos”. I realize your mantra is to “slow down and smell the roses” (and I would love to be able to do that), but we usually have so little time at WDW that we consider it a waste of our time if we are not in the Parks open to close. (We do relax a little once in the parks — we don’t run from attraction to attraction).

    We basically stagger back to our hotel at the end of the night, fall in to bed, and get up at the crack of dawn the next day to be in our park of choosing when it opens. We never eat at the resort restaurants, shop at the resort, do any activities at the resort, use the pool, prepare food at the resort, or even turn on the TV. So for us, All Star music just as good as the Animal Kingdom Lodge (actually its better — ASM is closer to the Magic Kingdom). The only lodging “upgrade” for us would be the Grand Floridian’s, Polynesian’s, or the Contemporary’s Monorail service. And we can’t justify the added expense just for that. For us — vacation isn’t a time to relax, but a time for adventure and to see how much activity we can cram into a short period. My wife and I have a much more active and hectic lifestyle on vacation than we ever do at home.

    Thanks again for all the hard work — it really shows in the quality of your blog

    Your Friend,

    Dan

  8. Great series on SSR. I especially liked the background on the Disney Institute in the first post.

    I stayed at SSR last September on a last minute trip when no other DVC resort was available. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it. I stayed in Congress Park section and I could walk both to the main building and to Downtown Disney. The place was very relaxing and the grounds are really impressive.

    I imagine that once (if ever) they complete Hyperion Wharf or Disney Springs or whatever they call the new Downtown Disney, SSR will benefit.

  9. Wow Jack you put so much work and effort into your blogs. I really really appreciate it all. Each blog must take you ages to do but I bet you enjoy doing them – almost as much as we enjoy reading each and every one.

  10. Thanks, Jack – appreciate this blog! It’s also nice to see some photographs of the updates to the rooms!

    When we’ve stayed at Saratoga on a few occasions, we’ve always requested the Springs buildings to cut down proximity to dining options – this was especially helpful when staying in the studio accomodations, which, as noted, have nice kitchenettes… that do NOT do a great impression of a real kitchen.

    Our other major issue, as a DVC members having stayed at nearly all of the DVC WDW properties now – is the actual room size. I felt the one-bedroom at SSR is not just smaller on paper, but noticeably smaller in elbow room/real life for example, than the Boardwalk Villas, Kidani Village and definitely Old Key West (which we love for its extra square footage).

    That said, this really can be a great value for non-DVC members who are looking for larger accomdations on property – discounts through central reservations (as much as 30% off!) are often available.

  11. Hi Jack! I enjoyed your 3 blogs on SSR. I had no idea how cute it was for such a huge resort. There seems to be a lot to do, and it’s just as clean and charming as any other Disney hotel. I shouldn’t be surprised. I will have to check it out in April or July when I’m down next…

  12. We stayed at SSR as a last minute Thanksgiving trip this past year. (Our home resort is BLT).I requested the Grandstand section. It was great! We were the first bus stop so we always got seats. We weren’t far from the Carriage House either. Our kids really enjoyed the pool in the Grandstand section as well. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this resort.

  13. Great article Jack. You summed it up perfectly. I am a DVC member and Saratoga Springs is my “home” resort and I never stay there. I just booked a trip for July and the only DVC rooms that were open were there and I was bummed. I usually don’t rent a car when I go to WDW but I was fully prepared to do it this time, the bus system and layout are a nightmare there. I spent the past 3 days checking the DVC site and was somehow able to catch an opening at Wilderness Lodge Villas. I was so happy, I almost feel like I’m not at Disney when I stay at Saratoga Springs It feel like it’s in the middle of nowhere. Keep up the great work

  14. This is our home resort, and I have found that as long as I stay in the Paddocks the walk and the busses are not bad. I also love the boat ride to DTD.

  15. Jack – As always you offer an informative and entertaining look at SSR. We bought DVC there in 2005, but was our “least favorite” resort at the time. In 2008, a car accident the night before leaving for WDW put me in a wheelchair for our week at Disney. We stayed at SSR that week and fell in love with it. My injury and the weather forced us to spend more time in our room and around the resort. We finally took full advantage of the activities at community hall, and our son loved them. The signiture salad at Artist’s Palatte is one of my favorites! Since that stay we have been back many times and stayed in the Treehouses twice which are amazing. The new Paddock pool is wonderful too!
    Definitely the downside of this resort is it’s size and transportation. We prefer to have a car when we stay here. Buses can be slow and crowded. We would walk from the Treehouses to the Springs bus stop because it was usually quicker than waiting on the bus! When we have our own car, the location makes it easy to go to the grocery and restaurants off-property.
    The cast here is amazing! When I was injured, they provided a wheelchair for the week at no charge. They also gave us directions to the nearest hospital (got on plane thinking my ankle was just “bruised”), and called to check on us the next day. When celebrating my mother’s birthday last year with all the family, they greeted my mother by name at the Carriage House and gave her a balloon bouquet! She was thrilled! Again, love your blog and thank you!

  16. Another great series of blogs Jack.

    As a DVC member I have to say that Saratoga Springs & Old Key West are my two favourites out of the WDW properties. The reason for this is the open spaces. To me it feels like you’re not really in a hotel or resort and more like you’re in your own private accommodation. They are both very peaceful and relaxing resorts and perfect for coming back to after a hectic day in the parks.

  17. hey Jack
    I agree that Saratoga Springs is too big. When we stayed there it was a very long walk from our room to the main dining area which was not fun. other then that, Saratoga Springs was a fun change from staying at a value resort, and I would like to stay their again.

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