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.
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.
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.
The grounds surrounding the buildings are beautifully landscaped and dotted with ornamentation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the mood for breakfast, lunch, or a relaxing beverage? The Paddock Grill located poolside can fill all of these needs.
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.
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 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.
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.
But for those of you with children, a play area is located nearby as is the 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.
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.
To one side of this vanity area is a mirrored door. Behind this door are a toilet and a tub/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.
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.
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.
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.
The drawer space is adequate, but not outstanding. All rooms come with a DVD player (not Blu-ray).
Studio units are advertised as able to sleep four – and they can. However, when using the convertible sofa, the room will be crowded.
All rooms will have either a patio or balcony. I found this patio especially cozy and I savored my time sitting here one evening.
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.
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.
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.
Mealtime can be enjoyed at a nearby table and at an adjacent 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.
The horseracing theme of Saratoga Springs is continued in the rooms. Pictures, curtains, and pillows all display this equine subject matter.
A patio or balcony is located off of the living room. Some of the views can be quite nice.
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.
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.
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.
The second half of the bathroom contains a large vanity area with a single sink and plenty of counter space.
Next to the sink is a large whirlpool-jet bathtub. Louvered doors can be opened between the vanity area and the bedroom.
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.
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.
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!