SATURDAY SIX: 6 Reasons We Love Disney’s SARATOGA SPRINGS

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This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Disney’s SARATOGA SPRINGS RESORT & SPA! Readers of this fine blog series know that we prefer to stay onsite when visiting Walt Disney World and Universal. Totally understand why many prefer the cost savings on staying offsite, but – for us – staying in the Disney bubble allows us the justify the cost of staying at Art of Animation, Port Orleans French Quarter, or the Animal Kingdom Lodge. However, as Florida residents, one cost we haven’t been able to justify is buying into DVC.

Don’t get me wrong. We love many things about DVC, especially the room size. Having a full kitchen along with a washer & dryer? That can be a lifesaver on an extended vacation. But as people who don’t own, one of the barriers preventing us from buying in – aside from cost – is the lack of ease in booking a room. At times it felt like moving mountains just to book a day or two at places like the Boardwalk Villas, Bay Lake Tower, or Kidani Village. It seemed the only place that always had availability was Saratoga Springs.

For years, I thought “With all the other Disney hotels, why would anyone stay at Saratoga Springs?” Now, thanks to the transformation of the nearby Disney Springs, Saratoga  has gone from the outhouse to the penthouse in my book, and it was time to check it out. So today we are going to look at some reasons you may want to consider this resort on your next vacation, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Overall Horse Theme

Disney describes Saratoga Springs  as being themed to an “1880s, Victorian, upstate New York lakeside retreat” amid “pastoral landscapes, formal gardens, bubbling springs, and natural surroundings.” All of that is definitely true as you walk the lush grounds, but what really stood out to me was the amount of theming to horses. With the actual area of Saratoga Springs, New York, being a long time hotbed for horse racing, this makes a lot of sense. For someone who’s not a huge fan of horse racing, but absolutely loves seeing horses – such as the ones at Tri-Circle-D Ranch in Fort Wilderness – this was wonderful. There are representations of horses throughout Saratoga Srpings, but you’ll also see a lot of references to horses from Disney animated films. That’s right, Philippe from Beauty & the Beast, Maximus from Tangled, Bullseye from Toy Story and more! You’ll even see some of the lesser-known horses from Disney movies, like Khan from Mulan.

Philippe on a pillow inside a Saratoga Springs room. (photo by @KrisMeetsWorld)
Maximus on a pillow in a Saratoga Springs room. (photo by @KrisMeetsWorld)
In lobby you can see several other Disney horses. (photo by Brandon Glover)
More Disney horses. As a pet owner, this made me want to see a Disney resort based around the various cats and dogs from Disney films. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Much of the signage throughout the resort is related to horses, or horse racing.

Win, Place, Or Show Arcade. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Horsing Around Rentals. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Lamp. (photo by @KrisMeetsWorld)

There is a ton of great artwork found throughout the resort.

Horse racing picture from inside a Saratoga Springs room. (photo by @KrisMeetsWorld)
Picture from Saratoga Springs lobby. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Aside from just horses, you will find a lot of theming to the sport of horse racing and to jockeys. Here is a framed jockey jacket with Mickey heads on it.

(photo by Brandon Glover)

Even the Saratoga Springs pressed penny machine has designs which include Mickey riding a horse along with Cinderella and her horse, Major.

Donald undoubtedly upset he doesn’t have a horse in his penny design. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Mickey riding a horse penny. (photo by Angela “Kentucky Derby” Dahlgren)

The term furlong is one generally associated with horse racing, and represents the distance of an 8th of a mile. In a great touch, there are furlong markers around the resort. For those who enjoy taking a leisurely stroll around a Disney resort, Saratoga Springs is one of the best places for this activity because the grounds are so large and well taken care of. Despite being a sprawling resort, because everything is so spread out, you can often walk for long distances without running into another guest. The “hustle and bustle” you’ll find at a place like Pop Century isn’t as noticeable at the tranquil Saratoga Springs.

Saratoga Springs. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Saratoga Springs. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

# 5 – Golf

Many Disney resorts advertise golf as part of their package of activities, but the reality is that many of hotels are not next to an actual golf course, but instead will transport you to one. Saratoga Springs is connected to the Lake Buena Vista Golf Course and has an actual pro shop at the resort.

Hidden Mickey sand trap at the Lake Buena Vista Golf Course. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Lake Buena Vista Golf Course. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Lake Buena Vista Golf Course. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Lake Buena Vista Golf Course. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

# 4 – Dining

Despite being so large, Saratoga Springs is generally one of the least covered resorts in the Disney blogosphere. If a new cupcake or milkshake debuts at the All Star Resorts, you’ll generally find a dozen reviews of it online within a day. Meanwhile it is rare to find coverage of Artist’s Palette – Saratoga Springs’ quick service – or the resort’s table service option, The Turf Club. This is despite the fact that both dining locations are, in fact, very good. Tom Bricker has a great review of Artist’s Palette on Disney Tourist Blog, and our experiences have echoed his with great sandwiches and the best quick service pizza at Disney. Tucked away behind Artists Palette is The Turf Club, which is one of the more underrated dining experiences at WDW because it offers both indoor and outdoor seating, has great service, good food, and – best of all – is rarely crowded.

The Artist’s Palette. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Bistro Buffalo Chicken Panini. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Italian Flatbread Sandwich. (photo by Disney Photo Icon Tom Bricker of Disney Tourist Blog)
Pepperoni Thin Crust Pie. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Chicken, Spinach & Artichoke Thin Crust Pie. (photo by Tom Bricker of Disney Tourist Blog)
Artist’s Palette has plenty of pre-made selections as well. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Saratoga water, at Artist’s Palette. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Some of the seating at Artist’s Palette. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Area between Artist’s Palette and The Turf Club that is a great place to enjoy your meal. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

The Turf Club. (photo by Brandon Glover)
The Turf Club. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Rancher’s Reserve Prime Rib, with added shrimp. (photo by Tom Brady’s official ball deflater Aengus Mackenzie)
Grilled New York Strip, with added shrimp. (photo by @Aengus)

 

# 3 – The Pools and Play Areas

Saratoga Springs has six total pools. Five of them are located at the main resort, along with another quiet pool shared by the Treehouse Villas. Two of the larger pools have slides and there are several elaborately themed play areas for kids. While the large resort is more adult friendly – with so many areas set aside for peaceful walks among nature – the pool areas are some of the most kid friendly at Walt Disney World.

High Rock Spring pool area.
Water feature at High Rock Spring pool. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Slide at High Rock Spring pool. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Hot tub at High Rock Spring pool. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Splash area at High Rock Spring pool. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Play area at the Grandstand pool area. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Playground near Congress Park quiet pool. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

# 2 – Treehouse Villas

Walt Disney World has some unique hotel options that are worth going out of your way to experience. Where else can you view exotic animals from your room outside of the Animal Kingdom Lodge? How many hotels can compete with the waterside bungalows at The Poly looking directly at the Magic Kingdom? Saratoga Springs has one of these “bucket list” experiences with the Treehouse Villas. Nestled in the woods and elevated 10 feet off the ground, the three-bedroom Treehouse Villas are a stark difference compared to your normal Disney hotel room. The horse racing theme of Saratoga Springs is even completely removed and replaced with a general theme of nature.

Treehouse Villas. (photo by Brandon Glover)
A treehouse nestled upon nature. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Walkway to a Treehouse Villa. (photo by @KrisMeetsWorld)
Treehouse Villa. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Outdoor deck of a Treehouse Villa.
Treehouse Villa pillow. (photo by @KrisMeetsWorld)
Treehouse Villa lamp. (photo by @KrisMeetsWorld)
Treehouse Villa lamp. (photo by @KrisMeetsWorld)
Back of Treehouse Villa chair. (photo by @KrisMeetsWorld)
Treehouse Villas pool. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

# 1 – Proximity to Disney Springs

Being located directly next to Disney Springs has now become Saratoga’s biggest strength. Just as The Contemporary is steps away from the Magic Kingdom, and Beach Club is a hop, skip, and jump away from EPCOT, the new and improved Disney Springs is walkable from your Saratoga Springs room (but don’t worry, there’s also boat transportation for those who don’t want to walk). This means guests are just minutes away from eating at Homecomin’, BOATHOUSE, and Morimoto Asia. You can also take the family for some bowling at Splitsville or a movie at the AMC theaters. A brand new Cirque du Soleil experience looks to debut later this year and don’t sleep on The Void Virtual Reality experience, something I consider the one “gotta do” at Walt Disney World. It’s that good.

A view of Disney Springs from Saratoga Springs. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Disney Springs as seen from a walkway at Saratoga Springs. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Bridge connecting Saratoga Springs to Disney Springs.
Ferry trips to Disney Springs are available. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

HONORABLE  MENTION – Pleasure Island Reference

While Pleasure Island is now long gone, fans who miss the days of The Adventurer’s Club, 8TRAX, or Mannequins can get a bit of nostalgia with a weather vane at Saratoga Springs that features a reference to the one and only Funmeister.

Saratoga Springs weather vane featuring the Funmeister. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Saratoga Springs building where you can find the weather vane. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

DOUBLE SECRET HONORABLE MENTION – The Merchandise!

Because of its horse racing theme, Saratoga Springs has some of the better location-specific merchandise at Walt Disney World.

Saratoga Springs shirt with a “hidden Mickey” in the clouds. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Saratoga Springs shirt. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Saratoga Springs ornament and window decal. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Saratoga Springs cups. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Saratoga Springs artwork. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

TRIPLE THREAT HONORABLE MENTION – Commitment to nature

Aside from all the great nature walks available at Saratoga Springs, you’ll more than likely run into signage during your stay alerting you to the birds and other wildlife in the area.

Purple Martins marker. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Butterfly marker. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Wetlands. (photo by Brandon Glover)
You won’t find this at the All Star resorts. (photo by Brandon Glover)
So many great areas at Saratoga Springs for peaceful strolls. (photo by Brand Glover)

 

IMPORTANT NOTES: While not in my personal wheelhouse, for many one of Saratoga’s biggest strengths is its onsite spa services. Here you can get massages, facials, manicures and pedicures. Guests who book a reservation also get full-day access to the various amenities of the spa including a sauna, steam room, whirlpool, and relaxation rooms.

Sometime in the near future the resort will be getting a major refurbishment to its rooms, which you can see concept art of by CLICKING HERE.

Just as you should test drive a car before buying it, you should definitely consider using a legitimate broker – such as David’s Vacation Club – to rent “points” in order to stay at Saratoga Springs before making a commitment. Something to keep in mind, those staying on points (whether yours or rented) do not get daily housekeeping at Saratoga Springs, as opposed to those paying cash.

Aerial shot of Disney’s SARATOGA SPRINGS. In the background is Disney Springs. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

So there you have it: Six Reasons We Love Disney’s SARATOGA SPRINGS! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following: 

6 Reasons We Love DISNEY SPRINGS

6 Reasons We Love Disney’s ART OF ANIMATION

6 Reasons We Love Disney’s YACHT & BEACH CLUB RESORTS

Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Mr. ‘Ohana Tim Grassey, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and Nick, “hot take” @KrisMeetsWorld, and Hermoine Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will  enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.

3 thoughts on “SATURDAY SIX: 6 Reasons We Love Disney’s SARATOGA SPRINGS

  • February 9, 2019 at 2:41 pm
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    I have it as one my home resorts in DVC for about 9 years but I’ve only stayed there once. Great resort, but it is one those where I would definitely recommend having a rental car to get around because the property is so large.

  • February 10, 2019 at 2:24 am
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    I do so love staying at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort. SSR is like living in a Disney community! I try to stay at the Carousel or Congress Park as I really enjoy the walk around the beautiful grounds. Nimble lizards speckle the winding sidewalks and there are water features everywhere. Thank you for the link to the Saratoga Springs Refurbishment — I am thrilled that Disney has embraced the more-comfortable-than-a-sofa-bed Murphy bed! I have stayed at the Treehouse Villas as well and, although transportation there is a bit inconvenient (use the pathway to Hospitality House!), I like the feeling of seclusion and privacy. Of course, the easy boat ride (or walk) to Disney Springs is a major plus! I recommend the Spa — the cast members are so kind and it is not at all intimidating. It is a great way to relax and decompress before your vacation!

  • February 11, 2019 at 6:32 pm
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    We loved everything about Saratoga Springs except for Artist’s Palette. That was (in our opinion) the worst quick service restaurant on the entire Disney resort property, both in and out of the parks. The selection of entrees is small. The menu looks like it offers more than it does because a lot is repetitious (cheese thin crust, pepperoni pizza, sausage thin crust, caprese thin crust, Italian flatbread, spicy Italian flatbread, and so on). It seemed to cater more to the DVC guests who stocked their fridge and cupboards with food as opposed to guests who didn’t want to cook.

    Most everything we got there went quickly in the trash. Their home-made chips were rock hard and actually hurt to eat them. When a kid won’t eat a pizza, you know it’s bad! We ditched it, then headed off for Disney Springs to get something to eat there.

    I now look very carefully at a resort’s menu before booking our stay.

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