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.
Much of the signage throughout the resort is related to horses, or horse racing.
There is a ton of great artwork found throughout the resort.
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.
Even the Saratoga Springs pressed penny machine has designs which include Mickey riding a horse along with Cinderella and her horse, Major.
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.
# 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.
# 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.
# 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.
# 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.
# 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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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.