This review is sponsored by by DVC Magic Resales at www.dvcmagicresales.com (they used their DVC points to book the room and in exchange will also be posting this review and reviews of the other properties). If you’re looking to buy into the Disney Vacation Club or purchase more points for less than you’d pay Disney directly, they’re a great choice. They also take excellent care of those looking to sell their contracts independently.
We’ll take a moment or two to check out what Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa has to offer.
Nestled comfortably across Village Lake from Downtown Disney, the resort is “Inspired by historic Saratoga Springs—a late-1800s’ New York retreat famous for its spas and horse racing.”
The subtle theme may or may not be lost on most guests.
But the resort features an understated elegance and its large size lends itself well to some of these private nooks and crannies that feel far removed from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks.
An ongoing theme in this review will be the immense size of the resort.
If you have a vehicle during your stay, the resort’s size may not have a major impact.
In fact, you may prefer to be able to park your car just a few steps from your room no matter which building you find yourself. That sort of thing isn’t possible at resorts like the Beach Club and Wilderness Lodge, where vast parking lots serve expansive single buildings with long hallways.
A map of the resort:
Larger: https://i2.wp.com/easywdw.com/reports12/springs.jpg or as the original PDF: https://i2.wp.com/easywdw.com/reports12/springs.pdf
Room requests at online check-in:
If you make your reservation over the phone, most guests relying on Disney transportation will want to request The Springs section, which is conveniently located right across the street from the main building, feature pool, and most other amenities. Online check-in up to 60 days prior to the start of your stay includes the options above. Remember that if you make room requests over the phone that you don’t want to make any during online check-in. If you make the same or different room requests during online check-in, they will replace the requests you made over the phone or fax.
I also like The Paddock section. If you look at the map above, there is this convenient bridge connecting The Paddock with The Springs and then it’s just a short walk from there to the main building. The Paddock comes with a little more privacy and as we’ll discuss later, its own quick service and a very nice pool.
Larger: https://i2.wp.com/easywdw.com/reports12/springscost.jpg or the original PDF: https://i2.wp.com/easywdw.com/reports12/springscost.pdf
One major advantage Saratoga Springs has is that it’s just not that popular. And because of that, you get a lot for your money, relatively speaking. It’s also easier to book than any other Vacation Club property whether you’re booking with cash or Disney Vacation Club (DVC) points.
Saratoga Springs’ room types are more straightforward than most resorts. There are no view upgrades or preferred buildings here to worry about. Specifically, we’ll take a look at the One-Bedroom Villa.
The living room:
Unlike Deluxe Studio rooms at the Vacation Club resorts and Standard rooms at the Deluxes, 1-bedrooms offer a lot of space. You get 710 square feet here, which is nearly twice the size of studios. It’s also 250 to 300 feet larger than a standard room at the Polynesian or about 330 square feet larger than a standard room at the Beach Club.
The couch folds out into a reasonably comfortable queen-size bed. Despite the size of the rooms, they do still officially sleep just four adults.
One thing that probably could have been thought out better is where to put all the stuff you have to move to pull the bed out.
I’m sure I’m not the only one to roll up to All-Star Music with my 6-pack of beer and bottle of Woodbridge only to realize I forgot my bottle opener. Not a problem here!
Nobody is saying you have to use the kitchen on vacation, but it is here and well equipped for those looking to prepare meals however large.
One other convenience not found in standard resort rooms is the washer and dryer. The microwave over the range may also prove particularly helpful for popcorn and reheating leftovers.
The bathroom area is broken up into three sections. Through the door on the left is the toilet. Both of these areas are accessible from the main living room.
The door off the living room.
This sort of looks like a toilet for ants I think, but I can assure you it’s full size.
The tub and this vanity area are accessible from the master bedroom or through the area with the shower if the door is unlocked. In other words, those in the master bedroom can lock a door and enjoy a little more privacy if they so choose.
The tub is nice and big.
Well stocked with Disney’s H20 products.
All bedrooms arrive nicely appointed with one king-size bed.
An older model iHome sits on the nightstand on the left.
From the other side.
A closet with more storage space.
In addition to a vacuum, iron, ironing board, and highchair.
There are a few horse related touches here and there.
A few scenic paintings. Since it takes a special kind of person to want to go “full horse” with their decor, most people probably prefer the subtle nods.
If you have any specific questions about the room – feel free to ask. I think I have a picture of every inch of the place from the knobs on the dryer.
To the brand of DVD player.
To whether or not there’s a garbage disposal and roll of paper towels under the sink.
It may be worth requesting a higher floor for the sake of the balcony and a potentially more scenic view. Our ground floor room offered a golf course view in the distance.
A golf cart in the distance.
Activities and Things to Do
Saratoga Springs’ pools are underrated in my estimation.
The feature pool in between The Springs section and the main building offers zero entry on one side.
According to Disney:
At High Rock Spring Pool, delight in cascading waterfalls, a zero-depth entry point and a waterslide built into the rocks. Children can splash through bubbling geysers at the Donald Duck play area and glide down the pint-sized waterslide.
There are two hot tubs here.
Over in The Paddock section, there’s The Paddock Pool:
Breeze down a 146-foot-long waterslide, relax in a horseshoe-shaped whirlpool spa and wade into the pool via a gently sloping, zero-depth entry point. There’s even 2 miniature waterslides built just for kids.
It’s probably the nicest secondary pool at any resort, though the Grand Floridian’s Beach/Courtyard pools are also nice.
More on food in the next section, but the pool offers a quick service that’s open after dark, along with a beverage refill station for those refillable mugs.
Quite the slide.
None of the pools are RFID-secured, like the pools at Art of Animation, but they do feature perhaps a more deadly foe – these locks. You have to pull up on the button tab thing on the top and then open the gate with your other hand. Just about everyone looks foolish trying to open one for the first time.
The Congress Park quiet pool is more of what you would expect from a quiet pool. There’s a hot tub in the back.
And a playground area.
The Grandstand quiet pool surprised me with its elaborateness.
Kids can run around the splash area turning these horse heads that spray water in different directions.
A relatively large pool without much fuss.
Hot tub area.
There is theoretically a bar back here – I’m not sure how often it’s open. Here right at 11am on a cool winter’s day there is no activity to speak of.
But the refillable mug station was stocked with soda:
If it was open.
And another one of the picnic areas.
Another under-appreciated and probably underutilized building is the Community Hall. Five Vacation Club properties offer such a thing:
- Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village
- Bay Lake Tower
- Boardwalk Villas
- Old Key West
- Saratoga Springs
Saratoga Springs’ is again located in between the feature pool and The Springs section and adjacent to the bicycle/surrey bike rental desk.
There’s a variety of scheduled and on-your-own-time activities here.
A lot of the activities are arts and crafts. A larger image that includes pricing: https://i2.wp.com/easywdw.com/reports12/saratogacrafts.jpg. These pictures are from December 20th so it’s mostly holiday-based.
A large, open, bright area.
TV and game room.
Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Nintendo Wii consoles set up with individual televisions.
Remember that DVD player? Guests can borrow DVDs at no cost during their stay. And we’re not just talking Fantasia 3000 and Bambi here. Board games are also available to borrow.
Other resort activities:
More holiday-specific stuff.
A better idea about off-season activities.
Community Hall is open daily from 9am-10pm. It’s worth checking out on a rest day for a little something fun to do or for a DVD or board game.
Horsing Around Rentals is located right next door.
“Key to the World cards.” Such a quaint time.
Speaking of games, the arcade is located right near the feature pool:
Pricing is pretty reasonable if you splurge for the $25 investment.
Games are typically 40 to 65 points or 50 to 81.25 cents.
The “PrimeTime Shark: Underwater Air Hockey table” seemed intriguing at first glance because it sounds like there are some water effects or something…but it’s actually just waterproof for outdoor use…which isn’t all that exciting when it’s sitting in an indoor arcade. Disney is set to pull out the various claw games if they haven’t already.
A pretty courtyard area in between Community Hall and the arcade/feature pool with the campfire behind the fountain in the distance.
Saratoga Springs offers one of the better spas on property. It’s open from 8am-8pm.
We’ll get fancy with a spa review in a separate post.
The waiting area outside the relaxation area decked out for the holidays.
A variety of beauty products are available.
This is half of the fitness center, which is open 24 hours. The other half is cardio machines.
Location and Transportation
With Downtown Disney’s (DTD) transformation into Disney Springs, the resort’s location will only become more desirable. That’s Saratoga on our right and DTD across the water.
A new bridge connects Saratoga’s Congress Park section with the Marketplace section of DTD.
Where is the bridge you might ask? Here we are looking at the Marketplace bus stop – currently the only bus stop in operation. Saratoga Springs also offers bus service to DTD that takes less than ten minutes, even in bad traffic, due to its close proximity.
The bridge and marina are off to the right.
One side of the marina serves Port Orleans, while the other is watercraft transportation to Pleasure Island and the West Side.
Saratoga Springs’ boats drop off at Pleasure Island next to Paradiso 37. From there, you can take the boat to the Marketplace or West Side or enjoy the walk.
Otherwise, the walk to The Carousel section from the Marketplace stop is only about five minutes.
Add about ten minutes to the main building.
The boat dock to Downtown Disney is behind the main building on the water. There’s a second stop at the Treehouse Villas.
Transportation to the Parks is otherwise by bus. Each of the sections has its own stop, for a total of five, which can add ten to fifteen minutes to bus trips. Bus rides out to Animal Kingdom can be lengthy, but trips are relatively short over to Hollywood Studios or Epcot and Magic Kingdom isn’t far off either.
Artist’s Palette is the resort’s major quick service. You’ll find it in Carriage House, the main building. The resort’s table service restaurant, The Turf Club Bar & Grill, is located behind the quick service in the same building. Artist’s Palette is also adjacent to the resort store and about a one minute walk down the hall from the check-in/concierge area.
Service is similar to The Mara at Animal Kingdom Lodge or Captain Cook’s at the Polynesian – you stand in a single line to order, then pay separately at another desk, receive a number, and then the food is delivered at your table.
Lunch and dinner menu from 11am-11pm:
Breakfast from 7am – 11am
A clearer look or for updates: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/saratoga-springs-resort-and-spa/artists-palette/menus/breakfast/
The lunch/dinner menu hasn’t changed much in the last couple of years. Most notably, the “Beef on Weck” sandwich was replaced with the Spicy Italian Beef Sandwich and the Italian Hoagie was dropped in favor of the Italian Flatbread Sandwich. The Greek Salad is new and an Italian Sausage Flatbread replaces the BBQ Pork Flatbread.
I really enjoyed the Lobster Club Sandwich on a previous visit – this is a cross-section of half.
This time I went with the Spicy Italian Beef Sandwich – Roast Beef, Provolone, Horseradish Mayonnaise, Arugula, and Hot Relish with House-made Chips or Vegetable Slaw – $10.59. Packed with toppings on a fresh roll, the sandwich was very good and stacks up well against what is a preponderance of lesser turkey sandwiches at most resorts. The pepper-based hot relish added a bit of fire along with the horseradish. Very good overall and a sizable sandwich for the money.
The vegetable slaw gave exactly the opposite impression – this sad little cup is it with some cabbage and a couple kernels of corn drenched in runny mayo. Stick to the chips.
Lisa tried the Caprese Flatbread – Olive Oil, Roasted Garlic, Plum Tomatoes, Buffalo Mozzarella, Fresh Basil, and Reduced Balsamic Vinegar – $10.99. It’s a little smarter and better put together than its counterpart at Pinocchio Village Haus with the addition of a touch of olive oil, fresh plum tomatoes, and higher quality mozzarella. Easily shareable, this would pair nicely with a salad to share. Very good.
The refillable mug station.
A few more items through the case:
Variety isn’t as good as the Value and Moderate quick services, but there should be enough quality options to make a couple meals back at the resort work. It would be nice to see the popular make-your-own-pasta and make-your-own-salad move over here.
The bakery case:
It’s hard to go wrong with so much saturated fat.
The $4.19 coffee cake isn’t as good as my mom’s…but it’s close.
The seating area has artist stations with crayons and paper for guests to doodle on.
The best artwork is featured daily.
The Turf Club is the resort’s restaurant, open only for dinner these days.
This is the lounge area outside the restaurant. It’s a comfy space, but not particularly high energy. It reminds me a lot of the Disney Cruise Line’s lounges that are almost universally well outfitted and almost universally empty.
The lay of the land.
As Disney describes the restaurant:
Savor classic American cuisine in a racetrack clubhouse setting with gorgeous golf course and lake views.
Nestled alongside Lake Buena Vista Golf Course clubhouse, The Turf Club Bar and Grill is the perfect spot to unwind after a round of golf and one of the best-kept secrets of Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa.
Relax with a beverage at the lounge and shoot some pool, or head on through to the restaurant, where dim lighting and wood-paneled walls create a sophisticated, gentlemanly ambience. Outside, a spacious covered patio affords views of the beautifully landscaped golf course as well as Lake Buena Vista and the Downtown Disney Area.
Be transported to turn-of-the-century Upstate New York as you browse vintage equestrian memorabilia: photos of jockeys and their horses, antique riding gear and racing articles of yesteryear.
The interior is indeed stately, recalling a bygone era, perhaps without the cigar smoke and and an unfortunate lack of scotch. Kids are more than welcome, but the restaurant’s atmosphere is unlikely to connect with them.
The outdoor patio seating may be a better choice for families, particularly around the time the sun sets. That’s the covered seating ahead on the right. The pro shop for the golf club is underneath and the boat dock would be just ahead downstairs.
A Prix Fixe menu was included at the restaurant that I hadn’t seen elsewhere. It seems like more money than most people would like to spend here and doesn’t even include their signature salad.
The rolls here are pretty forgettable. You might find yourself nibbling on one if you’re hungry, but there’s nothing here that would demand trying to stuff a second or third down.
The few grains of “pink Hawaiian sea salt” on top of the mostly-frozen butter didn’t add much flavor.
Lisa started with the Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Crème Fraîche and Chives – $7.49 – a piping hot bowl of creamy, naturally-a-little-sweet squash soup. Very good and on par with Wolfgang Puck’s heralded soup of the same variety.
I ordered the Turf Club Signature Grilled Romaine Salad – Lightly-grilled Hearts of Romaine with Caesar Dressing, Balsamic Vinegar Reduction, and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes – $7.49 and expected to enjoy it a lot more than I did. The balsamic vinegar reduction seemed to overpower the Caesar dressing, making the salad overwhelmingly salty. I think there’s probably a reason why you don’t see balsamic and Caesar dressing mixed together on more salads.
Lisa ordered the Crispy Free-Range Chicken Breast with Three-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese and Green Beans Almondine – $21.99.
Also served piping hot (a rarity at Disney restaurants these days), moist, and perfectly crispy without being “too fried,” the chicken was excellent. The beans underneath had a nice crunch with a flavorful blend of spices and what is basically a macaroni and cheese casserole added another dimension of creamy, cheesy goodness. Very good.
I had less luck with the Grilled New York Strip with Asparagus, Mashed Potatoes, and Lobster Fondue – $34.49. It was grilled to a decently nice medium, but the cut of steak would have been terrible for a supermarket sirloin, let alone a strip steak. It was chewy and tasted more like someone hadn’t cleaned the grill properly than anything else. A big disappointment. The lobster fondue was useless considering the low quality steak, which was at one time also topped with a couple bites of lobster.
The asparagus was cooked properly with a nice spicy rub, but you’re probably not paying 30+ bucks for that.
I tried the Prime Rib on a previous visit and while it looks delectable (if you like prime rib), it was tough and lacked flavor. Another disappointment.
The Lamb Chops are probably the best thing we’ve tried here, but you only get (literally) a couple bites of meat for your $28.49.
Overall, I’d consider Turf Club if I found myself unexpectedly back at the resort with fussy kids or in terrible weather. But you could walk a little further to the Downtown Disney bus stop and find a considerably better meal somewhere there for similar money. That will only become more true once Disney Springs is ready for prime time. Otherwise, it’s hard to recommend Turf Club and it’s certainly not a destination restaurant.
The Paddock Grill is a quick service installation next to the Paddock pool:
It may prove more convenient than Artist’s Palette, particularly for breakfast, and offers a refillable mug station.
The feature pool has a bar.
In addition to most of a full bar with Kona Longboard Lager, Sam Adams Boston Lager, Bud Light, and Yuengling on draft.
Back to the Artist’s Palette area in Carriage House for snacks and such.
In case you’re wondering what everything costs (a PDF link follows):
As an easier-to-read PDF: https://i2.wp.com/easywdw.com/reports12/saratoga_order_form.pdf
Order forms for the other DVC resorts are linked in post 5 here on the forums. It’ll give you a good idea about what’s available. With the $10 delivery charge on top of Disney prices, most people will probably want to pick up a couple items themselves or look at one of the grocery delivery services.
This is a significant improvement in beer selection, even if the prices are absurd/the same as you’d pay at the lounge. $9.75 for a bottle of St. Bernardus Abt 12 or $7.50 for a Fat Tire isn’t great. Full bottle wine pricing is relatively reasonable, as the website has mentioned countless times. The markup on the generic wine is a little worse. The Moet Imperial for $43 is a good value compared to Total Wine or a grocery store that would charge $40-$50 for the same bottle.
The Once Upon a Vine is the best value compared to grocery store prices. The Red Blend would run you $11.49 at Total Wine, compared to $13.95 here. Compare that to Cigar City Jai Alai, which is $8 a can here or you could pick up a 6-pack at Total Wine for $8.99.
The resort store is located adjacent to the quick service. Like most others, it offers only the most generic in Disney merchandise along with some toiletries. A smattering of resort-specific merch is also available:
It’s good for a last minute gift, but the selection in just about any theme park or Downtown Disney store would be better.
Other Areas of Interest
Carriage House is the main building.
The quick service and store are located down this hallway with some additional lounge areas.
Magical Express from the airport drops guests off about a minute away from the main building for easy check-in.
The main lobby isn’t as iconic as some, but it gets the job done.
Decorated for the holidays.
Never go full artsy.
The other direction to balance it out.
Nighttime lighting on the buildings.
Overall, Saratoga Springs may be the right resort for you. While it doesn’t offer your traditional hotel experience, the large size lends itself well to those with vehicles that want a little more peace and quiet than the resorts with long, noisy hallways. Considering the amenities offered and the size of the rooms, it’s also relatively inexpensive by Disney standards. Its location near Downtown Disney is only becoming more desirable with the Springs transformation, whether we’re talking about families that want to stroll over to T-Rex for lunch or adults looking to bar hop or enjoy an intimate meal.
Contact Rachel Thompson at www.dvcmagicresales.com to find out information on selling or purchasing a DVC contract for Saratoga Springs or otherwise. With 10 years experience on the resale market, you will be in good hands.