Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa – One of Disney’s Hidden Gems
Recently, my family and I stayed at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort, which is located in the Disney Springs area of Walt Disney World Resort. Full disclosure, we rented DVC points from the DVC Rental Store for our stay (which, FYI, was as smooth as could be), but that is not why I am writing this quasi review. After staying two nights, I came away thinking Saratoga Springs has gotten a bad rap over the years, and I wanted to take some time to plead my case as to why it should be given a chance.
We had been to Saratoga Springs only once before, but not to stay the night. My wife and I go to Walt Disney World each March for our anniversary and, about three years ago, we decided to take our yearly retreat and flip it on its head. With my in-laws in tow, we decided we would never set foot in the parks our whole two day trip. Instead, we bar hopped. Resort to resort, Disney Springs, Boardwalk, we hit everywhere (almost). Each of us, in our somewhat hazy recollection, agreed on one thing: we hated Saratoga Springs. The bar was virtually non-existent and—though we only walked from one of the bus stops to the Turf Club—the resort itself seemed too spread out. Of all the hotels we hit, which was nearly all of the deluxe resorts, Saratoga was by far the worst.
Now, fast forward a few years. While on Facebook, I came across a phenomenal deal that the DVC Rental Store was running for stays at Saratoga Springs. Working my keyboard into a frenzy I filled out the requisite form for the deal, and as I was about to hit submit, my finger lingered over the mouse. As the memories of our previous encounter there came to the forefront of my mind, I hesitated.
Obviously, I decided to give it another chance and almost immediately I was glad I did. The lobby, though not as grand as most of the other deluxe resorts, was still very well themed. Our room was typical of a DVC studio. It had a small kitchenette, a queen sized bed, and a pull out couch. We were on the first floor and had a nice little patio as well. I actually liked having the pull out couch as opposed to two beds in the room. After making it up the first night I simply left the sheets on it and folded it up each morning. The extra space in the room was very much appreciated by my three small children, especially my son who is just learning to walk.
The more we explored the resort, the more we realized it really wasn’t as spread out as we once thought. Every part of the resort is within a short walk, and I found it to be on par with Coronado Springs Resort, if not less spread out. Being originally from Western New York, I loved the expert theming of the resort. Designed to look like Saratoga, New York circa 1890, I enjoyed strolling along the water among the oak and maple trees, looking at the Victorian style buildings. Everything seemed so quiet and peaceful. So much so that we once again decided to stay away from the parks and simply enjoyed the tranquility that the resort provided us.
The beauty of the resort will only be enhanced as the new Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) comes to fruition. Being only a short walk or boat ride away, Disney Springs can easily be seen from the Turf Club restaurant, or one of the water view rooms (requests can be made for a Disney Springs view). Even with the construction that is taking place, the sights and sounds of Disney Springs can make a night of sipping a cold beer or glass of wine on the balcony very enjoyable. And when the work is completed, the shimmering lights and music of Disney Springs cascading across the Sassagoula River toward Saratoga Springs could make it very comparable to one of the resorts of the Boardwalk.
Beauty aside, what we enjoyed the most about Saratoga Springs were the pools. There were five in all, and we explored three of them, each with its own unique feature that made it stand out. The main pool—or High Rock Spring Pool, as it is called—is just outside the Artist’s Palette quick service location. Themed as a natural hot spring, it is complete with a waterfall flowing over into a children’s area featuring shooting geysers. The pool itself has two slides: one for the smaller kids, and a large, twisting slide amid a rock formation. The pool also has a zero-depth entry option, and there are two hot tubs located nearby. There is also a fairly decent pool bar known as the “On The Rocks” at this location. It serves the typical poolside cocktails, and had a good draft beer list, to include one of my favorites, Kona Longboard Lager. Some quick service meals are also available here, but the menu is limited. Being so close to Artist’s Palette was a plus for us as we typically ate lunch and then went immediately out back to the pool. We generally do not purchase rapid fill mugs, however, with the purchase of one fountain soda you are allotted three free refills within roughly a two hour time limit, and these refills are available at the soda fountain located just outside of the Backstretch bar, which was very convenient.
One of the other pools we visited was the Paddock pool. Just a short walk from the High Rock Spring pool over the water via wooden bridge, this pool was closest to our room. The big draw for us here was the children’s splash park. Typical of most located at the other resorts, this one actually featured two slides, which basically meant no waiting in line as my kids alternated slide to slide with the other children. The main pool also featured another waterslide, this time stemming from a large water tower. The trademark of the Paddock Pool is the large, horse shoe shaped hot tub, which was fairly popular. Another perk of the Paddock Pool was the Paddock Grill. Here you could find basic quick service options like burgers that, oddly, were not on the menu at Artist’s Palette.
The last pool we visited was the Grandstand Pool. Located in the Grandstand section (directly across from the main lobby), this was the most basic pool of the three. The draw for this pool was again the children’s feature, which was a horse track starting gate that acted like a car wash for the kids to run through. It also featured horse head squirters that could be turned and used as water guns.
As for dining and shopping options, there really were few, unfortunately. We did not try the Turf Club—or the tiny drink window/bar that goes with it this time—but we did eat at Artist’s Palette for both breakfast and lunch. While I found the menu to be rather limited and strangely lacking in standard resort fare, I really enjoyed what I got each time. TIP – The flatbreads are HUGE and could easily be shared. Get the breakfast flatbread and you WILL NOT be disappointed. Also, for those who enjoy drinking around Epcot, the popular Schofferhofer Grapefruit Hefeweizen beer is available here in bottles.
I know it is hard to call a deluxe villa resort a “Hidden Gem”. The price will always indicate it being anything but underrated. But if you are looking for a change, or find a great rate on a room here (perhaps through the DVC Rental store…just sayin’), do not hesitate to pull the trigger on this beauty. I know I won’t.