Guide to Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
A Brief History of Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort
Through no fault of its own, Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa is one of the most controversial DVC properties. The cause of its controversy stems from its construction. In 1996, Michael Eisner, who was CEO of The Walt Disney Company at the time, oversaw the building of The Disney Institute.
This educational facility was where Disney cast members shared their training techniques with others. For a fee of $3,700, guests could “vacation” at Walt Disney World while learning how to become better people and professionals. It was an attempt to marry Disney’s world-renowned business practices with a standard Walt Disney World trip.
The idea proved unpopular with many, and the dwindling attendance numbers caused park officials to reconsider the usage of this space. To fans of The Disney Institute, however, Saratoga Springs represents the end of something wonderful. It was a place where guests could learn the tricks of the trade at Walt Disney World, embarking on a journey of self-improvement.
In January of 2002, Disney executives confirmed the change. A new Disney Vacation Club (DVC) property would arise on part of the prior grounds for The Disney Institute. At the time of the announcement, the next DVC property didn’t even have a theme. Eventually, Disney settled on…
The Style of the Resort
The theme of Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa is the laid back late 19th century area of upstate New York. Disney went so far as to hire a native of Saratoga Springs named Kevin Cummings to helm the project. Kevin even had an ace in the hole at the time of construction, as his twin brother still lived in Saratoga Springs.
The two gentlemen would relay information and ideas to one another, and Cummings would invite his fellow cast members to tour the northern parts of the East Coast in search of ideas. The outcome is a tranquil resort campus that recreates small town vacation areas from more than a century ago.
During the late 1800s, Saratoga Springs was famous for its summer vacations. A racetrack in town lured the upper crust of society to this sleepy region. It was effectively the Hamptons of the era. Disney added elements that highlighted the city back then, including a pool meant to recreate the “healing springs” that gave the town its name.
The beauty of Saratoga Springs is undeniable. Anyone who has ever taken a boat ride to Disney Springs has noticed the majestic landscape of the waterfront hotel. The shrubbery and other vegetation that surrounds this property is the gold standard among Walt Disney World hotels that participate in DVC. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back into a turn-of-the-century novel as you gaze on the wonders here.
The DVC Aspects of Saratoga Springs
Fans of Walt Disney World are likely to think about Saratoga Springs as a potential home resort. The explanations for this are twofold. One is the price per point at this location. Saratoga Springs is usually one of the two or three least expensive DVC resorts onsite at Walt Disney World. You can review the DVC Resale Listings to verify this fact. Along with Disney’s Old Key West and Boulder Ridge at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, you’re most likely to find the cheapest entry price here.
The second key contributor to the popularity of Saratoga Springs is its generous point chart. During 49 weeks out of the 52-week annual calendar, you can book a Deluxe Studio here for 14 points a night or less. During Adventure Season, you’ll only pay 11 points a night. This property is one of the strongest value propositions in the entire DVC lineup.
Disney recently introduced some changes to give DVC members more choice. As we’ll discuss in the final section, Saratoga Springs is famously spread out. When booking, you now have the option to select a Preferred room at the property. These rooms are in the Congress Park and The Springs sections, the most desirable locations at the hotel. Congress Park is close to the connecting bridge to Disney Springs, while The Springs is right by the water AND next to Broadway, the main road at this resort.
The Studios at this resort are quite small. A basic room is 355 square feet. That’s the second smallest standard Studio of any DVC resort. Large families and anyone who gets a bit claustrophobic should understand that space is tight here. The one-bedroom villa is more than twice as big at 714 square feet. The two-bedroom villa is even bigger at 1,075 square feet. I will say that the design of these rooms is very good. Disney makes great usage of every square foot.
The attention-grabbing rooms at Saratoga Springs are the Treehouse Villas. They’re single occupancy buildings that are walled octagons on stilts. Yes, they’re visually unique. Other than Wilderness Lodge, these are the most rustic hotel rooms that you’ll see at Walt Disney World.
While this suite is technically a three-bedroom villa, it’s an entirely different floor plan than you may expect. The square footage is almost identical two at 1,074 square feet, but the experience is vastly superior. Your room is in the woods, giving it an isolated feel.
The interior of the suite is also largely wooden, creating a throwback feel. And kids will love the bunk beds in the third bedroom. The Treehouse Villas are wonderful for traveling families or couples who want a romantic getaway at Walt Disney World. With a nightly points charge that starts at 39, they’re also surprisingly affordable.
The amenities at Saratoga Springs are wonderful, although they do skew a bit older. You can reach the resort by boat, and I mention this because the boat dock almost directly leads to a golf course. I’ve accidentally wandered onto that course a couple of times while trying to do the DVC tour.
The resort is also host to tennis courts. I mention this to emphasize that Saratoga Springs has a kind of laid back vacation vibe. Many of the amenities here are the same as you’d find at an actual timeshare resort in Florida.
Disney has added many special touches to differentiate Saratoga Springs from standard resorts, though. You’ll find basic pools at Congress Park and the Treehouses plus a slightly better one at the Grandstand.
The immaculate pools are at High Rock Spring and the Grandstand. Both of them are worth the walk from your hotel room, no matter which are you’re staying in at the resort.
Given the full name of the hotel, you can guess that it also has a spa onsite. Senses is one of the most beloved spas in the greater Orlando area, and I have it on good authority that some married couples compromise on their vacation resort because of it.
The beauty of Saratoga Springs is that the men can golf while the woman enjoy well-deserved spa day, or maybe the reverse is true. My wife loves golf sooo much more than I do. While I’ve never gotten any of the services, I can’t think of a single time that I visited Senses when I didn’t see at least one male client. Everyone deserves a bit of pampering, right?
The services here aren’t cheap, but it’s a small price to pay to luxuriate. Plus, from a theming perspective, Senses hearkens back to 19th century Saratoga Springs vacationing as much as anything at the entire resort.
The restaurants at Saratoga Springs feature two standouts. One of them is Turf Club Bar & Grill, a Table Service establishment that’s only open for dinner service. Steak fans will adore it. Guests who prefer something a bit more savory will find an eclectic menu at The Artist’s Palette, another Table Service restaurant.
For counter service, you’ll have your choice of pool bars or The Paddock Grill, where the house specialty is the sandwich. Then again, when you’re staying at Saratoga Springs, you shouldn’t eat at the hotel, because…
The strongest amenity at Saratoga Springs is its location. Specifically, it rubs up against Disney Springs to the point that it shares access points with the entertainment district. At the resort, you can either board a boat that will take you directly to Disney Springs, or you can walk across a bridge to go there. The walk will take you only a few minutes, depending on where you are at the resort.
Saratoga Springs has by far the closest proximity to Disney Springs. Anyone who plans to do a lot of shopping and dining there should take a close look at this resort.
Resort Pros and Cons
Let’s start with the cons. Saratoga Springs is a sprawling resort that has several different bus stops. You’ll spend more time waiting on transportation here than at the average DVC resort. You’ll also experience longer travel times to most places at Walt Disney World. Saratoga Springs isn’t especially close to any of the theme parks. Also, some of the sections here are better than others. You now have to spend more DVC points to stay in one of these superior locations.
As far as family resorts go, Saratoga Springs is low in the pecking order among DVC resorts. It explicitly skews older with its amenities. Retirees prefer golf; most children aren’t huge fans. Similarly, with Disney Quest gone from Disney Springs, the entertainment district doesn’t have the same appeal for kids that it does for adults.
I’m listing the maturity factor as a con since the perception of Walt Disney World is that it’s a family vacation destination. For adults traveling without children, these same topics become a pro. Personally, I can’t get enough of Disney Springs. Since I spend a lot of time at the parks, however, Saratoga Springs is something of a mixed bag for me.
The pros here are quite strong. Buying DVC points here is inexpensive compared to, say, the monorail resorts. Similarly, this resort generally has availability later than other DVC properties. In other words, you can use Saratoga Springs as a fallback option when your Waitlist reservation never comes through. In an extreme example, I’ve seen late December bookings available at this resort less than three months prior to the holiday. That’s a true Christmas miracle.
Beyond the huge pros of close proximity to Disney Springs and the overall tranquility of the resort, Saratoga Springs has one other key strength. It’s the closest thing to a true timeshare out of the entire DVC lineup, even over Old Key West. Its style matches the perception that most people have about timeshares, as it’s a relaxed, low key environment. As such, it’s the ideal location for guests who plan to spend less time at the parks and more time unwinding.