Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa is a Disney Vacation Club deluxe villa hotel at Walt Disney World that is themed to an area of upstate New York that is known for horse racing. Saratoga Springs Resort feels like an idealized version of Saratoga Springs, New York, as it’s surrounded by golf courses, winding waterways, and features cookie-cutter buildings all in an inviting pastel color palette. It feels like the perfectly planned community.
Depending upon your perspective, this theming could be the perfect vacation resort for you, or it could feel like a experiment in city planning taken too far. If you’ve read our Disney Vacation Club Resort Rankings and have seen that we placed Saratoga Springs Resort dead last, you might assume that our take is the latter. It’s not. We’re actually somewhere in the middle. We agree with the criticism of Saratoga Springs Resort’s theme–it’s very generic, and feels to us like a nice timeshare resort that you might find anywhere. The equestrian layer seems tacked on as a random layer of artifice.
It feels like Disney was trying to cast a wide net with Saratoga Springs Resort’s theming so it wasn’t really off-putting to anyone, which might very well be the case since it was Disney’s most ambitious Disney Vacation Club property to date when built. In the process, though, they made it too bland. On the plus side, it’s more of a buyer’s market on Saratoga Springs Resort Disney Vacation Club points than on any other resort. It’s our home resort and the Disney Vacation Club resort we recommend buying via the resale market.
My problem is that the light layer of horse racing flourishes could be removed and replaced with some other random thing, say competitive canine frisbee, and the resort could easily be set in the quiet community of La Mirada, California (famous for its many canine frisbee World Championships), or really, Anywhere, USA.
Yes, Saratoga Springs Resort might bear some resemblances to Saratoga Springs, New York, but it’s such a generic look that it’s likely to bear resemblance to any number of real world places. Because of this, I feel it lacks the type of theming that Disney hotels should possess.
Sarah isn’t nearly as hard on it, finding the decor tasteful and modern. I recognize that those who are not looking for a transportive theme are likely to love Saratoga Springs. Once you get past the horse racing thing, there’s little pretense. It simply looks and feels like a nice, sprawling timeshare.
Those who are used to vacation clubs elsewhere that don’t have extensive theming and backstory may like this, as after a long day of the “Disney experience” in the theme parks, they may be looking for an escape from that in their hotel.
Once you get past the theming, there’s actually a lot to like about Saratoga Springs Resort. The rooms are nice, modern, and clean. The building exteriors are pretty and colorful. Although the layout is sprawling, parking is very convenient and close to guest rooms. The pools are all nice–even the quiet pools. There’s a spa on site, and plenty of other amenities.
I really like the layout and look of the rooms. (Note that there have been some minor refreshes to these rooms since we last updated the photos in this post, mostly to the bedding.)
Above is a video of the new-look rooms done by AllEars.net.
As far as rooms go, perhaps it’s due to the understated theming, but we’ve found Saratoga Springs Resort’s rooms to be solid. They’re not quite as large as Old Key West’s rooms, but they are laid out better, which leads to them having just about as much functional space as an Old Key West room.
Beyond that, the rooms are nice. The colors and designs work well, and the touches of theme aren’t over the top or garish.
Honestly, though, Saratoga’s rooms aren’t exactly for me (I prefer something more “thematically rich”), but if all you’re concerned with is having a room that’s nice, Saratoga Springs Resort should not be penalized.
The rooms definitely fit the bill in that regard, and we think the quality improves once you move up into the 1-bedroom and larger units. (Unfortunately, we don’t have photos of those as our stays in the larger units pre-date our blogging days!)
Another plus about Saratoga Springs Resort is that it’s one of the easier Disney Vacation Club resorts to book. Due to its size and lack of popularity, there is almost always availability at Saratoga Springs Resort only a month or so in advance when using Disney Vacation Club points.
As far as dining goes, Saratoga Springs has a table service restaurant, the Turf Club Bar and Grill, and a counter service restaurant/grocery market, Artist’s Palette. It’s been a while since we’ve eaten at Artist’s Palette, but it was pretty standard stuff when we did.
Nothing to write home about, but not necessarily bad. We’ve never dined at Turf Club, although we have heard some really positive comments about it recently.
Saratoga Springs Resort is also conveniently located to Disney Springs, and there’s a walkway and boat service to it. For us, this used to be a huge plus, as we used to request a room in Congress Park (the area closest to the Disney Springs walkway) and stumble home from Pleasure Island after spending some time at the Adventurers Club…or waddled home from Earl of Sandwich.
The pools are a strength of Saratoga Springs Resort that don’t seem to get a ton of credit, but this is one place that the resort really excels. No, they are not as awesome as the pool at the Beach Club, but with the rock-work and gurgling play area of High Rock Spring Pool, it’s a well done and fun pool.
The quiet pools each are well-themed and pretty well done, too. The Paddock also recently got a new pool (that Disney has dubbed a “feature” pool) that is among the best secondary pools at Walt Disney World.
Besides the theming, the downsides to Saratoga Springs Resort are very similar to the downsides of Old Key West Resort. It is very large, meaning long walks from most guest rooms to the main building and pool. There’s also internal transportation that does add a bit of time to the commute time. Despite this, in our experience transportation at Saratoga Springs has been shockingly efficient over the years.
Overall, Saratoga Springs Resort is once again improving its position in terms of our preferred DVC resorts, thanks in large part to Disney Springs, but it’s still not tops for us. It’s a place we stay when there’s no availability at any other Disney Vacation Club resort and that’s about it. I feel like it’s a place I could stay anywhere in the world, and I’d rather be immersed in Disney theming at Walt Disney World, so it’s not for me. If you remove theme from the equation (as some people might want to do), it stacks up very favorably to other resorts at Walt Disney World. It’s likely to be a top pick for adults taking a Disney vacation solely for the sake of their kids who want a reprieve from the “magic,” but we suspect serious Disney fans will be disappointed with Saratoga Springs Resort.
Are you a fan of Saratoga Springs Resort…are we ‘missing’ something about its allure? Do you agree that it lacks the charm and theme of most other Walt Disney World resort-hotels? Do you think the appeal of Saratoga Springs has improved since Disney Springs added many top-notch dining options? Any questions about SSR? Share your thoughts in the comments!