Saratoga Springs struggled to find its identity before becoming part of the Disney Vacation Club. It’s the only resort within walking distance of Downtown Disney (shopping/entertainment complex), and Walt Disney himself once viewed it as a residential community with shopping center access. But in 1975, the company switched gears and made it a villa resort (hotel). In 1995, Disney reinvented it again, making the rooms part of The Disney Institute, a failed attempt to create a Central Florida version of Chautauqua, the eclectic New York summer resort for smart and creative people with time and extra cash. (Note: The Disney Institute failed as a southern Chautauqua, but the name still exists as a business-to-business program where Disney teaches its corporate management style to other companies.) In 2003, Disney reinvented the resort again and named it Saratoga Springs, part of the Disney Vacation Club.
The history may bore you, but it explains today’s Saratoga Springs. It has two main sections: treehouse villas and New England style suites/villas. Other than existing under the Saratoga Springs umbrella, the two types of rooms have little in common. The former came from Disney’s original concept of a resort; the latter served The Disney Institute. The treehouses are unusual, get-away-from-the-crowd places to stay, while the main buildings have a New England feel. A central area has a slight small-town atmosphere.
Since Saratoga Springs largely serves Vacation Club members who return every year, the resort has a bit less theming than Disney’s other resorts. Swimming pools are wet and big, but without volcano-style slides. Some public buildings, such as the restaurant and spa, have a stylish industrial feel from the outside, since they went up during The Disney Institute years.
While close to Downtown Disney, Saratoga Springs is farther from any single park than other upscale Disney resort. However, the entire Walt Disney World resort is so massive that it no longer makes much of a difference.
The resort has suites and one-, two-, or three-bedroom villas, a great spa once part of The Disney Institute, as well as tennis, biking, boat rentals, and more. Each suite has a small refrigerator and microwave, while suites have full kitchens.
Who should stay here
People who want to escape the action at bedtime will enjoy Saratoga Springs, and they’ll love the treehouse villas. If you wish to stay in a forest without roughing it, the treehouse villas are Disney’s best bet. Downtown Disney also offers a wide range of mid- and upscale restaurants, giving Saratoga Springs guests a wide range of dining options over a one-week stay.
Who shouldn’t stay here
Anyone looking for Disney magic in every corner – monorails and Tiki lights and geysers – will be disappointed.
Bus transportation links to most Disney parks and attractions, and the resort has enough bus stops to make it fairly convenient from most rooms, though expect more than one stop before reaching a destination. Boat transportation links to Downtown Disney, as does a sidewalk – but it’s still a fairly long walk.
Questions to ask when booking
One major question – which the reservationist should ask – is whether you prefer a treehouse villa or suite in the main section. Request a room close to the main pool if you have water-loving kids or a smaller pool for privacy, boats, tennis, etc. Since some rooms sit close to the “downtown” area and others sit father out, request a central location if you plan to enjoy the resort amenities and farther out if you long for peace and quiet.
Visit Disney’s Saratoga Springs webpage for more information.