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Saratoga Springs - Part Two

Jack Spence Masthead


Yesterday, I discussed the history of the land Saratoga Springs now occupies. Today, I will examine the resort itself and all that it offers.

To begin with, Saratoga Springs is a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) resort. In other words, it is a “timeshare” property. However, Disney hates the word “timeshare” and you will never hear it used in any official promotion or advertisement. For more information about DVC membership, click here.


If you're interested in staying at Disney's Saratoga Springs after reading my article, and you're not a DVC member, don't despair. Florida law requires that all timeshare properties set aside some rooms for non-members. And besides that, Disney is more than happy to rent you a DVC room when they can. Note, 3-bedroom units are not available to non-members.

Saratoga Springs has two distinct sections. First, there is the primary resort which was inspired by an 1890's community found in upstate New York. The other section is located adjacent to the “main” property and features the unique Treehouse Villas. This article will discuss the primary section of the resort. To learn more about the Treehouse Villas, check out an article I wrote in 2009 by clicking here.

Saratoga Springs has two roadway entrances available to the public. The main access is located off of Disney Vacation Club Way and is well marked with signage. The secondary entry is found off of Buena Vista Drive and has no signs and is easily missed. Depending on where I'm coming from and where I'm going, I will use either. The first picture is of the main entry. The following picture is of the secondary entrance.


Main Entrance

Secondary Entrance


After checking in with the security guard at the main entrance, guests drive along Broadway, a lovely tree-studded, two-lane road. Willow Lake can be seen on the left side of the street and the Lake Buena Vista Golf Course can be seen on the right. Many of the guest accommodations are visible in the distance.


Broadway

Broadway


Soon, guests reach the “town” section of the property where they will find most of the resort's services and check-in area.


Saratoga Springs


Like all Disney resorts, guests arriving at Saratoga Springs pull up beneath an attractive portico. A 30 minute “check-in” parking lot is located nearby.


Portico


The horserace theme of Saratoga Springs becomes obvious shortly after arrival. Just past the portico is Winner's Circle. Here we find a bronze statue of a thoroughbred and his mount. A victory blanket of roses is draped across the steed's back. A keen eye will notice that the old DVC logo has been cleverly embedded into the floral design.


Winner's Circle

Winner's Circle


Next to the Winner's Circle is Performance Hall. During the heyday of the Disney Institute, this building played host to a multitude of cultural acts. Today, it is used as an Epcot rehearsal site and not open to the public.


Performance Hall

Performance Hall


In this same vicinity is Carriage House. This is the spot where guests check-in and take advantage of concierge services. This beautiful room is octagonal in shape and features a massive loft area. Paintings of Saratoga Springs landmarks adorn the walls. An appropriately clad greeter is on hand to offer assistance when needed.


Carriage House Check-In

Carriage House Check-In

Carriage House Check-In

Carriage House Check-In

Carriage House Check-In


Off of the main lobby is an alcove intended for children. This spot offers the little ones something to do while mom and dad check in. Miniature chairs sit before a TV playing Disney cartoons.


Carriage House Children's Area


In this same room are pictures of seven famous Disney horses. These include Buck from “Home on the Range,” Bullseye from “Toy Story 2,” the Prince's horse from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” Prince Charming's horse from “Cinderella,” Khan from “Mulan,” Sampson from “Sleeping Beauty, and Philippe from “Beauty and the Beast.”


Disney Horses


Beyond the lobby is a lovely lounge. This spot serves no purpose other than to offer a pleasant place to relax and enjoy a comfortable atmosphere. A DVC sales associate can also be found in this room and is available to answer all of your questions regarding membership and properties. If you are curious about what membership offers, be sure to ask. And don't worry. You will not be given the “hard sell.”


Lounge

Lounge


During the years of the Disney Institute, a shop called Dabbler was located off of this lounge. But when this area was remodeled for Saratoga Springs, the shop was closed to make room for other necessities. But instead of creating another standalone store someplace else, the Imagineers came up with a new idea " create a combination shop and counter-service restaurant. The end result is Artist's Palette (not to be confused with Artist's Point located at Wilderness Lodge).

Artist's Palette is a large, brightly lit venue that I divide into four sections. The north area offers your typical Disney souvenirs. The south area sells food and drinks that can be taken back to your room for preparation and consumption. The west wall features the counter-service restaurant ordering and pick-up station. And finally, the east wall houses a bank of registers where guests can pay for everything.


Artist's Palette

Artist's Palette

Artist's Palette

Artist's Palette


This section of Artist's Palette occupies the space of the former Season's restaurant.

A dining area is located across a hallway and offers ample seating. The chandeliers are especially fun. And for the budding artist in your group, easels are available for them to create a masterpiece.


Artist's Palette Dining Room

Artist's Palette Dining Room

Artist's Palette Dining Room


I like the food served at Artist's Palette. Although the breakfast offerings are mostly standard fare, the lunch/dinner menu is upscale for a counter-service restaurant. It's obvious that the chefs are trying to use their culinary training when creating the selections. Many of the dishes offered here are cooked to order to ensure quality and freshness.

Guests ordering their food “to go” will be given a pager and food receipt so they may return to the pick-up counter when everything is ready. Guests eating in the nearby dining room will be given a number (and food receipt) to place on their table. When the food has finished cooking, a cast member will deliver the meal. While waiting, you can browse the shop and then take your receipt to the register and pay for everything in advance. This ensures that once the food is ready, you can start eating immediately. I much prefer this method to the restaurants at the budget and moderate resorts where you must wait in line to pay while your food gets cold.


Table Number


To see the current breakfast menu, click here.
To see the current lunch/dinner menu, click here.

Exiting Artist's Palette through the south doorway brings guests into a long hallway. This corridor is lined with framed jockey jerseys. One is of special interest.


Hallway

Mickey Mouse Jersey


At the other end of this hallway is a lovely lounge. Tables, couches, and overstuffed chairs are available for conversation and relaxation. A pool table is on hand and the TV is usually tuned to ESPN. A walk-up bar serves soft and hard drinks starting at 4pm.


Pool Table

Lounge

Lounge


The Turf Club Bar & Grill is located just off of this lounge and offers understated sophistication. Although I've never been to a private racetrack club/restaurant, I somehow imagine this is what it would be like.


Turf Club Bar & Grill


The walls of this establishment are made up of dark woods with tan accents. The carpet is a rich green with gold designs. The tables and chairs have a clean look and also feature dark woods. The lighting is simple and keeps the mood dark " which is perfect. A wall of windows runs along one side of the restaurant and allows filtered sunlight to bathe the dining room. Several shadow boxes hang on the wall displaying racing gear.


Turf Club Bar & Grill

Turf Club Bar & Grill

Turf Club Bar & Grill


Adjacent to the indoor dining room is a covered porch with additional tables for outside dining. While eating here you can see the Sassagoula River in the distance and the water taxis ferrying guests to Downtown Disney, Old Key West, and Port Orleans. When the weather is pleasant, this is a wonderful spot to enjoy a meal.


Turf Club Bar & Grill

Turf Club Bar & Grill


I like the Turf Club. I have eaten here on many occasions and have always been pleased with my food and service. I also have a regular waiter, Max. If you choose to dine here, you might want to request him. He'll take good care of you.

For many years, the Turf Club was open for lunch as well as dinner. However, due to a sparse afternoon attendance, the midday meal was discontinued here late last year. Sigh. Dinner is served from 5pm to 10pm and reservations are recommended.

Down the steps from the Turf Club is the Lake Buena Vista Golf Club. This is the check-in spot for this challenging Disney course. Plenty of parking is located nearby.


Lake Buena Vista Golf Club

Lake Buena Vista Golf Club

Lake Buena Vista Golf Club


The 18-hole Lake Buena Vista course is rated 4 stars by Golf Digest. It is also certified by Audubon International as a Cooperative Wildlife Sanctuary. As I mentioned yesterday, the course was conceived by Joe Lee. In his design, he created elevated bunkered greens that put a premium on accurate approach shots.


Lake Buena Vista Golf Course


Just a few steps beyond the golf club you'll find the boat dock for transportation to Downtown Disney and the Treehouse Villas. Water taxis run every 20 minutes from 10am to 11pm. Space is limited on these boats to 34 guests, so if you're thinking of only using them as a sightseeing experience, you might be forced to disembark and wait for the next launch if lines are long at Downtown Disney.


Boat Dock


The largest of the four Saratoga Springs swimming pools is located across and down a flight of stairs from The Carriage House. High Rock Spring pool offers a water slide, a splash and play area with Donald Duck, two hot tubs, lockers & change area, and plenty of tables, chairs, and lounges. Life guards are on duty during “slide operating hours.” These hours vary depending on the season.


High Rock Spring Pool

High Rock Spring Pool

High Rock Spring Pool

High Rock Spring Pool


I will discuss the other three pools in tomorrow's article.

Also near the High Rock Spring pool is On the Rocks. This is the local watering hole where cool and refreshing drinks can be ordered. Food is not served here as the Artist's Palette is located conveniently nearby.


On the Rocks


Just to the south of the pool is Win, Place, or Show Arcade. As at every Disney resort, this is the place to send your kids when you need some down time and they're still bursting with energy.


Win, Place, or Show Arcade

Win, Place, or Show Arcade


Also near the pool is The Spa. Inspired by the Adirondack's celebrated mineral springs, this spa offers a full array of services. Some of these include facials, body massages, body wraps, and aromatherapy. Also available in the Health Club is state-of-the-art exercise equipment for those of you wishing to stay in shape while on vacation.

The Spa was closed for refurbishment during my most recent stay at Saratoga Springs. Because of this, I have no interior pictures to share with you. For more information about The Spa, click here.


The Spa

The Spa


As I mentioned earlier, Broadway runs through the middle of the “town” of the Saratoga Springs Resort. In town you'll find several places of interest. One of these is The Springs Bus Stop for transportation to other spots at WDW.


Broadway

The Springs Bus Stop


Across the street from the bus stop is a laundry facility and Community Hall.


Laundry Facility and Community Hall


One, two, and three bedroom units at Saratoga Springs have washers and dryers within the room. However, studio units do not. Laundry facilities for these folks are located at all of the pools.


Laundry

Laundry

Laundry


All DVC resorts have a “Community Hall.” This is the spot for fun and games. Although primarily intended for children, the entire family can enjoy activities here. Be sure to stop by and check the Activity Schedule to see what's happening during your stay.


Community Hall

Community Hall

Community Hall


Next to Community Hall is Horsing Around Rentals. This is the location to rent sports equipment and surreys. DVDs are also available here and are loaned free of charge to DVC members.

The basketball, tennis, and shuffleboard courts are all located at the far south end of the Carriage House complex.


Horsing Around Rentals

Basketball

Tennis

Shuffleboard


A movie theater was part of the Disney Institute's offerings. I believe this building continued to operate in this capacity when Saratoga Springs first opened. But today, this structure is used to house mockups of DVC rooms to show prospective members.


Movie Theater


Speaking of prospective DVC members…

I'm sure you've notice, wherever you go at WDW, a DVC kiosk can be found. For most folks, talking to one of the cast members stationed at one of these locations is their first step toward membership. This next picture was taken of a Membership Information Center at Disney's Hollywood Studios.


Membership Information Center at Disney's Hollywood Studios.


The cast members at these remote sales centers provide guests with the basics of DVC membership. If this initial information piques their interest, arrangements are made to transport them to Saratoga Springs where a more formal and in-depth presentation can be made. Part of this presentation includes mockups of typical DVC rooms.

Here are a few pictures of the Saratoga Springs DVC reception area.


Saratoga Springs DVC Reception Area

Saratoga Springs DVC Reception Area

Saratoga Springs DVC Reception Area

Saratoga Springs DVC Reception Area

Saratoga Springs DVC Reception Area


That's it for today. Check back tomorrow when I'll be discussing the various sections of Saratoga Springs, the other pools, and the rooms.



The previous post in this blog was Saratoga Springs - Lake Buena Vista and the Disney Institute - Part One.

The next post in this blog is Saratoga Springs - Part Three.

Comments (9)

Jeff:

Your blogs are always great, Jack. I like reading the historical details you add in and the photography is top-notch. I'm sure people ask you this all the time, but how do you get so many shots without tourists in them? I'm guessing you photo at off-peak hours?

Jack's Answer:

For the theme parks, I arrive well before opening so I can be the first in the park. This gives me roughly 30 minutes of people-free picture taking time. For the hotels, I usually shoot between 2 and 4. Most people are at the theme parks during this time.

I'm so glad you are posting this! I've been curious about this resort ever since you posted the referenced treehouse article a few years back!

Josh:

hey Jack
I have only stayed at Saratoga Springs once but it was one of the best experiences I ever had. The atmosphere is awesome and the food is good as well. can't wait until tomorrow for your next blog and as always keep up the great work.

Chris Kelly:

Hi Jack.

My wife and I are DVC members whose home resort is Animal Kingdom. After staying at Saratoga Springs one trip we fell in love with the resort. We completely agree with you about Artist's Palette. It is a great option for a counter service restaurant, and one of the best meals we have had at WDW was at the Turf Bar. We had dinner there on a beautiful night in May, and sat outside on the terrace. I think the Turf Bar like the Captain's Grille are hidden gem's. Anyway thanks for another great blog.

Chris

Kelsey Colburn:

I'm obsessed with your blog lol. I've always wanted more info about Saratoga springs. It seems like a hidden jewel. Thanks for writing I enjoy reading your posts. You have a new loyal fan!

Wonderful job, as usual Jack.

I had no idea Saratoge Springs was a hore racing inspired DVC. Thanks for an interesting first two part of the series.

Brad:

While I generally agree with your reviews, I must take exception to your comments about The Turf Club restaurant. By far, the worst experience we have ever had at a Disney restaurant, and we have eaten at almost all of them. And one of the few times that management did not try to rectify the situation. The food was delicious but the service and handicap access were terrible. It is almost impossible to get a wheelchair from the parking lot into the main dining room. When you do, you can expect a long wait (even with reservations it took over 45 minutes) because they have so few tables that are wheelchair accessible. Even then all of the diners around you have to stand up to allow the wheelchair access to the table. The good news was it was almost a free dinner since they charged our meals to another table by mistake. A manager at another Disney Resort told us that The Turf Club is in effect a Disney training restaurant since most of the staff leave as soon as they have enough seniority to transfer. With all the wonderful restaurants at Disney World there is just no excuse ... and no reason to return to The Turf Club.

Bill:

My family just spent a week at Saratoga, and enjoyed it very much. The Turf Club was an excellent choice for an Ash Wednesday meal, with a variety of seafood choices. If I had read this prior to going, I might have requested Max, but our waiter Ron was great.

We stayed in the Carousel section, and were right near that bus stop, but also close enough for a quick walk to the Paddock pool, which the kids loved.

Saratoga can seem very quiet, but it's also a perfect way to unwind after a day at the parks.

Douglas:

I don't want to turn people off from DVC but I have to get this story out as a caution.

During our stay last November, me and my folks decided to see what the DVC was like and how to join after me and my mom talked to a very nice rep in Epcot.
All I can say is that the gal we got was anything but professional, by Disney standards at least. She kept trying to 'Hard Sell' it to us. She kept going like we'd pay up front after everything was over. And when I asked about buying for any upcoming DVC resorts, she was rude about it saying, 'You can't afford the Grand Floridian rooms'. I wasn't even asking about the GF rooms and only about future ones not announced yet. The whole time she acted like we were country bumpkins that know nothing about anything.
After she finished 'explaining' she got mad that we didn't want the ice cream offered afterwards. It was about 10 in the morning and we didn't feel like eating ice cream yet. Then we almost had to twist her arm just to show us the mock-up rooms because by this point she wasn't being cooperative with us. She barely even showed us what the two rooms she did show us had to offer while this other rep was taking his time to show this other group what was in store.
When we finally got into the van to take us to Animal Kingdom, the driver was just as shocked at how she acted and said that what she did was unprofessional and apologized to us for the bad experience. We let him know that we know how Disney employees have to act so it wasn't so bad for him to apologize.
After we got into Animal Kingdom we found another DVC booth and let them know about the trip and they were appalled as well. They contacted a manager to let them know about the woman so that she could be reprimanded and written up. We didn't let them try to compensate us with anything since we aren't those type of people and just wanted the wrench removed from the machine.
Pretty much the whole thing put a sour note of DVC on my mom's mind. I'm willing to take another chance since we had only gotten that one terrible employee and one bad person does reflect the whole business for me unlike my mother where if she has one bad experience, she stops visiting a place so I doubt she'd be willing to do DVC because of that woman.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 19, 2013 7:09 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Saratoga Springs - Lake Buena Vista and the Disney Institute - Part One.

The next post in this blog is Saratoga Springs - Part Three.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.