Let me be the first to say, before we booked I did not want to stay on-site in a Disney Hotel. I thought they must be inferior and overpriced in comparison to my beloved childhood hotel, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. In my naivety, I had never visited or seen any Disney hotel, other than taking the monorail through the Contemporary Resort, in my 9 previous trips (which ironically as I child, I wanted to stay in. Who doesn’t want breakfast with Mickey at Chef Mickey’s every day!)
My husband, Joe, always told me he wanted to visit somewhere other then the Grand Cypress, as he wanted us to make our own memories with Chloe (8) and Ralph (7). Alas, I gave in and we began researching Disney Hotels. After having my heart set on Animal Kingdom Lodge, we found Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, a hotel I had never heard of at £600 cheaper. That £600 would cover extra spending money! Being tight ‘Yorkshire’ folk, we opted for Saratoga, in the hope to visit AKL on a future visit.
I’m going to start by saying this was our experience, everyone has a different one. Everyone’s opinions are different. You may or may not agree with me. This post in the hope that perhaps 1 person gets something from it.
As Walt Disney World is bigger than Manhattan, you can imagine that the hotels are dotted all around the Disney property. One of the great things about Saratoga Springs for us, was it being located so close to Disney Springs (previously Downtown Disney). Being able to go out so close to our resort to go eating and shopping was a massive bonus!
You could either walk via the walkway, catch one of the resort buses or jump onto one of the boats. Our favourite was the boats. The ‘skippers’ were usually great and interactive with the kids. When Chloe left her cardigan on the boat, they were so helpful in helping us to locate it.
One thing to note though, if there is even a slight chance of the thunderstorm/rain shower they stop running the boats.
The themeing/décor at this hotel is Victorian Horse racing, a popular pastime in Saratoga, New York, during the early 1900’s. Before we went, I saw a lot of reviews saying ‘everything was dated’ and ‘not up to Disney standards’. I personally feel that as it wasn’t as ‘heavily’ themed as some of the resorts, that people looking for full on Disney were disappointed.
Personally, I loved it! I thought that there were lovely subtle hints everywhere. Whether it be the Fox and the Hound bedspread or the Horse pillows. As horse racing is the major theme here, you will find all the Disney Horses somewhere on property here, whether it be in the Recepetion Lobby or in your room. If only you could buy those pillows!!!!
Now I spent many an hour researching food prior to our trip, to a point where I was almost in a food coma looking at it all! We were not disappointed.
This is a Quick Service restaurant, located just next to the main lobby and above the main pool. We ate here mainly for Breakfast and tried a variety of options, including Mickey Waffles, fruit and fresh croissants. Everything was fresh which was amazing. Now I wish we had, but we didn’t actually try either Lunch or Dinner here. The options looked great, but we never had enough room! I would note that due to the sheer size of the resort, key eating times were really busy!
There is also a little grocery area, with this being a DVC (Disney Vacation Club) resort, I’m sure these came in handy. We bought some Ice Cream and Breakfast Burritos whilst staying on site.
This is Saratoga’s Table Service dining restaurant. We saved this to one of the later dates in our holiday and I wish we had been more! It was brilliant. We completely felt relaxed, not rushed and looked after here. Our waiter (I’m so sorry I forgot your name) was the best server we had all holiday. The food was amazing too! We sat outside which was lovely to be looking over the waterway to Disney Springs.
Before I get onto the rooms, let me explain a bit about the layout of the resort. Now I think I’m right in saying this is the largest Disney resort on Disney Property. It was HUGE! There were 4 areas within the resorts, each containing their own bus stop.
We stayed in the Springs section of the hotel. This was closest to the main areas of the hotel. Now personally, I don’t think we would have enjoyed the holiday anywhere near as much had we been put in a different location. We heard so many people complaining about the trek of getting to the main reception area for breakfast and having to wait for a bus or driving round. We struggled running from the bus stop to the room building in the rain downpours as it was!
The area known as the Grandstand I believe is the first bus stop to be picked up and the first to be dropped off. A favourite of many.
Congress Park was the closest to Disney Springs. If you are thinking of staying here purely for the walking distance to Disney Springs, then I would highly recommend requesting a room in this area.
Carousel was the area furthest from anything. I personally don’t understand why anyone would want to stay in this area and feel they would have had the short straw if they had!
Finally, The Paddock is the last area. The pool there had an amazing slide, but again, it was pretty far away from most things, so don’t think that it would have been a favourite of ours at all.
Well what can I say. We were so fortunate when we stayed here we got a DOUBLE room upgrade. Yes, you read right, DOUBLE! ‘Unfortunately’ when we arrived our room wasn’t quite ready so the lady who was checking us in spoke with her manager who gave us a 2-bed deluxe apartment (we’d only booked a studio room). We were in shock.
The room was amazing! I know we will never be so lucky again so we made sure we enjoyed it. As you walked in, there was a mini entrance hall with a mirror and side-table. To the right was a room with 2 king size beds, a vanity area and a bathroom, with toilet, bath/shower. To the left, was the kitchen/living area. The kitchen had a microwave, fridge/freezer, sink, plates, cutlery etc. Finally the last room was the master bedroom, I’m not sure what size the bed was other than huge! We have a Jacuzzi bath, shower ,toilet, walk-in wardrobe/closet and finally a washer/dryer. It was insane! THANK YOU SO MUCH DISNEY!!!!!
My in-laws who came for a week of our 2-week holiday stayed in the studio room, which was lovely too. As you’d expect, a double bed, sofa, kitchenette area and bathroom. I have heard that if you area family of 4 the sofa beds are the only option and aren’t the most comfortable so this is worth bearing in mind. I know our kids would have loved it none-the-less, especially after a long day of walking the in the parks.
As I previously mentioned, the resort is huge. Meaning depending on where you are staying, will depend on what bus stop you are. There were many times we had to stand on the bus (another story in itself!) and we had to once wait for a second bus one leaving Magic Kingdom after the fireworks. I do think with the size of the resort, you find yourselves waiting a longer time for the buses due to the size of the resort they have to go around. Both Joe and I agreed on future visits, we’d get a car as we liked the freedom to come and go as we pleased. Although, we said we would always go via bus to Magic Kingdom as we liked being dropped straight at the park entrance.
You can also get the boat to and from Disney Springs. This was a really lovely way to travel and only once did we feel like the boat took too long to wait for.
Now, I don’t know how true this was, but I saw many post/comments about people complaining about the $20 parking fee at the Disney parks and ‘recommended’ parking at Disney Springs, going to Saratoga and then catching a bus for free from there. I definitely saw people getting the bus from the parks to Saratoga so they could walk to Disney Springs, but I couldn’t hand on heart tell you if anyone actually tried to ‘cheat the system’. I’d like to think not!
I did feel that the buses were busier and slower then some of the other deluxe resorts, but that may have been down to us wishing to get home as quickly as possible!
I honestly loved this holiday so much. However, if we hadn’t had to room upgrade or stayed in the location we did, would we have enjoyed it as much? I don’t actually know. I’d like to think I would, but part of me thinks that I wouldn’t. I would like to stay back here one day, particularly as it was our first time staying at Disney and as a family. However, there are plenty of other Disney Resorts I’d like to tick off too!
If you are going to Saratoga Springs, I hope you have a fantastic time and let me know your thoughts and/or experiences.