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Old 05-14-2004, 01:16 PM   #1
Jennifer and Dave
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Saratoga Springs Open Mouse

Saratoga Springs is the Disney Vacation Club’s (DVC) newest resort, right across the water from Downtown Disney on the grounds of the former Disney Institute. Now, we have many fond memories of the old Institute, so DVC’s “Welcome Home!” slogan was especially fitting as we stepped onto the grounds. While most of the Institute’s lodgings were razed to make way for what will be a 696 guest villa facility, many of the familiar public buildings survive.

The welcome center has been redecorated, but its three-story, octagonal check-in area still felt like home.

As we followed the signs on the self-guided tour we saw how the old Institute class registration area has become a comfy lounge.

The Gathering Place lounge and Seasons restaurant have become a very attractive dining/shopping area, the Artist’s Palette. (Combining the shopping and dining areas is a recent trend at Disney resorts – it can also be seen at Pop Century.) The shop area offers a variety of resort-specific and general Disney merchandise, snack foods and beverages, and even some gourmet goods.

The dining area mixes counter and table-service -- guests place their orders at the attractive counter areas, and orders will be brought to their tables or packaged for takeout -- DVC villas are very attractive places to dine. The large room resembles a remodeled old factory building with “antique” brick walls and large wood beams and trusses, and is decorated with appealing modern paintings and hand-blown art glass.

Just beyond, a former private dining room has been converted to a cozy lounge area with a small bar, very comfortable seating, and an old-fashioned pocket billiards table.

The full-service Spa at Disney’s Saratoga Springs looks brand-new and very appealing, but it’s really a spruced-up version of the Spa at the Disney Institute.

If you loved the old spa or are looking for a great day spa experience, you can’t go too far wrong here.

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Old 05-14-2004, 01:50 PM   #2
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Re: Saratoga Springs Open Mouse

High Rock Spring sounds very interesting. Any chance of seeing some photos of this pool area? And how is the parking at SS? Can you park in front of your unit like OKW?
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Old 05-14-2004, 02:25 PM   #3
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Re: Saratoga Springs Open Mouse

Outside, the open-air amphitheater has been converted into High Rock Spring, one of the nicest theme pools on Disney property.

The large, free-form pool includes a zero-entry area, a “pop fountain” play zone, a very appealing water slide, kiddie pool, and a large hot-tub spa.

The spa is equipped with a motorized transfer lift for wheelchair-bound guests. Locker rooms and a snack bar are immediately adjoining. Just to the east of the pool is the building that used to house the Institute’s classrooms. Several rooms have been converted into the Community Hall, a standard feature of DVC resorts.

For the most part, this space will be used for organized children’s activities, and still feels like classroom space. The building also houses DVC’s new Preview (sales) Center, which will replace the facility at Disney’s BoardWalk that handles all sales presentations at Walt Disney World. While we didn’t tour the center’s model villas, we saw the “Storybook Room” that introduces guests to the Disney Vacation Club concept. About a half-dozen alcoves house huge, multi-media display systems that put most of the exhibits at Epcot’s Future World to shame. Be forewarned, the Storybook Room looks VERY persuasive.

From there, we trekked over to visit some of the guest buildings in the resort’s Congress Park district, just across the water from Downtown Disney Marketplace.

As with DVC’s BoardWalk Villas and Beach Club Villas, the style here is a variation on Northeastern Victorian, befitting the style of Saratoga Springs in Upstate New York. These are huge buildings, each housing about 58 studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom villas. The resort will have 12 of these guest buildings by the time construction is finished next year! Outside, the area is beautifully landscaped, with meandering pathways, a waterfront promenade perfect for enjoying the lights of Downtown Disney and the midnight fireworks at Pleasure Island, and a large “leisure pool” (the term “quiet pool” seems to be on its way out). The pool has “spitting frog” fountains at each of four corners, a hot tub, a beautiful children’s playground and will surely satisfy anyone who doesn’t want to walk over to the more elaborate High Rock Springs pool.

Inside, the studios, one- and two-bedroom villas are very similar to the units at Beach Club Villas, leaving aside differences of style. The décor seems “richer” and more upscale than any of the other DVC resorts, in keeping with the image of the original Saratoga Springs.

Walls are painted in quiet pastels, furniture is done in a dark, walnut finish (look for hidden Mickeys in the headboards), kitchen and bathroom countertops are granite (like Beach Club Villas), and there are lots of interesting “period” décor elements, including lamp shades that reveal horse head silhouettes when illuminated.

One new touch that captured our attention is the desk in the master bedroom – it has two power outlets (for a laptop and cell phone charger, for example) and a built-in high-speed Internet access jack!

The real show-stopper is the three-bedroom Grand Villa. These sleep 12 in very grand style indeed. They have a two-story layout, with a cathedral-ceilinged great room, kitchen, formal dining area, bath and master suite on the first level, plus two bedrooms, more baths, laundry area and a balcony overlooking the great room upstairs. Wheelchair access is no problem for the second floor guests – in addition to the interior staircase, there’s a separate entry door upstairs so folks can use the elevator.

Naturally, a visit of this sort doesn’t compare with an actual stay at the resort, when we can sample the food, enjoy the recreation facilities, and ferret-out all sorts of interesting details. We hope to do that a little later this year, and at that point we’ll release a fully-updated version of the pre-opening resort description we wrote for PassPorter Walt Disney World 2004. We can’t wait!

You don't have the same parking situation that exists at Old Key West, but it's similar. The buildings at Saratoga Springs are hotel-styled like the villas at BoardWalk, Beach Club and Wilderness Lodge (interior hallways, one main entrance) rather than motel-styled (exterior hallways, each room has its own outside door). However, the parking is just outside the entrance to each building, so it's much more convenient than at BWV, BCV and VWL. All buildings will have one side with a water view, and (naturally) there will be no parking on the water side to disturb the vista. Check the map on page 88 of this year's PassPorter WDW to see what I mean.
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Old 05-14-2004, 03:41 PM   #4
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Re: Saratoga Springs Open Mouse

Hi Jennifer and Dave! First, CONGRATULATIONS!!! We were there last week, as well, and were thrilled to get to visit Saratoga Springs' Sneak Preview on Friday. We bought into SSR on our Disney Cruise back in November, and just happened to find out about Preview day from the DVC kiosk at Disney Marketplace. WOW!!! We're SO happy we bought into SSR! I couldn't believe how nice it was--definitely more than 5 stars, that's for sure. It's hard to impress my husband, but HE was even excited! I'm going to visit my Mom in FL next month, and taking my son. We had planned to stay a couple of nights at SSR, but we couldn't even get a reservation at SSR for two nights mid-week, so we're wait-listed, but are at least taking my Mom to see the place, and staying at Old Key West unless something opens up for us. I've eaten lunch at Olivia's in OKW while there, but have not seen the rooms. I'm told they're the biggest rooms of any of the properties. We especially enjoyed the boat transportation between OKW, SSR, and Downtown Disney/Marketplace. Hadn't heard anything about it--it was my child's favorite part of the visit there! Again, Congrats!
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Old 05-14-2004, 08:25 PM   #5
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Re: Saratoga Springs Open Mouse

Saratoga Springs looks wonderful! Thank you for the photos!
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Old 05-15-2004, 06:26 AM   #6
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Re: Saratoga Springs Open Mouse

Oh wow, those photos are awesome. I love the looks of that pool! Thanks Dave, for posting them. And thanks for the parking info. We stayed at OKW and the close convenient parking was our favorite thing about it. That was one reason why didn't choose VWL or BCV. I wonder if SS will have the same point values as the other DVC resorts?
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Old 05-15-2004, 08:56 AM   #7
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Re: Saratoga Springs Open Mouse

Great photos guys - there are more to come from me as well, I went mad with the camera when I visited our new "home". I'll try and post some more photos in the DVC forum in the next day or so...
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Old 05-15-2004, 12:38 PM   #8
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Re: Saratoga Springs Open Mouse

Jennifer and Dave,

Congratulations on your wedding, and thank you for all the great photos and information about Saratoga Springs. I was wondering if this would be the lesser of the DVC resorts, and your information seems to contradict that feeling. I am looking forward to when you can stay there and sample everything (and put those pages in my Passporter).
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