This sprawling Disney property takes its inspiration from 19th-century horse-and-spa resorts in upstate New York, where hot springs and lakes ruled the landscape, and mixes it with the more tropical feel of Florida. Three- and four-story buildings are spread over this 16-acre property, and some overlook a giant pool with artificial hot springs and faux boulders. Studios have microwaves and refrigerators; villas have full kitchens (note: a few online grocery-delivery services deliver). There are also 60 tree-house cabins that let you live a sort of Swiss Family Robinson–type life. Rich woods, Early American–style furniture, and overstuffed couches lend a homey, country-chic look, and a splendid spa offers respite from theme-park frenzy.
YOU SHOULD KNOW This is a vast resort, and getting from a room at the outer edges to the bus stops or to the dining areas can take some time. Fortunately, upon arrival, you and your luggage are transported to your accommodations by golf cart.
Rooms range from a studio with one queen bed and one double sofa bed, to a three bedroom tree house villa with a fully equipped kitchen. Furniture and decor are traditional, with lots of dark wood and overstuffed couches and chairs. The backdrop colors are neutral, highlighted by jewel tones in the upholstery and cushions. All beds feature white, duvet style bedding. The studios have a wet bar with a sink, mini-fridge, microwave, toaster and coffeemaker. The villa kitchens feature full-sized refrigerator, a stove with oven, a microwave and coffeemaker. All accommodations feature a dining area, a furnished balcony, large flat screen TVs and free Wi-Fi.
YOU SHOULD KNOW If 15-20 minute walks are not something you want to do daily, do some research before you book and ensure your room location is as convenient as you can make it. The main dining area is in The Carriage House, at the center of the resort. Your room could be 20 minutes away.
The bathroom in the studio contains a bath/shower combination with handy grab bar, plenty of towels and Disney's H2O bath amenities. The villa bathrooms also feature a whirlpool tub.
The large rotunda at the entrance to the resort contains multiple registration desks and the concierge desk, but little seating, other than an alcove containing pint-sized chairs and a TV playing Disney cartoons. Ample seats are found in a broad hallway that leads from the lobby to the dining area. Art on the walls offers views of the 19th-century horsey set in Saratoga, New York.
This vast resort contains five pools, two of which feature aquatic activities, and the rest are relaxing pools spread out among the resort's villages. High Rock Spring Pool features a zero-depth entry, which is great for the little ones, as is the Donald Duck play area. It also features a 128-foot-long slide, waterfalls and two whirlpool spas.The Paddock Pool features a 146-foot-long water slide, a zero-depth entry point and a whirlpool. Kids have a play area that contains two miniature water slides. Towels are provided, and lifeguards are on duty.
Senses is a particularly serene and beautiful spa, featuring cool green glass mosaic decor, luxurious linens on the massage tables, relaxation rooms where you can indulge in refreshing fruit-based drinks and simply indulge your need to chill. Treatments include a full range of massages, facials, body treatments and manicures, but no hair services. Look for the hidden Mickeys (hint: check the mosaics).
YOU SHOULD KNOW Bring a swim suit if you plan to use the steam room or sauna.
The generous fitness center has both cardio and weight training equipment.
The Artist's Palette, a casual eatery for breakfast, lunch and dinner, has light fixtures that resemble a Dale Chihuly art installation. The Turf Club Bar & Grill, adjacent to the Lake Buena Vista Golf Course, offers traditional steaks, prime rib and chops in a clubby atmosphere. Several pool grills offer casual, poolside dining all day.
The Turf Lounge, the Backstretch Pool Bar, and On The Rocks all offer full bar service.
The Lake Buena Vista Golf Course offers classic country club play, and has been home to USGA events, along with the PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour. The course is certified by Audubon as a wildlife sanctuary.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The course reserves the right to group players into foursomes, in order to ensure a consistent pace of play.
Disney transportation to and from this resort includes buses and water taxis. If waiting for buses is not on your favorites list, a car would be a great option, especially since parking is free at the resort and at the parks when you are a resort guest. Ride-sharing services are also a readily available option.
A few minutes by boat brings you to the dining and shopping extravaganza at Disney Springs. Restaurants include the three-story PaddleFish, a modern-day paddleboat, where seafood is king and the outdoor rooftop terrace offers striking views of the lagoon and the entertainment at the Springs. Nearby you’ll find Raglan Road, an authentic Irish Pub, featuring refined Irish fare and lots of music and dancing; Morimoto’s Asia, an Asian Fusion eatery owned by, and often visited by, famed Japanese chef, Morimoto; and Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ restaurant, showcasing local, Southern food.
Disney Springs (5-minute boat ride) offers dozens of places to lift a glass. The rooftop bar at Morimoto's Asia offers high-end sake; Raglan Road's Irish pub pours a mean Guinness; wine connoisseurs can head to Wine Bar George, where a master sommelier dispenses a wide range of domestic and imported wines; and House of Blues is the spot for beer.
WHY WE LIKE IT
This resort is spread over 16 acres, making it a relatively peaceful, quiet place to stay, and a nice place to recharge after the them parks. The accommodations are roomy enough for a family to enjoy the comforts, and privacy of home, the on-property food options are varied, and best of all, it's only a few minutes by boat to Disney Springs, where you can eat, drink, bowl, watch movies, and listen to music.