Pools & Recreation at the Home Away From Home Resorts
There's lots to do without stepping foot in the parks
Friday, December 17, 2004
By Sue Holland , staff writer
The final class of Disney resorts is called Home Away From
Home. This group includes the Fort Wilderness Cabins, Old Key West, Villas
at Wilderness Lodge, Boardwalk Villas, Saratoga Springs and Beach Club
Villas. All but Fort Wilderness are Disney Vacation Club (DVC) resorts,
which are as luxurious as the deluxe resorts but with even
more space and in-room amenities.
A key feature of a resort in this class is a kitchenguests have
the ability to cook meals in their Home Away From Home, and most also
have individual laundry rooms. Accommodations can be as large as 2,400
square feet, which is a far cry from the 260 square foot rooms found in
the value resorts.
Because the Home Away From Home sections of Boardwalk, Beach Club and
Wilderness Lodge share pools and recreation with the original resorts
by those names, this article focuses primarily on Old Key West, Fort Wilderness
and Saratoga Springs.
Turtle Pond pool at Disney's Old Key West Resort.
Disney's Old Key West Resort is the original DVC resort, which opened
in 1992. Currently, the resort's main pool area is undergoing a refurbishment
to include the addition of a water slide. From a distance, the slide appears
it will be similar to the slides at the Grand Floridian and Polynesian
main pools. During this construction period guests at the resort have
three quiet pools to choose from. The Turtle Pond pool is the only quiet
pool with a snack bar and video arcade, and as such tends to be the most
popular of the three. All of the pools here have laundry facilities, a
picnic area and a sandy playground for the children. Lifeguards have never
worked at Old Key West, although once the slide is open at the main pool
lifeguards will be on duty.
Main pool at Disney's Old Key West Resort, before addition of water slide.
Guests at Old Key West have a wide variety of recreation options available
to them. The DVC resorts have a high number of repeat guests, who may
be more likely to spend time at the resort rather than spending most waking
hours in the theme parks. Most DVC resorts have a community hall, where
activities may be scheduled several times daily. The updates for existing
and potential members are held here, and each community hall has an assortment
of games available for complimentary use by members. A schedule of activities
for the week can be picked up at the front desk or at Hank's Rent and
Return near the main pool area.
Picnic pavilion at an Old Key West pool.
For some, a family picnic by the pool might be all the recreation desired.
Each pool has a set of picnic tables and charcoal grills available for
use by guests. The Turtle Pond and main pool areas would be especially
convenient, since any forgotten food or beverage items might be available
for purchase from those snack bars. The picnic areas are not heavily used,
so availability is generally excellent.
Old Key West has a fairly small fitness center with quite a lot of Life
Fitness exercise equipment. Massages are available by appointment, although
for more extensive spa treatments it will be necessary to go elsewhere.
Bicycles and surrey bikes are available for rent by the hour and the half-hour,
and the sidewalks within the resort are wide enough for both pedestrians
and surrey bike riders. People who prefer to move about on the water will
find a variety of boats available for rent. Boats can be driven to the
Downtown Disney area or up to the Port Orleans Resort area. Boats cannot
be docked at either of those places, however.
Playground at an Old Key West pool.
If recreation means running around in the fresh air (or Florida heat,
depending on the time of year), Old Key West has a number of options.
Young children can play safely on one of four playgrounds, each of which
includes a large sandy area for building castles or other beach fun. A
volleyball court is located near the main pool, as well as a basketball
court. Lighted tennis courts can be found at the main pool area and also
along Turtle Pond Road Ð equipment is available from Hank's Rent and Return.
Community hall at Boardwalk Villas Resort.
At the Boardwalk, their community hall has free video and arcade games,
which is a big hit with children and their parents. It is located right
next to the quiet pool, and is also the home to movie rentals and other
sports equipment. Tennis courts are nearby, as is the large themed pool
Quiet pool at Boardwalk Villas Resort.
The newest Disney Vacation Club is Disney's Saratoga Springs Resortopen
since May of 2004 but not expected to be completely built until at least
2006. There are many similarities between this resort and Old Key West.
They are both located in the Downtown Disney area and both are completely
freestanding DVC resorts rather than being additions to a non-DVC resort.
Saratoga Springs will be the largest DVC resort when it's finished. Guests
stay in a number of buildings located around the property, with the common
areas located at the center of the resort but separate from the lodging.
Main pool at Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa.
Currently the main pool and one quiet pool are open, with more planned
as additional buildings get completed. The main pool is large and free
form, including a zero-entry section where guests can walk into the water
as if it was a beach rather than climbing down stairs. A water slide winds
through the rocks near a waterfall, and there are plenty of comfortable
chaise lounge chairs around the expansive deck. A pool bar (On the Rocks)
nearby sells tropical drinks, and there is a water play area for young
children. This area has statues of Disney characters and fountains that
shoot up from the ground similar to what is seen at the Marketplace and
on the way to World Showcase at Epcot.
The more secluded spa at Saratoga Springs.
People who like to soak in a Jacuzzi-type spa have a couple to choose
from here. The more secluded one is located on the other side of the rocks
containing the water slide. There is another one out in the open next
to the main pool. Nearby is the Saratoga Springs Spa, which is one of
the largest on property and home to a wide assortment of spa treatments,
as well as a large fitness center. Inside the main building there is a
quiet lounge called the Turf Club, which contains a pool table. Beverages
and snacks can be purchased, and there are televisions tuned to whatever
sporting events are taking place that day. It is an upscale yet comfortable
roomnot like a sports bar. Just like at Old Key West, bicycles and
surrey bikes are available for rent and there is a community hall.
Larger of the two pools at Fort Wilderness.
At Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground there are two swimming
pools, both of which are quite ordinary. For whatever reason, Disney chose
to not theme these pools, unless simplicity was the theme
they had in mind! They are fairly large and are still a welcome break
on a warm afternoon, but there are no water slides found here. Numerous
playgrounds can be found scattered throughout the campground, and there
are miles of paved paths great for riding bicycles. Riding on the road
can be a challenge due to the Disney bus traffic. Golf carts can be brought
from home or rented here, and are a popular way to get around within the
Petting farm at Fort Wilderness.
One of the more unusual recreational offerings is a petting farm full
of friendly animals. Pony rides are available for young children, while
older people (age 9 and up) can book a 45-minute trail ride on one of
Disney's many horses. There is a small white-sand beach, a nature trail,
and a full marina with a variety of boats available to rent. Fort Wilderness
could easily be a vacation destination without ever entering any of the
theme parks due to all of the recreation available.
Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Sue here.
Sue has been hooked on Walt Disney World since
her first visit in 1972 with her parents and younger brother. She kept returning
more frequently until she moved to Florida in 1986.
After joining the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) in
1997, she now visits almost monthly. She also spends time at
the DVC's non-WDW locations, and is experienced with the Disney cruise ships.
She takes many of these trips on her own, but
she's also toured WDW with large groups of people, including families, the elderly,
and people with disabilities.
She works as the Administrative Services Division Head
for a large residential facility administered by the Florida Department of Children
and Families. She currently resides in Southwest Florida with her teenage son.
Sue is one of our most prolific trip report writers.
Read her trip report archive here.
You can contact Sue here.
Get the latest info about the resort at Park
Update: Walt Disney World.