Saratoga Springs: Disney vs. Reality

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa is the seventh and—eventually—the largest of the Disney Vacation Club resorts. According to Disney press releases, the resort “recaptures the heyday of upstate New York country retreats in the late 1800s.” One August morning, armed with a camera and an impatient almost-6-year-old, I took a half-hour drive into the real Saratoga Springs in New York, to see what I could find, and how it might be mirrored at the Disney resort.

Now I have to admit that, due to said impatient boy, I was not able to visit all of the sites that I would have liked to, but I hope that I'll give enough of a comparison to see where some of the architectural details came from. That said, let's start on Broadway in Saratoga Springs. It's the main thoroughfare through the city center, and one of the street names borrowed for the Disney resort.

In this first photo, the Adelphia Hotel (center) displays some of the columns and Victorian gingerbread touches that were brought to the Disney resort. Another notable characteristic in the photo include the color of the building to the right, which appears on many downtown buildings, and is a close match to the color of the Carriage House in Florida. One other interesting point is to note the curves echoed in the tops of the windows, the top of the building at left, and the tops of the areas between the columns on the Adelphia.

The Adelphia hotel on Broadway in Saratoga Springs, New York, has several features that are echoed at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Just south of the Adelphia along Broadway is the entrance to historic Congress Park, namesake of the first group of buildings containing guest rooms.

Historic Congress Park in Saratoga Springs, NY gives its name to the first completed section of Disney's resort. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Within the park, you can see more influences. Next to the Casino building sits a fountain that has a virtual replica at the overlook facing Downtown Disney.

This fountain in Congress Park is recreated in Florida. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The recreation of the fountain overlooks a view of Downtown Disney. Photo by Sue Holland.

The building containing the Congress Park Carousel (formerly the Kaydeross Park Carousel from 1910-1987) has a faceted, round shape recalled in the octagonal shape of the Carriage House building.

This building hosts the Congress Park Carousel. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The red building behind the High Rock Spring pool is the Carriage House. Note that the color matches that of the building adjacent to the Adelphia Hotel. Photo by Brian Bennett.

Inside Disney's Carriage House lobby sits a carousel horse carving that duplicates and enhances the design of the lead horse of the Congress Park Carousel.

The carousel horse inside the Carriage House recalls the lead horse of the Congress Park Carousel. Photo by Brian Bennett.

The restoration of the Congress Park Carousel was completed in 2002 after the closing of Kaydeross Park, where the antique wood carousel had run from 1910-1987. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

By this time, despite a ride on the carousel, the impatient boy was reaching his limits. We quickly took a walk along the back side of the park, looking at the houses along Circular Way. Here, we hit the jackpot for building designs similar to the resort buildings.

This house across Circular Street from Congress Park features columns, windows with rounded tops and a square tower. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

This house across Circular Street from Congress Park features a square tower with vertical windows, echoed at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The Batcheller Mansion was specifically cited as an inspiration by Saratoga Springs native Kevin Cummings, Development Manager for Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Of course, the resort buildings are much larger.

This building in the Congress Park section of Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort echoes a number of features previously mentioned, including a square tower with vertical windows, columns and arches. Photo by Brian Bennett.

On our way back through the park to our car, we spotted this “birdhouse” that had a security camera mounted inside, which seems similar in camouflage design to the “birdhouse” lighting at the High Rock Spring pool at the Saratoga Springs Resort.

This “birdhouse” actually hides a security camera. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The “birdhouses” at the High Rock Spring pool actually hold high-intensity lighting for night-time swimming. The Carriage House is at the rear center. Photo by Brian Bennett.

Speaking of the pool, it was supposedly based on springs at Saratoga State Park, which I was unable to convince the boy to search for. However, I did convince him to stop at the real High Rock Spring, whose supposed healing powers were the cause of the original settlement at Saratoga Springs. As you can see, the real High Rock Spring is nothing like the Disney version.

This small building is the location of the actual High Rock Spring. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The actual High Rock Spring is a small mound that gives forth water when the water table is high enough. It was dry the day that we visited. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

By that point, the boy was done and we had to go on to other entertainment, so we missed several other locations in Saratoga Springs that were inspirations for the Disney resort. The springs at Saratoga Spa State Park, the famed horse racing track, and the Yaddo artists' retreat will have to wait for another visit. However, there are enough echoes to see that the new Disney Vacation Club resort is at least reasonably based upon its namesake in upstate New York.

In addition, some of the merchandise sold at the new resort is the real stuff from New York. Saratoga bottled water, Saratoga Salsa, Sundaes Best Hot Fudge Sauce, and the famed Peppermint Pig from Saratoga Sweets. So if you're looking for a Disney-inspiring experience in upstate New York, stop by Saratoga Springs and have a look around.