Less than an hour away from the famed and well-known New York City lies one of the best places to live in New York State, Saratoga Springs; a tiny yet full of life picturesque city in the northern part of Albany. The town’s history goes back to the 17th century when English colonists who played a vital role in the Revolutionary War settled in the area. Today, Saratoga Springs is famous for horse racing, renowned healing springs, and pristine nature. Hence, it’s no wonder Saratoga Springs has always attracted famous artists and writers. But you don’t need to be a novelist or painter to be mesmerized by everything Saratoga has to offer.
Even though the state of New York is home to some stunning destinations like the Hamptons, Niagara Falls, and Long Island, it’s still hard to find a place that resembles the backstretch of Saratoga on a midsummer morning where the mist slowly rises above the lush forests of Saratoga State Park. It’s a town enriched by health, racing, gambling and history that’s waiting to be explored. If this sounds like a place you’d like to visit, here are the best things to do in Saratoga Springs.
Saratoga Race Track
Saratoga Springs possesses an excellent setting for thoroughbred racing. In fact, the Saratoga Race Track was even named as one of the greatest sporting venues by Sports Illustrator. The environment at the race track is full of zeal – big-time races, high stakes, champions, and grief – it’s all a part of the fun and fare that one experiences at the track. The grandstand comes alive every summer with an unmatched ambiance brimming with enthusiastic fans cheering as the race kicks-off. After the race is complete, the atmosphere exudes of good old Saratoga charm where you can sip on some wine and enjoy the company of the locals.
You don’t have to be a horse fanatic to enjoy at the race track – it’s a unique experience nevertheless. Stroll around the grounds, watch the horses and jockeys prepping for the race, visit the spring water fountain called red spring, chat with the locals, enjoy local wine, and much, much more!
Visit the famous Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC)
Surrounded by verdant greenery, natural mineral springs, geysers, and hiking trails, SPAC (Saratoga Performing Arts Center) has a unique and breath-taking setting which significantly enhances the experience of the audience. It’s considered to be one of the most prestigious centers in America. Throughout the summer you’ll be mesmerized by over 80 different genres of performances by the Philadelphia Orchestra, the New York City Ballet, Lake George Opera, Saratoga Chamber Music Festival, Freihofer’s Jazz Festival, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and many more concerts and events.
The magic of SPAC is indescribable in mere words and one needs to experience it first-hand to know its value. The wide array of programs and enticing options offer guests of all ages and artistic taste an immersive cultural experience. A visit to Saratoga Performing Arts Center is more than just a performance; it’s your chance to make heart-warming lifelong memories. For those interested, you can see upcoming events here. Apart from the amphitheater, there’s a lawn area which is very popular among locals. You can unwind here and set up a picnic with blankets and chairs and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. At night you can even catch a sky full of stars if a romantic setting is what you’re looking for!
Exploring the shops and restaurants in Broadway
When one thinks of the spa city, the first image that pops up is most probably Broadway! Often referred to as ‘downtown,’ this neighborhood doesn’t have any Broadway shows like its more famous counterpart but it’s the major street in the city which houses several businesses and stores. Once, Broadway was a Historic District, The Broadway Historic District comprised on northern and southern sections. The north part has some stunning Victorian homes and was a residential neighborhood. The southern part, on the other hand, is home to the commercial side, consisting of private buildings and businesses. If you’re looking for some exciting things to do in Saratoga Springs, Broadway should be your first stop.
This Victorian-era main street which was once dominated by Beaux-Arts architecture and Colonial Revival. However, today, it’s the primary thoroughfare with many art galleries, boutiques, museums, dance halls, and restaurants in Saratoga Springs NY. Whether you want to shop at the famous Hat National or the Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company or grab a drink at the many pubs and bars like Boca Bistro, The Wine Bar or Druthers Brewery Company or unwind at one of the restaurants, you can do it all in Broadway. The lovely boutiques, quaint shops that cozily lie amidst the delightful eateries and cafes make this a charming and unique place to spend some time. Sometimes, you might even feel like these picture-perfect streets resemble an iconic avenue in Paris.
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Saratoga Spa State Park
Recorded as a National Historic Landmark and known for its classic architecture, diverse cultural, recreational and aesthetic resources, Saratoga Spa State Park is one of the most beautiful places in the state of New York. At just a short distance from downtown, on the premises of the park, you can find several attractions like the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Roosevelt Baths and Spa, the National Museum of Dance, the Spa Little Theater, The Peerless Pool Complex, and The Historic Victoria Pool. And there’s more – the Saratoga Automobile Museum, Saratoga Spa State Park Golf Course, The Creekside Classroom and the Gideon Putnam Resort. As you can see, there are a lot of recreational and educational activities you can indulge in during your visit to this park.
Additionally, the terrain is gentle with shady streamside trails that are perfect for a casual walk, nature lovers and picnics. There are also paths for joggers and runners. During winters, visitors can also try their hand at ice hockey or ice skating. Housing so many popular attractions, your trip to Saratoga will be incomplete without visiting this park. The convenience and tranquility of the park make it the perfect setting for just about anything; from picnics to frisbee golf to swimming to golfing to visiting the spring, to walking, biking, and the renowned museum, there’s plenty to do here for every member of the family. For details on trails, what to do and where to go, ask for a map at the park office.
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Located in the heart of Saratoga Springs, Congress Park is another beautiful natural park in Saratoga Springs. The designer of Congress Park was Frederick Law Olmsted; the same person responsible for the design of Manhattan’s Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. He was a great landscape artist who knew how to create a nature bang in the center of a city. It’s a 32-acre park between Broadway, Circular and Spring streets which offers a calm and quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle around it.
You can call time out and do nothing for a while or just spend time amidst nature. The Broadway entrance will greet you with grassy hilltops and colorful flower beds which overlook the rest of the park. From here you can head to The Spirit of Life statue, which is now shiner and has water gushing out which reflects into a fountain. The Civil War Memorial lies towards the south of the Spirit of Life, dedicated to the 77th New York Infantry. Supposedly, it’s the only Civil War regimental monument which is not situated on a battlefield. Close by there is a Duck Pond which is where the Spring Run Brook commences. This pond is also home to hundreds of ducks and a great place for people that like birdwatching.
Visiting Saratoga Congress Park
Another eye-catching site in the park is the big Greek revival pavilion and the Congress Spring. The water from this spring was once bottled and sold across the United States. Today, you can try it for free. Past the pond with a fountain, at the southern end, you’ll find a Katrina Trask Memorial Stairway; a 100-year old gateway that connects the park to Broadway. Talking about historic monuments, we can’t forget to mention arguably the most famous one in Congress Park; the Saratoga History Museum. The museum is located on the second floor of the Canfield Casino. Once upon a time when Richard Canfield ran it, this casino was the main gambling hub in the region. Today, the building is one of the most important historic monuments of Saratoga Springs.
Finally, if you want to get away from the crowds, head to the meadow near the Union Avenue entrance. With the rest of the park always filled with crowds, this empty patch of grass is very inviting. Down the hill on Spring Street, you’ll find the Italian Gardens which also feature a reflecting pool and the statues of Pan and Maenads.
Talking about things to do in Saratoga Springs, we can’t forget to mention some of its most famous museums. Saratoga’s museums aren’t worldwide famous and fortunately, we don’t have to develop entire articles on hacks for a speedy Louvre entrance (or some other famous museum). If visiting a famous museum is what you want, the Metropolitan Museum of Art isn’t too far and you can find more about their current exhibitions on the official website. Anyway, if you’re asking me, you should focus on the local museums, as the city has an impressive history.
Today, you can discover everything you need to know about Saratoga‘s past of art, racing, and history through the many museums. Some of the most interesting ones are Saratoga Automobile Museum, National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame, National Museum of Dance & Hall of Fame, Saratoga Springs History Museum, The Children’s Museum at Saratoga, NYS Military Museum, and The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery. Whether you’re an automobile fanatic, lover of thoroughbred racing or dance enthusiast, there’s plenty to explore and unveil.
Although occupying an inconsequential part of New York State and not in the limelight, Saratoga has all facets to make a lasting impression. Walk down the streets, through the parks, mingle with the locals and eat at one of the cafes and you will unveil the hidden gems of the small city of Saratoga. Yes, New York City has everything that dreams are made of, but once in a while, options like Saratoga are humbling and bring out a whole new feeling.
So, if you are down for experiencing something outside of city life, hop on over to Saratoga Springs. It’s the perfect spot for couples, friends, singles, and families alike and offers everyone a little something. Just remember, this little jewel packs a punch so after you’re gone, you will leave with a heart full of memories which will be etched in your mind forever.
Finally, did you like this list of things to do in Saratoga Springs? Did you ever visit Saratoga? If no, did this article make you want to visit? What was your favorite thing about Saratoga? Let me know in the comments!
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