Saratoga Springs, New York, has been likened in the past to a summer resort, and it has been on my radar for a long time.
Friends and coworkers would rave about the beautiful main street and the bubbling town springs, but with little or no time, Saratoga continued to be unchecked from my bucket list. It finally happened, and boy oh boy, I was completely blown away.
It might have taken me a long time to get here, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself exploring the fabulous parks, indulging in delicious food and soaking in the joie de vivre of the city.
Saratoga Springs is no doubt a summer destination where the local population nearly doubles from the month of July through to Labor Day. This is also when the tracks open. I traveled during fall and personally fell in love with the crisp and cool air, the color-changing leaves, and the calm after the tourist storm. I found that Saratoga visibly slowed down in fall, exuding a quiet elegance and an aura of health.
This is my guide to a charmingly perfect Saratoga weekend getaway filled with things that attracts attention in Saratoga Springs.
Friday Evening in Saratoga Springs
As soon as I arrived at Saratoga, my stomach began to grumble at the thought of me chowing down on some lip-smacking food. You simply cannot beat al fresco dining in downtown Saratoga, and I headed straight to Chianti il Ristorante for some artisan pasta, homemade sausages, glasses of wine, and people lounging on the patio. If you are craving steaks, I heard that Salt & Char serves the best in town.
A stroll through the nearby Beekman Street beckoned to me after a rather heavy dinner, and I became entirely immersed in the artistic quality of the area. Boutiques, art galleries, studios, and other bohemian establishments will transport you to a time untold.
I was ready to make the most of my limited hours in Saratoga Springs, so I walked to Caroline Street just off Broadway, which is the epicenter of nightlife here. Bars and clubs galore, I stopped by Hamlet & Ghost with a hip crowd and a speakeasy vibe to sample one of their creative concoctions. And then the time finally came for me to call it a night.
As an early riser, I chose to grab breakfast at Triangle Diner in downtown Saratoga. As soon as I walked in, the strong smell of syrup had me drooling. Within the next few minutes, I had polished off a pancake the size of a plate. If you ask me, I did not regret it at all. It’s a typical diner with items on the menu like Eggs Benedict, waffles, sandwiches, and much more. I also ordered a side of homemade fries which were fried to a perfect golden-brown color with a satisfying crunch. If I had stepped in any later at the Diner, I would’ve had to wait in a long queue.
On the way to Congress Park, I stopped by the local farmer’s market that operates year-round where they sell local produce, cheese, spirits, wine, and artisan goods. How could I not buy some souvenirs for my friends and family back home?
Congress Park was at the top of my list of things to do in Saratoga Springs, and it very much lived up to all my expectations. It isn’t any surprise why it is so highly regarded amongst tourists and locals with its beautiful statues and lush gardens. I remembered to bring a water bottle to sample the famous public mineral springs.
I chose to visit the Saratoga Springs History Museum right at the center of Congress Park for a $5 fee, and I learned a great deal about how this racing city came to be.
I could not leave Saratoga without a visit to Cantina, and my lunch there consisted of modern Mexican delights such as cactus fries, a lobster burrito, and crispy duck sopes. I washed down all that food with a delicious margarita.
Thoroughbred racing is an old sport, and Saratoga is known for it, so I couldn’t pass up the chance to visit the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame to delve deep into this culture. Walking through, I had a chance to see racing memorabilia, trophies, jockey silks, and equine art. In the Hall of Fame, I saw great horses, trainers, and jockeys that included Seabiscuit, Janet Elliot, and William Shoemaker.
It was time to pump my system with coffee, and Caffé Lena was the place I chose. Much to my surprise, I got the chance to sit in on a live performance and learned that legends like Bob Dylan and Don McLean had performed on that very stage!
The day flew past, and I soon found myself at The Brook Tavern for dinner. The ambiance was upbeat and warm, and I was served innovative American cuisine made wholly from local produce and meat raised on nearby farms.
A Sunday at Saratoga Springs isn’t complete without brunch at Prime at Saratoga National. What I loved most about it was the live jazz element. The number of options from omelets, French toast, bacon, pasta, meats, and seafood left me feeling dizzy at its sight. A mimosa was mandatory to cheers to a great weekend.
I decided after brunch to explore the battlefield at Saratoga National Historical Park. I first explored the visitor center which was filled with many educational displays and artifacts that gave me a more in-depth insight into the Battle of Saratoga. I then took myself on a tour of the battlefield, while stopping and learning about all the exhibits.
After the battlefield, I decided to stop by Dock Brown’s, a lakeside tavern just by Saratoga Lake. A few snacks were in order like wings and salad before hitting the road back home.
More Fun Things to Do in Saratoga:
A weekend simply isn’t enough time to fully take everything that Saratoga has to offer, but if a weekend is all you have, then here are some more fun things you can add to your Saratoga Springs itinerary:
1. Spend the Night at SPAC
The magic of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center is undeniable, and the shows that I had the chance to watch were simply spectacular. The performances here highlight all musical genres you could possibly imagine, including classical, rock, pop, jazz, along with many others.
I had the privilege to watch the New York City Ballet live here during a visit, and it was a truly world-class performance. The Philadelphia Orchestra also performs here through the summer; unfortunately, I did not get a chance to see them. Sitting on the perfectly manicured lawns and snacking on a picnic basket while watching impressive artists perform was an exciting experience.
2. Wander Through Yaddo Gardens
I decided to visit Yaddo Gardens which is only a short distance away from downtown Saratoga. This garden is constructed in a European style with fountains, rose gardens, and even a rock garden. I spent a good one hour strolling through, completely lost in nature.
3. Spend a Morning at the Racetrack
The throbbing heart of Saratoga is the Saratoga Race Course, and I could not miss the opportunity to visit. Every summer, there are about six weeks where it hosts racing. I woke up very early in the morning, dressed in the appropriate attire, and headed to the tracks for a breakfast buffet on the clubhouse porch. I was so close to the horses that I could’ve leaned over and touched them. Being so close to the action was exhilarating, and I had found the perfect table just close enough to the action.
I am generally not a very lucky person, but nevertheless, I tried my luck at the races and came out poorer but wiser.
4. Visit the Actual Saratoga Springs
I knew Saratoga for two things, racing and springs. After visiting the races, I had to check out the mineral springs which dot its landscape. The springs are known for their restorative properties, and one can drink or bathe in them. I had heard that Saratoga Spa State Park was the place to go, and I felt that taking a tour would be the best thing to do. I saw nearly a dozen springs that flow through the park and learned that each of them is unique in their mineral content and no two taste the same. Some tasted fresh, while others did not have a very appealing taste.
The tour took us to visit the high iron Polaris and Tallulah, a spring that leaves a trace of colored minerals along the hill slope. An up-close-and-personal experience with the springs is the best way to get a real taste for it.
Saratoga Springs has it all, and there is always something to partake in throughout the year. I have outlined a few must-do activities in Saratoga, and now you can pick and choose what best suits your liking, including live music, arts, parks, local cuisine, etc. All that’s left to do is to create your own perfect weekend getaway to this awesome spa city!
This is a guest post by Kayla.