9 Top Reasons To Visit Saratoga Springs: Explore and Relax in Upstate New York

Vintage Illustration of Saratoga Springs ca 1876

Most people associate Saratoga Springs with its legendary racetrack, but this charming city in Upstate New York offers something for every type of traveler.

From natural mineral springs to historical landmarks, here are nine compelling reasons to plan your next getaway to  Saratoga Springs: 

1)  Immerse Yourself in Nature

Entrance to sprawling Saratoga Spa State Park
Entrance to sprawling Saratoga Spa State Park

The 2,379-acre Saratoga Spa State Park, a National Historic Landmark, is a haven for nature lovers.

The park boasts 13 mineral springs, exquisite buildings with classical architecture, extensive walking, jogging, and cycling trails, and two golf courses. 

Passerby filling his jug with mineral water at the Saratoga Spa State Park
Passerby filling his jug with mineral water at the Saratoga Spa State Park

Open all year, visitors can enjoy seasonal activities like swimming in one of its two pools during summer and cross-country skiing, ice skating, and ice hockey in winter. It’s hard to decide when the park is more beautiful, with the leaves changing in autumn and flowers blooming in spring. 

Additional amenities in this Upstate New York park include tennis courts, playgrounds, and picnic areas. The park is also home to the Roosevelt Baths, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the Saratoga Automobile Museum, and the historic, four-star Gideon Putnam Hotel, with 124 rooms for overnight or longer-stay guests.

Gideon Putnam Hotel, Saratoga Springs' first hotel opened in 1935
Gideon Putnam Hotel, Saratoga Springs’ first hotel opened in 1935

Congress Park is located downtown with its beautiful ponds, mineral springs, and historic carousel. Guests can also take to the water and swim in Saratoga Lake at Brown’s Beach or kayak on local lakes, rivers, and streams.

2)  Relax and Rejuvenate

Entry to the Roosevelt Baths at Saratoga Springs Spa State Park
Entry to the Roosevelt Baths at Saratoga Springs Spa State Park

Experience the soothing benefits of the natural mineral waters at the Roosevelt Baths at Saratoga Spa State Park. Established in the mid-1800s, the 42 original treatment rooms still have the same deep tubs used by the rich and famous of the time. 

Although the tiled rooms look a bit institutional by modern spa standards, the privacy of the bath with just you and a flickering candle is extremely relaxing and left me feeling energized afterward. The spa offers a complete menu of services, including massages and facials.

One of the 42 original treatment rooms at the Roosevelt Baths
One of the 42 original treatment rooms at the Roosevelt Baths
A peek inside my tub at the Roosevelt Baths; notice muddy color of buoyant mineral waters
A peek inside my tub at the Roosevelt Baths; notice muddy color of buoyant mineral waters

In the 1940s, spa-goers believed the “healing bubbles” could cure or prevent skin, heart, arthritic, and digestive disorders, and a three-week stay was the norm. When the mineral baths first opened, a private bath cost $1.25; now, it is reasonably priced at $59 for 40 minutes.

3)  Experience the Thrill of Thoroughbred Races and Gaming

One of three entrances to the historic Saratoga Race Course
One of three entrances to the historic Saratoga Race Course

From July to September, the Saratoga Race Track is the place to be for horse racing enthusiasts. This Victorian-style track, hosting races since 1863, is known for its vibrant atmosphere and thrilling races. 

The final leg of the Triple Crown was held at Saratoga on June 8th, 2024 and will be held there next year  (2025) while its usual venue, Belmont Park, undergoes a massive renovation. Tickets to the 2024 race were sold out the same day they went on sale.

Whether you are a first-timer or a seasoned fan, the excitement at the track is palpable. The formal dress code is “neat casual,” but don’t be surprised if you see women wearing fanciful hats that turn heads (some purchased from the hat store downtown). 

Devotees of the sport will also want to visit the multimedia National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, conveniently located on Union Street across from the track. Its front lawn is lined with politically correct white-faced jockey statues. The museum’s collection of more than 29,000 objects and artifacts, including films, statues, photography, paintings, and jockey racing attire, make the history of horse racing come alive.

Life-sized replica of Jockey on horse at museum; notice the diminuitive size of the jockey
Jockey on a horse at the museum; notice his diminutive size in relation to the horse

For gaming enthusiasts, the Saratoga Casino Hotel offers 1,200 slot machines and wagering on live horse races nationwide. 

Whether at the track of the casino, it’s hard to resist placing a bet. After all, who doesn’t dream about coming home a winner?

4)  Discover a Foodie Paradise

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes at Sweet Mimi's
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes at Sweet Mimi’s Cafe and Bakery

Saratoga Springs is a culinary delight with a wide range of outstanding eateries. One very popular spot is Sweet Mimi’s Cafe and Bakery, where lines form outside the door to taste Chef Jeanette Liebers’ award-winning Lemon Ricotta Pancakes.

Whenever our friends pass through this area, they pivot to 15 Church Restaurant. Set in a historic restored building downtown, it’s famous for its dry-aged beef and seafood, which is flown in fresh daily. The restaurant has a five-star rating on Open Table and is ranked #1 of the 239 restaurants in Saratoga Springs.

The historic Saratoga Arms Hotel on Broadway offers multi-course gourmet pop-up dinners paired with fine wines and spirits. 

Although the topic is hotly debated, the first kettle potato chip, Saratoga Chips, was created here in 1853 by George Crum, a city native. The chips are sold throughout New York State but taste better in their “terroir,” especially when paired with Saratoga water (a fierce competitor of imported waters).

We bet you can’t eat just one!

Saratoga Water and Saratoga Chips: The Perfect Pairing
Saratoga Water and Saratoga Chips: The Perfect Pairing

5)  Shop on Broadway

Shops on Broadway in Saratoga Springs in Upstate New York
Shops on Broadway in Saratoga Springs

Broadway, Saratoga Springs’ “main street,” is a shopper’s paradise. The walkable downtown area, lined with mature trees and historic buildings, has an old-time feel and offers a mix of independent boutiques, quality clothing stores, galleries, and themed shops (with precious and costume jewelry, paintings, books, memorabilia, and more) for horse and racing enthusiasts.

Lifestyles of Saratoga Entryway decorate for the Belmont Stakes
Lifestyles of Saratoga Entryway decorate for the Belmont Stakes

The Saratoga Marketplace, a bi-level mall, features bespoke gifts, books, housewares, wines, and chocolates. Several chain stores, such as Athleta, Chico’s, and Overland Sheepskin Company, are also popping up.

Don’t miss Lifestyles of Saratoga, a tastefully curated store with women’s apparel that made a splash with its entryway during the Belmont Stakes.

6)  Imagine Yourself Behind The Wheel

Vintage car at Saratoga Automobile Museum
Vintage car at Saratoga Automobile Museum

The Saratoga Automobile Museum, located in a historic building in the state park that once housed the NYS Bottling Plant, opened in 2002. 

The spacious, two-story museum features permanent and temporary exhibits, including paintings, artifacts, and vintage cars. 

When we visited, we saw the “Enzo Ferrari: An Obsession with Speed” exhibit, which featured a rare selection of Ferraris.

Swoon-worthy Ferrari at Saratoga Automobile Museum
Swoon-worthy Ferrari at Saratoga Automobile Museum

The show (which runs through October 2024) is timely, given the recent release of the Ferrari biopic in theaters. Although the exhibit is smaller than at the Museum Enzo Ferrari in Modena, Italy, seeing these exotic race cars up close is eye-popping. Docents are available to provide insights and take photographs!

7)  Step Back in Time

Surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga (Painting by General Horatio Gates; credit: NPS)
Surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga (Painting by General Horatio Gates; credit: NPS)

A short drive from downtown is the family-friendly, 3,200-acre Saratoga National Historical Park, operated by the National Park Service. This site is where the Battles of Saratoga were fought in 1777, marking the first surrender of the British Army during the Revolutionary War.

After a stop at the Visitors Center, you can explore the battlefield, follow the half-mile trail in Victory Woods (by foot or bicycle), see the final encampment site of the British army, climb the 155-foot stone obelisk commemorating the American Victory, visit restored homes (such as the Philip Schuyler house and important monuments in the park), and attend special events and demonstrations that educate and inspire.

Between April and November, visitors can take a 30-minute self-guided driving tour of the Battlefield that takes between 1.5 and 2 hours, with interpretive stops along the way. The expansive grounds offer lectures and other educational opportunities with knowledgeable docents, special events, and plenty of space in a natural setting for peaceful contemplation.

Saratoga Springs boasts more than 1000 exquisite buildings listed on the National Historic Register. 

Town Hall in Saratoga Springs
Town Hall in Saratoga Springs
Wrap-around front porch of the Saratoga Arms Hotel on Broadway
Wrap-around front porch of the Saratoga Arms Hotel on Broadway

8)  Indulge Your Love of Arts and Culture

Saratoga Performing Arts Center (credit: Ironglass Productions)
Saratoga Performing Arts Center (credit: Ironglass Productions)

In addition to being the summer home of the New York City Ballet and The Philadelphia Orchestra, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) on the grounds of the state park offers a year-round calendar of world-class musical concerts, dance performances, and other entertainment events.

The diverse summer calendar includes jazz, pop, country, and comedy, all performed in a theater set in a lush outdoor setting.

 9)  Enjoy An Old-Fashioned Road Trip

National Automobile Museum
National Automobile Museum

Saratoga Springs is accessible via Albany International Airport (about 30 miles south) or nearby Saratoga County Airport. Amtrak also provides daily service to Saratoga from several major cities.

However, we recommend a relaxing road trip through the scenic countryside. Travel slowly, explore the rural landscapes, visit local farms, and be sure stop at one of many family-owned Stewart’s Shops to taste their delicious ice cream made with milk from local dairy farms.

Rural landscaper in Stottville, NY, across the street from Stewart's
Rural landscaper in Stottville, NY, across the street from Stewart’s

Where to Stay in Saratoga Springs

 

Roses in bloom in front of the Adelphi Hotel on Broadway
Roses in bloom in front of the Adelphi Hotel on Broadway

Whether for a romantic couples weekend or girlfriend getaway, Saratoga Springs offers many interesting accommodations, including country inns, bed and breakfasts, full-service resorts, retro-style motels, and an upscale Holiday Inn. The Adelphi Hotel and Saratoga Arms Hotel are two notable properties right on Broadway. Here are just two noteworthy suggestions:

Saratoga Arms Hotel

Built in 1870, the four-diamond Saratoga Arms Hotel is a beautifully restored 31-room property. It couples modern amenities and bespoke service with the ambiance of a boutique inn. Beyond the inviting front porch are parlors and lounges with turn-of-the-century period furnishings, and original fireplaces, moldings and plasterwork, and chandeliers. Guest rooms are impeccably up-to-date, spacious, and well-appointed. The hotel is managed by the mother-daughter team of Saratoga natives Kathleen and Amy Smith, who transformed a deteriorated rooming house to its present glory. 

The Adelphi Hotel

The Adelphi Hotel, once a drawing room for Saratoga society, opened its doors in 1877. The 65-room property was renovated in the 1970s after lying vacant for five years. However, as just one example of a town steeped in history continually reimagining itself, the owners are now marketing modern branded residences not far from the hotel.

Gideon Putnam Hotel

The four-star Gideon Putnam Hotel is located on the bucolic grounds of the Saratoga State Park. The relaxing mineral water baths are just a short walk or golf cart ride from the property.

IF YOU GO

For additional information, see: VisitSaratoga

 


All photo credits: Jerome Levine, unless otherwise noted.


Disclosure: We were guests of Discover Saratoga, also known as the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau, but any opinions expressed in this post are our own.


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