Saratoga Springs, NY

by Stephanie


Today’s Saratoga Springs City Guide comes to us from Beth Payer, longtime Saratoga resident, parent of two, and blogger at Olliebop, an upbeat resource for families with tweens and teens.  Beth moved to Saratoga Springs from Vermont in 1986 as a Skidmore College student, where she met her husband; known in the blogosphere as “Mr. BOP.” Beth enjoys photography, family games of badminton, and walks along Saratoga’s wooded trails with her yellow lab Ollie. Today she shares with us some of the many wonders of this charming New York town. Thanks, Beth, for this wonderful guide! —Stephanie

Read the full guide after the jump…

Having lived in Saratoga Springs, NY for all but three years since 1986, I’ve experienced the charms of this small city from a variety of vantage points — as a college student, a newly married 20-something, a parent of little ones, and now; a longtime resident who loves this place to pieces. This is one amazing town; a modern and vibrant little city with a Victorian-era vibe. Whether you’re looking for excitement, nostalgia, relaxation, art, culture, fine dining, or nature; it’s all here. The main reasons people flock to Saratoga:

Photos by Beth Payer

Art and Culture
Opportunities for visual and performing arts appreciation are abundant here. Prime venues such as the seasonal Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the historic Caffè Lena, and Skidmore College’s Arthur Zankel Music Center, offer a rich variety of traditional and current performances in music, theater, and dance throughout the year. Visual art flourishes in Saratoga too, seen in galleries along Broadway (downtown’s main street), the Beekman Street Arts District, and most prominently at Skidmore College’s Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery. For a more concentrated arts experience, visitors travel from near and far for the popular arts weekends and festivals like Saratoga ArtsFest and First Night Saratoga (a full listing of annual festivals follows). Saratoga is home to the must-see
National Museum of Dance as well. There’s a feeling here that art and creativity are valued; both for the artist and for those who enjoy the arts.

Communing with Nature
For hundreds of years, Saratoga Springs’ mineral waters have been thought by Native American people, and then residents and visitors, to have healing powers. Whether consumed, or enjoyed in a bath at the Roosevelt Baths within the Saratoga Spa State Park, the waters remain a focal point. There are 17 springs in all, and while some of them are pleasant to drink, others are more of a sensory “experience,” due to their high mineral content. The Saratoga Spa State Park is an idyllic spot for walking, biking, and picnicking. And for mountain bikers, the Saratoga Mountain Bike Association has leased a 500-acre parcel of land on the edge of town which has become the region’s hot spot for varied biking terrain (association membership is required).

Saratoga is synonymous with horses and thoroughbred racing, as the Saratoga Race Course is the oldest racetrack and sporting venue in the nation. As I write, the track is in the midst of celebrating its 150th Anniversary with a wide variety of special events in the spring and summer of 2013. The track is beautiful, and the horses who run there, stunning. Regardless of whether the idea of racing and betting on horses is appealing, a trip to the Saratoga Race Course offers a fun-filled step back in time, adorned with flowers and steeped in tradition. (More on the particulars of navigating the track are later in the guide, in the Union Avenue area neighborhood). Interested visitors should be sure to visit the nearby National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame for the well-told story of thoroughbred racing’s history and Saratoga’s key role in the sport. For an evening out I highly recommend picnicking at a Saratoga Polo match (traditionally Fridays and Sundays). When the sun is setting and the divots are flying, an outing to the polo field delivers Saratoga perfection.

The Scene
Saratoga has an energy that is fun to be a part of, and fascinating to watch. People from all walks of life come here to mingle, to dance, to dine, and to simply be out and about. The city’s “watering holes” close at 4 am, and the choices for nightlife are as varied as the people who come here. Especially in the summer, this is a people-watchers’ paradise.

More than 1,000 of Saratoga Springs’ buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places, and one can still imagine what it might have been like back in Victorian times. American Heritage Magazine honored Saratoga with the first “Great American Place” award, and the National Trust for Historic Places declared downtown a “Great American Mainstreet.” Learn more about Saratoga’s architecture by joining a 90-minute Summer Sunday Stroll offered by the Preservation Foundation. Or, take a self-guided tour through one of the historic parts of town, perhaps guided by the free iPhone app, Tour Through Time, which leads virtual walking tours of Broadway, Congress Park, and the East Side. The app was created by Saratoga Springs High School students, in honor of the Track’s 150th Anniversary.

Two primary areas of interest; the arts and horses, are front and center here in Saratoga through public art installations. The Saratoga Horses Style project started the trend in 2002 and 2007, when a total of 35 horses painted by artists were spread throughout the city. Some of those still remain, and now, the National Museum of Dance’s Saratoga En Point has scattered 24 five-foot tall pointe shoe sculptures throughout town. This is what I love about Saratoga; different worlds and interests play nicely together.

Upon arrival in Saratoga Springs, two stops for general information are the Visitor Center on the corner of Broadway and Congress Street and the information booth located diagonally across the street, in front of Congress Park. The staff at the booth is incredibly helpful. Another way to gain an overview: take a ride on an open air trolley through town for a looped tour of the city. And, check this general events calendar.

Now that I’ve given the general orientation to Saratoga Springs, next I’ll divide the city into neighborhoods. Please keep in mind, however, that Saratoga is easy to navigate and parts of town flow easily together. If something looks interesting in two different neighborhoods, do both! Walking Magazine was spot-on when declaring Saratoga as one of America’s “Most Walkable Cities.”

BROADWAY (The Heart of Downtown)
Here is a map of the following recommendations on Broadway.

To Do
Enjoy art. While on Broadway, discover new art in the following galleries:
The Arts Center Gallery
Spa Fine Art Gallery
Frankie Flores Studios
Also, watch for Tom Myott, who is known to paint outside of Saratoga Olive Oil Co. in the summer.

Treat yourself to some rejuvenation in the heart of town at Cascada Salon and Spa. A trusted friend recently raved about Cascada for a variety of relaxing treatments.

These are some of my personal favorites, but there are many unique shops along Broadway that are well worth a stop. Best strategy; walk up one side of Broadway and down the other to see what catches your eye.

On the east side of the street (in order from north to south):
Common Thread: A knitter’s happy place, with friendly staff and gorgeous yarn.
Violet’s and Stella’s: Women’s clothing and shoes. Everything from cocktail dresses to Frye boots, happily under one roof.
Saratoga Olive Oil Co.: An interactive shopping experience for the foodie. Taste a wide selection of infused and fused oils and vinegars from the place named one of the top five stores in the world for olive oil selection by Olive Oil Times.
Silverado: One of my favorite shops in Saratoga. They have gorgeous jewelry, something for every budget, and the friendliest staff.
Paper Dolls of Saratoga: A delightful shop filled with fine cards and stationery, wrapping papers, and gift items. For those who appreciate pretty things and lovely gestures.
Lifestyles: Upscale and upbeat women’s jewelry, clothing, and accessories. A go-to spot for fashion essentials.
Northshire Bookstore: Opening summer of 2013. I have to include this newcomer independent bookstore as a shopping highlight, although it remains under construction as I write. This “must” is based on my experience with the original Northshire in Manchester, VT, which is the best bookstore imaginable. The Saratoga shop will be the sister location, and its completion is eagerly anticipated.
Saratoga Salsa and Spice Company: The extensive array of salsa and spicy foods is joined by other Saratoga-related food products in one tasty location (think peanut butter, hot fudge…). It’s clean, the staff bends over backwards to help, and there are items to be tasted all over the store. A great spot to find Saratoga gift items to bring home.

The west side of the street (in order from south to north):
Mimosa: “Art for home and wear” is offered at this lovely location. Featuring the work of regional and national artists, Mimosa is a high-quality shopping destination for extra special gifts, art, and home goods.
G. Willikers: A classic toy store that celebrates the joy of play, and childhood. Need an idea for a new game or toy? The knowledgeable staff will steer you in the right direction.
Dawgdom: I don’t know how a store for dogs can feel funky and stylish, but this one does. Toys, treats, and unique products offered by people who truly love their canine friends.
Homessence: A small home goods store, with some refreshingly different products.
The National: Upscale and traditional men’s clothing for the guy who wants to look sharp and would spend some extra bucks for that special party shirt.

As with shopping, there are many phenomenal choices for food on Broadway. Below are my favorites:

Fine Dining
Boca Bistro: Operated by a seasoned Saratoga restaurateur, I list Boca as “fine” dining because this place is near-perfect. It’s so warm and comfortable, however, that I’d recommend Boca for either an impromptu meal or a dressed-for-dinner kind of night. The menu is heavily influenced by Spanish tapas, and the place feels festive and eclectic. If we’re feeling less “dinner-y” my husband and I meet at the luminous bar to share calamari, stuffed dates (Datiles Rellenos) and the Ensalada Queso De Cabra (Boston Bibb, toasted pine nuts, roasted shallots, fig, brûléed goat cheese and a quince vinaigrette). Vegan and gluten free options are noted on menu.
The Crown Grill: A newish restaurant in town, The Crown Grill is opulent and colorful, especially in the bar area. Self-described as “upscale casual,” this place is emerging as a front-runner among downtown restaurants, with fantastic food and attentive staff.
Maestro’s at the Van Dam: The grand porch of the former Rip Van Dam Hotel offers a unmatched overlook from which to soak in the Saratoga scene. It can be a challenge to snag a spot on the porch during the busy season, so consider arriving early or adding your name to the list and going for a walk. It will be worth it for the prime spot and good food. The bartenders and bar staff are exceptional, and complimentary hors d’oeuvres and frequent live music make the Maestro’s bar a great choice for drinks. During the colder months, consider layering the provided lap blankets and sitting in the outdoor “Arctic Lounge” surrounded by heat lamps and cozy fires. I have enjoyed several remarkable evenings in this way, sipping wine and enjoying hot soup, with snowflakes blanketing Broadway below.
Max London’s: A contemporary setting with farm-to-table menus for weekend brunch, lunch, dinner and happy hour/late night. Try Max’s gourmet wood fired pizzas, salads, and small plates.

Breakfast, Lunch, and Casual Fare
Druthers Brewing Company: A fantastic downtown open courtyard is the focal point here, where they serve house-brewed beer alongside locally sourced comfort foods. This is not so say that the food is traditional, however; as the kitchen likes to add their own creative twist to burgers, salads, and more.
Circus Cafe: A colorful and casual vintage circus-themed restaurant for all ages by day, with an active bar business by night (especially on open mic, karaoke, and trivia nights). The food is good, the staff is friendly, and there’s a separate gluten free menu. Kids will enjoy menus to color and popcorn served before the meal — and will surely try to convince the adults to order the gigantic cotton candy plate for dessert.
Cantina: Traditional and contemporary Mexican food served in a pleasant space in the center of town. The taco salad is yummy for lunch.
Putnam Market: The sisters who co-own Putnam Market have worked tirelessly to establish “the best food and wine store between Manhattan and Montreal.” Stop in for gourmet grocery items, deli sandwiches, homemade desserts, a tasting in the cheese room, or something to bring home for dinner. My favorite thing at Putnam Market is the buffet; where choices like curried chicken salad, pesto tortellini, and roasted vegetables are available by the pound. Pick up a bottle of wine next door and talk with William, the knowledgeable owner, or the equally helpful staff.
Comfort Kitchen: A tucked-away treat, Comfort Kitchen is in the lower level of the Downstreet Marketplace, all the way in the back. The emphasis here is on creatively-made comfort food from locally sourced and organic ingredients, ordered at the counter. Think gourmet burgers (meat and veggie), tacos, mac and cheese with pulled BBQ pork, salads, soups, fancy grilled cheeses, tater tots, and homemade pickles. Their prices are slightly higher than your average joint — but the food is superb. A few steps off the beaten path, with a simple dining area. Beer and wine is served, to add to one’s level of comfort.
Comptons: Classic, cheap, diner food for breakfast, lunch, or late night. A no-frills place where the food is decent, the service is quick, and the people are nice. Note: they only take cash. (No website. Phone: 518 584-9632)
Mrs. London’s: A bakery and café with exquisite pastries and croissants and an authentic European atmosphere. Plan to spend a few extra dollars for food that is expertly made. A treat for breakfast and for lunch, when soups, salads and paninis are served. Seating is somewhat limited, with inside and outside tables.

Coffee and Bagels
Uncommon Grounds: Saratoga’s busiest coffee shop serves fresh roasted coffee and bagels baked on site. Soups and salads make it a quick and easy lunch spot, as well. “Uncommon” has a lived-in feeling, with art on the walls, warm paint colors, hipster staff, comfortable armchairs, and outside seating too. A place to settle in with the paper in the heart of town
Saratoga Coffee Traders: Serving fair trade and organic coffee, as well as lunch food; wraps and such. And here’s a little secret to keep in your back pocket — there’s an old-fashioned candy store and comfy couch in the back of the shop.

Gelato and Frozen Yogurt
Plum Dandy: Where people in Saratoga socialize around frozen yogurt, board games, and a crazy number of toppings. The feeling here is fresh and lively, especially on a summer evening or right after school lets out. Yogurt is sold by the pound so beware; it can add up quickly (especially for unmonitored kids). Two tips to remedy this; ask to purchase a re-loadable rewards card and then pay with that card for a 20% discount on purchases of $5 or more. There are also extra discounts for college students, high school and middle school students (weekdays after school), teachers, and military personnel. (My kids and I go here often. Can you tell?)
Eugenio’s Cafe Gelato: Traditional Italian gelato made in a variety of delicious flavors in the heart of downtown. European-style espresso and cappuccino, as well as pastries and soups, served in an authentic feeling shop. Gluten free and dairy free served.

Broadway at night is bright, fun, and happy — yet, sophisticated. For an evening out or after-dinner drinks, I recommend the bars at these restaurants (all of which I also described above): Boca Bistro, Maestro’s, The Crown Grill, Druthers, Circus Cafe, Cantina, and Max London’s.

EAST OF BROADWAY (Congress Park and All Kinds of Fun)
Here is a map of the following recommendations within the East of Broadway neighborhood.

The eastern side of Broadway encompasses the side streets just a block or two from the heart of downtown, reaching from Congress Park on the south side to the Farmers’ Market heading north. There is so much fun to be had in this part of town! Although defined here as a distinct neighborhood, keep in mind that the east side and downtown/Broadway flow easily together.

To Do
Congress Park: An idyllic setting for strolling, picnicking, and soaking in the historic feel of Saratoga Springs. Each area of the park offers discoveries, such as sculptures (The Spirit of Life and the Spit and Spat fountain), fish and duck ponds, natural spring water pavilions, and the historic Canfield Casino. A printable walking map of park highlights is here or follow the walking tour on the free iPhone app mentioned earlier. The seasonal Carousel on the northern side of Congress Park attracts visitors throughout the summer, and Ben and Jerry’s is just across the street from the Carousel. Saratoga Springs History Museum is well worth a stop; in the center of the Park within the historic Canfield Casino. If you’d like to pick up some food to bring into the Park, I’d suggest the Bread Basket Bakery (they serve lunch, in addition to coffee and pastries) on the northwestern side near Spit and Spat, or the vegetarian buffet at Four Seasons Natural Foods, just past Ben and Jerry’s.
Saratoga Shakespeare Company: Free, professional outdoor theater in Congress Park is a must during the summer. Not always traditional Shakespeare, the productions at times have a contemporary or quirky twist. The season runs for the latter half of July, from Tuesday-Sunday. Bring the whole family, along with your own blanket or chairs for a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon or evening.

Caffè Lena: An authentic Saratoga experience is incomplete without a trip to the legendary Caffè Lena. Known as the oldest continuously operating coffeehouse in the United States, Caffè Lena has hosted such legends as Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, and Ani DeFranco, to name just a few. In this timeless and cozy setting it’s all about the music; offered along with homemade food, decadent desserts and alcohol-free drinks. For a most convenient and history-filled evening, go next door to Hattie’s for dinner, then come to Caffè Lena for coffee and dessert.
The Children’s Museum at Saratoga: For the younger set (I’d say 9 and under), the children’s museum offers a morning or afternoon of fun, with two floors of interactive play spaces, including a fire truck, a diner, a bank, and construction zone.
Saratoga Springs Public Library: Our library is in this east side area — a sanctuary for weary travelers who’d like a comfortable chair and some literary peace. The library houses a coffee shop and Book Bag Shop, where new and used book bargains can be found.
Saratoga Farmers’ Market: On the northern edge of this area is our Farmers’ Market; a foodie’s dream come true. Its outdoor pavilion in High Rock Park shelters table after table of picture-perfect produce, and flowers, cheeses, baked goods, and jams. Extras like music and special events make a trip to the Farmers’ Market a pleasure — whether shopping for the week’s groceries or passing through with coffee in hand. Saratoga’s own 911 Memorial Sculpture, “Tempered by Memory” is also on the grounds of High Rock Park. The Farmers’ Market is open May through October: Wednesdays 3-6 pm and Saturdays 9 am-1 pm.
Saratoga Springs Food Tours: The Farmers’ Market is the starting point for a walking tour in which guide Joe Haedrich introduces participants to farmers, shop and restaurant owners, and local foods. Joe takes great pride in what he does, leading his groups through the city to enjoy carefully arranged food encounters.
Spring Street Gallery: This small not-for-profit gallery is a short walk from town in a neighborhood setting. It features fine art exhibitions on weekdays and intimate concerts, readings, lectures, and film screenings on select evenings. I’d suggest incorporating a stop at the gallery with a daytime walking tour of the east side (again, you might use the walking tour app). Stop at the nearby Spring Street Deli for a bite.

Lyrical Ballad Bookstore: An antiquarian bookstore like no other; more of an experience, really. A labyrinth of rooms and book-filled vaults make browsing for old and new books an adventure. Some might say that this one stop on Phila Street would be the highlight of a trip to Saratoga. It’s that unusual.
Red Wolfe: On the other side of the block, near Congress Park, Red Wolfe is an “upscale emporium” with a variety of home goods and men’s and women’s fashions. Their style reminds me of the Sundance catalogue — rustic, yet fancy.
Silverwood Shop and Gallery: Just past the public library, this shop and gallery is lovingly filled with beautiful home accents with an Adirondack-cottage feel; some things new and others, antique. The mother/daughter owners have a skilled eye for local artists and actively curate their collection.
Little Red Millinery: A whimsical hat shop where it’s about creativity and fun. Milliners Caroline and Kristen are available by appointment or during seasonal hours listed on their website. In the summer, visitors are invited to stop in for Happy Hat Hour on Tuesdays from 5-7 pm, when guests may gather in the small garden to sip wine and while wearing one (or more) of Little Red’s hats.

For Dinner
Hattie’s: In operation since 1938, Hattie’s is a top pick for dining in Saratoga, featuring Southern-style hospitality and fried chicken that won the Bobby Flay’s Throwdown. With checked tablecloths and walls adorned with bits of history, a meal at Hattie’s feels like dining in another place and time. Guests overflow outside in summer for a different, but equally charismatic atmosphere.
Sperry’s: A longtime favorite of mine, Sperry’s offers finer dining in a comfortable atmosphere. The food is delicious, prepared by Certified Master Chef Dale Miller. The staff is attentive and the expansive patio is a prime gathering spot in nicer weather. Sperry’s interior is also warm and inviting, making it a great choice all year round for dinner or Sunday brunch. Gluten free friendly.
Mio Posto: This American Italian restaurant has been described as tiny and delicious. Reservations are strongly encouraged, due to the rave reviews and small number of tables.
The Merry Monk: An authentic Belgian restaurant with an extensive beer selection. Just off the beaten path, one of the best features of this place is the windows and doors across its front, which open to welcome afternoon sun. The mussels are excellent.
Mouzon House: Downtown, but set apart, this farm-to-table restaurant has a New Orleans feel within (and on the rooftop of) a restored Victorian house. One advantage of its location is accessible parking. Private dining rooms are available for larger parties and Tuesday Tapas and Thursday Prix Fixe are both popular options here. A romantic destination for a date night.

Casual Fare, Brunch, and Lunch
Ravenous: It’s all about crepes at Ravenous — sweet or savory; for brunch, lunch, dinner, or dessert. The crepes are delicious and the atmosphere is simple and friendly. But for some, the real reason to go to Ravenous is their pommes frites — hand cut French fries with a multitude of dipping sauces. Wine, beer, and hard cider are available too.
Four Seasons Natural Foods: A store and small cafe share space here, catering to the health conscious. The cafe offers a delicious vegetarian self-serve buffet, sold by the pound, for lunch and dinner. Food can be eaten in, or carried out in paper containers.
Scallions: Serving lunch and dinner most days and breakfast on the weekends, Scallions is one of those places where the food is always good and the people are always nice. It’s bright and tastefully decorated with artsy accents. A friend of mine described it as a “Mother’s Day brunch” kind of place, which is spot-on. Perfect for a meal that’s a bit special but doesn’t call for full-on fine dining. Vegan and gluten free selections are noted on the menu.
Bailey’s: Mentioned above in the “nightlife” portion of this neighborhood, this is the place for a super-casual meal outside. The large outdoor patio is the main attraction. The inside of the restaurant and bar is also cozy in the off-season, when a s’more platter for two (including fire) might be in order.

Coffee, Ice Cream and Casual/Late Night Fare
The Bread Basket Bakery: A quintessential bakery serving freshly made pastries, baked goods, and breads. If you crave cupcakes or need a special occasion cake in Saratoga, this is the place to go. There is a nice patio overlooking Congress park, perfect for enjoying morning coffee or midday soup and salad.
Ben and Jerry’s: Ice cream, of course. Be sure to snag a cow swing. Best when paired with the nearby Carousel and Congress Park.
Esperanto: Saratoga’s place for cheap eats and late night snacking (beloved by Skidmore students). For hunger pangs and that fourth meal, the fine folks at Esperanto serve up twice-baked potatoes, chimichangas, quesadillas and their famous “Doughboy” — a hand-held pocket filled with cheese, chicken and scallions.
D’Andreas Pizza: For takeout or delivery (though there are a few tables), with a convenient location. Our family favorites are the BBQ Chicken and the “Yuppy Pie” (pesto with artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers).

The east side of Broadway is known as the epicenter of Saratoga’s infamous nightlife. The first block of Caroline Street, in particular, keeps going into the wee hours (bars are open ‘til 4 am). The Gaffney’s garden patio around the corner of that block is a social hub in summer and often has live music. Across the street, the rooftop bar at The Saratoga City Tavern offers a birds-eye view. This is one action-packed block when it comes to lots of people, with lots of drinks.

The scene becomes more refined further down Caroline Street at Sperry’s, with its well-kept patio area in summer and cozy bar in winter. A different feel is found at the nearby
Parting Glass, recently named the #3 Irish pub in the world by readers of Ireland of the Welcomes magazine, and where there is often live music and always a game of darts. Nearby 9 Maple Avenue is also popular, with live jazz and an extensive selection of scotch, whiskey, wine and martinis. Just past the library, Bailey’s is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum — super casual and often with live music, but not quite as hyped up as Caroline Street.

NORTH BROADWAY (Victorian Beauties and Skidmore College)
Here’s a map of the following recommendations within the North Broadway neighborhood.

A stroll up to the north end of Broadway offers an up close view of some of the largest and most beautiful Victorian-style homes in town. One can’t help but wonder what it was like all those years ago to live in such luxury as part Saratoga Springs’ high society. It’s fun to compare and contrast favorite houses along the way.

At the end of North Broadway and just a mile from downtown is Skidmore College. Skidmore’s mantra is “Creative Thought Matters” — which embodies a way of life on the beautiful campus. The College serves as a funky art and entertainment hotspot, offering residents and visitors varied cultural experiences. This leads me to one of the best tips in this guide; come to campus! You are welcome and encouraged to join in the diverse array of happenings at Skidmore. Many locals come to campus regularly for free or low-cost concerts, exhibitions, lectures, and events. The best way to access Skidmore’s wealth of events is through the campus events calendar. A campus map is here.

The most renowned destination at Skidmore is The Tang Museum, with its brilliant and thought-provoking art exhibitions. The Tang’s free summer rooftop concert series offers a delightful way to spend a Friday evening (rain or shine). The other main attraction at Skidmore is The Arthur Zankel Music Center, the newest building on campus. It’s a state-of-the-art performance venue with an ever-changing schedule of impressive events.

There is so much happening at Skidmore throughout the year; it’s nearly impossible to capture the diversity and quality of offerings. Skidmore’s stages and lecture halls have welcomed international dance companies, famous authors, jazz greats, and legendary performers — all available for the public to enjoy. Furthermore, Skidmore’s own student body is incredibly talented. I absolutely adore November’s Beatlemore Skidmania tribute concert (tickets go fast, beginning in September), and the Dance Department’s Senior Capstone performance in April.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the community-wide collaborative reading program initiated by Skidmore College — Saratoga Reads. It could be interesting to read Saratoga’s chosen book while visiting, and perhaps join in on the experience.

Lastly, Skidmore’s campus is surrounded by a network of wooded walking trails in the North Woods, which are former carriage paths from Victorian days. For a beautiful (and dog friendly) walk, go to the end of North Broadway. I really do mean “the end” — just keep driving straight until the road ends. Broadway turns to dirt and there is a parking area and trail map there. Keep careful track of your turns, as there is potential for losing one’s way. Just in case, here is a map.

Where to Eat
Campus offers a number of options. The Burgess Cafe in Case Center (Skidmore’s Student Center, near the Tang) is the best bet for coffee and snacks. The Spa/a>, also in Case Center, offers a grill and deli. Another Saratoga secret; the public can eat in Skidmore’s Dining Hall for about $14 per person. I can honestly say that it’s a treat! The food is so good and so varied — with all-you-can-eat stations scattered throughout a beautiful facility. Note that summer and school vacation hours for Skidmore dining will vary from academic year hours.

SOUTH BROADWAY (Saratoga Spa State Park: Art and Nature)

Here’s a map of the following recommendations within the South Broadway neighborhood.

A drive south on Broadway leads to the 2,200 acre Saratoga Spa State Park, which is where nature and the arts come together in one stunning location. This
map and phone reference list provides an overview and numbers for contacting Park offices. Note that there is a moderate per-car admission fee for some portions of the Park. Here’s what the Spa State Park has to offer:

Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC): This concert and arts venue is where magic happens. Truly. Some of my happiest nights in Saratoga have been spent seated on a blanket, with wine and a picnic — under the stars, marveling at the
New York City Ballet or listening to the musical perfection YoYo Ma and the The Philadelphia Orchestra. I’ve danced, held hands, gotten teary, and whooped and hollered at concerts by the likes of Springsteen, Sugarland, Norah Jones, Coldplay, Jason Mraz, and many more rock and pop artists. Whether opting for seats on the lawn or inside the amphitheater, it doesn’t get any better than a starry night at SPAC. A friend recently told me that I must get to the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, so that’s next on my SPAC to do list. A tip: taller lawn chairs are not permitted in the center section of the lawn at SPAC. It’s best to bring the low beach type of chair.
Nature and the Springs: The Park has a vast system of quiet roads and trails for biking and walking — as well as seeing (or tasting) some of Saratoga’s most interesting springs up close. An easy and fascinating walk is just off the Geyser Loop Road Golf, starting at the Island Spouter and walking 20 minutes or so along the stream toward the Orenda Spring, and back. Bike rentals are available at the Gideon Putnam Resort (see below) to both guests and non-guests.
Gideon Putnam Resort: A home base for enjoying the Park, “The Gideon” feels historic and grand. The best part of this hotel is its location within the park; perfectly situated to enjoy a walk to the ballet, a concert, or a relaxing mineral bath.
Roosevelt Baths: The real deal for “taking in” the naturally carbonated waters of Saratoga. The fairly recent renovations by the Gideon Putnam Resort have balanced the creation of a very nice spa-like atmosphere with the character of yesteryear. In other words; don’t expect modern-day perfection. Instead, go for a different kind of experience that honors the famous springs of Saratoga. Heads up: don’t be surprised that the water has a brownish tint, due to the minerals.
Golf: There are two well-kept public golf courses here (9-hole par 3 and 18-hole championship), the latter serviced by a pro shop and Catherine’s in the Park restaurant (see below) at the 19th hole.
Victoria Pool: When the temperature rises in Saratoga, it’s best to turn to the Victoria Pool. For a reasonable admission fee ($8/adult), Victoria feels elegant for a public place; surrounded by interesting architecture and offering a bar, poolside restaurant, and lounge chairs. While Victoria Pool does welcome kids, it’s not overrun with children. The more kid-oriented pool in the Park is Peerless Pool, complete with water slide. Details regarding both pools are here.
Catherine’s in the Park Restaurant: Offering poolside service at Victoria pool, as well as pre or post-golf fare.
Spa Little Theater: Something wonderful is happening in this “little” theater all year round, and I’ve spent many an enjoyable evening in this performance space. For the majority of the year Home Made Theater, Saratoga’s resident theater company, stages four high quality productions between October and May. During the summer months,
Opera Saratoga and The Saratoga Chamber Music Festival move in; both providing the rare treat of top level performances enjoyed in an intimate setting.
Saratoga Automobile Museum: An impressive collection of classic cars in a building that once housed a mineral water bottling plant. The museum isn’t large, but it’s impeccably curated and a pleasure to visit. A picnic on the lawn, followed by a stroll over to the museum, makes for a very nice afternoon.
Winter Sports: Anyone with skates, cross country skis, or snowshoes could spend a beautiful winter afternoon enjoying the Park (see this trail map including 20 kilometers of ski/snowshoe trails). Snowshoes may be rented in the Park Office, though skates and skis are bring-your-own.

Eating in the Park: The Gideon Putnam is the place to dine in the Park year round. Stop for quick food or drink, or enjoy a full meal (such as Sunday brunch) in the restaurant. Catherine’s in the Park at Victoria Pool and the golf course serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner during summer. SPAC does offer concessions for major concerts and events (wine, beer, coffee, basic food, and ice cream), but I personally prefer picnicking (see picnic tips, later…).

Also in this part of town, but outside of the Park:
National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame: The only museum in the country dedicated to the art of dance. Near the Park’s main entrance on South Broadway, the Museum’s galleries feature rotating and permanent exhibits to honor dancers, choreographers, composers, and writers. Filled with costumes, relics, videos, sculptures, and stories, the museum celebrates the art of dance in its many forms.
Dog Park: If you happen to be traveling with a dog, Saratoga’s dog park is located directly across the main entrance to the Spa State Park. Dogs are free to run there, off leash. It’s also OK to walk your dog on a short leash within the Park.

WEST OF BROADWAY (Beekman Street Arts District and More)

Note: this neighborhood covers a larger area, which is not as walkable as the others. Here’s a map of the following recommendations within the west of Broadway neighborhood.

To Do
The Beekman Street Arts District : A three block section of town on the West side of Saratoga Springs, offering an eclectic mix of artist studios, galleries, and shops housed in a funky, revitalized neighborhood. This friendly, artsy section of town is anchored on the corner of Beekman and Grand Avenue by The Local Pub and Teahouse, and the adjacent Textile Studio — where the husband/wife team of Frittelli and Lockwood create exquisite scarves, clothing, and accessories on looms in the open area of their retail shop. A lovely daytime outing would be a visit to the Textile Studio (open Wednesday through Saturday), followed by an affordable and delicious pub-style lunch at The Local. After lunch, I’d recommend a stroll down Beekman Street to enjoy the delights that await in its studios and shops, such as the The Groggery and Sharon Crute Gallery.

For an evening outing during warmer months, a prime time to visit Beekman Street is on the first Friday of each month between May and October (5-8 pm) when visiting artists set up on lawns and porches for the Beekman’s Artwalk. An annual highlight for the District is its festive Beekman Street Art Fair, held during the second weekend of June as part of Saratoga ArtsFest.

Beekman Street has a very different feel from Broadway — it’s funky and low-key. As much as I love the energy and sophistication of downtown, Beekman Street offers a smaller-scale alternative that’s both endearing and refreshing. Beekman Street is not the place to go for polished and fancy; rather, it’s the destination for those who delight in the unexpected, who wish to support community revitalization, and who welcome the opportunity to interact with local artists making a living through their craft.

In addition to the Beekman Art District, here are other favorite places west of Broadway:

To Do
Universal Preservation Hall: A historic and cultural gem, Universal Preservation Hall sits less than two blocks off Broadway and is becoming a vibrant performing arts venue for Saratoga Springs (building renovations are ongoing). This community-centered venue has incredible acoustics, making it an ideal space for performances, concerts, lectures, weddings, and more. Events there are not yet frequent, but when they do happen they are quite special.

Spoken: A very nice women’s boutique, just a block off Broadway. The owner has a hands-on approach to carefully selecting a colorful array of colorful clothes for real women who want to look great and find something apart from the ordinary.
Saratoga Dance Etc.: Just a block further on Church Street; a wonderful treat for dancers. When I have been in Saratoga Dance (my daughter dances), I have been amazed to realize that people travel for several hours to come here for professional pointe shoe fittings and quality dance products. The store sells their own line of Bunheads dance accessories — created by dancers, for dancers.
The Candy Company: A stone’s throw off the other end of Broadway, The Candy Company is an old-fashioned, comfortable, classic candy store. Here, you’ll find plenty of sweet Saratoga souvenirs made with care.

Fine Dining
Chianti Il Ristorante: Fresh Italian fine dining in a dynamic and sophisticated atmosphere. Chianti is an excellent choice for a romantic dinner or for small plates at the bar. Less than two blocks off Broadway.

Breakfast or Lunch
As mentioned above in the Beekman Street Art District, The Local Pub and Teahouse is a favorite for lunch or casual pub food later in the day. A 10-15 minute walk from downtown.
Country Corner Cafe: A popular spot for breakfast, and lunch too, that’s a block off Broadway. Plan to add your name to the list on weekend mornings and wait a little while. Homemade jams, delicious pancakes, omelets, and more are served in countrified atmosphere. Sandwiches, salads and beer battered fries are on the menu for lunch. It’s all good. The setup is confusing, as there are two distinct sides to the restaurant with two entrances. One side is larger than the other, so check both sides if there’s a wait. Breakfast served from morning to afternoon.

Photo by by Suzanne Rowan Kelleher

UNION AVENUE AREA (The Saratoga Race Course, Yaddo, and More)
Here’s a map of the following recommendations in the Union Avenue area.

To Do
Saratoga Race Course: Named one of the “Top 10 Sporting Venues in The World” by Sports Illustrated, Saratoga Race Course is an ultra-happening place in late July through Labor Day. This year in 2103, the it-factor is multiplied by the celebration of the track’s 150th Anniversary. There are two ways to enjoy the track; first, in the thick of things at the races and second, in the morning for a peaceful breakfast when the horses are exercising. I prefer the latter, but I also enjoy going to the track in prime time each summer.

I’m no expert on the exciting world of thoroughbred racing, but I can tell you the basics. For $3 anyone can enter and watch at the rail, or from the cooler (as in temperature) grandstand. Or, dress up and buy a $5 ticket to the clubhouse. There are concession stands throughout the track area, including “Restaurant Row,” featuring specialties from local restaurants. There are also sit-down restaurants in the clubhouse. Numerous people claim their spot at picnic tables on the outskirts of the Grandstand, where they watch the races on TV monitors — literally sprinting with tablecloth in hand at 7 am to reserve their place. I don’t get it, but many people do it. My favorite part of the experience is seeing the strength and beauty of the real-live horses! It’s fun to see the horses up close right before a race at the Paddock, and bets (even a few dollars) may be placed at one of the many windows. Don’t worry; there are signs instructing how to place a bet for the newbie. Next, hurry to the rail or to your seat for the racing excitement. There’s something so thrilling about being part of a crowd that leaps to its feet with anticipation!

The track can be great fun (super people-watching). It can also be hot and crowded. Going on a weekday might be more pleasant (no racing on Tuesdays). And note that it will be crazy — with a capital C — during Travers weekend, which is in late August each year. For the full scoop on the “how to’s” of going to the track, check out this guide.

So back to the peaceful, free way to enjoy the track in the morning; drive through the main gate after 7 am (but not on Tuesdays) with coffee and a brown bag breakfast. Give the parking attendant $10, which you will receive back if you leave before 10 am. Head into the clubhouse (no ticket needed) and choose your favorite box (a prime seat at race time) from which to sip your peaceful trackside coffee. Marvel at world-class thoroughbreds out for their run in the morning mist and perhaps even chat with trainers or riders near the rail. Tour the grounds, listen to the trackside announcer’s commentary, and view the rainbow of jockey silks at the ready in the silks room. If you’re not in a bring-your-own mood, breakfast is served at the trackside restaurant. For an insider’s look, take a free 45-minute tram ride through the private backstretch, departing from outside the clubhouse every 15 minutes between 8-9:15 am. Sounds nice, right? Spending time at the track in the morning is peaceful, beautiful, and free.

Whether you’re enticed by racing excitement or placid mornings, the Saratoga Race Course is fascinating; well-kept, historic, and beautiful. I absolutely recommend going there in whatever way suits you!

And that’s not all… there’s even more to experience in the area around the track:
National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame: Providing a complete and impressive picture of the world of thoroughbred racing through art, films, memorabilia, displays, and archives. Famous horses, trainers, and jockeys are recognized in the Hall of Fame. Fun for all ages.
Yaddo: A 400-acre retreat for professional artists from all over the world. Yaddo’s tranquil gardens and grounds are open to the public, but also convey a sense of mystery. Only resident artists are permitted near the main house perched on the hill (which makes the idea of going there all the more enticing). Looking upward, one might imagine what the artists are creating at that very moment. Yaddo has hosted 68 Pulitzer Prize-winning authors and one Nobel Prize winner, Saul Bellow. Other artists-in-residence have included Aaron Copland, Sylvia Plath, and David Sedaris. Fortunately, there is plenty of peace and beauty to enjoy on the public grounds — as a leisurely walk or picnic spot reveals statues and abundant roses. The wooded area past the rose garden feels like a magical fairy forest, and the vegetable garden on the other side of the wood is Mr. McGregor’s garden brought to life (my daughter’s firm belief). Yaddo is another one of the special places in Saratoga Springs that makes you feel like you’re taking part in a piece of history. Yaddo’s mission – to provide artists with uninterrupted time, good working conditions, and a supportive community – is reassuringly timeless.
Saratoga National Golf Club: The most highly praised place in Saratoga for golf. Impeccable and pricey; like a private club, but open to the public.

Siro’s: After the races, much of the track crowd moves to the nearby and swanky Siro’s restaurant, which is only open for the six weeks of racing. It’s a tradition for those who are tied into the Saratoga equine social circuit – fabulous, pricey, and dinner reservations are a must. Just drinks is also an option, inside or out. Truth; I don’t go there — but it’s legendary, so here it is. This is where people go to blow a lot of money or cry in their martinis, depending upon how the day went at the track.
The Brook Tavern: Traditional American cuisine, just down Union Avenue from the track. Go for a beer and a burger, or a full-scale dinner of small and large plates.
Prime at Saratoga National: Don’t let the formal entry or long driveway fool you. Time spent at Prime is comfortable, delicious, and welcoming — especially in beautiful summer weather on the expansive patio behind the clubhouse. Set just a few minutes outside of bustling downtown out on Union Avenue, this is a place where you can breathe (and easily park). Yes, it’s a little bit fancy and yes, it can be pricey — but it’s also possible to order smaller-scale items or just have drinks, inside or outside. Prime serves brunch, lunch, and dinner, with gluten free noted on the menu. We went there last summer with three kids and two adults for my son’s 14th birthday. The staff went out of their way to make it a happy and unforgettable occasion. Gather ‘round a campfire or enjoy the view from your table. Prime is divine.

There are many fantastic places to stay in Saratoga Springs. A sampling:
Saratoga Arms: Best choice for the traveler who will spend a bit more for the whole package. High quality, exceptional service, with a prime location.
Circular Manor Bed and Breakfast Inn: A well-kept inn with a great location and helpful owners. Walking distance to downtown and Congress Park.
Saratoga Downtowner: A location that is the most central to Broadway, and owned by people who care. Reasonable prices, for modest, no-frills rooms. There’s potential for noise, since it’s in the thick of things.
The Washington Inn: A lesser-known find among Saratoga accommodations. It has everything; just on the edge of town near the Saratoga Spa State Park, with reasonable prices and nice accommodations. Just the other morning I came upon large group who were all happily riding colorful retro bikes with tiny Washington Inn plates on them. They stopped to ask for directions and I, in turn, asked them what they thought of the place. They couldn’t say enough good things — and added that Joe, the Innkeeper is “the nicest person in the world.” This would be a wonderful place for a special event or reunion.
The Saratoga Farmstead Bed and Breakfast: A few minutes’ drive from town with a home-away-from-home feel. A casual country place with attentive hosts, and a good breakfast.
Gideon Putnam: Described above, as part of the South of Broadway neighborhood, the Gideon is best for those who enjoy the peace and culture of the Spa State Park.

Note: Especially in summer, hotels and B&Bs tend to fill up well in advance. However, a hotel owner I know reminded me that there are many last-minute cancellations and changes. Keep calling and something may open up. People who have trouble finding lodging in Saratoga, or who would like to pay less, often stay further out of town — such as in Queensbury, Glens Falls or Clifton Park.

As much as downtown Saratoga has to offer, there are a few key side trips within a half hour of town. Such as:

Fish Creek: Go to the funky little Kayak Shak for an afternoon or early evening spin around Fish Creek which feeds into Saratoga Lake. This is a relaxed place, so call ahead to confirm that they are open and ready for you. Kayaks and stand-up paddleboards are available for rent. Sharing the same parking lot is Harvest and Hearth, a wood fired pizza restaurant. The pizza is excellent and I love the Mamie’s Poppy Salad. The service can be leisurely, partly due to the need for pizzas to share the same hand built brick oven. Come in the mindset for a relaxed pace and great food (my favorite pizza: “The Natural”). Call ahead if you’d like to sit outside on the deck with a view of the creek and the docks.

The Village of Ballston Spa: A smaller town about 15 minutes outside of Saratoga, offering a surprising number of antique shops and funky stores. Before, after, or in the midst of shopping, stop to eat at one of these two special places:
The Whistling Kettle: A contemporary and busy little tea house, serving high-quality food. This is a lovely spot for lunch. Note that the Whistling Kettle does not open until 11 am.
Iron Roost: A friendly gathering place with an upbeat, hip atmosphere. The house specialty is gourmet breakfast and lunch waffles. Yes, lunch waffles. Think of a thin pita-like waffle filled with perfect chicken salad, veggies and greens — yum. Of course there’s the traditional fluffy waffle piled high with fruit and whipped cream too. It’s all so good! Gluten free and vegan friendly.

The Saratoga Battlefield and Schuylerville: Pack a picnic for lunch, along with water, bug spray, and your walking shoes. Drive about 20 minutes from Saratoga for a big breakfast at Eli’s Broad Street Breakfast — the breakfast-only cafe that everyone raves about. Then, spend a few hours at the historic Saratoga Battlefield; part of Saratoga National Historical Park. This is the site of the most critical turning point in the Revolutionary War. Start at the Battlefield Visitor’s Center and watch the short film to set the historical tone. Explore with the guidance of helpful Park rangers, or pre arrange in advance for a guided tour. An excellent spot for hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and picnicking. Stop to rest and picnic as you like, anywhere on the vast property (there is no food for sale on property so come prepared). The 11-mile one way loop road has 10 designated stops along the way, which can be experienced by car — or by bike (though a bit hilly) independently or with a ranger on a cycling tour. An audio tour is also available via cell phone to guide your way. Leashed dogs are permitted and there are moderate park fees. Directions are a bit tricky; detailed directions and GPS points are here. Note that nearby Schuyler House and the Saratoga Monument are also part of the park, though not connected to the Battlefield. When finished at the Battlefield, you might want to drive to nearby Saratoga Apple, especially in the fall for picking, a tractor ride, and a delicious fresh cider doughnut. It’s open year round as a shop and farm stand. On the way back to Saratoga stop at Schuyler Pond, a barn filled with home goods, antiques, gifts, and artsy treasures.

The Saratoga Winery and Tasting Room: A 7 mile drive out of town, this feels like a whole other world. The owners actively plan a special events calendar, including live music on Friday nights and food served by guest caterers (like incredible wood fired pizza made while you wait). The decor is rustic/Adirondack, with a large deck on the back made from peeled logs and twiggy railings. The deck is covered with a tent, and adorned with candles and lights, creating a festive atmosphere. The inside is more basic, but is spacious with a large natural wood bar. It’s here that the staff offers wine tastings, before guests make their selection. The wines have a sweetness to them; some made with honey. I really enjoy a night out at The Saratoga Winery. They’re working hard to do something fun and special out there, and I’m always glad to take part.

Glens Falls and The Hyde Collection
View The Hyde Collection, a small museum with an unexpectedly impressive world-class collection. This summer (2013) The Hyde is featuring an exhibition of Georgia O’Keefe’s works created at Lake George. And/or, see a show at the Charles R. Wood Theater , home of the annual summer Adirondack Theatre Festival. This 300-seat venue is in a renovated Woolworth’s store, and offers a variety of quality productions (do buy your tickets ahead). When in Glens Falls for dinner, make a reservation at Bistro Tallulah, a bustling place with delicious food. For breakfast or lunch go to the beloved Rock Hill Bakehouse for phenomenal breads, soups, sandwiches, cookies, and coffee.

And More
Saratoga Springs is ideally located for many side trips. Lake George and the Adirondacks (I love the Adirondack Museum) are easily accessible for a day trip, or overnight. Vermont destinations are also within 1-3 hours.

The city’s population of 28,000 more than triples in the summer, and Saratoga is known as “the summer place to be.” With the 150th anniversary of the Saratoga Race Course this summer, an exciting series of events are planned which will add even more energy in late July and August to an already vibrant scene. The activity around the track, combined with the cultural focal point of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, makes for a fun-filled and busy place.

I can honestly say, however, that this is fantastic destination year round. When the summer season is over, Saratoga makes the shift to a vibrant college town, and the arts and downtown continue to flourish. There are many events and festivals in the area, listed below:

February: Chowderfest Chowderfest, Saratoga Beer Week, and The Flurry Dance Festival
June: Saratoga ArtsFest, Saratoga Brewfest*, Saratoga Parrot Head Festival*, and Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival
July: Summer Opera Festival and Hats Off to Saratoga
August: Saratoga Chamber Music Festival and Travers Festival
September: Saratoga Wine & Food Festival and Concours d’Elegance
October: Octobeerfest* and Fall Fest
November: Saratoga Festival of Trees
December: Victorian Streetwalk and First Night Saratoga
* Held at the Saratoga County Fairgrounds

I’ve talked a lot about picnicking in this guide, as there are many idyllic spots in Saratoga for enjoying the outdoors. If you’re traveling by car, I recommend packing: a cooler, paper goods and cutlery, a wine opener, a blanket or two, bug spray, and chairs (the low kind if you’re going to SPAC). Coolers and alcohol are allowed at SPAC for classical performances, but not for pop concerts.

Once in town, here’s where to get your picnic food. I love picnics so much that I’ve even prepared a map for you of these delightful places for getting the goods:

Putnam Market and Wine: Select from the buffet of prepared delights and browse a wide variety of gourmet foods. You can buy wine here, as well. You may also order a “SPAC pack” in advance from Putnam (gourmet sandwiches, salads, side dishes, bottle of wine and kid friendly items). Call 518 587-3663.
Roma Foods: On the west side of town, this is the place for subs and sandwiches, and imported treats. The real deal in the world of specialty foods; Italian, in particular.
Four Seasons Natural Foods Cafe: As I’ve mentioned earlier within the east of Broadway neighborhood, the vegetarian takeout buffet is great.
Price Chopper Railroad Place: The downtown grocery store, for basics and ice. Smaller and more upscale than the usual.
Hattie’s Chicken Shack: The takeout/faster food offshoot of downtown’s ever-popular Hattie’s restaurant. The chicken is the same perfect recipe, and a limited selection of sides are offered. Located 5 minutes out of town in Wilton (the land of the mall, etc.).
Healthy Living Market: A gourmet supermarket offering real, fresh food. Also out in Wilton, a short drive from town. Offering a hot buffet, as well as a salad bar and pre-packaged items like sesame noodles, homemade guacamole, and much more. A uniquely pleasant grocery store experience.

Beer is big these days, so here’s a map of fine establishments specializing in handcrafted beers. The map includes:
Downtown: Druthers Brewing Company, The Merry Monk, and Henry Street Tap Room
Off the beaten path (a very short drive): Olde Saratoga Brewing Company

This is generally a dog friendly town. Check out the Saratoga Dog Lovers site for the scoop on bringing your (well-behaved and leashed) dog to town.

NOTEABLE LOCALS (A selection of fascinating Saratogians)

The Figgs: The rock band with a worldwide following, formed by Saratoga High School graduates Mike Gent, Pete Donnelly, and Guy Lyons.
Leslie Roy-Heck: Former soloist with the New York City Ballet who worked under George Balanchine. Leslie is owner of Saratoga Dance Etc. and developer of Bunheads, a successful line of specialty dance accessories.
Bill Parcells: Retired football coach and Pro Football Hall of Famer who has a home in Saratoga.
Ronald Holgate: Tony Award winning actor and opera singer.
The Alsop Family: Ruth Alsop, Cellist for the New York City Ballet Orchestra and Lamar Alsop, NYCB concertmaster and violinist, have spent significant time here. Their daughter Marin Alsop, is music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the first female conductor of a major U.S. orchestra.
Steven Millhauser: A novelist and short story writer who won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel Martin Dressler. He is a professor at Skidmore College.
Marylou Whitney: Iconic socialite and philanthropist, whose name has been synonymous with all things Saratoga for many years. In this video Marylou invites fans to the Saratoga 150 celebration, of which she is Honorary Chair.
David Hyde Pierce: Emmy Award winning actor who grew up in Saratoga and has remained connected through his generous involvement with community organizations.
Jeff Goodell: Author and contributing editor to Rolling Stone magazine. Known especially for his writing on energy and environmental issues.

Thank you for joining me in exploring some of the highlights in and around Saratoga Springs! As I look back on what I have written, I appreciate our fabulous city even more than I did before. This guide is extensive because Saratoga has so much to offer!

There are certainly more attractions, shops, restaurants, and tips worthy of inclusion in a Saratoga Springs City Guide. If you are a Saratoga resident or regular, and are saying “Oh no! She missed such-and-such!” please add your recommendations by commenting. In this way, the guide will continue to grow as a resource. I will also continue to add add my own new discoveries there.

I love this town, and I have enjoyed sharing that with you. Whether returning, or coming to Saratoga Springs for the first time, please do visit!

This guide was created with thanks to Rebecca Burnham, Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, Mary Ellen O’Loughlin, and Elisa Sheehan for sharing their tips and favorite Saratoga experiences.

Suggested For You


  • How funny, I am actually leaving for Saratoga this week to see my Grandma! I used to come up there every summer for a few weeks when I was a kid. My mom grew up there and my grandmother took care of the Whitney kids and my Grandfather did their landscaping. My mom got to meet a lot of famous ballerinas as a result (in the 60’s and 70’s). I’ll have to check some of these spots out when I’m up there. Some family favorites for dining were Mangino’s and Wishing Well. Not sure if they are even still around. Thanks !

  • Well done, BOP! What a roundup. This is a perfect and thorough guide to this wonderful city. If I didn’t already call Saratoga home, I’d absolutely visit! :)

  • I grew up a few towns over. Saratoga is a lovely place that has blossomed in the last 10 years. I look forward to visiting the Children’s Museum with my son over the Christmas holiday this year.

  • Binx is a new baby store over on Beekman St! Tons of hard to find products and services. Easy to park and meander around town.

  • So coincidental that a Saratoga Springs guide and a mention of Oneonta (in Editors Letter) would be posted on the same day. The two “cities” my daughters were born in! And more so, yesterday was older daughter’s birthday and today is younger daughter’s birthday!

  • Great covererage of a great area. We’re locals and think you covered most of the interesting spots! This year we’re hoping to check out all the bigger than life pointe ballet shoes decorated for the summer like the full size horses have been in past years. I also love the hats on the second floor of Soave Faire and the wonderful toy shop G. Willikers . For olde time circus format on the main street have lunch at the Circus Cafe.

  • I think the bit about lyrical ballad (shopping, east side) got clipped somehow. Which is a crying shame, because it’s one of the most amazing bookstores around. It’s in a bank vault!

  • Great guide! I grew up in Saratoga Springs, and learned a few things from this listing. Glad to see the library made it in. Just one thing: I think the description of the Lyrical Ballad Bookstore was lost. It’s a lovely and serpentine used and collectible bookstore on Phila Street, just a block or so off Broadway. http://www.lyricalballadbooks.com/

  • This is a GREAT, comprehensive guide to Saratoga! As a 4th generation resident, I live on the West Side and am so proud of its improvements. It’s a great place not only for college kids but also families and older people. Tke a visit today!!

  • This is an incredible guide! My husband is from Saratoga and we get there a couple times a year. Some real favorites on here (Hattie’s!). Can’t wait to use this as reference to try new places our next trip East.

  • Hi Jess and Erica,
    Thank you so much for pointing out the missing information regarding Lyrical Ballad! I’ll send the correction to Stephanie right away and ask her to make the correction. I agree wholeheartedly that it’s a treasure! This is what I had written about Lyrical Ballad (which hopefully will appear in the guide soon):

    “An antiquarian bookstore like no other; more of an experience, really. A labyrinth of rooms and book-filled vaults make browsing for old and new books an adventure. Some might say that this one stop on Phila Street would be the highlight of a trip to Saratoga. It’s that unusual.”

    Thanks for commenting! – Beth Payer (author of the guide)

  • I am a local and this is a fabulous guide- very comprehensive. Beth covers the classic tourist destinations as well as the-lesser known gems like the Beekman Street Arts District. Well done and thank you for an amazing, fun to read guide!

  • Glad to see such a thorough guide of my hometown! I’ve been wondering when D*S would cover it!

    I’ve got a couple thoughts/recommendations too:

    1) I agree with the others that mentioned Lyrical Ballad. It’s a really cool shop that you can spend hours getting lost in the sea of books (literally getting lost too– it’s kind of a maze.

    2) Definitely try to get in dinner at Mio Posto. I went with a group of 6 and we all agreed it was one of the best meals we’ve ever had. It’s veeeeery cozy inside and the service is wonderful.

    3) I think Henry St. Taproom was overlooked in this guide. Great beer and food (I’d recommend trying the Banh Mi). Also home to the best bartender in town!

    4) Some more shops to stop in: Lucia Boutique (beautiful and unique women’s clothes and accessories), Piper, the Turkish Bazaar, and Menges and Curtis Apothecary.

  • I’m thrilled to see this round-up as we are looking to move to the area next year. It looks like it just might fill my Texas soul ! (Can I say I’m HAPPY there is a Saratoga Salsa and Spice Company?!) Thanks!

  • The guide has been corrected and Lyrical Ballad is included, as originally intended. I’m so glad to read all of the comments and suggestions, too! Saratoga is one of those places that holds a special place in the hearts of many!
    – Beth Payer (author of the guide)

  • This is such a wonderful and thorough guide of the City of Saratoga Springs! So excited to see our beautiful city highlighted in such a great way.

    I personally love the restaurant scene in Saratoga and write about it on http://www.saratogafoodfanatic.com, a website dedicated to anything and everything food related in the area.

    A few of my restaurant favorites in Saratoga include:
    -Mio Posto
    -Mouzon House
    -Strata (In Ballston Spa, used to be 51 Front Street.)

    I update the website almost daily, so if you EVER need any information from there, please visit! Thanks again for the fabulous guide :)

  • Great post, you really covered almost everything! I have spent 16 years living and going to school here, including raising kids, and I can honestly say that it’s an amazing town that constantly has something fun going on. It has really flourished in the past ten years and I don’t think anyone who left in the ’90’s would even recognize the town anymore. The arts community is thriving and we seem to get more well-known pop and rock acts coming through every year. I am not a horse person – at all – but have found so many other ways to appreciate living here.

  • Hey! Wonderful info (and that’s coming from another Saratoga Springs resident)! Don’t forget about Caffe Lena! It’s the country’s longest running coffee house, since 1960! Artists like Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, and Annie DiFranco got their start there. Open mic nights Thursdays, and there are still a ton of great folk artists playing there. Also, the Diamond Dance is an opportunity to learn to swing dance and listen to a life band. It’s open to everyone the third Friday of every month at the Music Hall in the City Hall building (third floor). Saratoga is also close to the Adirondacks, where there are great trails and day hikes. Come visit!

  • I love Saratoga! I go every summer to work the Thoroughbred Sale that happens across from the race course. It’s what I look forward to most out of my entire year, I will never get tired of that charming town.

  • I love Saratoga Springs! I attended college in Albany and have lived here now for a total of 5 years.. I’m ashamed to say a lot of this post showed me new things to visit in Saratoga! Even sort-of-residents need a guide too. Thanks for this! Can’t wait to check out some of this stuff :-)

  • Where would you suggest is the best area to live? I am coming from NYC and love to be in the lake are but not familiar with other venues. I have a very active 9yr daughter. I heard Caroline school is better than some others despite their equivalent ratings. any thoughts? thanks much.

  • So glad I found this piece! Was just there for my 20 year reunion at Skidmore. Saratoga Springs is truly a beautiful and special place. Will have to check out a few of the places recommended when I return. Thanks!

  • My husband and I lived in Saratoga Springs for the first 2.5 years of our marriage. Your piece has brought back so many memories and makes me miss those first few (childless) years! Now to plan another trip back (staying at the Gideon Putnam, always!)

  • I want to drink champagne with my wife outside in a nice area of Saratoga. Where to do so where it is permitted. Thanks