Saratoga Springs, New York, exudes irresistible charm. This delightful city offers an abundance of picturesque parks, delectable cuisine, and invigorating natural springs where you can unwind and indulge in their healing waters, found at various spas and fountains throughout the town. With an array of music, entertainment, and an overall zest for life, the possibilities for activities in Saratoga Springs seem boundless.
In recent years, we have made it a consistent goal to visit Saratoga Springs at least once annually, and each time we uncover new adventures and points of interest. Whether it’s a brief day trip, a weekend escape, or an extended stay, our visits are filled with an abundance of enjoyable experiences. Here, we present a glimpse into some of the things we adore.
Experience the allure of Congress Park
If we were residents of Saratoga Springs, Congress Park would undoubtedly be our frequent retreat. It holds a special place in our hearts and is one of the key factors that make this city our cherished getaway destination in the United States. Situated conveniently near Broadway, this exquisite emerald oasis offers something for everyone.
Congress Park beckons you to marvel at its enchanting fountains, indulge in picnics on its lush lawns, and immerse yourself in the captivating sight of wildlife dwelling in its serene ponds. You can even bring along a cup to savor the refreshing taste of one of the city’s natural springs straight from the pristine source. Alternatively, you can simply lose yourself in a leisurely stroll along the meandering pathways that gracefully wind through the park.
A prominent attraction within the park is the esteemed Canfield Casino, a historic establishment that originated in the 1870s. While it no longer operates as a gambling venue, it captivates visitors with its intricate architectural features and holds significant value in the city’s rich history. However, our personal favorite, which never fails to surprise us, is the enchanting 120-year-old carved carousel nestled within the park. For a mere $1, you can embark on a delightful ride that takes you back in time and adds a touch of magic to your experience.
Start your day with a delectable breakfast at the renowned Saratoga Race Course.
Saratoga Race Course pulsates as the lifeblood of the city, maintaining its vibrant presence since 1863. Each summer, this iconic venue sets the stage for approximately six weeks of exhilarating thoroughbred racing, including the renowned Travers Stakes, which has garnered widespread acclaim.
Beyond the excitement of racing, socializing, and the fashion spectacle of fancy hats, Saratoga Race Course offers an array of captivating activities. One such experience is the opportunity to have breakfast on the Clubhouse Porch, an intimate setting that allows spectators to be in close proximity to the horses as they warm up for the day’s events.
Whether you’re a family seeking a memorable outing or a passionate bettor engrossed in the day’s races, you can secure a table and partake in the delectable buffet spread while enjoying a unique vantage point of the competing horses. The proximity to the action is truly exhilarating, and to top it off, the mimosas served add a delightful touch to the morning affair. We cherished every moment of this up-close encounter with the racing world at Saratoga Race Course.
Immerse yourself in the therapeutic wonders of the mineral springs at Spa State Park.
Aside from the racetrack, Saratoga Springs is renowned for its natural springs, which adorn its landscape. Exploring these springs is considered one of the top activities in Saratoga Springs. With a history dating back to Native American usage in the 1600s, these springs are renowned for their rejuvenating qualities, both for drinking and bathing. Saratoga Spa State Park is the ideal destination to delve into the offerings of these springs today.
Embarking on a springs tour will lead you to approximately half of the dozen carbonated springs that still flow within the park. Each spring possesses a distinct mineral composition, resulting in its own unique flavor profile. As a result, no two springs taste alike. Thankfully, this variety is a blessing, as some springs may not be particularly palatable, while others can easily serve as a refreshing substitute for standard bottled water, with an even fresher essence.
One of our chosen indulgences was the aromatherapy mineral bath, a delightful experience where the natural mineral water, maintained at a refreshing 55 degrees, is combined with hot tap water to achieve the perfect body temperature. Immerse yourself in these tranquil champagne spring waters, and you’ll find yourself floating in your own private hot tub, enveloped in pure relaxation. It’s an extraordinary sensation, and the forty minutes spent there seem to pass in the blink of an eye. It’s worth noting that due to oxidation above ground, the water may take on an unexpected yellowish hue, adding to its unique character.
Experience a captivating performance at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
Attempting to capture the enchantment of Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) is no easy task, yet our fondness for the four shows we attended knows no bounds. Nestled within the picturesque Saratoga Spa State Park, SPAC’s performances encompass a diverse range of musical genres. From classical masterpieces to the melodic rhythms of jazz, pop, rock, and global melodies, the center offers a harmonious celebration of music in all its forms.
For countless decades, SPAC has proudly served as the summertime sanctuary for both the esteemed New York City Ballet and the acclaimed Philadelphia Orchestra. This extraordinary distinction bestows upon visitors the incredible opportunity to witness an array of world-class performances throughout the season. Whether indulging in a captivating ballet by Balanchine or experiencing the exhilaration of the Orchestra’s live accompaniment to cinematic classics like Indiana Jones or E.T., the choices are boundless.
Furthermore, SPAC extends its musical embrace to encompass a diverse spectrum of genres. Beloved acts such as Phish and Dave Matthews, drawing in fervent crowds, command the amphitheater and the charming outdoor lawn. As a venue, SPAC takes pride in its ability to cater to various musical preferences.
With over half a century of performance seasons, SPAC remains dedicated to reinventing itself. Constantly seeking innovative avenues, it introduces captivating enhancements such as a vibrant jazz bar beneath the sparkling summer stars, an inviting space that comes alive with soulful melodies (and the best part: admission is free!). Additionally, SPAC tantalizes audiences with extraordinary experiences that bridge the gap between artists and spectators, bringing them together on stage for truly immersive performances.
Indulge in a glass of exquisite wine at the enchanting Galway Rock Vineyard & Winery.
Immerse yourself in the breathtaking vistas from the deck of Galway Rock Vineyard, extending as far as Vermont. Enhance the experience with a delightful glass of sparkling wine, accompanied by a delectable cheese plate, all while serenaded by soothing melodies, creating the epitome of an idyllic afternoon.
Nestled within Saratoga County, this charming destination is curated by the talented duo, Kate and Ryan Taylor. Indulge in their collection of four Prosecco-style wines, alongside an array of other choices such as Rieslings, Cabernet Franc, and an enticing selection of varietals.
Immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of the historic architecture on display.
Discover the rich heritage of Saratoga Springs, a city steeped in history dating back to the early days of the United States. Marvel at the splendid blend of architectural styles that grace its streets. From the majestic towers adorning Queen Anne-style residences to the stately columns and grand porches of Greek Revival buildings, the city boasts a remarkable array of architectural treasures.
Take a leisurely stroll through town and immerse yourself in the sights. Explore the charming turrets that grace Union Avenue, marvel at the opulent mansions lining Circular Street, and delight in the vibrant hues of Clinton Place. Each corner of Saratoga Springs holds its own unique architectural charm, inviting you to discover its captivating beauty at every turn.
Embark on an adventurous exploration of the city by bike.
Although downtown Saratoga Springs is highly walkable, there are certain locations in the area that may pose a slight challenge to access without a car. However, this is where the CDPHP Cycle program comes in, offering a convenient solution.
This bike sharing initiative, typically found in larger cities, enables you to effortlessly travel to various destinations within the area. Through the accompanying app, you can easily grab a bike from any of the numerous stands available or even make a reservation beforehand. With over a dozen stands to select from, you have plenty of options at your disposal.
I highly recommend trying Stewart’s ice cream.
For over 70 years, Stewart’s Shops have been renowned for offering exceptional ice cream that is truly unparalleled. This family-owned business, originating in the
Saratoga Springs region, operates over 300 convenience stores across New York and Vermont. With a presence of over a dozen shops in and around the city, it’s hard to miss them.
Stewart’s ice cream is crafted using locally sourced ingredients and holds a prominent place within their shops. Whether you prefer indulging in a scoop right there in the shop or taking some home for later enjoyment, the options are plentiful. Lance’s personal favorite is mint chocolate chip, while I have a soft spot for the delectable chocolate peanut butter cup flavor.
Make sure to experience the delightful Victoria Pool for a refreshing swim.
With its historical significance and inviting atmosphere, the Victoria Pool, built in the early 1930s, holds the distinction of being the first heated pool in the United States. Its construction coincided with the development of nearby spas, reflecting the prevailing health and wellness trends of that era.
In the present day, this beautiful public pool remains a popular destination during the summer season, bustling with activity for the most part (although we were fortunate to find it peacefully serene during our visit). It serves as an idyllic spot to unwind and bask in the sun on a delightful day.
Make sure to pay a visit to the Spa City Farmers Market.
Indulge in the delightful experience of visiting the Spa City Farmers Market, which has become one of our cherished activities in Saratoga Springs. Unlike many other markets, this one operates throughout the year, ensuring that visitors can explore its offerings even during the off-season.
What truly distinguishes the Spa City Farmers Market is its exclusive lineup of top-tier local vendors, encompassing farms, artisans, chefs, and more. Every stall showcases premium products crafted with care and passion. Moreover, the market often features live music and entertainment, adding an extra layer of vibrancy and enjoyment to your visit.
Don’t miss the opportunity to catch a captivating show at Caffè Lena.
As devoted enthusiasts of folk music, both Lance and I share a special connection that blossomed at a folk music concert. Hence, we were thrilled to explore one of Saratoga Springs’ standout music venues—Caffè Lena. Situated in downtown, this charming establishment holds the distinction of being the oldest continuously operating coffee house in the United States.
Caffè Lena boasts a rich musical history, having hosted performances by legendary artists such as Don McLean, Bob Dylan, and Emmylou Harris. The venue’s invaluable contributions to the development of American music have even earned it recognition from The GRAMMY Foundation. During our visit, we had the pleasure of experiencing a unique jazz performance by the Dylan Perrillo Orchestra, who enjoy a devoted local following. For any music lover, a visit to Caffè Lena is an absolute must when exploring Saratoga Springs.
Embark on a captivating journey through a museum’s rich tapestry
Saratoga Springs is home to an array of captivating museums that are sure to captivate any visitor. Embracing a prominent theme in the city, one can embark on a remarkable journey through the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Established in 1950, this museum pays homage to the remarkable accomplishments of American Thoroughbred racehorses, jockeys, and trainers.
For those with a need for speed, automotive enthusiasts can indulge their passion at the Saratoga Automobile Museum. Housed within the historic Saratoga bottling plant, constructed in 1934, this museum proudly showcases approximately 30 vehicles and offers a combination of permanent and rotating exhibits. It’s an absolute must-visit destination for aficionados of classic cars.
Browse Lyrical Ballad
For book enthusiasts, a pilgrimage to Lyrical Ballad Bookstore is an absolute must. Nestled right in the heart of downtown, this delightful establishment is a haven overflowing with new, used, and rare books.
A beloved fixture in the city for more than four decades, Lyrical Ballad boasts an impressive collection of over 100,000 books, along with antique prints and maps. A visit to this literary gem is akin to embarking on a thrilling treasure hunt, as you navigate through its rooms and passageways brimming with literary treasures. Whether you seek the latest releases or timeless classics, this bookstore has you covered. Better yet, allow yourself the pleasure of leisurely browsing and discover that perfect book you never knew you needed.
Indulge in a delightful pause and savor a sip of bliss at The Saratoga Winery.
Located a mere four miles away from the heart of the city, The Saratoga Winery crafts an array of classic red, white, and sweet wines using grapes sourced from New York State. Be sure to explore their semi-dry Riesling, Saratoga Red, or indulge in their renowned natural wine named Melomel, skillfully created from a delightful blend of grapes and locally-sourced honey. Weekend brunch-goers especially adore the Mimosa flights offered at this charming establishment.
Embark on a delightful voyage across the serene waters of Saratoga Lake.
Saratoga Lake stands out as a prime destination for outdoor enthusiasts, attracting a multitude of visitors seeking recreational activities. During the summer, the lake bustles with boating, swimming, rowing, and fishing enthusiasts. Although much of the shoreline is privately owned, there is public access provided through a boat launch located at the northern tip of the lake. For a scenic picnic experience accompanied by captivating lake views, Waterfront Park is an excellent choice.
If you prefer relinquishing the role of captain and opting for a carefree adventure, consider the regular cruises offered by Adirondack Cruise & Charter Co. They provide a range of options, including early morning, afternoon, sunset, and even moonlight cruises, depending on the day of the week. Allow their experienced crew to guide you through a memorable journey on the tranquil waters of Saratoga Lake.
Indulge in tranquility at Brown’s Beach.
Experience the idyllic setting of Brown’s Beach, an ideal destination for a sun-drenched afternoon in upstate New York. Nestled along the shores of Saratoga Lake, this rare public swimming spot invites visitors to revel in its beauty from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Beyond swimming, Brown’s Beach offers an array of water sports activities, including kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding, perfect for those eager to embrace aquatic adventures. And for a quick bite or a cool treat, the beach’s snack bar provides a delightful selection of summer classics like hot dogs and ice cream, ensuring you can savor the flavors without leaving the sandy shore.
For a heartier meal, just a stone’s throw away, Dock Brown’s Lakeside Tavern awaits, serving up delicious burgers, refreshing salads, and enticing cocktails. Unwind on their porch as the sun sets, relishing the serene ambiance that perfectly complements your visit to Brown’s Beach.
Embark on a captivating journey through the enchanting Yaddo Gardens.
Within close proximity of the city center, lies the enchanting Yaddo Gardens, boasting a mere distance of less than three miles. Originating in 1899, these exquisite gardens, inspired by European aesthetics and adorned with graceful fountains, were brought to life by Spencer Trask, a prominent financier, and his wife Katrina, a gifted writer. Nestled amidst this botanical haven, a pergola gracefully divides the lower and upper terraces. Below the pergola lies a charming rose garden, while above it, a captivating woodland rock garden awaits.
Although the majority of the estate serves as an exclusive sanctuary for resident artists and writers, the gardens graciously welcome the public from spring until the late days of autumn. It is here that one can effortlessly immerse themselves in the serene embrace of nature, offering a tranquil respite for an hour or more.
Embark on an adventurous trek through the expansive 100 Acre Wood.
If you’re craving a leisurely hiking experience, the 100 Acre Wood is a splendid destination worth exploring. Located near Saratoga Springs, it offers a delightful outdoor activity option.
Spanning two miles, the well-maintained trails within the wood provide a pleasant and easy hiking opportunity. The terrain is mostly level, with occasional gentle slopes to add a touch of moderate challenge. As you wander along the paths, you’ll encounter a diverse array of plants and flowers, charming bridges, a meandering stream, and picturesque viewpoints that offer breathtaking scenery. Moreover, the presence of conveniently placed benches invites you to pause and enjoy a refreshing break amidst nature’s embrace.
Experience the awe-inspiring U.S. Grant Cottage National Historic Site.
Immerse yourself in history near Saratoga Springs by visiting the renowned U.S. Grant Cottage—a revered sanctuary honoring General Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States. This picturesque yellow cottage served as Grant’s residence during the final five weeks of his life, as he valiantly battled throat cancer and penned his memoirs.
Preserved to resemble its appearance on the fateful day of Grant’s passing on July 23, 1885, the Cottage offers a captivating glimpse into the past. Step inside to witness the original bedroom furniture, marvel at the remarkable floral sculptures adorning his funeral, and even observe the cocaine solution utilized in his cancer treatment. After exploring the Cottage, embark on a self-guided tour of the surrounding grounds, treating yourself to scenic vistas of the majestic Hudson Valley.
Indulge in the nostalgia of a drive-in movie experience.
Transport yourself back in time and immerse in the perfect blend of nostalgia and entertainment at the nearby drive-in movie theater in Malta. With a rich history spanning 70 years, the Malta Drive-In Theatre beckons movie enthusiasts to relish feature films presented on its two expansive screens.
Operating from mid-April to October, this beloved theater offers more than just movies. Treat yourself to delectable snacks and meals from the on-site snack bar and grill, ensuring a truly enjoyable experience. Accommodating up to 800 vehicles, the theater provides ample space for patrons to create their own unique viewing setups. Picture cozy beanbag chairs, comfortable couches, and delightful arrangements in the bed of a truck—witnessing the inventive ways in which people transform their cars into extraordinary viewing spots adds an extra layer of amusement to the movie night.
Participate in a festival or open-air gathering
Saratoga Springs is an ideal destination for festivals and open-air gatherings. From season to season, there is a vibrant array of entertaining events taking place almost every weekend, catering to a diverse range of interests.
One such notable occasion is the Saratoga Wine & Food Festival, offering visitors the opportunity to socialize with culinary experts and indulge in delectable dishes and beverages from the finest local restaurants. On a more relaxed note, the informal yet lively Chowderfest unites over 80 vendors and draws in a crowd of 30,000 attendees, all eager to sample and cast their votes for the most beloved local chowders.
Saratoga Springs takes pride in its premier Jazz Festival, where renowned musicians from around the globe gather for a weekend of extraordinary performances. This event promises a memorable experience for music enthusiasts.
For those interested in local theater, the Saratoga Shakespeare Company presents captivating renditions of the Bard’s timeless classics, all free of charge, in the picturesque setting of Congress Park. It’s a wonderful chance to immerse oneself in culture and enjoy a delightful picnic amidst the captivating performances.