Although Disney is known to many as ‘The Happiest Place On Earth” I beg to differ. And for someone who loves Disney as much as I do to say that does indeed speak volumes. Saratoga is far and away my favorite place on earth and I want every person to experience it and love it like I have for the past 24 (going on 25) years. Below I’ve complied a list of things to do and see while in Spa City.
1. Visit the Yaddo Gardens
Image via Saratoga Woods & Waterways
Yaddo is an artists' community that was founded in 1990 by financier Spencer Trask and his poet wife Katrina. It offers residencies to professional creatives to provide them the opportunity to work uninterrupted in a creative, supportive environment. Both the rock and rose gardens are absolutely gorgeous – the former was a gift from Spencer Trask to Katrina Trask in 1899 and was intended to be a garden of delight and romance. It’s a great place to go for a walk, a quiet lunch, or even a date.
2. Catch a Saratoga Polo Association match
A quick five minutes from downtown Saratoga Springs you can catch a polo on the historic Whitney Field or on adjacent fields, every Friday and Sunday evening at 5:30 p.m. You can choose to go to the air-conditioned clubhouse (which boasts a full cash bar and light picking) or you can do what I typically do - opt for the more casual (and in my opinion WAY more fun) general admission side where you bring your own picnic and tailgate right next to the action. Half time may be my favorite part of polo because it's divot stomping time - during the match small patches of dirt and grass are torn up and need replacing so the game can continue on safely for the players and ponies.
3. Take a stroll in Congress Park
Located along Circular, Spring, and Broadway streets, Congress Park is the perfect place to catch a live music concert, art show, Shakespeare in the Park or even just to walk around and relax in. Within the park gates you can view the gorgeous historic 1870s famed Canfield Casino - no longer a casino, but frequently rented out for events - some scenes from the 2003 feature film Seabiscuit were even filmed here! The park also boasts a historic wooden carousel that is a must-ride (only 50 cents to ride). There is a hand-carved horse in the lobby of Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa that was designed after the horses found on the Congress Park Carousel.
4. SPAC for ballet, orchestra or concert
Image via Black Muddy Blog
The Saratoga Performing Arts Center – better known as SPAC is a one hundred and ten foot high amphitheater in the heart of Spa State Park that hosts the New York City Ballet, The Philadelphia Orchestra, various concerts, the Saratoga Wine and Food Festival and even oversees the National Museum of Dance. It is one of the world's most acoustically acclaimed outdoor performance venues and is an ideal way to spend a summer night.
5. Caffe Lena
Image via Caffe Lena
Widely recognized as the oldest continually operating folk coffeehouse in the United States. Caffe Lena, located on Phila Street, features various cultural events that feature folk, traditional, acoustic concerts and music acts. Opened in 1960, they have helped launch the likes of Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, Ani DiFranco and more of America's beloved songwriters.
6. Saratoga National Historic Park
The Battles of Saratoga are known as the "Turning Point of the American Revolution” where British General John Burgoyne surrendered his entire army to superior American forces on October 12, 1777. Don’t miss your opportunity to learn about the Saratoga Battlefield – opt for a self-guiding tour using the park's brochure and downloadable cell phone tour or pre-arrange a guided tour with one of the park's licensed guides.
7. Victoria Pool
Image via Times Union.
Sure I love the name of this pool at the Saratoga Spa State Park, but the real reason I love it so is because it was built in the early 1930’s and the architecture is simply spectacular – limestone deck, lion water spouts and more. Frequented in the day by the rich and famous, the Victoria Pool was the first heated pool in the United States (where New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt actively supported its building as part of a hydrotherapy program), but currently goes unheated because the original boiler are too expensive.
8. Walk along Broadway
As one of the most picturesque walking towns in America you can’t forget to walk around town and explore this "Great American Main Street" winning town. Everything is within a 10 minute walking radius: shopping, restaurants, museums, bed and breakfasts, and more!
9. Moreau Lake
Last year was the first time I had ever heard about Moreau Lake and I can’t believe I had been missing out on it for so long. Hidden among the rocky rides, pine trees and hardwoods of Moreau State Park this lake sits a sandy "beach," boat launch, cabin, campsites and more. Great “dark day” activity when you’re not betting the ponies.
10. Last, but certainly not least you’ve gotta eat after enjoying some (if not all) of these wonderful places. One of my favorite new places is Boca Bistro – a Spanish Bistro and Tapas Bar located right on Broadway with the best bacon wrapped dates I’ve even eaten.
Image via Boca Bistro’s Facebook
Check out my blog of Must-Eats of Saratoga Springs for some other delicious eats around town!