Saratoga’s storied summer meet kicks off on Friday and runs through Labor Day. If you’re making a pilgrimage to horse racing’s most holy ground, we have 10 things to know before you go!
1. Saratoga Race Course is the oldest sports venue in the United States.
Saratoga Race Course opened for business in 1863, making it the oldest sporting venue in the entire United States. If you love horses and/or history, Saratoga is a must-visit destination.
2. It’s one of the most elite racing meets in the world.
Over its 155-year history, Saratoga has hosted some of the greatest Thoroughbreds, trainers, and jockeys on the planet. From Man o’ War to American Pharoah, equine royalty runs at Saratoga.
3. You can make a lot of money playing against favorites here.
If you’re dreaming of a huge score this summer, play the races at Saratoga. The track is famously home to surprise winners – in fact, a (now debunked) legend has it that the idiom “upset” came from the name of the horse who beat Man o’ War at Saratoga. If you want to make bank, now’s the time: Last year, some lucky bettors made $232.50 on a $2 win wager, so there are fortunes to be made this summer at Saratoga!
4. Saratoga has a lot of nicknames.
The track actually has a couple of nicknames: “The Summer Place to Be” (self-explanatory) is one, and the “Graveyard of Favorites” (see point No. 3) is another. But the most famous nickname surrounding Saratoga is the "Spa," and that’s because the city sits on top of natural springs with waters rumored to bring good health to humans and horses. Saratoga became a playground for the rich throughout the Gilded Age thanks to the mineral water and the race meet, and there are still bathhouses and drinking pavilions galore throughout the town.
5. The nightlife is second to none.
Saratoga may look like an idyllic, sleepy hamlet, but town lights up in the summer. From bars and clubs on Caroline Street to fine dining, the Spa is the perfect place to let your hair down this summer.
6. The arts scene is unparalleled.
If you’re a culture vulture, you’re going to love Saratoga: the city is home to the racetrack as well as the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, the National Museum of Dance, and the Saratoga Preforming Arts Center which hosts everyone from Pentatonix to the Philadelphia Orchestra. There’s also Saratoga Polo, the Saratoga National Historical Park, and so much more.
7. The track has really amazing food.
If you’re a foodie, you’re going to love going to Saratoga Race Course, from their in-house specialties like potato chips (which, according to legend, were originally created in Saratoga!) to food trucks galore. My personal favorite is the pulled pork mac ‘n’ cheese from the Mac Truck. It’s heaven in a massive bowl.
8. The Racing Hall of Fame inducts new members on Aug. 3.
If you’re a racing fan, you won’t want to miss the sport’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Aug. 3. The event – held at Fasig-Tipton’s sales pavilion – is free and open to the public; but seating is limited and is first-come, first-served, so get there well before the 10:30 a.m. start time to secure a seat!
9. A perfect Saratoga morning includes at trip to the track to watch horses train.
To get the ultimate Saratoga experience, you need to get to the track in the morning to watch horses train. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful, and it gives you a look at the day-to-day life of the elite Thoroughbreds and their caretakers. From a buffet breakfast to historic and photographic guided tours, there are so many options to experience the morning glory of the Spa.
10. Saratoga is the gateway to the Adirondacks.
If you’re a nature lover, plan to take a day to explore some of the Adirondacks. Lake George is just a half-hour drive north of Saratoga, and it’s a haven for those who love hiking, fishing, boating, camping, and swimming.