Newsday Westchester's Summer Getaways series will examine a new seasonally friendly Hudson Valley destination every week through Labor Day. For this edition, we offer a closer look at great places to eat, drink, play and stay in Saratoga Springs.
While its charm is on display year-round, Saratoga Springs really shines during the summer racing season at the famed Saratoga Race Course, celebrating its 150th anniversary this summer with about 200 events taking place through September.
Saratoga, with a vibrant downtown, is also the summer home of the New York City Ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra. And the town dubbed "Queen of Spas" during the Victorian Era still offers many venues for pampering.
Todd Garofano, president of the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau, urges visitors to indulge their palates while in Saratoga. "This area is home to the turkey club, the potato chip, Saratoga water and pie a la mode," he said. "That's a whole meal right there."
EAT | DRINK
The Country Corner Cafe (25 Church St.; 518-583-7889; www.countrycornercafe.net) is a local favorite that serves breakfast all day. Specials include fried oatmeal, assorted "benedicts" and homemade jams and jellies.
Set back from bustling Broadway, Druthers Brewing Company (381 Broadway; 518-306-5275; www.druthersbrewing.com) has lots of outdoor seating and, true to its name, brews its own beers. Salads, burgers, sandwiches and the like are the main draws. The (huge) macaroni and cheese is a standout.
Located a few miles from town and set on the Saratoga National golf course, Prime at Saratoga National (458 Union Ave.; 518-583-4653; www.golfsaratoga.com/dining.html) is the kind of high-end steakhouse you take a date to when you want to impress. A big draw is jazz brunch on Sundays (reservations required).
The old-fashioned Roosevelt Baths and Spa (Saratoga State Park; 518-226-4790; www.gideonputnam.com/Spa.aspx) are a must-try. Roosevelt is most famous for its mineral baths ($35 for 40 minutes), said to have positive effects on digestion and skin. A cool side-effect: the minerals in the bath make you float. And don't worry, the water's supposed to be slightly brown.
Saratoga Springs' name refers to the 17 mineral springs sprinkled throughout the town. Most of the springs are marked by plaques and are part of small pavilions; others are less obvious, just a spigot in a rock. Each has its own distinct taste and is said to have different healing properties.
The Saratoga Performing Arts Center (108 Avenue of the Pines; 518-584-9330; www.spac.org) is the place to catch not only the ballet and orchestra but big-name acts such as Tom Petty, Matchbox Twenty, Goo Goo Dolls and Phish (all of whom have upcoming concert dates). JazzFest, another big draw, will take place June 29 and 30.
From July 19 through September 2, racing takes place every day but Tuesday at the Saratoga Race Course (267 Union Ave.; 518-584-6200; www.nyra.com/saratoga). Check out the hat contest on opening weekend.
Next to the racetrack sits Yaddo Gardens (312 Union Ave.; 518-584-0746; www.yaddo.org), whose rose and rock gardens are part of the Yaddo artist's retreat and make a perfect place for quiet contemplation and strolling among the blooms.
Saratoga 150 (www.saratoga150.com) boasts more than 200 events to celebrate the race course, including an equestrian-themed film festival June 11-13, an old-fashioned Floral Fete and Ice Cream Social on Aug. 2 and the Saratoga Wine and Food Festival Sept. 6-8.
Young children (and likely their parents, too), will love watching the ducks waddle around Congress Park and a spin on the Carousel in Congress Park (www.saratoga.com/news/carousel.cfm), a historic wooden carousel open through October 31. Tokens are just $1 per ride.
WORTH A DRIVE
Just 20 minutes from downtown stands Saratoga National Historic Park (www.nps.gov/sara/index.htm), with a battlefield where, in 1777, American forces defeated British troops. Eight miles away is the restored country house of American General Philip Schuyler -- open for tours Fridays through Sundays, plus major holidays in the summer and offering a free guided tour.
Located on the grounds of the Saratoga Spa State Park, the rooms at the Gideon Putnam Spa Resort (24 Gideon Putnam Rd.; 866-890-1171; www.gideonputnam.com) may have a slightly past-their-prime feel, but the large resort retains an old-world charm and is a great spot to go hiking, biking, walking and jogging. Weekend rates before racing season start at $195 per night. During racing season they start at $375. In August rates climb to $445 and up.
The Saratoga Arms (495-497 Broadway; 518-584-1775; www.saratogaarms.com) is a 31-room luxury inn with a large porch out front. Before racing season, rooms start at $209 and $359 during the season.
Other options include chain hotels such as Hampton Inn (25 Lake Ave.; 518-584-2100), Comfort Inn (17 Old Gick Rd.; 518-587-6244) and Courtyard by Marriott (11 Excelsior Ave.; 518-226-0538).
Saratoga socialites Michele and Ron Riggi, who have a huge mansion on Broadway (dubbed Palazzo Riggi, complete with a heated lawn), will be the subject of an upcoming E! reality show called "Palazzo Riggi."
TAKE THE TRAIN
Amtrak trains leave from Penn Station, Yonkers, Croton-on-Hudson, Poughkeepsie, Rhinecliff and Hudson (www.amtrak.com/ethan-allen-express-train)