Saratoga Springs: a name that evokes spas and cures, privilege and leisure, bars and gambling and horses. However, there’s more to this tiny little town than thoroughbreds and high living. A summer destination for many, Saratoga is a small town with a big vision.
People from all over America visit Saratoga for several reasons – thoroughbred horse racing, its healing mineral springs, the rich history of the place and the well-known Skidmore College. Saratoga, although a small area, is stunning and has surprises for you at every corner. The boulevards and streets are brimming with blooming flowers, and the air has a certain splash of old charm in it.
Located at the foothills of the imposing Adirondack Park, Saratoga is about three hours from Boston, New York, Montreal and Philadelphia.
If you are looking for a spot to get away this weekend, here’s a day in Saratoga Springs – things to do guide for your reference.
What’s the best time to visit Saratoga Springs?
During early fall the temperature is warm, typically in the high 60s, and the rooms are inexpensive. However, the busiest time in Saratoga is during summer. Not only will there be crowds at that time, but prices will be sky-high, too. If you are on a budget, avoid summer or holidays such as New Year, Christmas, etc. From November through April, expect to encounter snow in the spa city.
A few facts about Saratoga Springs, NY
– The Saratoga Race Course is one of the oldest tracks in the country
– Saratoga has over one hundred natural mineral springs!
– In its heyday, Saratoga saw visitors who wanted to use the spring water to treat the injuries they suffered in battle. After the news spread about the water’s healing properties, Saratoga became a popular spot for travelers.
– According to the 2017 census, the population of Saratoga Springs is 28,027.
– Albany International Airport is the closest airport, only about 30 minutes away.
– Saratoga Performing Arts Center is the New York City Ballet’s summer home.
– According to a report from 2014 by the national online real estate brokerage Movoto which outlines the top 10 places to live in the state of New York, Saratoga ranks tenth.
One day in Saratoga Springs Itinerary
With limited time on your hands, aim to visit well-known places here to make the most of your experience. This will take you down a rabbit hole filled with fantastic bakeries, horse races, delicious restaurants, shopping, craft cocktail bars and so much more!
Get an early start
8 am – As it’s early, start your day with a big hearty breakfast. There are plenty of tiny little but well-known joints that dish out delicious meals that are absolutely heavenly.
Let the calendar be your guide to breakfast. July through September, which is the racing season, you can make your way to the track and get your fill of eggs and tips from millionaires on the porch of the clubhouse, while witnessing horses on their morning workout routine. If it’s not racing season, head to a local restaurant – Compton’s Restaurant is an excellent choice and well-known for their three-cheese omelet.
9:30 am – Walking past the rows of elegant houses which date back to the early 1900s will get you a good dose of American history. Go on a walking tour and all through the two miles you’ll see elegant windows, graceful porches and intricate roofs of many architectural styles. Immerse yourself in history and architecture.
10:45 am – Your walking tour ends in Broadway, and you can continue on to explore the downtown area. It’s a lively street which runs down the heart of the town. The tiny little restaurants, the quaint little cafes and unique boutiques burst with life, and it almost seems like a scene out of an avenue somewhere in Europe! If you are a shopaholic, you can quickly jump into a store or two and pick up some lovely dresses.
Noon – While strolling through Broadway, you will surely lay eyes on a café which catches your attention. Sneak in and get a table overlooking the bustling street and enjoy a tête-à-tête. You can either sip on a mimosa or a coffee; both great pick-me-ups in summer and winter, respectively.
Head to the race tracks
1 pm – If it’s horse racing season, finish an early lunch and head to the renowned Saratoga Race Track, the lifeblood of Saratoga Springs. Ensure you have the proper Saratoga attire on for the event. If you are feeling lucky, you can place a bet or two and wait and watch what happens.
If there are no races, you can stroll through the 150-year-old premises, visit the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame for some history on racing. Exhibits range from a skeleton of a horse to how to understand the odds on the tote board, each more fascinating than the other.
Enjoy the famous springs
4 pm – You cannot visit Saratoga and leave without visiting the water at Congress Park. Everyone from Edgar Allan Poe to George Washington enjoyed the natural springs in Saratoga that are laden with the goodness of limestone and minerals, and this is what made Saratoga famous. You can either go on a tasting tour and taste the cure or walk through the park and sample the water from the four springs in the park. As you stroll through the gardens, you will set sights on families enjoying picnics and couples madly in love. It’s always a lovely sight to see everyone peacefully enjoying their weekend without a care in the world; in fact, it will make you feel at peace too.
5:30 pm – After spending the day on your feet, you can catch up on a much-needed detox session. After all, a vacation is incomplete without some rest and relaxation, and Saratoga is famous for its spas, it’s not called the spa city for nothing! There is a variety to pick and choose from. Pick your favorite and indulge away!
Hop from bar to bar before heading for dinner
7 pm – This being a Saturday evening, exploring a cocktail bar is a good idea. A testament to the gambling and bootlegging days, Saratoga has numerous bars and there is a plethora of options. The smaller ones, with a speakeasy kind of feel, are the best. The owner of the bar will greet you with a smile from ear to ear and show you to your table and even recommended some delicious cocktails. The cocktails in Saratoga are high-quality, refreshing, and enjoyable. Go easy on the cocktails and the delicious sides if you have plans for dinner. There are bars with large outdoor patio spaces which host live music during the weekend. All in all, an evening in Saratoga will leave you with a new friend by the time you reach your second drink.
If you feel bars aren’t your scene, you can drop by SPAC or the center for performing arts. Live performances take place there among other shows which you will enjoy for sure.
9 pm – There are plenty of options to choose from for dinner. Pick a place based on what you feel like eating that evening. Pick from steaks to sushi to foie gras to pork chops; it’s your call!
After dinner, you can call it a night or head to a bar or a live music joint of your choice.
Where to stay in Saratoga Springs, NY
497 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
A top-rated property, Saratoga Arms overflows with rich history. This lovely historic building is located in the city very close to famous attractions. The calm and pleasing setting is ideal for a vacation. Designed for all types of travelers, it’s a highly recommended spot for a weekend escape.
Turf and Spa Motel
176 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
A good budget option is the Turf and Spa Motel. It’s in the heart of the town and offers ample facilities for a comfortable stay. Your stay here will be complemented by the surrounding greenery while still being a hop, skip and jump away from attractions that you intend to visit during your getaway.
The Saratoga Hilton
534 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
Looking for a plush and luxurious option? Then look no further than The Saratoga Hilton, also in the city center. After coming out to Saratoga Springs, there’s no better way to be indulgent than staying at Hilton. With elegant, cozy rooms overlooking verdant greenery and state-of-the-art facilities, Hilton simply beckons you to leave all your worries behind.
Day trips from Saratoga Springs, NY
1. Lake Placid
The irresistibly beautiful Lake Placid is a favorite spot for vacationers. The lake is enormous and surrounded by wildflowers in a variety of hues which look stunning. The village exudes small-town charm and an excellent base from where you can plan adventure trips like hikes, kayaking, and skiing in the winter.
2. New Paltz
A charming waterside town known to be one of the most beautiful towns in upstate New York, this town is cozily located in a forested area and is home to a wide range of restaurants and shops. Since this is the countryside, there are plenty of outdoor activities you can partake in, from walking in the woods to sailing.
3. Lake George
The beautiful Lake George is one of the most popular lakes in the country. Both travelers and locals visit this lake often. There are endless ways to spend your day here, from water theme parks to ferry cruises and any water sport imaginable – just name it!
Extra tips for visiting Saratoga Springs, NY
You never know when a few extra tips will come in handy.
– Thoroughbred season at Saratoga Race Track is between June 19 and Labor Day.
– During winter, you can go snowshoeing, ice-skating, sledding or cross-country skiing in Saratoga State Park.
– Choosing to stay downtown is recommended as it becomes easy to visit places in and around.
– Check the weather before packing.
For those who have never set foot to Saratoga Springs, it’s high time you plan your trip. From the outside, it seems like your everyday town, but delve in and you’ll see a whole new side which will entice you and leave you with memories that will last you a lifetime.
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Anca is a travel writer and the founder of One Day Itinerary - the biggest collection of travel itineraries for those who are time-limited or just want to maximize their time while traveling. Although she easily becomes homesick for Croatia, she thinks travel is essential to her happiness. She has traveled to more countries than she is years old and doesn’t plan on changing that fact. In her travel guides she aims to inspire people to travel whenever they have a spare day (or two).