Saratoga Springs, New York is renowned for its horse racing and mineral springs, but it is also a perfect small city for a family getaway. Thoroughbred racing season is the end of July through Labor Day, but year-round there are enough activities to fill a weekend.
The first stop for the horse-obsessed should be the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, across the street from the race course. At the HorsePlay! Gallery, kids can dress in racing silks and a riding helmet, or an elegant summer hat that women wear to the races. There is a giant stuffed horse that you can brush, (but not sit on) a hobby horse for those who must ride, and a game where you can match horse and human shoes to different tasks. The museum has horse paintings and sculpture, a movie on horse racing and a racing simulator for those 4 feet and over.
Congress Park, right downtown, has an antique carousel, open May – October. The Park is a great place to take a picnic lunch, and you can try the mineral water found in the area’s springs.
Racing enthusiasts of a different stripe should head to Saratoga Automobile Museum. You can see antique racing cars and even sit in some. The museum is in a renovated bottling plant in the Saratoga Spa State Park; the plant bottled the Saratoga mineral water.
The park includes The National Museum of Dance, housed in a historic bath house. Exhibits on dance and musical theater are musts for stage-struck kids. The interactive children’s wing has costumes and a stage so young kids can be in the spotlight.
The Children’s Museum at Saratoga has a diner, supermarket, fire truck and bank where kids can learn about Saratoga history and pretend play. Best of all is the gazebo where kids create music by moving their bodies. The museum is designed for kids 7 and younger; for older kids, who have studied various wars in school, head to the free New York State Military Museum & Veterans Research Center. Housed in a former armory, the museum has exhibits and artifacts from the Revolutionary War through Desert Storm.
Those with younger kids should consider the Hilton Garden Inn, which has a pool, adjoining rooms with microwave and min-fridges, and extremely comfortable beds.
Once you park your car in Saratoga, you can pretty much leave it there, walking to cafes and shops along the main street, Broadway. Saratoga Park is walkable (depending on your strict definition of walking) and even the Amtrak station is only a mile or so from the center of town.
Photo credit: Image Photography