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Why such widespread enthusiasm about Saratoga Springs? Let us count the ways. There’s the performing arts center, downtown, state park, city park and racetrack. They’re close to each other and the cosmos too! These tips ring true for girlfriend getaways, romantic travel and family fun. Solo travel too.
13 Saratoga Springs, NY, Summer Pleasures
Art, music and the cosmos collided in pleasurable ways throughout the Saratoga Springs, New York 2018 summer season. They’re shaping up to do so again in 2019.
That’s because the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, located in a 2,400-acre park, reaches beyond even the wonders of music, dance, theater and nature’s beauty.
They’ve woven their vision like thin strands of DNA uniting this earth and the next. Art and Cosmos, they call it. This TravelingMom was immersed in the first annual Out of the World Festival.
Practically speaking, summer season visitors immerse robustly in orchestra concerts, horse races, art galleries, exquisite dining, outdoor Shakespeare and historic healing waters.
Plus, I met an astronaut!
Focus on Saratoga Spa State Park with its stunning Performing Arts Center, and the lively downtown, plus whatever racetrack events resonate. That’s what I did.
5 Significant Things To Do In A Saratoga Springs Summer
- So Much Music
- Mineral Springs For Drinking and Soaking
- Dining Both Fine And Casual
- Shakespeare Outdoors
- Horse Racing
5 Simple, Fun Things To Do in Saratoga Springs
- Ride The 1904 Carousel
- Gaze At Many Gardens
- Muse About Time As Clock Tower Chimes
- Walk In Lush Parks, Lively Downtown
- Star Gaze In Dark Skies
Three Sure-fire Results Of A Saratoga Springs Summer
- Experience The Nexus Of Art And Science
- See The Connection: Horce Racing And The Arts
- Fit Right In To A Friendly Community
FIVE SIGNIFICANT THINGS TO DO IN A SARATOGA SPRINGS SUMMER
1. Symphonies, Ballet, Opera, Jazz
Music tops the summer list.
One solid reason is this: The Saratoga Performing Arts Center welcomes everyone to its amphitheater in the woods.
That means free lawn seating as well as ticketed chairs. Performances geared right to kids, and family events expanding the themes of the concerts, dance and theater. Don’t limit options thinking highbrow only.
We are home for the summer. So says The Philadelphia Orchestra year after year. Joyous to be back, and thrilled-to-hear-you-again moods permeated every superb performance – and I showed up every day.
The New York City Ballet and Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center return again and again too. Opera Saratoga involves guest artists from around the world and Live Nation presents dozens of music concerts.
Find the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in a forest. This is a New York state park.
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2. Mineral Springs Drinking And Soaking
Saratoga Spa State Park feeds the soul.
- Orchestra, ballet, opera and jazz in a cathedral of trees
- Healing waters rising from deep underground
- Reflecting pools and groomed walking paths
Wine tastings are fun, right? Same’s true for mineral waters from Saratoga’s springs. Their taste and mineral content differ from spigot to spigot.
Wander the woods and taste six mineral waters. Flavors change with depth of the spring: 209 to 806 feet down. That’s through shale, limestone and sandstone.
Slip into the Roosevelt Bath House where spa treatments can be booked, and drink from the Lincoln water fountain. Bathe in healing waters here with a private tub in your massage treatment room.
In its heyday in the 1940s, the bathhouse provided 3,200 healing mineral baths daily for travelers to Saratoga Springs.
Completed in 1935, the park buildings were the first major New Deal project to be completed. A second bathhouse is under renovation now. History abounds.
TravelingMom Tip: The stunning season at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center includes rehearsals so listen with intention while walking in the woods, drinking from the mineral springs.
3. Dining Both Fine and Casual
I can heartily recommend breakfast, lunch and dinner in downtown Saratoga Springs. I experienced several.
Salt & Char for lunch and dinner on Broadway presents exquisite service in décor evoking equestrian pleasures. Notice them, then linger to savor flavor with soft jazz and some blues.
Seek the salt with intention. On top of the butter. Textured on the warm bread. Keep seeing.
- Steaks age 45 days in a cooler room of pink Himalayan salt
- Seafood is served as a tower of lobster, shrimp, oysters, salmon and crab
- Cauliflower is roasted and curried with marscona almonds, gremolata and lemon confit
- Citrus poached plums arrive under glass, smoky with fennel pollen cheese and local honeycomb
At Sweet Mimi’s apricot scones should satisfy breakfast or lunch taste buds. Trouble is, the menu is so farm-fresh and intriguing, big eating takes over.
I sat on a tall stool at the window with a scramble of zucchini, corn, cherry tomatoes, caramelized shallots, thyme, basil, balsamic drizzle and shaved parmesan.
Lemon ricotta pancakes are mixed in small batches, says chef and owner Jeanette Liebers, to be fluffier.
Bread your main choice? Arriving fresh every morning from Brooklyn to this charming café a block off Broadway.
Mrs. London’s Boutique Bakery on the main street, Broadway, felt decidedly French to me. Ooh la la the pastries.
Throngs of downtown shoppers knew that to be true, considering their orders to go.
The rest of us sat to eat fresh-made, locally sourced tomato basil soup or grilled sandwiches, and then cakes or tarts.
Dine In The Park Pre Concert
Dinner at the Hall of Springs surrounded by handsome Beaux Artes architecture in Saratoga Spa State Park ranks high too, especially with the allure of a concert a simple stroll away in the Saratoga Performing Arts Center—or on its lawn.
The buffet is abundant and suitable for dinner, but the menu is also enticing. My onion risotto entree was superb, and my colleague’s salmon cooked just right.
Check the schedule for jazz on the patio too.
Downtown dining includes to-go options.
TravelingMom Tip for Shakespeare in Congress Park: get an interesting sandwich and bottle of wine from the Putnam Market and walk a few blocks to the performance lawn.
4. Shakespeare Outdoors
Pet friendly is just a tiny example of how comfortable the Saratoga Shakespeare Company makes an evening with the Bard.
I saw Henry IV outdoors in Congress Park, a pleasant short walk from my hotel, the downtown Embassy Suites. Different Shakespeare plays happen every summer, true the past 18 years.
Man next to me had his dog on a leash, wine in a carafe and dinner spread on a cloth-covered folding table.
Others walking their dogs, clueless about the professional performance, stopped to watch. Many lingered.
This is professional, Actors Equity theater, and it’s free, dedicated to the notion of truly public theater. I was happy to leave $5.00 to rent a soft, folding chair.
5. Horse Racing
If the Saratoga Racetrack is your main plan, of course you know how that works and what to do.
Since my focus was performance and art, I figured out how to connect just a bit with this fabled track, open since 1863.
Go to breakfast on racing days.
A buffet is served from 7:00 – 9:30 a.m., overlooking the track. Ride the free tram too, or take a walking tour. That’s popular so go early – and plan to be gone before race fans arrive.
THE FIVE SIMPLE, FUN THINGS TO DO IN SARATOGA SPRINGS
1. Ride The 1904 Carousel
Two rows of flamboyant wooden horses gave scores of little kids reason to pause the day I rode the carousel in Saratoga Springs. Which steed to choose?
Each one of these 28 high-stepping, well-decorated steeds are hand-carved. Real horsehair provides their tails.
Families with babies in strollers split the pleasure: parent and child inside riding and parent with baby photographing through big glass windows that open easily.
Marcus Charles Illinois carved these horses and that matters. This is one of only two double-row carved carousels intact. Plus, only 150 wooden carousels run today – used to be 4,000 between 1885 and 1930.
2. Gaze At Many Gardens
Little gardens pop up all over summertime Saratoga Springs.
Anticipate flowers cascading from boxes on walls, and containers on sidewalks. Alleys feature sophisticated arrays of many varieties and eateries carry the theme inside with fresh flowers on tables.
People walk in Saratoga Springs. I suspect getting up close to many mini gardens is part of the reason.
3. Muse About Time As Clock Tower Chimes
Lyrical notes waft through the air, thanks to the clock tower standing tall over downtown.
Engage with the tones and do even more strolling in Congress Park, with an entrance that is easy to find guided by the clock. Landmarks like this one provide people in hospitable communities another reason to pause, and connect in the moment.
4. Walk About Lush Parks, Lively Downtown
With 17 acres, Congress Park complements the adjoining downtown bustling with shops and restaurants.
Take a break in lush grasses and trees, then return to shopping and dining!
Behind the carousel in Congress Park, I found a small Italian Renaissance garden, circa 1905. Take the kids.
What a simple yet sophisticated spot to learn about landscape architecture. Clarence Luce designed this garden. Local kids call the Carrara marble Triton sculptures in a reflecting pool Spit and Spat.
Talk about Greek mythology and these messengers from the sea, or just chill. Corinthian columns presumably guarding the entrance are just a few steps beyond the Triton Pool.
5. Star Gaze In Dark Skies
Saratoga Spa State Park is where I found stars, lots of them. They’re the cosmos too, right?
With 2,400 acres, the sky options abound, merging with the music of the dynamic Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Think fireworks as the 1812 Overture concludes.
Expect astronomers sharing telescopes because SPAC really appreciates the nexus of art, music and the cosmos.
Consider overnighting in the park at the Gideon Putnam Resort for ready access to dark-sky spaces. This is a New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation property.
THREE SURE-FIRE RESULTS OF A SARATOGA SPRINGS SUMMER
- Art, science, nature swirl in a symphony distinct to Saratoga Springs. Visitors feel it.
- Human emotion and great aspirations energize visitor experiences in the concert hall, fine art galleries and the race track.
- Happy community must be a formula for hospitality because fitting right in is easy. Maybe it’s the music. Or art. Or fine foods and fashions at the track.