From September to May Saratoga offers a variety of attractions without the crowds of summer. Fall is the best time for antiquing and apple picking. Winter features speed-skating competitions and a Victorian Street Walk festival. Springtime visitors can enjoy the Dressage at the Saratoga Horse Show as well as a folk-music festival.
At any season the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce is your best source of information for planning a trip. It may be contacted by mail at 28 Clinton Street, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866; by phone at 1-800-526-8970; or by e-mail at email@example.com. Once you are in town, you can stop first at the Saratoga Springs Urban Cultural Park Visitors Center, where a variety of maps, brochures, and walking-tour routes is available. The Center may be reached by phone at 587-3241 (the area code for all numbers in Saratoga Springs is 518).
Predictable but reliable accommodations may be found at the town’s Sheraton (where much of the racing set stays) and Holiday Inn, and less expensive family-style motels are easy to find on the outskirts of town or even a fifteen-minute drive away on the pretty Saratoga Lake. You can get a very extensive list of accommodations from the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce.
Fortunately, probably because it’s a college town as well as a tourism center, Saratoga Springs is dotted with reasonably priced eateries alongside the grander places that cater to the Thoroughbred set. We particularly liked as a good middle ground Sperry’s (584-9618), a casual restaurant with a warm, lively bar scene and an appealing patio. For a quieter, somewhat more sophisticated atmosphere, try 43 Phila Bistro (584-2720), around the corner. The Olde Bryan Inn (587-2990) is in one of the town’s oldest buildings, and its ancient atmosphere is complemented by simple, hearty fare.
Siro’s (584-4030), right next to the track and open only during the racing season, is a Saratoga institution. Although dinner reservations are hard to come by, it’s worth stopping by to savor a drink at the piano bar. Or sit in on one of the free betting seminars that The Daily Racing Form conducts here. A highlight of any trip to Saratoga is breakfast at the track, where you can watch the horses’ morning workouts over a muffin and glass of Moët & Chandon. Call 584-6200 for information.
Other equine events include the famed Fasig-Tipton Auction, an annual sale of yearlings, which is open to the public and takes place the second week in August. Polo matches are held throughout that month. Call 584-8108 for a schedule. Saratoga’s harness races have gotten a bit lost in all the fanfare surrounding its Thoroughbred counterpart, but the sport is a vibrant part of Saratoga’s history, dating back to 1847. Today the races are held at the Saratoga Equine Sports Center and run from February through November. Call 584-2110 for details.
A short walk away, both the Roosevelt and Lincoln bathhouses offer wonderful traditional mineral baths and massages in gleaming white facilities that date from the 1930s. You’ll want to reserve far ahead for either of them; they’re often fully booked. Call 584-2011 for the Roosevelt, 583-2880 for the Lincoln.
For a town of its size, Saratoga Springs has an unusual number of fine museums. Heading the list is the National Museum of Racing and Thoroughbred Hall of Fame, which recently underwent a six-million-dollar renovation. The hours vary throughout the year, so call for the schedule, at 584-0400. The Saratoga Harness Hall of Fame (587-4210) offers lively exhibits on the history of these lower-profile horseraces. It’s located on the grounds of the Saratoga Equine Sports Center.
The National Museum of Dance, housed in a light-filled, renovated bathhouse, features a dance hall of fame as well as rotating exhibits. In July and August the public can also view classes at the Lewis A. Swyer School for the Performing Arts next door (phone: 584-2225).
The Historical Society of Saratoga Springs (584-6920) resides in the former Canfield Casino, and its two museums give a good idea of the town’s early history, with an emphasis on gambling. Don’t miss the captioned photographs in the gift shop on the first floor.
For those who prefer more strenuous enjoyment of the outdoors, there are golf courses, tennis courts, jogging and bike paths, cross-country skiing routes, and two public swimming pools in Spa State Park (584-2535). On Saratoga Lake, four miles out of town, there are a number of places that rent jet skis, canoes, powerboats, and bass-fishing equipment, among other things. All are listed in the Saratoga Lake brochure, available from the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce at 584-3255. If you’re willing to drive a bit, you can get a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding landscape on a hot-air trip with Adirondack Balloon Flights (793-6342). There’s no better way to enjoy the fall foliage.