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A Tank Away

Saratoga Springs, N.Y., a perennial favorite

Downtown Saratoga Springs bustles day and night during the summer.Adam Coglianese/Credit: Adam Coglianese

Midsummer travelers to this upstate New York town come either for the waters and stay for the horses, or vice versa. It’s a winning perfecta regardless, as Saratoga Springs delivers both spa days and race days with equal finesse. A perennial destination of the affluent and the artistic, it still retains an almost Rockwellian air, especially the Broadway district. The historic brick and stone edifices house a parade of restaurants and curiosity shops that are as inviting as the possibilities a bit farther afield.


Lodging prices spike during race season, so visitors should be prepared to pay a premium in town, but there are plenty of choices. While the Adelphi Hotel remains closed for renovation, another of Saratoga’s grande dames, the Gideon Putnam Resort (24 Gideon Putnam Road, 518-584-3000, www.gideon
, $175-$435) welcomes guests with its country-club charm. Located within the manicured grounds of Saratoga Spa State Park, the 124-room hotel specializes in wellness and romance packages. The Saratoga Arms (497 Broadway, 518-584-1775,, $259-$469) in the heart of downtown is a spotless boutique hotel that exudes Victorian grace down to its brass hardware and ornamental ceilings. Another period charmer is the Union Gables (55 Union Ave., 518-584-1558,, $160-$450). Housed in a sunlit mansion, this bed-and-breakfast combines modern amenities with period furnishings and offers morning treats such as made-to-order pancakes and fresh veggie omelets. As the town’s oldest operating hotel, The Inn at Saratoga (231 Broadway, 518-583-1890, www.theinn
, $147-$359) has been welcoming guests since 1843. Each of the 42 well-appointed rooms comes with Wi-Fi, a buffet breakfast, and cordial service.


Rise and shine at Putnam Market (435 Broadway, 518-587-3663, www.putnammarket
, $2.95-$9.50) to devour one of this specialty purveyor’s jumbo blueberry almond muffins or pluck a key lime cupcake from the rack. Picnicgoers should return for overstuffed sandwiches and prepared foods such as maple chipotle meatballs, or simply choose a local Ballston blue cheese and some wine. The veranda at Maestro’s at the Van Dam (353 Broadway, 518-580-0312, www.maestrosat
, $9-$24) is always a good place to be seen and grants commanding views of the downtown bustle. For lunch, try the duck confit grill or the Saratoga cheesesteak topped with Boursin and steak sauce. For dinner swing by Hattie’s Restaurant (45 Phila St., 518-584-4790, www.hattiesrestaurant
, $12.95-$23.95) for Southern hospitality and fried chicken that won a “throwdown” with chef Bobby Flay. Meanwhile, One Caroline Street Bistro
(1 Caroline St., 518-587-2026,, $14-$28) pairs organic, locally sourced specialties, such as wild boar ragu,with live jazz and local acts nightly.



This year famed Saratoga Race Course (267 Union Ave., 518-584-6200,, clubhouse admission $5) celebrates its 150th anniversary, and genteel afternoons can be spent watching some of the summer’s finest thoroughbred racing from July 19 to Sept. 2. The $1 million Travers Stakes will be run on Aug. 24 and will draw tens of thousands, who will picnic in the pines, crowd the clubhouse, and cheer lustily during the most anticipated two minutes of the Saratoga season. Delve further into the sport of kings at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame (191 Union Ave., 518-584-0400,, admission $7) , which nicely illustrates centuries of thoroughbred drama and includes a handsome collection of equine art. If not at the museum, extravagant hats are de rigueur for ladies at the track, and Hatsational (510 Broadway, 518-587-1022,, $50-$275) stocks hundreds of chapeaus sure to turn heads around the paddock. Of course, visitors were “taking the cure” in Saratoga’s natural spring waters long before racing arrived, and today Roosevelt Baths & Spa (39 Roosevelt Drive, 518-226-4790, www.rooseveltbathsandspa
, mineral bath $35) upholds the tradition at Saratoga Spa State Park. Built as a health facility during the 1930s and renovated in the last decade, the spa projects old-world chic and provides massages, facials, mud wraps, mineral baths, and similar treatments. Meanwhile, Saratoga’s tree-lined downtown offers a profusion of shopping options. Two standouts are the antiquarian bookseller Lyrical Ballad (7 Phila St., 518-584-8779, www.lyricalballadbooks
), which sells first-edition Twain and other rarities, and Saratoga Olive Oil Co. (484 Broadway, 518-450-1308,, bottles $10.95-$18.95), a sampler’s delight that offers tastings of oils and vinegars infused with fig, chipotle, violet, and other enticing flavors.



The sporting set should head to the Saratoga Polo Association (2 Bloomfield Road, Greenfield Center, 518-584-8108,, tickets $20-$50), to stomp divots and catch early evening matches on Fridays and Sundays throughout the summer. The weekend tournaments often prove as lively as the performances at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (108 Avenue of the Pines, 518-584-9330,, tickets $24-$80). Affectionately known as SPAC, the popular venue packs 25,000 into its amphitheater and lawn for concerts from Bon Jovi, John Mayer, and the like. SPAC also hosts multiple performances by the National Ballet of Canada and the Philadelphia Orchestra. For something more intimate, visit Prime at Saratoga National (458 Union Ave., 518-583-4653,
, drinks $4-$15) for drink specials and smooth music at the upscale 19th hole of this top-rated golf club.


Matthew Bellico can be reached at matthew.bellico@gmail