Wrapped around the northern corner of Saratoga Lake and hugging the west bank of Fish Creek, Saratoga Springs sits at the southern base of the beautiful Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York. Roughly 3 hours north of New York City, and just 40 miles from Albany, Saratoga Springs is known for its world-class horse racing and healing, mineral-rich springs.
Whether you’re seeking the excitement of a race or the relaxation of a spa, these are the best things to do, places to eat, and places to stay in Saratoga Springs.
Pro Tip: If you’re traveling through New York’s capital city on your way to Saratoga Springs, here are nine ways to spend a day in beautiful Albany.
Things To Do In Saratoga Springs
Embrace Your Inner Equestrian
Centuries before the first Model T rolled off the assembly line, crowds gathered to watch horse racing. Unlike American football or baseball, horse racing has been a spectator sport around the globe for ages. And there’s no better place to embrace this pastime than in Saratoga Springs.
Begin with a trip to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, where you’ll discover three centuries of horse racing. Then head down the road to the Saratoga Race Course, America’s oldest sports venue. Whether you choose to place a bet (or not), it’s a great place to enjoy a Thoroughbred race, grab a bite to eat, and people-watch.
The racing season in Saratoga Springs is about six weeks long, beginning in mid-to-late July and ending around Labor Day in early September.
Celebrate America’s Love Affair With Cars
Exchange powerful horses for horsepower with a visit to the Saratoga Automobile Museum. Inside the red-brick former water bottling plant in the heart of Saratoga Spa State Park, you’ll find classic cars in mint condition and a variety of race cars that once zoomed around the track.
Pro Tip: When you visit Saratoga Springs, you may notice locals using the word Saratoga to refer to either the town of Saratoga Springs or the surrounding area of Saratoga County. Don’t let that confuse you!
Soak In A Healing Mineral Springs Bath
When I think of mineral springs, I default to hot springs, like the scalding-hot, therapeutic waters flowing through Hot Springs, Arkansas, or the pools of warm, soothing water at Chico Hot Springs in Montana. But the mineral baths in Saratoga Springs are quite different. Cool, carbonated, and naturally green, the mineral springs of Saratoga are heated from a stable 55 degrees to body temperature before guests are invited to soak in the soothing effervescent water.
Fun Fact: Local lore suggests that taking a sip of water from Big Red, the natural spring located at the back of the picnic area at the Saratoga Race Course, before placing a bet is supposed to bring you good luck. However, be warned that this water tastes much different from the filtered water you might be used to. And the scarlet color in the sparkling mineral water is due to iron.
Learn About Saratoga Springs’s Important Place In American History
History buffs won’t want to miss the Saratoga National Historical Park on the east side of Saratoga Lake. In the rolling green hills of the Saratoga Battlefield, the British Army surrendered for the first time in world history during the American Revolution, handing a team of liberty-loving patriots an important win in their battle for independence.
A short drive north of the park, the Saratoga Monument rises 155 feet toward the sky, celebrating the British surrender of 1777. Climb the stairs of the stone obelisk for spectacular views of the Hudson River Valley. Or follow in the footsteps of the retreating Red Coats by walking through Victory Woods, where markers along a boardwalk trail provide further details about this turning point in the war.
Enjoy The Outdoors
In addition to exploring the architecture and trails of Saratoga Spa State Park and walking through Victory Woods, enjoy the outdoors with a visit to Yaddo Gardens. Inspired by French and Italian gardens, the fragrant flowers, flowing fountains, and stone statues surrounding the Yaddo estate will make you feel as if you’ve been transported across the Atlantic Ocean to the grounds of a European castle.
Sip A Glass Of Melomel
I was surprised to learn that New York is the United States’s third-largest wine-producing state. While 90 percent of New York’s wine flows from the Finger Lakes region, you can experience one of the Empire State’s 400 wineries in Saratoga Springs.
Whether you sample at a wine barrel table in a cozy tasting room or outside on a patio under twinkling lights, be sure to try a glass of the melomel. Fermenting locally sourced fruit with sweet honey in Kentucky bourbon barrels, The Saratoga Winery has perfected this centuries-old type of mead that is similar to (but yet different from) the ice wine produced in Finger Lakes wineries.
Best Restaurants In Saratoga Springs
Start your day with breakfast at the Triangle Diner. While the menu changes daily, this joint may be the best breakfast place on the planet for French toast fans. Go the traditional route by ordering the daily French toast breakfast, which tops egg-dipped, pan-fried pieces of toast with everything from fresh fruit to lemon curd to peanut butter chips. Or enjoy a more substantial version of French toast that layers scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and cheese between two French toast slices, sandwich-style.
The Triangle Diner also serves lunch until 2 p.m.
With a wide range of fresh salads, hearty soups, and filling sandwiches, the Mediterranean-inspired menu at Boca Bistro is a great option for lunch. Supporting local farms with its daily taco specials, featured burgers, and soup of the day, the menu changes with the seasons.
15 Church Restaurant
With fresh seafood flown in daily and only the very best USDA Prime aged beef, 15 Church Restaurant has you covered, whether you’re craving surf, turf, or both!
Start with spicy hamachi tartare tacos, blue lump crab cakes, or a platter of oysters and shrimp from the raw bar. The glazed Chilean sea bass topping a plate of shiitake mushrooms is a popular pescatarian dish, while steak lovers will revel in the Gorgonzola-butter-topped filet mignon.
Whatever you select for your starter, side, or entree, be sure to finish things off with an order of zeppoles. Rolled in cinnamon sugar, these Italian doughnuts melt in your mouth.
Best Hotels In Saratoga Springs
The Gideon Putnam
This expansive red-brick hotel with soaring white columns, surrounded by the beauty of Saratoga Spa State Park, looks like an antebellum mansion transplanted to Upstate New York. Opened in 1935, The Gideon Putnam is named for one of the area’s earliest settlers and includes access to the Roosevelt Baths & Spa mentioned earlier. The historic hotel is allegedly haunted, with reports of especially lively paranormal activity on the fifth floor. Over the years, celebrities like Bob Hope, Fred Astaire, and Cary Grant have stayed at The Gideon Putnam.
Batcheller Mansion Inn
For a more intimate accommodation, consider the Batcheller Mansion Inn, which boasts nine spacious guest rooms on the second and third floors of an 1870s Victorian mansion, each with an ensuite bathroom. A scrumptious breakfast featuring egg dishes, pastries, fresh fruit, coffee, tea, and more is served each morning in the elegant first-floor dining room.
Before booking a room at the Batcheller Mansion Inn, be advised that there is no elevator at this beautiful historic site. Guests must climb one or two flights of stairs to reach their rooms.
Pro Tip: If you choose a different hotel in Saratoga Springs but want to visit the Batcheller Mansion, contact the inn to schedule a guided tour.
A few blocks south of the Batcheller Mansion Inn, and within walking distance of the Saratoga Springs racetrack, Stay Saratoga pairs present-day comforts with Victorian-era charm. Each room offers unlimited Netflix viewing, and nearly all accommodations include a full kitchen so that you can easily pop popcorn, mix a cocktail, or whip up light bites to accompany your movie.
Another historic stay in Saratoga Springs is the Saratoga Arms. Built by the grandson of Gideon Putnam (an early Saratoga Springs settler and the namesake of the first hotel listed above), this red-brick building at Walton and Broadway has operated as a hotel (albeit not the same one) since 1870. Each of the 30 guest rooms offers an ensuite bathroom and in-room refrigerator, and several include additional amenities such as gas fireplaces, private balconies, clawfoot bathtubs, and two-person whirlpool tubs.
From the thrill of horse racing to a relaxing spa day to a sensational meal, you’re sure to have a fantastic weekend in Saratoga Springs.