By Denise Mattia
One might think Saratoga Springs would become a ghost town after the famed horseracing season is over on Labor Day. Not so. It’s true the stadium looks isolated. Faded into history is the thunder of horses’ hoofs and the spectators’ jubilant cheers (or the moans of the disillusioned) for the winning horses. However, Saratoga Springs is a year-round destination.
Museums, Performing Art, and Landmarks of Saratoga Springs
The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame is across from historic Saratoga Race Course, the oldest operating track in the country and is open all year. The museum’s interactive exhibits, trophies and memorabilia convey the excitement of Thoroughbred racing in America.
Elsewhere, the Village, the Saratoga Spa State Park (a National Historic Landmark district since 1987) and the Gideon Putnam Hotel remain alive with energy and activity. Performances at The Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) run June through September. Located on the grounds of the Park and a short walk from the Gideon Putnam Hotel, SPAC has been home to the Philadelphia Orchestra the New York City Ballet and the Lake George Opera Festival since the opening in 1966. SPAC features performances by popular musicians as well. Then, from October to May visitors can attend theatrical events at the Spa Little Theatre across the road.
Saratoga Springs has been known for healthy benefits derived from the mineral properties and natural carbon dioxide gas found in its waters. It’s not uncommon to see people from outlying districts filling jugs of water from the wells and geysers in the Park.
I enjoyed the treat of a relaxing soak in the effervescent waters, and a massage and facial at the Roosevelt Baths. The Georgian Revival and Beaux Arts style bathhouse and the Gideon Putnam Resort (named after the Springs’ founder) was built in 1935 as part of the Public Works Project. Since then, the buildings have been leased to private companies and their interiors maintained and expanded. Today, major capital improvements are underway by the Gideon Putnam Resort and Spa’s current operator, Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts and will be completed by 2017.
In addition to enjoying year-round amenities at the resort, stop by the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame, the only museum in the United States devoted to the performing art. Housed in an early 20th century Arts and Crafts Style building (formerly the Washington Bath House) are dozens of archival artifacts and historical images, which were compiled to create exhibits that trace the development of renowned dance companies.
In yet another National Historic Landmark building, the Saratoga Springs History Museum presents changing exhibitions and public programs about Saratoga’s history and serves hundreds of researchers annually, while the Children’s Museum at Saratoga inspires curiosity and sparks imagination with a full calendar of events.
Festivals keep the city humming even out of season. September brings the Saratoga Food and Wine Festival and the Fall Ferrari Festival, a combined event that draws thousands of visitors from the tri-state area to the Park.For the Food and Wine event vendors highlight an array of exceptional products and local restaurants maintain tables as well. On my visit, Prime at Saratoga National served mouth-watering beef; the Irish Times Pub and Restaurant came prepared with potato leek soup; and Marché at 74 State used farm-fresh products from local farmers to create a salad with sesame-encrusted tuna. Marcus Samuelsson was on hand to autograph his New American Table cookbook.
Drawing a queue were bite-sized Neapolitan pizzas and antipasti from Café Capriccio, while Chef Dale Miller made the landmark restaurant, Sperry’s, proud with a Miso glazed salmon. Sweets topped the tasters’ food chain. Chocolate lovers flocked around the Chocolate Springs table, where nibble-sized chocolates and a dark chocolate dipping fountain delighted children of all ages. Everyone came away from the table laden with chocolate-covered cherries and cakes, with faces happily smeared with the rich, dark solution.
At the Ferrari show in front of the Auto Museum on the Park grounds were fashion designer and designers of Grand Touring cars. Invited to participate in the show were classes of great Italian automobiles, including Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Maserati, Lamborghini and Fiat-Abarth, which were judged at the end of the event by marque specialists.
Whether the fine arts, the art of dining and drinking (there’s the Saratoga Beer week in February), the art of relaxing and being pampered, an 18-hole round of golf or the art of betting on a winning horse, Saratoga Springs are enjoyed in all seasons.
All photos by: Denise Mattia
About Denise Mattia
A writer and photographer, Denise Mattia’s works are published nationally and internationally and include all aspects of leisure travel: art , culture, resorts, spas, food and wine and sports’ activities. She's the founder of the soon to be launched Yum-Yum-Traveler, a site devoted to reviewing restaurants in addition to her travel articles from around the world. She lives and works in Manhattan, where she was born.