Friday, September 20, 2013

Saratoga Springs Weekend - Horse Racing, Natural Springs, and a Trip Downtown

As you (may) know, Husband and I spent an extra-long Labor Day weekend in upstate New York.  The first part of the weekend was dedicated to our friends Jenn and Sean's wedding.  (We managed to sneak a trip to Cooperstown in there, too.)  Once the wedding festivities were over, we decided to head over to Saratoga Springs for the rest of our time.

We love taking trips without having any plans.  I know...sounds crazy...but it's so relaxing to me.  Pick a destination, rent a hotel room, and ask what to do when you get there!  As we were talking to wedding guests, we found out Sunday/Monday was closing weekend for the horse races - we hit the jackpot and knew that would go on our to do list!  Knowing nothing else, we decided to start at the Visitors Center for more direction on the highlights of Saratoga Springs - the race track, exploring downtown, and drinking from all the natural springs in the area.

Historic Congress Park was across the street from the Visitors Center, so we jumped across the street to stretch our legs.  It's a beautiful park with a pond, several springs, a museum (that we skipped), and pretty birdhouses.

All of the springs around Saratoga are natural and drinkable.  Pretty cool!  Years ago, the city tapped all of the springs, added a spout, and (sometimes) built a covering over them to keep them safe.  It was nice, as a tourist, because the coverings made it easy to spot a spring.  We decided to carry an empty water bottle around with us to capture some water for tasting.  Some of the springs tasted great - super refreshing and clean.  Others were terrible and smelled (and tasted) of sulfur.  Several were even naturally bubbly!  Pretty cool.

Congress Spring

Congress Spring was the first we tasted - it wasn't terrible, but I certainly wouldn't want to drink it.

Columbian Spring was gross.  Like SO gross.  The first of the trip that I almost spit out.  
Pretty Columbian Spring spout.

There was a path you could walk around to get a nice view of the park.  

Beautiful birdhouses around the park.

Once we'd made these rounds, we turned our sights to the Saratoga Race Course .  Everyone in the area turns their yards into parking lots during race season, so we lucked out and found a $5 spot close to the track.  The horse races were like nothing I've ever seen!  It's like the state fair, the Boston Marathon, and 4th of July on the Esplanade combined.  Thousands of people bring chairs, food, and drinks and set up camp inside the park all day.

It's $3 to get in for general admission, and if you want a seat in the grandstands you'll pay an additional $2.  Want to check out the clubhouse?  That's another fee and requires a collared shirt.  We decided to stick with general admission (since we had no clue what we were doing) and got our fill of racing - at $11 (admission and parking), it's such a bargain!

There were TV's all over the grounds so the people camping out could still watch (and bet on) the races.

We found another spring on the grounds...they're everywhere!

Bubbly spring.

We finally wandered over to the place where the horses are "shown off" before a race (the Paddock).  The horses were beautiful and all muscle.  It was amazing to see them upclose.  While we were there, I struck up a conversation with the people standing next to us who ended up being "pros".  Since retiring, they spent every day at the track and even got married in the winners circle!  They were sweet enough to show us around the park (including the best spots to stand to watch races) and fill us in on what in the world was going on.

Grandstands by the track

The clubhouse is on the end - fancy fancy!

We stayed at the track for a few hours, then decided to head back to the hotel and check in.  We used Priceline's "name your own price" tool ahead of time and saved a ton of money.  Our $100/night bid was accepted for a room that was listed for $340 online.  I'm hoping to score another great deal when we go to Montreal later this month!

Once we settled in, we decided to head downtown for a while.  The downtown area is really cute and has lots of shops and restaurants.  Travis especially enjoyed all of the "tasting shops" - wine tasting and a hot sauce shop that had a tasting bar!  There was also an olive oil shop that offered tastings that looked great, but we didn't have time to stop in.  There were painted horses and ballet slippers dotting the entire town, which were fun to see.  (Horses were obviously for the horse races.  Ballet slippers were because Saratoga Springs is the home of the National Dance Museum & Hall of Fame.)

After walking around for a few hours, we decided to have dinner at the highly recommended Olde Bryan Inn.  The Olde Bryan Inn is walking distance from downtown, but it's not on the main strip (maybe a 5 minute walk down one of the side streets).  The food is fantastic, service was great, decor was perfect for an olde inn, and cost was lower than I expected.

Our last day was spent sleeping in and exploring Saratoga Spa State Park.  The park has lots of running/ walking paths that weave through the buildings, along the road, and through the wooded park.  There are also 12 different natural springs/spouts speckled through the park, which is what we were most excited to seek out.  The trek through the park was easy walking and took about 2.5 hours - a great way to spend an afternoon!

The old bottling plant - now an automobile museum.

The State Seal Spring - this water was YUMMY.  People from all over the town brought bottles to fill up and take home.

A mineral water spout at the State Seal Spring.  This one tasted like sulfer.  Yucky.

One of the pretty paths we walked along to find the other springs!

Island geyser

There was another spring near the island geyser.  This location also had one pipe for you to breathe in the fumes - it was supposed to clear out your sinuses, but really just hurt my nose.  :/

It was a fantastic long weekend!  Interested in some of the other things we did?  Check out...

Cooperstown, NY & the Baseball Hall of Fame
The Overlook Mansion & a fun wedding!


  1. Fabulous trip recap!! I loved all the pics of the springs - and I also love the pic of the two ducks bottom-up and the horses legs walking through the mud. Sounds like a great weekend!

    1. Thanks! The duck butts are one of my favorite pictures too. :)

  2. Looks like such a nice time. I love the bird houses. So cute!!! I really want to visit there someday. I've been to Cooperstown and loved it.

    1. They really were. There were nice little touches like that all over the city. Such a cute place!

  3. Great pictures - as always! I thoroughly enjoyed the recap of your trip ~ thanks for sharing it with us! You two certainly know how to have a good time! :-) Reia from

  4. More fun in my neck of the woods! Have spent many summer nights in Saratoga!

    1. Love it! I could totally see spending lots of weekends at the race track - EVERYONE was there...wild!

  5. Reading this makes me feel a bit better about our trip this weekend. If we don't have any plans made in stone that sounds great to me. Exploring seems like a fun time anyhow! This looks like a fun trip. I love Saratoga!!