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An Insider's Look at the Saratoga Springs, NY Area

What else to see when visiting Saratoga Race Course.

An interactive display at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame

An interactive display at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame

Skip Dickstein

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people make the pilgrimage to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., for one of the most celebrated meets in the world of horse racing.

This year, instead of heading to Saratoga Race Course in mid-July, fans will start pouring into town much earlier for a historic running of the Belmont Stakes (G1) June 8. The third and final jewel of racing's Triple Crown is being held at Saratoga this year due to ongoing construction at Belmont Park. Overall, Saratoga will host four days of racing from June 6-9, making for a perfect extended weekend getaway.

If you're one of the lucky fans who's about to make the trip to "The Spa"—and especially if you're a first-timer—you're probably wondering what else there is to see and do around Saratoga aside from the racetrack. While I've visited about a dozen times over the years, I knew if I was going to write this article I needed to find a true local, someone who knows Saratoga inside and out.

So, I decided to reach out to my man Kurt Rossner, founder of Old Smoke Clothing Company, for his must-see spots when you visit Saratoga Springs. Kurt delivered the goods. Below you'll find his favorite local sites and a couple of bonus options if you've got the time to sneak away to one of the many attractions and destinations just outside of Saratoga.—Dan Tordjman

Take it away, Kurt...

Saratoga Spa State Park

I believe this to be the best-kept secret still in our area, even for locals. There is so much to do at the park and especially if you are headed to the races during the afternoon. You can come over in the morning and just walk some nature trails or play golf at one of the better public courses in the area. The sneaky great spot to hit up is the Victoria Pool. It's not a Vegas pool party by any means, but it's as close as you will get in a state park.

Even better is the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. It's arguably one of the better outdoor venues in the U.S. because you can tailgate for hours before any of the top acts take the stage. However, instead of tailgating in a parking lot, at SPAC you get to spend all hours before the show in a beautiful park. Lastly, as you may be leaving town on Sunday, the Farmers Market in the park on Sundays is off the charts.  

National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame

It still baffles me how many locals have not been to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. This might be the best shrine to a sport outside of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. What's even better is that the Hall sits directly across the street from the main entrance of Saratoga Race Course. Every fan of the sport must take an hour or two and spend some time at the museum. Recent renovations have made it even better, including a short film that will leave you with chills. Also, the people at the museum are first class. Don't forget to stop in the gift shop and pick up some Old Smoke gear!


Lake George

Make sure to take the 40-minute drive north while you visit the area—you won't be disappointed. Lake George continuously tops the charts as one of the best lakes in the country. My recommendation would be to hit up the Bolton Landing area of the lake. It has a great little downtown with some fine food and drink spots but more importantly, it is the home to the Sagamore Resort. This is without a doubt one of the best properties you can step foot on.

I highly recommend going to the Sagamore Resort for lunch, drinks, or just to take a coffee and stroll the grounds. Dave Matthews has been quoted as saying this is his favorite place to visit while on tour. Note: If you are wanting to get out on the lake be sure to rent a boat and hit up Log Bay on the east side, a popular hangout spot.

Visit the Battle of Saratoga

If you are looking for something to do in the morning before the races, head to the Saratoga National Historical Park. This is the site of one of the most decisive American victories in the entire Revolutionary War. Along with Valley Forge, this battle is often referenced as the turning point of the American Revolution. Our area is so rich in history that you could spend an entire day bouncing around to other historic sites such as the General Ulysses S. Grant Cottage, the Adelphi Hotel (where the bar is named after Old Smoke himself), and many, many others.


Visit Downtown

You could spend the entire day strolling around Broadway in downtown Saratoga Springs. At one point, Saratoga Springs had more bars per capita than anywhere else in the U.S., so there's that. Outside of the obvious great restaurants, bars, and shopping…Congress Park also sits in our beautiful downtown where you can visit Canfield Casino (another spot created by Old Smoke himself) or test out the healing powers of our natural mineral springs. 

The natural springs located in our area are so unique that it can make for a fun part of your downtown visit—there are several of them around town. For golfers, there is a brand new indoor simulator and lounge on Broadway called The Bunker that is out of this world. If it rains while you are in town I would highly recommend this spot.

Honorable Mentions

If you have time and are spending more than a weekend in the great Upstate area you have some amazing options within a two-hour drive.

Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame

No explanation needed. You must go even if you are not a baseball fan. The charm of Cooperstown is off the charts. It's about an hour and a half drive away.

Lake Placid

The beautiful two-hour drive to Lake Placid puts you in a completely different world. The best thing to do in Lake Placid is to tour the arena and watch the last two minutes of the "Miracle on Ice" from the team bench... one of the coolest feelings you will ever have!