Historic Saratoga Springs in upstate New York is a fun place to visit any time of year. However, there’s a special excitement in the air with the approach of another annual opening day at the historic Saratoga Race Course – the oldest thoroughbred racetrack in America.
Health, History, Horses
That’s Saratoga’s slogan. The earliest recorded history goes back to the mid-1700s, when the area’s Native Americans were said to be using the healing powers of the naturally carbonated mineral springs that dot the area. The springs became even more famous when General George Washington drank from the High Rock Spring in Saratoga in 1783.
The naturally carbonated springs soon made Saratoga a popular venue in which to be seen. Visits from the likes of JP Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt and Diamond Jim Brady, made Saratoga famous. Important people from across the globe came to socialize and soak in the bathhouses featuring the healing effervescent mineral waters. However, it soon became evident that horse racing was destined to play an equally important role in the city’s future.
As untimely as it seems, just one month after the famous Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, the Saratoga Race Course for Thoroughbred racing was opened, and became the first sports venue in America.
Six Weeks of Racing
Sports Illustrated calls the annual Saratoga Race Course summer meet, one of the top ten must-see sports events in America. The track is also considered by many to be the most beautiful racetrack in the United States.
This year, the world-renowned Saratoga races, began yesterday, July 24 and will conclude on Labor Day, September 7, with racing conducted six days a week, Wednesday through Monday.
Familiar thoroughbreds that have raced at the Saratoga Race Course include Man O'War, Secretariat, and Seattle Slew. Famous movies featuring the race course are Billy Bathgate, Ghost Story, Diamonds Are Forever, Saratoga, Seabiscuit, The Horse Whisperer, and The Way We Were.
Where to Stay
When it comes to lodging, the choices are many in the Springs. On a recommendation, we stayed at the historic Saratoga Arms – a brilliant choice.
Operated as a luxury concierge hotel by the Smith family since 1997, the historic (circa 1870) brick building on downtown Broadway had been a rooming house during the 1950s to the 1990s, when it hit its proverbial bottom. There were pigeons living in the third-floor rooms.
We love to see such old structures repurposed, refreshed, and preserved. The Smiths restored this old building with loving care and a flair for turn-of-the-century ambiance. It now has every modern comfort, but retains its yesteryear charm.
In addition to the elevators, there's a beautiful old staircase that leads to the upper floors (see pictures). As we climbed the steps, we reflected on the many thousands of people who had preceded us in climbing these same stairs over the past 145 years – we wondered about their circumstances and lives – all so different from our own.
The restoration was obviously calibrated to blend a sense of sophistication with informality. It was well done. Urbanity now dominates and permeates throughout.
Hotel guests have a choice of 31 sleeping rooms that will suit the most discerning of tastes. The entire hotel is lavishly decorated with beautiful antique furnishings and just-right décor.
A B&B Hotel
We had breakfast in one of the hotel’s elegant dining rooms complete with white tablecloths, fine china, and fresh-cut flowers. Very cheerful.
The buffet breakfast is an occasion full of local farm fresh goodies like honey and homemade muffins and jams, delicious cereals, assorted berries, bagels, yogurt, and freshly squeezed orange juice. The coffee is also extraordinarily robust and flavorful.
Our main breakfast dish consisted of locally smoked Canadian bacon, and a mushroom-and-gruyere-cheese scramble – accompanied by home-style potatoes. We had never tried the gruyere-and-egg mix before – delicious idea!
Care for an afternoon snack?
There is an abundance of treats and beverages in the guest services pantry.
The Saratoga Arms is a lodging we wholeheartedly recommend, and we are in good company, because it is also TripAdvisor’s #1 current hotel choice in Saratoga Springs.
For more information about the Saratoga Arms look at its website at www.SaratogaArms.com
Planning a trip? Make your reservations now to avoid disappointment.
If You Go
Saratoga Springs is an easy 45-minute drive from Albany, and less than four hours from New York City or Boston. It is also five hours from Niagara Falls. The closest major airport is in Albany, New York.
Probably the most famous, and still active, of the mineral water springs is the Big Red Spring located right at the Saratoga Race Course. This spring is named after Man O’War, and Secretariat, the two famous thoroughbred champions (both horses were chestnut in color, and each in his time was called “Big Red”).
In 2014, Yahoo listed Broadway in downtown Saratoga Springs (the location of the Saratoga Arms) as one of best main streets in America for its architecture, restaurants, shops, and people-watching.
There’s more to enjoy in Saratoga Springs than water and racing. Look *here* for a list of other activities in this happening area.
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Copyright © 2015 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff
Photos Copyright © 2015 Judy Bayliff – unauthorized use strictly prohibited.
Sports photos courtesy of Saratoga Arms.