Opening Day of Saratoga Race Course is upon us and the fans are back!!! It’s time to start planning your visit to the Spa City. Here’s my Top 25 list for Saratoga Springs, a city that I have visited every summer for 25 years and, since 2018, have called home—well, my second home. I’m still a Kentucky girl at heart.
Racing fans west of the Mississippi rave about Del Mar—and I get it, Del Mar Turf Club is great… but it really has nothing on Saratoga. After a day of racing at Del Mar the fans, owners, trainers, and jockeys disperse to nearby La Jolla, Encinitas, Carlsbad, Del Mar Beach, etc. for dinner and/or cocktails. While after a day of racing at Saratoga Race Course we just have Saratoga. And it’s enough!
So when the races are over the action really heats up! It is in Saratoga Springs where you’ll find the same fans, owners, trainers, and jockeys out eating dinner or, even later, at one of the many happening bars or clubs. Just follow the guide below. Click on the links for more information. Leave a comment below or message me with your own Saratoga favorites—I want to hear all about them!
Top 25 in Saratoga Springs
Go to the races! Yes, of course, this is the reason you’re in town. We get it. Pro tip: the 1863 Club opened in 2019 but got no use last year so it’s practically brand new! This is the newest “must see” hospitality and event facility at Saratoga Race Course. Located at the Clubhouse turn, the 1863 Club offers premium experiences and breathtaking views throughout this three-story, climate-controlled facility. Click here to learn more about it or here for general Saratoga Race Course tickets and events.
- Walk the Avenue of the Pines loop at the Saratoga Spa State Park. Or, better yet, walk the trails. Just depends on your preference for an asphalt paved path vs. pea gravel and dirt. Either way, you can’t go wrong. The lithium emitted from Saratoga’s natural springs is alive and well at the park and you’ll just feel better for having spent some time there. The asphalt-paved path around the golf course is 1.8 miles. You can park in the parking lot between the Gideon Putnam Hotel and the Roosevelt Baths.
- Roosevelt Baths and Spa: Naturally, a spa destined to serve generations with healing experiences would evolve at such a powerful place as Saratoga Springs NY, a haven infused with history and hydrotherapy. Established in 1935, the Roosevelt Baths & Spa resort opened thanks to President Franklin Roosevelt’s visionary act to preserve the Saratoga Springs. Authentic and historic, today the Roosevelt Baths & Spa offers a variety of spa services but none would be complete without soaking in the healing waters. Make your reservations well in advance of your visit—they book up fast!
- Visit Lake George. The southern tip of Lake George is only 30 minutes from Saratoga Springs but can be pretty highly trafficked. The northernmost point at Ticonderoga is an hour and 20 minutes away. Somewhere in between, you’ll find The Sagamore (resort) at Bolton Landing which is a beautiful place to stay or just to have lunch. That said, you really need to get out on the water to take it all in. For more on how you can do just that—and there are many options—go here: Visit Lake George.
- Morning training. Even without a racing license, you can watch the horses train either from the Whitney Viewing Stand at the Oklahoma Training Track or the grandstand at Saratoga. You’ll be glad you did.
- The Horseshoe Inn, across the street from the track on Nelson. It is a laid-back local restaurant with happy hour & live music. It’s a great spot for breakfast after morning training and/or to go before or after the races. Rumor has it that they have the best Philly chicken sandwich ever and are known for the coldest breakfast beer in town. Don’t judge. You’re in Saratoga.
- Spring Street Deli. A great spot to see the trainers between the morning workouts at the Oklahoma track and the races in the afternoon. Spring Street Deli is a local corner deli with great pizzas and all-day breakfast and lunch. They deliver or you can dine in with tables inside and out. Lots of sandwiches named for famous racehorses and trainers. They are located at 132 Spring Street in the heart of downtown, just a short walking distance from the Shoppes of Broadway, local hotels, and the famous Saratoga Race Course.
- Putnam Market for lunch—carry out. Big sandwiches, hearty and healthy salads. There are more decadent food items and pastries, too, if that’s what you’re in the mood for. And, best of all, the wine market is right next door.
- The Little Market at Five Points has a completely revamped menu that will please meat lovers, vegetarians, and even the gluten-free crowd! This little neighborhood market deli is two blocks from the track and features breakfast sandwiches, fresh pastries, signature sandwiches, hot dogs, fresh green salads, fabulous coffees, local craft beers, and everyday groceries and gifts.
- Four consecutive restaurants—it might be time for a workout! Yoga at The Hot Yoga Spot, 75 Woodlawn Ave. Really. Hot. Yoga. Ok, don’t go if you don’t like really hot yoga. But if you’re into the heat and sweating (let’s call it “detoxing” to make us feel better about those Saratoga nights) this is your spot. They do offer some “warm” vinyasa classes too so you don’t have to kill yourself.
- For those who love yoga but hate sweating—Yoga Mandali is for you. It says it right there on their website: Yoga for Everybody. And it’s located in the heart of Saratoga Springs, right on Broadway. Coffee first at Uncommon Grounds. Yoga. Breakfast smoothie after at Whole Harvest on Broadway. The yin to your sin (or yang) from the night before or the day and night to follow.
- Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC): An amphitheater located just on the edge of town on the grounds of Saratoga Spa State Park. It presents summer performances of all varieties of music, plus comedy, dance, and opera. This summer, the Saratoga venue will also debut The Pines, its now-one-year-old collection of new buildings including updated concessions and restrooms, a rooftop terrace, and an open-air pavilion. The 2021 summer calendar includes ballet, opera, and acts like Chicago, Daryl Hall & John Oates, James Taylor, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Alanis Morissette among many, many others. Click here for the full calendar of events.
- Siro’s. The rumors of its demise have been greatly exaggerated and according to this Saratoga Living article, Siro’s will be open for the 2021 track season with upgrades to the restaurant/bar and outdoor (“back yard”) bar and patio area. It’s changed ownership a few times and may have lost some of its luster along the way but we still love a good 2 a.m. night/early morning spent with the revelers there. Love the piano man—and hoping he’ll return for 2021! The outdoor patio has always been the happening spot right after the races but after dinner, the indoor bar—and the piano man—is the spot to be. Historically speaking, it’s not cheap—so make sure you have a sponsor.
- No trip to Saratoga is complete without a drink from the Big Red Spring. While it may not be the tastiest beverage you have while in town, it’s a tradition. Big Red can be found toward the back of the picnic area at Saratoga Race Course, situated beneath a large white pavilion.
- Visit the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame across the street from the track. You have to see their new immersive theatrical presentation of “What It Takes: Journey to the Hall of Fame”. While you’re there, check out the Women in Racing exhibit which will only be open through 2021—so next year will be too late (full disclosure, my mother, Patti Barton, and I are both included in the exhibit). Whatever you do, be sure to book a guided tour of the Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame with legendary retired race caller Tom Durkin. This is only available during the Saratoga Meet, July 15- September 6, 2021 Reservations are required so click here to book your tour now! If you love horse racing there’s so much to see here you may need to give it a day of its own but it is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. so there is also plenty of time to go before the races start.
- Hattie’s fried chicken. This is the best fried chicken north of Tennessee and we may have even gotten a vegetarian or two to admit to this.
- Encounter boutique. Quite possibly my favorite boutique in the world. Ladies clothing (and hats and fascinators) only. You will definitely find that perfect something at Encounter. Remember, you heard it here first.
- Osteria Danny on Henry Street. Not easy to get into so call ahead. Like 6 months ahead (2 might work). While osteria means “an Italian restaurant, typically a simple or inexpensive one” this one is not inexpensive but it does boast a simple menu comprised of amazing Italian food and house-made pasta (made from semolina flour shipped from Italy—and made by chef and proprietor, Danny). As good as the savory foods are, the desserts may be the best in New York. Also freshly made daily, in house. What are you waiting for? Call now: (518) 423–7022.
- Solevo Kitchen & Social. An Italian restaurant in Saratoga Springs that opened shortly after the 2018 racing season and has quickly become a Top 5 restaurant for Saratoga residents. The owners are Giovannina Solevo and her chef-brother Ronald Solevo who are fourth-generation restaurateurs from Connecticut. They brought their recipes and their skills to Saratoga Springs because they loved Saratoga. Saratoga loves them back. Because of Covid and indoor seating restrictions they had to get creative with outdoor seating and the effect has been an amazing outdoor seating area. But, again, call ahead—like well ahead: (518) 450-7094.
- Calling all runners – there are some fantastic running routes throughout the city. One of our partners enjoys taking a spin through Congress Park then Centennial Park (which is a “pocket park” within Congress Park. While at Centennial be sure to pay homage to the Native Dancer statue that sits where Union Avenue t-bones into Circular) then heading down Union Avenue and looping back behind some of the stables at the Oklahoma Training Track. Yeah, she runs more than I do too. While you’re at Congress Park, visit the carousel and then toss a couple of coins in the fountain for good luck – you’ll need it later at the races!
- The Wishing Well Restaurant is a local stalwart with a great happy hour, live piano music, and lobster night on Thursdays! The family-style heirloom tomatoes and corn on the cob are always fresh (during the summer season) and the butter-poached lobster… I mean really? Need I say more?
- Saratoga Lake – this is another great option for a Tuesday afternoon. Rent a kayak, try your hand at paddleboarding, take a SUP yoga class (Saturday morning only), rent the “Hammocraft”, or just hang out and enjoy the sunshine. Visit the Kayak Shack website to see options and pricing. You can even bring a Daily Racing Form with you and study for the next racing day.
- Visiting the Yaddo Gardens is not currently an option as they closed to the public for Covid and, as of this writing, have not yet reopened. However, check out their website before your visit to Spa City and if they’re open, it’s worth a visit—and it’s right around the corner from the track. Their 2019 reopening following a multimillion dollar restoration was short-lived because of the pandemic but if and when they do reopen seize the opportunity and book a private tour! If you cannot get into the main house the rose garden is still a beautiful spot for a walk and reflection.
- Saratoga Farmer’s Market – This farmer’s market is one of the best around, hands down. Stop by and pick up breakfast, lunch, or some handmade local items. It’s located at High Rock and open Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. and Wednesdays 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. If Sunday is better for you check out Spa City Farmer’s Market at SPAC on Sundays 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Check out the Fasig-Tipton Sale. The prestigious yearling sale is held Aug. 9 & 10 this year, and it could be your chance to see the next big star of the sport before he or she makes it big. American Pharoah actually passed through this sale in 2013 and was not purchased by anyone. Again, you just never know when and where that next Big Deal will appear.
- Saratoga Auto Museum
- Saratoga Spa State Park Bird Conservation Areas
- National Museum of Dance
- Homemade Theater
- Saratoga Spa Golf
- Opera Saratoga
- Blueberry picking (and other berries too)
- Four Seasons Natural Foods and Cafe (while the Phila St. location has closed the Henry St. location has a full deli, smoothie and juice bar)
- The hiking trails at The North Woods of Skidmore College (pro tip: take bug spray)
Donna is one of the most decorated female jockeys of all time. Now retired from race-riding, she is currently an award winning sports analyst and commentator for NBC, and the author of the book, “Inside Track: Insider’s Guide to Horse Racing”, which is now in its second printing. When she’s not on location, or in meetings, you can find her writing, reading, traveling and spending time with her husband Frank and her two dogs.