History, Health & HorsesAuthor: Maria Marrocchino (More Trip Reviews by Maria Marrocchino)
Date of Trip: September 2012
This is the Saratoga motto that has made this sweet little town a very special summer destination. Only 3 ½ hours north of NYC but just as chic and fabulous, Saratoga offers excitement and fun for just about everyone.
If you’re a history buff, you will love this 26,727 populated city. There’s the battlefield of Saratoga where our founding fathers fought the British, and won, during the American Revolution. Considered one of the fifteen most decisive battles in American history, the Battle of Saratoga is an important place in history. And Saratoga is one of the few places where they dedicate entire weekends to war re-enactment, decorating the entire grounds as if you were back in the 16th century war.
But you don’t need to go to a battlefield to see history, it’s right in town, walking along North Broadway, Union or Circular street, you will see many homes from the 17th century built in British Queen Anne’s architectural style, like the summer cottage of Uylsses S. Grant. An important historical figure to Saratoga is Gideon Putnam who in 1805 purchased the land and built the city to its riches today. Gideon designed a village so that the streets were wide enough to have the many natural springs he had tubed to be in the middle of the town accessible to all people. Under his vision, he built great hotels and halls constructed of which many can still be seen today, like Union and Congress Hall and the Adelphi Hotel.
In the early 1900’s Saratoga was such a must go to destination that it was often called “summer wall street” because famous families such as the Rockerfellas and Vanderbuilts would conduct most of their new york city trading in Saratoga.
There are 37 natural and mineral springs through out Saratoga town. Said to be discovered by Mohawk and Iroquois Indians, it was thought that these springs had enormous healing powers. And it was when British soldier William Johnson was taken ill that Native Americans brought him to the spring to heal his wounds. The secret of these healing springs didn’t last and soon enough the springs became an extraordinary sensation leading to many spas and baths active today. Of course anyone today can go to any of the numerous springs, fill up their water bottles and have a taste, but don’t be surprised if you don’t like it, it tastes nothing like your tap water. It’s full of sulfur and minerals but if you can stand the taste, you might just experience less aches and pains or glowing radiant skin the next day.
If drinking these minerals isn’t your cup of tea, the Roosevelt Spa in the Gideon Putnam hotel in Saratoga Spa State Park offers your own private bath where you can soak in a warm mineral bath followed by a massage of your choice for a restorative and relaxing experience.
Probably the main attraction to Saratoga is the famous racetrack. Built in 1863, it is one of the oldest racetracks in the country, and many people believe, the most beautiful. It’s outer dirt track is 1 mile 1/8 long with beautifully manicured gardens. The racetrack of course offers the thrill of betting on spectacular thoroughbreds but also has many other alluring activities that take place throughout the race season like wine tastings, dress contests, food festivals, art shows, walking tours and much more. There’s also a casino in case the betting on horses isn’t quite enough for your gambling fix. The most popular weekend is Travers (the weekend before Labor Day) where the racetrack can get filled with close to 80,000 people from all over the world betting on higher stakes. It’s like the Mardi Gras of Saratoga. And to no one’s surprise some great movies have been filmed on this track like the racing feature Seabiscuit.
But Saratoga Springs, offers more than just history, health and horses, it has a farmers market open every Wednesday and Saturday, plenty of acclaimed restaurants and cafes, boutiques, an art district and so many nature paths for lots of bike rides and strolls. Congress Park being one of the many parks that people can go for a walk, listen to a free concert or watch a Shakespeare play, sound familiar, that’s because it was designed by Federick Law Olmstead, the same person who designed Central Park in NYC. A must check out in Congress Park is the original and antique Carousel built in 1910, you won’t just see youngsters on the ride, its for anyone that likes to sit on a piece of real history.
So while Manhattan folk come up to Saratoga dressed to the nines thrilled they have stumbled upon something quite magnificent, local folks sit back and smile knowing they’ve been enjoying the pleasantries of Saratoga all along.
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