Saratoga Springs: The Spa City

The healing and relaxing properties of mineral springs put Saratoga Springs, N.Y., on the map and account for its nickname as “The Spa City.” Visitors still flock to the spas for a rejuvenating soak in, or a taste of, these mineral waters, but the picturesque city and surrounding region offer plenty of sightseeing and outdoor activities.

A “don’t miss” landmark is the Saratoga Spa State Park, a National Historic Landmark that features two swimming pools, picnic areas, hiking and walking trails, mineral springs and museums such as the National Museum of Dance and the Saratoga Automobile Museum, which sponsors many auto displays during the summer. Two golf courses, an 18-hole championship course and a 9-hole, par 29 course, and a resort also are part of the complex.

Visitors arrive at the Gideon Putnam Resort and the Roosevelt Baths and Spa for rest and relaxation. With its 42 treatment rooms, the spa offers services including massages, facials, body wraps and the mineral baths. The naturally sparkling mineral water, which is pumped cold from the springs, is mixed with warm water for the treatments. The park and its amenities “offer an opportunity for a green, healthy getaway,” says Annamaria Bellantoni, vice president of Saratoga County Tourism (

One of the jewels of the park is the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the summer home of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York City Ballet. Returning to the SPAC for the second year is the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, led by artistic directors David Finckel and Wu Han. The National Ballet of China, the company that danced for President Nixon on his historic visit to China in 1972, will perform the Saratoga premiere of “The Peony Pavilion” in July. Other noteworthy performances on the SPAC calendar are the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and its companion ensemble, the Orchestra at Temple Square, and the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, both in June. The arts center schedules a full roster of performances throughout the summer season with seating in both an amphitheater and on the lawn.

The famous Saratoga Race Course provides another reason for staying outdoors. Horse-racing enthusiasts travel to the Racing City for its thoroughbred and harness racing as well as numerous horse shows and competitions throughout the warm weather months. The most famous of the races, the Travers Stakes, will run for the 146th time on Aug. 29. The Travers, first run in 1864 and featuring three-year-old horses, is one of the most prestigious horse-racing events. The seasonal races at the track continue to draw growing crowds “because the track offers good-quality racing, horses and purses,” Bellantoni says.

The race-goers tend to “make a weekend of it,” she continues. “Saratoga is unique because it has so many other attractions. You can package a race with a concert or spa visit or dining for a great weekend. People mix and match [events and attractions] when they come to Saratoga.” At the very least, a pre- or post-race visit to the charming downtown area promises shopping at locally owned boutiques and a plethora of restaurants. The city, which claims the title as the birthplace of the potato chip, has won Main Street America awards and walkable city honors.

The many events scheduled during the summer months in Saratoga and surrounding towns suit every interest. Newcomers to the calendar are the 2nd Annual Saratoga Balloon and Craft Festival in June at the Saratoga Fairgrounds in Ballston Spa. The outdoor event features an arts and crafts pavilion, craft demonstrations, a food court, music, a petting zoo and children’s activities. The highlight, however, is the hot air balloons, which are available for rides. The evening “balloon glow” is especially spectacular as the burners of 20 balloons are ignited and the balloons inflate and lift off into the sky.

Another popular event that draws foodies and car buffs alike is the Saratoga Wine & Food Festival in September. Against the backdrop of the Saratoga Spa State Park, the celebration brings together more than 250 premiere wine and food exhibitors, offers tastings and seminars, and exhibits vintage cars.

An easy trip from the Hartford area, Saratoga offers an appealing mix of history, outdoor activities, special events and culture.

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