A 19th-Century Queen of Spas
For the better part of two centuries, the name Saratoga Springs evoked a privileged life of horse racing, polo matches, fancy hats, and genteel garden parties, attracting aficionados of both the track and of mineral-water cures.
A high-society magnet and oasis of Victorian elegance, the “Queen of Spas” was a summer playground for the rich thanks to its naturally carbonated springs, which can still be visited. The town’s rich mix of architecture and gardens from the 1800s and early 1900s were spared from demolition in the 1960s when local preservationists decided to rejuvenate their historic treasure instead.
Saratoga Springs hosts numerous cultural events. It is the summer home for the New York City Ballet (three weeks in July), followed by the Philadelphia Orchestra (three weeks in August), both of which perform at the open-air Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC). Big-name artists from opera to pop fill out the summer season. You can also stroll the inspiring gardens of the 100-year-old Yaddo, the famed artists’ colony, just down the road.
But it is undoubtedly the elegant Saratoga Race Course, America’s oldest and loveliest sports venue, that is the flower-decked town’s main attraction, along with the social scene that still flourishes because of it.
A who’s who of thoroughbreds and jockeys has long made Saratoga’s summer the nation’s best racing season, during which some 1,800 horses compete. Today’s main course was built in 1864, and boasts a lovely Victorian grandstand. Across the street from j the track, the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame is a repository of Triple Crown trophies, diamond-encrusted whips, and interactive events for adults and children.
The Adelphi Hotel, built in 1877, is classic Saratoga, a mint-condition time capsule of high Victorian architecture and charm, with rooms full of period antiques and vintage photos of old Saratoga. Its opulent lobby and the adjacent Café Adelphi are done up in a plush Belle Epoque style, and serve as a gathering place for local residents and performers from the summer arts community.