Tuesday, November 1, 2016

An all-too-brief stop in Saratoga Springs

Saratoga Springs, New York, is known for its health and horses, but my one evening here leaves time only for a walk up and down Broadway and a delicious dinner.

Saratoga Springs's heritage is rich with history and horses.

My sister and I decide to spend the night in Saratoga Springs after visiting our aunt at our grandparents' farm nearby. As a child growing up in Upstate New York, we spent countless weekends and summers at the farm, but we rarely visited the charming town of Saratoga Springs.

My grandparents' pre-Revolution farm house near Saratoga, NY  

The city's crown jewel of the arts, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, was new when I was a kid, and I remember seeing Peter, Paul & Mary, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass and the New York City Ballet here. (SPAC is the ballet company's summer home and that of the Philadelphia Orchestra too). We'd sit on the lawn and listen to the music, and we'd drink from the water fountains, which offer up real Saratoga Springs mineral water.

Sculpture entitled 'Believe in Yourself' by Jenny McShan
reminds visitors that Saratoga is the site of
the National Museum of Dance & Hall of Fame and
the summer home of the New York City Ballet.

SPAC's first headliner was Harry Belafonte (June 27, 1967); the Grateful Dead drew SPAC's largest crowd (40,231 on June 27, 1985); the most sold-out performances were garnered by the Dave Matthews Band (10); and James Taylor has appeared here the most times (19).

Racehorse sculpture in Saratoga Springs


Racehorse sculpture in Saratoga Springs


Entrance to the historical Saratoga Race Course

The first horse race in Saratoga took place in 1863, starting a tradition that makes the race course America's oldest sports facility.

Saint Peter's Church in Saratoga Springs, founded in 1839

Saratoga is steeped in the history of America. A major battle of the Revolutionary War was fought here; I remember visiting the battlefield when I was a child. "Twelve Years a Slave" author Solomon Northup was kidnapped in Saratoga and sold into slavery. During the second half of the 19th century, Saratoga Springs was the playground of the wealthy who flocked here for its spas, ponies and gambling. The streets here are lined with large Victorian homes from this era.


Fountain in Congress Park in Saratoga Springs


Congress Park in Saratoga Springs

In recent years, Saratoga has renewed its focus on on tourism, and its main street, Broadway, is overflowing with inns, shops and restaurants.

Sign in front of The Wine Bar in Saratoga Springs

We are enticed to dine at The Wine Bar because of its endless Monday happy hour. I order magret de canard, even though I can eat duck back whenever I want at home. Steeling myself to be let down, I am instead delighted by my dinner. There aren't many places in the U.S. where I could envision living, but the wine warms me to imagine calling Saratoga Springs home. But then I remember what winters are like in this part of the world. Snow, lots of snow, has its charms, but I think I'll stick to France.