Friday, July 08, 2005


I (Heart) Saratoga Springs, NY.

For the past three summers I have indulged in a weekend-long trip to Saratoga Springs, New York. Though the original attraction to Saratoga for me were a couple of Dave Matthews Band concerts over a long weekend, I now look forward to hanging out there as much as I do attending the actual concerts.

If you have never been, Saratoga Springs is a beautiful place. Additionally, it has more amenities than most towns its size could ever dream of calling their own. First and foremost, Saratoga Springs has a great and historic downtown, replete with funky restaurants and cafes, a good mix of retail (much of it independent) and great bars that are open until 4am! Furthermore, downtown housing exists, and many traditional neighborhoods are within walking distance of Broadway, Saratoga Spring's main street. Like most great towns, Saratoga also has a great downtown park, which is called Congress Park. Among other things, Congress Park features plenty of old trees, open green space, and even a restored carousel.

To many, Saratoga Springs is a well known place because of the plethora of summertime activities it provides. As the home of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), where national acts, philharmonic orchestras, and artists of all variety perform, Saratoga draws a large crowds of concert go'ers all summer long. It is also the home of a natural springs spa that sits in the middle of a State Park, which is just minutes from SPAC.

However, what Saratoga might be most well known for is it nationally renowned horse racing track, which dominates much of the summer culture, and makes for some interesting horse sculptures along the downtown sidewalks (much like the lobsters sculptures in Rockland, Maine, or the lighthouse installations throughout Portland, Maine). Finally, biking, boating, and camping are also all abundant in the summer. As a biker, it was great to see share the road signs, and bike route designation all over both the rural and urban landscape.

For inexpensive places to stay, I would recommend Lee's camp ground on Saratoga Lake. A cheap, no nonsense camp site that sits two miles outside of downtown and provides easy access to all of Saratoga's activities, including its nationally ranked golf course. If you are further pressed for financial resources, I recommend staying in Erica's basement. She lives near the lake, was kind enough to take me and my best friend Brent in for the entire weekend, and has nice comfortable couches as well. (Lee's campground was full!). If you are lucky enough, Erica's parents will take you out for Sunday Brunch at the veritable Saratoga diner, and her dad will tell you all about being a horse photographer. Sweet.

Unforutnately, Saratoga Springs does have its share of homogenous sprawl, although most of it is to the north of downtown on Route 9. Due to hanging out in the pouring rain the night before, my shoe soaked concert mate and I ventured out that way to go foraging for a new pair of shoes at the mall (Gasp!!). One gripe that I have with the town is that one cannot buy sneakers downtown. However, what we happily realized was that the place was pretty much empty because all of the action was where it should be, downtown!

Brent didn't find any shoes to his liking, but we did find a whole lot of sad looking people, and a tick on a shelf that housed cheap, but trendy shirts. Brent and I figured that the tick's name was Ralph, and he was the last of the ticks who used to live in the bucolic field where the mall monstrosity, and all its sprawl appendages, now sit. I hope more sprawlscape off of route 9 does not further corrupt the strength and diversity of downtown Saratoga, or displace more ticks like Ralph.

Though I have been mere tourist one weekend every summer for the past three years, Saratoga Springs is the kind of place that offers all the attractions of a larger city, in a rural setting where the urban and rural edge is still somewhat decipherable. This is a rare thing these days, and it makes Saratoga all the more attractive. I look forward to going back next summer!

You sum up life in Saratoga Springs quite well! My wife and I relocated here from San Francisco a year-and-a-half ago for many of the reasons you mention. It's a wonderful town and I hope we're able to keep the sprawl at bay.

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