Dukes and kooks, counts and no-accounts, stars and czars have added to the legend of Saratoga, where it isn’t enough to stay the 30 days. Staying the 30 nights is the true test of stamina.
— Joe Hirsch, Daily Racing Form
For 11 months out of the year, Saratoga Springs is a charming Victorian town known for its first-rate arts scene, grand romantic architecture, sophisticated shops and restaurants, and therapeutic mineral springs.
But on the 12th month, the town turns itself upside down with the buyers and sellers of dreams. From dawn until dusk, and then from dusk until dawn, gossiping socialites mix with shrewd businesspeople mix with innocent tourists mix with breeders and trainers and grooms. And all for the love of the horse.
The Saratoga Race Course, built in 1864, is the oldest racetrack in America, and it has long represented the very best of what racing has to offer. Louisville may have its Kentucky Derby, Baltimore its Preakness, but it is to Saratoga that the serious cognoscenti come, every summer, for six weeks of exclusive racing.
Attendance at the sprawling, Victorian-era grandstand—complete with striped awnings, clapboard siding, and gilded cupolas—averages about 25,000 a day, or the equivalent of Saratoga’s population year-round.
During nonracing season, too, Saratoga is an unusual place. The arts thrive at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Skidmore College, and Yaddo, a renowned artists’ retreat; and harness racing takes place January–November at the Saratoga Raceway. The town also supports several fine museums, the regal Saratoga Spa State Park, and a plethora of good hotels and B&Bs.
Surrounding Saratoga is lush, rolling countryside offering more cultural, historical, and scenic attractions. Best known among them is the Saratoga National Historic Park, where the 1777 battles that turned the course of the Revolutionary War were fought.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition