Heritage Area Visitors Center
A good place to start a tour of Saratoga is at the Heritage Area Visitors Center (297 Broadway, at Congress St., 518/587-3241, www.saratoga.org/visitorcenter, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. daily May–Oct., 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Sat. Nov.–Apr., free admission), housed in Drink Hall, where mineral waters were once sold. Back then, different waters were recommended for different times of the day: Hathorn in the morning, Coesa before dinner, and Geyser in the evening.
Today, the Beaux-Arts hall with its barrel-vaulted ceiling is filled with history exhibits and racks bursting with tourism brochures. Saratoga is one of New York State’s Heritage Areas—loosely designated historic districts linked by a common theme. The theme in Saratoga is the natural environment. Free walking-tour maps pinpointing the area’s springs can be picked up here.
Saratoga’s Mineral Springs
Saratoga’s springs gurgle up from ancient seas trapped in limestone layers that are sealed by a solid layer of shale. Through these layers runs a geological fault line which cracks the shale, allowing the water to escape to the surface. The limestone enriches the water with minerals, and carbon dioxide adds natural carbonation.
Most of the springs bubble up in Congress Park, High Rock Park, and the Saratoga Spa State Park. Some are marked by pavilions, others by fountains, and each has its own distinct taste. A complete guide to the springs and their supposed therapeutic values can be picked up at the Saratoga Springs Visitor Center and Heritage Area (297 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 518/587-3241).
Two bottling companies continue to operate within the city: the world-famous Saratoga Spring Water Company, and the Excelsior Springs Water Company. The Saratoga Spring Company has been located on Geyser Road at the Route 50 entrance to Saratoga Spa State Park since 1872. Take the time to see its lovely Victorian gazebo, built in the late 1800s.
Saratoga Spa State Park still offers mineral baths at its recently renovated Roosevelt Baths (518/226-4790). The privately run Crystal Spa (92 S. Broadway, 518/584-2556) offers mineral baths as well.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition