When I entered the upstate New York city, it was easy to decipher Saratoga Springs’s slogan – “Health, history, and horses.”
As I went around the city and met with locals, I soon came to realize that ‘health’ represents the many natural mineral springs of the city which has made this a hub for healing for several years. In 1863 the Saratoga Race Track hosted its first thoroughbred horse race, and until today, every summer this track draws millions of people to watch the races, this is where the ‘horse’ reference comes from. As far as ‘history’ goes, there’s so much history and so many attractions that everywhere you go, it’s a learning experience.
While wandering around Saratoga Springs, I quickly learned that wandering and exploring is enjoyable, but there’s nothing like a guided tour which shows you the ins and outs and the hidden treasures of this little, sleepy hamlet.
When I travel, I like to unveil every facet that a place has to offer and so I did. Saratoga Springs is an all-encompassing locale where if you wish to sample delicious food and drinks with the guidance of a local expert or go on an educational experience at the historical sites, it has everything.
There are a lot of things to do in Saratoga but here’s a bunch of my favorite tours that I went on and you should too.
Foodie tours: First you eat and drink, then you do everything else
Saratoga is a tiny treasure trove of pubs and bakeries which offer delectable food.
I recall the time I walked down the street and smelled the goodness of a bakery from a mile away and as I got closer, noticed the vast number of people gathered around the store to buy their share from the confectionery.
The best way to taste your way through Saratoga and savor every moment is on a food tour.
The tour typically takes 2.5 hours, and it gives visitors a chance to sample local food while also getting a taste of the rich history of the city.
From delicious local cheese, cupcakes, salsa, olives and more, after a food tour, you’ll be nothing short of an expert.
Being a beer drinker myself, I opted for a tour which included local craft beverages. Similarly, many customizable options are available depending on your preferences.
While in New York City, I enjoyed the many bars and pubs and didn’t think beyond the city. But Saratoga took me by surprise. The number of breweries and wineries are aplenty. Some popular ones which offer brilliant tours are out Druthers Brewing Company, Artisanal Brew Works, Racing City Brewing Company, Oliva Vineyards, Saratoga Winery, and Tasting Room, etc. These are a few which are in the city limits. There are more in the surrounding areas which are worth the day trip.
My idea of R&R is watching the sunset while cruising down the lake accompanied by tasty food. There are many tour operators who provide water and wine, feel free to pick.
Historical tours: Let the past come to life
From afar, little did I know that such a small city could pack a massive punch. It was only recently I found out that Saratoga played a vital role in a few important moments in American history. It even caught me by surprise that local residents learn new things while they tour the battlefields and monuments in the area. It’s at this moment I realized that nothing teaches you better than travel.
My level of interest in history is minimal. But the tours paints a whole different picture for history buffs.
Discover in style the history of Saratoga Springs on the guided trolley tour. On this 2-hour excursion, you will come across historic sites such as the High Rock area, Broadway, Skidmore Campus, Saratoga Race Course, the Saratoga Casino, Union Ave, etc. I opted for this tour at the last moment, and I am pleased I did so!
During the tour is when I saw the streets of Saratoga through a different set of eyes. The main street had a larger city appeal but a small-town charm – in other words, there is plenty to do and see just minus the noise and crowds.
It was a magical experience to walk past the souvenir shops, bookstores, antique stores, boutique shops, bustling restaurants and cafes which fringed along the mile-long stretch of Broadway.
After this, I chose to walk my way through history on the casual walking tour called “History, Legends, Lore, and More.” I was led through Congress Park on a 90-minute informative tour. I walked past impressive monuments, captivating artwork, personal stories narrated by the guide and intriguing historical facts.
Two comical Saratogians conduct an exclusive walking tour which helps you immerse in the city’s rich history.
I was instantly fascinated by the Saratoga Ghost tours and signed up immediately! At 7 pm on a Friday, I set out through some of the most haunted sites in Saratoga, I even stumbled across some ghoulish residents, not really, they were just creepy neighbors of the area.
If ghost tours aren’t your cup of tea, this city which has a thriving culture and art scene has top-notch museums. I had an educative experience about the rich past and lively present of Saratoga. From the National Museum of Dance to the New York State Military Museum to Saratoga Automobile Museum and the Saratoga Springs History Museum, there’s plenty to keep you on your toes all day. Let’s not forget the numerous art galleries that are buzzing.
Park tours: Let’s step outside for some sun and shine
Early on a Tuesday morning, I grabbed my hat, boots, and sunscreen and set out for a fun day in the sun.
Being a lover of the great outdoors, I looked forward to every possible outdoor tour that Saratoga had on offer.
With a plethora of attractions like the Saratoga Lake, parks and whatnot, it’s difficult to be cooped up indoors and not enjoy Mother Nature.
Two of the top tours I picked were the Yaddo tour. Although sprawling across 400 acres, Yaddo, for me, was like a home away from home. I heard that writers and artists such as Langston Hughes, Sylvia Plath, and Edgar Allen Poe felt the same. The breath-taking beauty of the gardens in Yaddo was something, and I soon found my attempts of capturing their true beauty as ineffective.
After the Yaddo Tour, I wasn’t done with Mother Nature just as yet. With so much more to explore, I chose the spa state park tour. I hear that it’s a great place to wonder by oneself but for an authentic insider look and feel a guided tour is a must. Once I embarked on the tour, I realized why. I had the chance of experiencing the fantastic sites and natural wonders especially the world-famous geysers and springs of Saratoga.
On this tour, I learned that since the 14th-Century, the main draw of Saratoga was the natural mineral springs which were primarily used for their healing properties. These springs are speckled throughout Saratoga Spa State Park and downtown Congress Park. There are 12 springs in the state park, and I couldn’t resist but explore all of them. I was told to bring an empty bottle or a cup to sip the water from each spring. To my surprise, they all had a different taste (apparently, it is natural)! Keep in mind that not all of them taste great. If 12 is one too many, you can explore the 4 in Congress Park.
I couldn’t resist a day out in the lake and couldn’t hold back and booked a cruise. Boy, was it great! I sat back, relaxed and enjoyed Saratoga Lake in style. I opted for the public tour, but you can choose customizable tours as well.
Horse racing tours: It’s where thoroughbreds rule
Experience all that Saratoga is about by spending a day on the tracks. The Saratoga Race Course has a longstanding tradition of track-goers spending the morning there, feasting on breakfast served on The Porch of the Clubhouse while the stunning horses prepare for a race.
Mere words cannot express the beauty of this place and the feeling of being here. You’ve got to experience it for yourself.
The breakfast program comes with a walking tour that is free of the area around the stables. I recommend getting to the tracks bright and early, so you have the opportunity of going on this tour.
Another personal favorite is the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame where a guided tour takes you through incredible exhibits, collections and the famous Hall of Fame itself. You can even have a glimpse of the behind the scenes into why trainers like Nick Zito and Todd Pletcher consider this their favorite base. This tour requires sturdy walking shoes, so bring your best pairs out.
As a conclusion
No matter how many tours you go on, each and every one of them will show you how unique Saratoga Springs is. Want to go on a tour of your own? Let us help be your guides.