Sunday, June 5, 2011
The fabulous Saratoga Springs
I was lucky enough to grow up in a special place, Saratoga Springs, NY. It's only a 1/2 hour from where I live now, so looking to take a nice walk in the sunshine, I spent some time there the other day and thought I'd share it with you.
Saratoga gained its fame for three things: the healthy mineral waters (the springs), the fabulous and glamorous thoroughbred race track, and it's gambling history. All three of these together brought an elegant and wealthy clientele to Saratoga. The building below is the Casino, in the lovely Congress Park. It was a genuine casino where famous gamblers like Diamond Jim Brady spent their time. Now it is both a museum and a lovely event venue, very very GRAND.
Today's photos are all from Congress Park, a peaceful and elegant park surrounding the Casino. As a child, my friend Annie and I walked through this park every Saturday morning, on our way to and from the synagogue, and many Saturday afternoons we returned their to play. So much of the park is still exactly as it was then, though nowadays there's a Ben & Jerry's across the street, so everyone in the park seemed to be eating gourmet ice cream!
The statues above, commonly referred to as "Spit and Spat", are Italian marble. There is absolutely nothing in this park that is not historic, lovely, and elegant. The statue on the right below is called "Winged Victory".
A few years ago, amid much local controversy, a carousel from the early 1900's was restored and now resides in the park. The building below houses the carousel.
When I was growing up, Saratoga was a sleepy place most of the year, coming alive for 4 weeks in the summer when the racetrack was in session, and the population exploded. In the late 1960's a lovely outdoor performing arts center (SPAC) was built, which annually houses the Philadelphia Orchestra and the NYC Ballet for a few weeks. Saratoga was always an artsy sort of place, but I think it became more of a cultural haven after SPAC was built.
Nowadays, Saratoga is a vibrant, lively place all year round, grand and elegant, but also a funky and artsy destination; not the quiet place of my childhood. The streets are wide and if you are into interesting architecture, you will not find a more exciting place to explore. The racetrack is still as exciting and beautiful as ever, the mineral waters still flow, there's music, ballet, theater, and art, there's a wealth of fabulous restaurants, and summers bring tourists with hats worthy of a British wedding. Come and visit!