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!


  1. Phyl there is a very very special place in my heart for Saratoga Springs as well! (I went to Skidmore and lived there for another year after graduating.) It is a gorgeous and really fun town! One of my top three all time favorite places for pancakes is Country Corner.

  2. greetings from California! I just love your blog and refer to it often... you seem so nice and friendly- the way you write here on your blog, as well as the comments you leave on OTHER blogs! The art you do with your students inspires me. I am a parent volunteer at my sons' school and I LOVE making art with the kids. I put together our schools first-ever art show, coming up on June 15th... I am excited and nervous! If you (and other art teachers whose blogs I follow) were closer, I'd invite you all! Just thought I'd share :) Have a wonderful summer!

  3. Rachel, it just shows how much there is in Saratoga - I'm not at all familiar w/Country Corner!

    Alicia, thanks for your sweet comments. I think the kids at your school are lucky to have parent volunteers like you to do stuff like this - wow - putting together an art show is big!!! If I were closer, I'd definitely come see! I'd ask you to take photos and post them, but you don't have a blog, do you? Good luck with the show and keep visiting :-)

  4. no blog... I'll let ya know how it goes!

  5. I'll share my only memory of Saratoga springs. 1987 my mother in a big floppy brimmed hat white with a navy ribbon, a summer white blazer and matching long shorts, aviator heels. I only remember what my mom wore to the racetrack that day and she let me bet on a horse! If I had won... I wouldn't still be paying student loans. Thanks for the pics and story makes me want to go back with Stella!

  6. I love it that you remember your mom's outfit (including the hat) - it's SO Saratoga! Definitely come when Stella is older. I don't have photos of the track, but it's gorgeous. For families, you can pack a picnic, and watch the horses get saddled up in the paddock, and you can even place a bet for just $1.00! Or you can come in the morning for breakfast and watch the horses work out. Fun. And then, if you time it right, you can take your little girl to see the ballet.

  7. Phyl, You've sold us on Saratoga!!! I'm guessing the Chamber of Commerce there would love to have you work for them after you retire, ha....I'm adding it to my places I'd like to visit:)

  8. typo! the shoes were called spectator pumps. . . navy and white . . . small detail but shoes complete the outfit!