An Equestrian in Saratoga: Three Things to See and Do in America’s Oldest Horse Racing Town

by Matt

2013 marks the 150th anniversary of Thoroughbred horse racing at Saratoga Springs, New York.

Equestrians think of Saratoga for its high-bred horses, and it is truly one of those special towns where the horse is celebrated in every way. If you’re visiting Saratoga Springs as an equestrian tourist – what better way to travel, right? – here are three fantastic must-sees in Saratoga.

Big Red Spring

This beautiful town became a part of the upper-class for its springs – a series of unique, naturally carbonated mineral springs, each with its own purported health benefits. There are currently seventeen public mineral springs in the Saratoga vicinity, and not necessarily the sort of bubbling pond you might be expecting. Many of them are ornamental fountains, covered with nineteenth century pavilions, where you can step right up and fill a cup – or your cupped hand – from the stream of water.

There are springs scattered around town, including several in Saratoga’s beautiful Congress Park, and everyone has a different taste, owing to different minerals in the water. But the most convenient spring for race-goers is Saratoga Racecourse’s own Big Red Spring. The temple-like pavilion that houses this sulfurous spring is right in the picnic area next to the paddock. Go and taste it – just be prepared for the very, ahem, strong flavor. Like the horses it was named for, Man O’War and Secretariat, Big Red Spring’s water is very, very strong.

The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame

Located just across the street from Saratoga Racecourse, this brick building, watched over by a massive bronze Seabiscuit, will captivate any horse-lover, whether they’re a horse racing enthusiast or not. Although racing is the main theme, galleries devoted to the history of Thoroughbred breeding in America, several centuries’ worth of fine art, and memorabilia celebrating racehorses who captured the imagination of America and the world, you’ll come away from this museum with a fresh appreciation for all horses.

Shopping and Dining on Broadway

We know, we know – shopping is boring unless it’s for the barn. Well, you’re in luck. Broadway Avenue, Saratoga Springs’ main downtown drag, features boutique after boutique with the latest in equestrian fashions, unique equine-inspired art, and even antiques, rare books, and locally-made treats.

Don’t miss Impressions of Saratoga, a local favorite for all sorts of gifts for horse lovers, from home decor to wine glasses. Saratoga Saddlery has an impressive selection of riding boots and apparel from designers around the world, along with jewelry, books, and gifts. Warning: you’ll probably wander around this enticing store much longer than you expected!

And from chocolate to olive oil, Saratoga has your artisanal foodie needs covered. Check out Saratoga Olive Oil Company for delicious varieties of oils and vinegars. If you’re one of those equestrians who conditions your tack with olive oil, one taste will convince you to keep this bottle in your kitchen, not your tack room.

When you’ve shopped up an appetite, there are plenty of great dining spots in downtown Saratoga Springs. We like Maestro’s at the Van Dam, a beautiful spot perfect for people-watching and fine dining in the Rip Van Dam Hotel – the largest pre-Civil War hotel in town. Locally-sourced ingredients and a creative chef keep diners coming back, especially if they can snag a coveted outside table on the front terrace.

Saratoga Springs is a town where horse-lovers can indulge their equestrian passions and enjoy history, shopping, and fine dining all at once. On Saturday, August 24th, the 144th running of the Travers Stakes, the oldest major Thoroughbred race in America, will draw record crowds. But all summer long, Saratoga is open for business, welcoming horse-lovers as it has for the past century and a half.

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