Thomas & I recently took a road trip North to ski Jay Peak in Vermont, which might as well be like driving to Canada. But we had a week of “vacation” to use to our advantage & had the ability to bring Levi with us (her first trip with us – which I’ll be sure to share more about soon.) Originally, we were planning to drive the entire 7 hours up in one shot but quickly changed course when we realized we could stop in Saratoga Springs along the way. So we ended up making a weekend out of it, breaking up the drive to ~3.5 hours from NJ to NY & then from NY to VT once we departed to continue our journey.
The last time I visited Saratoga was the summer of 2014; to compete in the horse show across from the historic RaceTrack. I’d been attending/participating in this horse show event, hosted by Skidmore College, every summer since 2005. But I never had the chance to explore the town, or actually do something other than ride, eat & sleep. Needless to say, I was very excited to get my first adult taste of Saratoga, in wintertime, with my own little fam – sans horse responsibilities.
If you’re not familiar with Saratoga Springs, it’s best known for its rich heritage as a health resort & gambling centers in the 19th & 20th Centuries. Often referred as “Queen of the Spas” due to the many natural springs that were rigged to provide water to Bathhouses & hotels, where patrons could experience luxurious mineral-water treatments as well as relax from the hustle of the city they were visiting from.
Saratoga’s historic foundation was built on health & horses, naturally drawing in a wealthy crowd of visitors all year round. In fact, the infamous Saratoga Racetrack I mentioned earlier is one of, if not the oldest racing track in America! Something I had no idea about myself until researching.
Today, Saratoga Springs has become a place known for its abundance of amazing restaurants & lively bars, ranging from dives to jazz clubs. The main drag of Broadway is lined with a mix of some large, but mostly small businesses offering all sorts of shopping opportunities. With Skidmore College just down the road, it makes sense why dining & shopping is the focus of commerce. We also found Saratoga to be more dog-friendly than originally expected, in terms of places we could actually go inside with Levi that weren’t strict to outside-only.
WHERE WE STAYED
This adorable 2-bed, 2-bath space, nestled inside a refurbished historic carriage house, in downtown Saratoga Springs might be the cutest Airbnb we’ve ever stayed in! Just steps from Broadway, the main stretch of shops, restaurants & bars, with public parking only a block away. Also – it’s pet-friendly (yay!)
The entire unit of this unique rental is beyond charming. What I loved most about it was its location, tucked away down a narrow street but still in the center of all the action. It was a quiet & peaceful to get some work in on our first day, with plenty of bright natural light. And that quietness continued at night even though it’s literally one block from all the evening downtown action.
Some of my favorite features included the entryway space where we could hang our coats & take our shoes off, along with the washer/dryer units on the first level (we didn’t use them, but nice to know it was there in case.) I literally swooned over the farmhouse sink in the kitchen, as well as the wooden breakfast bar seating that served as the perfect work station. Oh, and there’s NOTHING better than having your own bathroom for a short while. I’ve missed having such a luxury haha.
Our Airbnb hosts were incredible from the start – allowing us to check-in early upon arrival & even check-out by 12pm. We were able to message back & forth at any point with any questions, which is always a big A+ when communicating on the app. Overall, we couldn’t have asked for a better experience renting from Mark, Katie & Catherine!
However, it’s worth mentioning that the only way up to the unit is via stairs, as there’s no elevator in the building. Just something to keep in mind if you require a space with more accessibility. I believe they also rent out the 1-bedroom unit on the 1st floor, which has outdoor access to a cute little seating space out the back of the building. But I can’t find the listing on Airbnb anymore; I’m sure you can message them to ask if interested.
THINGS TO DO
Depending on what time of year you visit, the Saratoga Racetrack is something everyone should make an effort to see even if it’s from the side of the road. It’s only a 4 minute drive from Broadway, but some of you might even pass by it on the way into town if visiting/traveling from south of Saratoga. I’ve never seen a race here, but we did get to keep our horses in the back stables on the grounds during the horse show season which was so cool. They filmed the 2003 movie ‘Seabiscuit’ here too, which I still recall trying to scout the exact stable they filmed at because I was so obsessed with the idea of walking on the same dirt as Tobey Maguire (lol yep.)
Whether or not the Track is open at the time of your visit, you can definitely count on exploring the museum next door, give or take a block down the same road. Here you can experience art, films, special exhibits & a Hall of Fame Gallery depicting 300+ years of U.S. Horse Racing.
Car enthusiasts of any age or era of interest will love this museum, should you be one yourself or traveling along with a fan. Here you can view artifacts tracing the state’s motor history plus race cars & other historic autos. During the Spring & Summer, there are Auto Shows & Car Parades to experience as well.
There are tons of cute shops along Broadway to check out. My favorites were the mom & pop mercantiles & antique stores, as well as the adorable Bella & Lindy Pet Boutique + Bakery we came across and bought Levi a “White Paw” dog cookie from.
Here’s where you can stock up on a limited amount of groceries as well as beer/wine, grab a sandwich from the deli (highly recommend) or peruse the shelves holding an assortment of local jams, jellies, honey, etc. from family-run businesses in Saratoga and the neighboring areas.
We took Levi here both days while in town and she absolutely loved it! Friendly dogs & people with two large-sized fenced in areas for small & big breeds to run around and get excess energy out (which we definitely needed to do with her.) There are several dog parks in the Saratoga area but this one was closest to where we were staying in Downtown & seemed to have the best reviews, which we can confirm were valid through our own observations.
The dog park is located inside the landmark, historic Saratoga Spa State Park which is a beautiful place to take a walk should you crave an easy outdoor activity. There are various art & culture exhibits as well as a pool complex & golf course within the park as well.
WHERE WE DRANK + DINED
Warm, storied hangout with local art, house-roasted coffee & desserts, plus homemade bagels (SO GOOD) & soups.
A cute breakfast & lunch cafe offering coffee beverages and an assortment of sandwiches + paninis.
Compact, quaint hangout with organic coffee, sandwiches, cookies & a front patio.
Familiar diner venue & classic menu, from omelets to burgers, on offer in this early-rising, retro-inspired eatery.
Cozy, warm Italian bistro offering farm-to-table local fare, handmade pasta & vegan-friendly items with renowned wines. Highly recommend the Bruschetta!
Family-owned wood-fire pizza joint topping each pie with farm-fresh ingredients, also serving craft beer, wine & cocktails.
Our favorite dog-friendly bar in Saratoga! A small bar tucked down the stairs of a brownstone that allows very good dogs to come inside. Enjoy a beer on site from the shops 12 constantly rotating taps or fill a growler to-go. You can also mix a four-pack of over 150 beers in their fridge to bring home or crack open a can in the shop.
A bustling sports bar with live music & multiple games such as pool and darts.
Jazz lounge in 1880s-era digs pours hundreds of single malts & martinis over a mahogany bar. The espresso martinis are famous here.
This place was fun & HUGE! Dark-wooded Irish tavern featuring pints & hearty bar fare, plus darts & live entertainment. Also, the best Irish Coffee I’ve ever had (ask for it with a splash of Bailey’s!)
Hip, bustling destination with rustic decor offering craft beer, cocktails & New American eats.
Other places we didn’t go to but would like to next time!
A small, but happening spot known for good drinks, walking tacos & something called “a Lucy” (one beer, one shot.)
Wine bar featuring more than 120 wines, 50 craft & imported beers, an extensive martini list and an ever-changing menu of seasonal cocktails. Plus a locally inspired menu of delicious light bar fare.
Cocktail bar & tasting room sharing award-winning spirits in a unique setting that combines a world-class tasting lounge with an inviting atmosphere featuring craft cocktails made with their very own handcrafted spirits.
Lively brew pub serving its own craft beers & an eclectic food menu sourced from local ingredients.
Hearty brunch, fusion plates & cocktails served up in a warm restaurant in a historical building.
Seasonal fare & craft cocktails are presented in a trendy space set in a former feed & grain store.
Refined restaurant serving filets, lamb, seafood & craft cocktails, along with a casual patio menu.
Elegant bistro/tavern with a lively, tree-topped patio, dishing out Continental cuisine since 1932.