25 Saratoga Things to do/Places to go
Real Writing on Racing 💯
Saratoga Springs and the surrounding areas mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Most people reading this blog probably are connected to Horse Racing in some fashion so you’d be track-centric. Others come to town to party downtown at the clubs, some come for the food and restaurant scene. Then there are the real animals that come for everything and those are the hero’s that don’t wear capes and hopefully not handcuffs at the end of the night!
Our list is not guided by anything except our personal experience and the input from our panel of local experts including the unofficial Mayor of Saratoga, Dave Speers. You won’t find too many fancy places where you have to be dressed in a tux 🤵♂️ or wait in line to get in however these are spots that we actually go to and clearly wouldn’t hesitate to recommend
Going in Circles Saratoga Top 25 list
Saratoga Race Course - Duh? It goes without saying that the number one thing to do or see in Saratoga Springs and the surrounding area is go to the track! 🏇🏻 The facility which has undergone many changes the last decade or so still has that nostalgic feel that people love. Sit in a box or reserved seat in the grandstand and you won’t just watch the horses go by but you can feel them racing down the stretch. The back area with a cooler besides picnic tables under the hundred year old oak trees is a cheaper alternative that many prefer. At the top of the stretch lounge they have a causal premium area that won’t break the bank like some of the other fancy pants spots. Just be prepared to walk 👣regardless of where you park or are situated as the facility is large and sprawled out.
Saratoga Casino and Hotel (Harness Track) - situated across the street from the thoroughbred track, the little track has morphed into an entirely new Casino facility with an attached 4 ⭐️ Hotel and a Morton’s Steakhouse 🥩. Still for people like me, the main attraction is still the harness racing which is held Friday - Sunday nights with a 6:45 post during the “track season”. You can watch from the old clubhouse, the grandstand, the apron behind the winners circle, the second floor simulcast area or the newer Saratoga Bets area to the right past the entrance from the Cresent avenue side complete with a small bar area. They also have a main bar area and lounge called Diamond Jim’s ♦️ by the main casino entrance that has tables and a ton of TV’s with sports and racing action. Ask for Ray the bartender, who might have been around when the place originally opened in 1941, and tell them that we sent you!
🆓 tip- inside the casino area there is self-service area where you can get complimentary soft drinks which literally might be the only free thing in Saratoga, period!
❓ Interesting trivia - the owners of Saratoga Casino briefly owned Ellis Park, the thoroughbred track in western Kentucky.
Marino’s Pizza - Located on Beekman Street for years, the current location is at 46 W. Circular street. Marino’s has always been a go to spot when you are super hungry and healthy eating 🥗 isn’t on your mind. They have excellent pizza 🍕 but the secret special order is the Scudder sandwich (⭐️⭐️⭐️) served on a split loaf of Italian bread 🥖 that few can finish in one sitting! It’s so full that you need two hands to lift it! Calzones are also grade 1 options! You won’t leave hungry!
Dairy Haus - Jason Blewitt’s favorite ice cream spot is located on Route 9w heading north towards Wilton at 476 Maple Avenue. They make all the ice cream 🍦 on premises and have both hard and soft serve with a huge variety of flavors. Plenty of parking is available (important in Saratoga!) and they have covered areas with benches to relax while while you eat. They also make specialty items like ice cream cakes 🎂 and different flavored gelatos 🍧. Note that they close shop at 8:00 🕗 so don’t be late and miss out!
The West Side Sports Bar and Grill - a locals spot for sure, the West Side is owned by racing photographer Dave Harmon whose work you have almost assuredly seen in the Saratoga Special. Located at 112 Congress street across the street from Sam’s Automotive and Tires (if you need tires or to get you car checked out, go to Sams and ask for Frank, tell him I sent you 👍🏻) the West Side is a “Mayor approved” spot, this mayor being Dave Speers, the boss of bosses of the local locals scene. It features plenty of TV’s (racing can always be found on at least one), a fully stocked bar, dining area with tables and waitress service plus a patio for seasonal use. There is parking in the back or across the street at Sams after it’s closed. Prices are affordable versus downtown spots 💸 and perhaps the Mayor or Dave Harmon himself will be onsite.
The Barrelhouse - probably the newest establishment on our list, this is a huge favorite of Brian Beer, former harness trainer and full brother to the DRF Handicapper Mike Beer. The Barrellhouse is a gastro pub known for its amazing 1/2 pound hamburgers 🍔 as well as other casual foods like hot dogs 🌭, quesadillas, a bunch of different sandwiches and even salads 🥗! They also have 23 beers 🍻 on tap with a long list of bottled options including foreign and domestic selections as well as ales and ciders.
⭐️ Tip - 🥓 Give the pork nachos a try!
Taverna Nova - Located right next to The Barrelhouse on Beekman Street, Taverna Nova is an excellent Italian restaurant where you can get an excellent meal without paying ludicrous downtown prices. Veal is the house specialty but they have a great variety of menu choices and wood-fired pizza 🍕 options. For the winos 🍷 they have an excellent list and a fully stocked bar manned by our guy Woody who knows how to pour a fine cocktail 🍸 especially if you mention my name (the Mayors name may get a mixed reaction 🤦🏼♂️). They have a relatively small dining area and large fan base so reservations are suggested.
⭐️⭐️⭐️ - order the Penne con Salsiccia e Broccoli Rabe and thank me later
Cardona’s Saratoga Market - Formerly known as Roma’s, this deli on Saratoga’s west side has a huge local following for its takeout lunch sandwiches that are made with assembly line efficiency. They also have traditional Italian 🇮🇹 deli fare, homemade pasta salads, sauces, soups, imported and local meats 🍖 and cheeses 🧀 , meatballs, grab and go meals, etc.
⭐️⭐️ - sometimes the simplest things are the best, can’t go wrong with a traditional Italian hero with your choice of pickles or olives 🫒 on the side.
Saratoga National Historical Park - Yes there are things to do in Saratoga other than eat and drink. Located about 15 minutes east of town is a beautiful park set in the hills overlooking the Hudson River. That park is the site of one of the most important battles in American history and turning point of the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Saratoga. Part of the Department of Interior’s National Park system, the park is free to access, has a visitor center open daily from 9-5 that has a 20 minute orientation film, a fiber-optic battlefield map, museum store and special displays and exhibits. Start there and proceed by car to the 10 mile, self-guided tour road that has 10 interpretive stops that includes both American 🇺🇸 and British 🇬🇧 camps, as well as areas where the battles were fought (I swear you can literally feel the ghosts at Bemis Heights). Complete with structures, cannons, battle line positions and a ton of monuments including a huge one for war hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko who is better known these days for the bridge crossing the Mohawk River named for him. Spending a couple of hours there on a dark day will not be time wasted.
🪦 Saratoga National Cemetery is just a stones throw away from the battlefield if you wish to pay your respects to those interred there.
Malta Drive In Theater- head south about a mile off of Northway Exit 13S and on the left side of route 9 you will come across one of the few Drive In movie theaters still in operation. Tickets 🎟 are $11 per adult and $6 per child and for an extra $5 total you can bring your own food and beverage though they do have a concession stand available. First opened in 1949 they have two screens and double feature shows start nightly around 8:45 pm
Sweet Lou’s Bistro - Located a short drive away from Saratoga at 161 Broad Street in Schuylerville, Chef Lou Maggiore serves up great food in a causal, relaxed setting. The menu is relatively simple but literally everything is good! Huge corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, a variety of quesadillas, Mac and cheese, and homemade appetizers are available Tuesday through Saturday (they are closed on Sunday and Monday). Lou’s specialty is his “meals for two” served with salad that can be eaten on location or taken to go. Believe me unless you are feeding NFL lineman, two normal people struggle to get through. Lou was a local high school basketball star and one of the nicest humans on earth! Tell him I sent you and you might get a special treat?
⭐️⭐️ ‘Feed the Beast’ sandwich - how does Grilled Meatloaf, Slab Bacon, Beef Gravy, Melted Swiss and Caramelized Onions on Italian Bread sound?
Mama Mia’s - Old school, no frills, 🇮🇹 Italian family owned spot located in the Market 32 strip mall at 185 Ballston Avenue. Brick oven pizza 🍕 and traditional Italian cuisine at reasonable prices is the norm here. They have a full bar where you can dine as well and if Rachel is bartending that night, you are in good hands plus there is an excellent chance that the Mayor will be there in person. They begin serving daily at 3:00 in the dining room though takeout orders start at 1:00 except on Monday’s when they are closed. Reservations are suggested during track season on race days.
⭐️ Eggplant Rollatini - huge portions of a old school favorite for less than $20? Sign me up!
Quarters - Speaking of no frills spots, this little dive bar is located directly next to Mamma Mia’s. Owned and operated by high school classmates of mine, they claim to be the oldest sports bar in Saratoga. A locals hangout, they have cheap 🍹, live music 🎵 at least four nights a week and a friendly atmosphere that is often missing at Saratoga’s more touristy spots. Plenty of free parking plus they will turn on whatever game or race you want to see on one of their 15 TV’s. Ask for Christine or Mark and tell them that we sent you!
The Parting Glass - It is said to be the oldest continuously-run bar and restaurant in Saratoga Springs. In 1981, the property was purchased by Joan Desadora and family and established as The Parting Glass — Saratoga’s Original Irish Pub and Restaurant 🇮🇪
Since the 1990’s, it received the honor of being voted a Top Ten Irish Pub ☘️ in the country by USA Today. Located on Lake Street downtown, there is a large parking garage by the Hilton across the street. Live music is a staple on Tuesdays, traditional Irish cuisine plus the usual bar staples are available and if you fancy darts, the back room features an additional bar plus serious dart boards 🎯. Pretty good chance you’d see some authentic Irish exercise riders especially with Joesph O’Brien being in town.
National Museum of Racing - The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame preserves and promotes the history of thoroughbred racing in America 🇺🇸 and honors the sport’s most accomplished participants in the Racing Hall of Fame. Admission ($20 adults, $15 seniors, $10 kids 6-18 or with college ID, free for active military or veterans with proper ID) to the Museum includes a self-guided tour through the Museum’s permanent collection galleries and special exhibitions. It’s located on Union Avenue, directly across the street from Saratoga Race Course and parking can be dicey on race day afternoons. They do have a nice gift shop with some great horse racing books among other interesting racing stuff.
Taquero Tacos and Donuts - tiny place at 68 Putnam Street which is downtown next to the Ice House. They literally have tacos 🌮 and donuts 🍩 and I’m not sure how anyone could fault that combo. Last summer my friend Gavin and I crushed the ‘all you can eat sushi’ 🍣 spot (Wasabi makes the honorable mention list) across the street before knocking off a dozen donuts (they aren’t huge) making that a Saturday night to remember!
⭐️⭐️ Fruity pebble donuts are every bit as good as they sound!
Tin n Lint - Caroline Street watering hole with character but little in the ways of frills. Spent many nights in my late teenage years in this spot. One night White Russians were the featured drink and I’m pretty sure The Mayor and I wound up sleeping in Congress Park on benches. My good friend Frank is still bartending there, let him know I sent you and I guarantee he will set you up with at least a free shot or two!
The Wine Bar - Probably the biggest upset to be on this list but to be honest I have never once had a bad meal or experience in this classy little spot on Broadway next to the Downtowner Motel. Admittedly I know zero about wine 🍷 other than I’m not a big fan but the food here is good (a little pricey but it’s a Broadway location) and the atmosphere is smooth. They also have a smoking lounge with a decent selection of cigars and if you are closer to a barbarian than a sophisticate, but you don’t want your date to know that, hit up the Wine Bar!
SPAC - One of the best spots to enjoy a concert 🎶 anywhere. An open air amphitheater set on a slight incline, the main stage has a 25,000 person capacity with sheltered seats for 5,200 people and a sloping lawn for an additional 20,000 people. It lies on the west side of the Saratoga Spa State Park with plenty of parking available in the Route 50 parking lots. They have a wide variety of acts 🎼 scheduled for this Summer including Rod Stewart, Wiz Khalifa & Logic, Luke Bryan, The Goo Goo Dolls and Sting.
Front Street Social Club - Located about a 15 minute drive south down Route 50 is the charming little town of Ballston Spa, hometown of Abner Doubleday, who may or may not have invented baseball ⚾️ depending on which account you believe. This modest sized, ‘dinner-only’ restaurant is located at 52 Front Street, an emerging locale for eclectic eateries that have popped up in the last half-decade or so. Set in what seems to be a turn of the century (19th not 20th century) it has a small lounge area with a fully stocked bar and a propensity to develop new style drink mixes that they feature regularly. The dining area is akin to an Ivy League professors office, full of character but not too roomy. Old hardcover books adorn shelves and antique signs give off a rustic flavor, sort of a more authentic Cracker Barrel style. The menu offers a solid lineup of American comfort food with curious Latin tweaks. Solid portion sizes and uniquely flavorful food make up for the relatively short list of choices. They are closed Monday/Tuesday.
⭐️ Jalapeño cranberry margarita - it sounds weird but it works
Augie’s - located right up the road from Front Street, is the clear leader in portion size in the Saratoga area. Family style dining with individual entrées fit for three people, they offer all the traditional Italian 🇮🇹 fare in a cramped but homey setting. Their Sunday special “Dinner at Mamas”, a meal with unlimited meatballs, sausage, choice of pasta 🍝 with Mama’s gravy and garlic bread for a little less than $14 per person regardless of the size of the party, is a deal that is difficult to beat anywhere. This place was a favorite of late trainer Joe Aquilino who knew good Italian food! Reservations are suggested especially for weekends and large parties. Your diet is dead after Augie’s!!
Jimmy’s Pizza - An unassuming little Italian pizza 🍕 joint with 6 tables located in Malta inside the Market 32 plaza, roughly 3/4 of a mile off of exit 12 of the Northway. Solid pizza game plus the usual appetizers and wings, they have nightly dinner specials that are both well-proportioned and well-prepared. Not a fancy spot but a good place to grab a quick dinner on the go without having to wait for a table, search for parking or break the bank to afford (dinner specials in the $12 range).
Horseshoe Inn - if you were standing in the starting gate for a 7 furlong dirt race at the Saratoga Racecourse 🎪 and turned around, you’d be looking directly at the ‘Shoe’. The bar area which starts hopping around 10 (AM!!) is a spot regularly visited by backstretch workers of all levels including trainers, assistants and exercise riders. The 'Shoe' is a great place to meet friends for happy hour food and drinks, weekend breakfasts or dinners with a good variety of choices and not too pricey. The Mayor regularly holds court there during the brunch menu on Sunday mornings! He probably won’t buy you a drink 🍻 but will likely finagle one for you on someone else’s tab!
Olde Bryan Inn - historic North Broadway Saratoga mainstay, this rustic Tavern has been here since roughly 1832. It’s one of the best casual dining venues in Saratoga and is popular among locals and visitors alike. Affordable, excellent food and big portions at a reasonable price with a great atmosphere make for a good combo. A favorite of the great Tom Dunkin, who often can be seen holding court during lunch hours at the bar in the lounge area. Local legend also says that the place is haunted so perhaps that might be an extra incentive if you want to get in touch with the afterworld.
⭐️ French Onion Soup
Triangle Diner - serves breakfast and a limited lunch menu only as they close at 2pm daily. It’s not a big place and parking is limited but it’s the best breakfast spot in Saratoga. Whether you want an omelette, pancakes 🥞 , French toast, a breakfast sandwich or the special of the day, it’s gonna be good and not going to max out your credit card 💳. Located at 400 Maple Avenue, it opens daily at 7AM and we suggest getting there before 9 to avoid a long wait.
Bonus: ‘The Mayor’ Dave Speers favorite Spa drinking spots (not in top 25)
Dozers Bar and Grill - Family owned, generous with their specials and good food
Embassy Suites - All day Happy Hour? Can’t beat that!
Siro’s - Crowded but fun spot during track season
Kings Tavern - great location by the track
City Tavern on the Roof - good specials
Desperate Annie’s - old school spot on Caroline Street
Clancy’s Tavern - by D’Andreas Pizza, good for one last drink followed by drunken pizza 🍕
Principessa Elena Society - cheap drinks on Oak Street
End Zone Sports Pub in Strike Zone Bowling Alley - half-priced drinks noon till 6pm!
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