Every August we head north to Saratoga Springs, NY for one of my most favorite weekends of the summer, The Travers Stakes. Horseracing is a fun sport to watch especially at Saratoga Racetrack, one of the oldest and most charming sporting venues in the United States. The horses are stunning, elegant athletes who streak down the dirt and grass tracks. And oh, the hats at the track! Ladies embrace this fashion trend some wearing beautiful, elegant hats while others opt for whimsical and crazy one. The Adirondack Park located a short drive from Saratoga Springs, offers visitors the outdoor experiences of this beautiful region. Saratoga Springs and neighboring Lake George (at the edge of the Adirondack Park) are wonderful places to visit during the summer but Travers weekend is even more special.
The Saratoga Racetrack is the oldest sporting venue in the country built in 1863. It is the fourth oldest track in the country. The track holds 50,000 people including incredible luxury boxes as well as ample picnic grounds and viewing areas. The red and white décor evokes a bygone era in this historic venue. A hand-rung bell is still rung 17 minutes before post to let horses and riders know when its time to go. One really cool aspect of the track is the path from the stables to the Paddock. This is the spot where horses parade and are dressed for the race. The path winds through the picnic area so everyone has a chance to see the horses up close. We were fortunate to have access to the paddock. Being up close to these powerful, elegant animals is a true treat.
The track has several nicknames. “The Spa” refers to the nearby mineral springs. In fact, The Big Red Spring is located in the heart of the picnic area of the track and provides water from the famous Saratoga Springs. Two other nicknames, “The House of Upsets” and “The Graveyard of Champions”, refer to the many Triple Crown winners who have lost the Travers Stakes after winning the Triple Crown. In 2015, American Pharaoh feel victim to this.
The Travers Stakes is the oldest major horse race. It dates to 1864. It is by far Saratoga’s most popular racing day occurring always the last Saturday of August. The race is a grade 1 horse race run on a dirt track with 3 years old horses only. The winner receives a $1.25 million purse. The race is named for William Travers, president of the old Saratoga Racing Association. His horse, Kentucky, won the first race. Winners of the Travers receive a red and white carnation blanket (the colors of Saratoga). After 1920, winners have also been awarded the Man O’ War Cup Trophy (named for the 1920 winning horse). Looking out at the track and the infield is a very pretty view. The Travers canoe is located by the pond in the infield. Since 1926 the canoe is painted with the colors of the winning stable of the Travers Stakes.
There are two different options of accommodations when going to Saratoga. I have stayed in both and enjoyed each. If you are looking to experience the exciting vibe of Saratoga on a popular race weekend, the Saratoga Arms is the place for you. This boutique bed and breakfast is located on Broadway, Saratoga’s main street. This location allows guests easy access to the shops and the wonderful galleries of Saratoga. There is a thriving art scene in Saratoga. The hotel was built in 1870 in the 2nd Empire Style with burnt red brick and a gigantic porch entrance. Entering the building, an awesome winding staircase greets you. The hotel features several quaint parlors as well as 31 rooms. All are decorated with a mixture of period furnishing, antiques, vintage equestrian art, and modern amenities. The staff are incredibly friendly and made my stay here very pleasant. The Saratoga Arms is conveniently located around the corner from my favorite restaurant in Saratoga, 15 Church. This small, cozy, chic restaurant occupies a restored historic building. The food is delicious and innovative. But dessert is a must- the Zeppole are to die for!!!
If you would rather spend the weekend experiencing not just racing, but the wonderful outdoor life of the Adirondacks, The Sagamore Resort, located on Lake George, provides this option. The hotel is an easy 30-minute drive from Saratoga. Lake George is considered the Queen of the American Lakes. It is located in the Southeast Corner of the Adirondack Park. The lake is 32.2 miles long, very deep and 1-3 miles wide at various points. The British named the lake after King George II in 1755. During the late 19th and early 20th century, Lake George became a very posh place to summer. “Millionaire Row” on the western side of the lake on Bolton Road (now Lake Shore Drive) was dotted with huge mansions. In the 1950s, many of these were replaced by hotels, however, some still exist.
The Sagamore Resort is located in Bolton Landing, a town on the western shore. The 100 years old Victorian era resort sits on Green Island jutting out into the lake. In the late 1880s, Myron O. Brown and several millionaires from Philadelphia bought the 70-acres island with the intention of opening a full service, luxury resort. It opened in 1883 but was badly damaged in 1893 and 1914. After closing and reopening several times throughout the years, the hotel was purchased by Norman Wolgin in 1981. Three years later, reopened The Sagamore Resort. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
Today the resort features about 140 rooms, 7 restaurants, a spa, tennis courts and an 18 hole Donald Ross golf course. Near the tennis courts is a large sports center for just kids called The Rec, which offers mini golf, an arcade, and a kid’s club. But the main reason to come to The Sagamore is for the outdoor activities and amenities it offers. The outdoor pool is set up in tiers so that almost every lounge chair has a spectacular southern view of Lake George. Between the outdoor pool and the indoor pool, there are a total of 250 lounge chairs!
My kids loved the lake amenities. There is a small roped off area for lake swimming with a beach area filled with lounge chairs. But their favorite was the large dock where the idled several hours away catching fish. And the actually caught about seven fish between them! Private boat rentals are available as well. The hotel owns a gorgeous boat called The Morgan. This boat is a 72-foot replica of a 19th century touring boat. This beautiful boat offers 1.5 hour long touring cruises of Lake George. It’s a great way to see the entire lake from the water.
Whether you choose a resort with fantastic outdoor amenities or a boutique hotel in town, one think is for sure. Travers Weekend in Saratoga is a fabulous experience for anyone. The Saratoga Racetrack evokes a bygone era of horse racing with modern flair. Every year we return to this wonderful event and fall more in love with Saratoga, The Racetrack and the Adirondacks. Don’t forget the one must have accessory (and my favorite thing of the weekend)- a fabulous hat!