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Summer in Saratoga

Posted: 08/10/2009

Saratoga Springs is a four-season town, steeped in charm all year round. But summer in Saratoga is something else again.

Summer ramps up the bustle of busy Broadway, polishes the grandeur of the city’s pre- and post-bellum mansions, and deepens the allure of the city’s residential backstreets with their tall trees and luxurious shady porches of a bygone era. Summer kicks the Saratoga Performing Arts Center into high gear, with everything from classical ballet to concerts by Coldplay, and packs the national museums of racing and dance (and Skidmore’s own Tang Museum) with eager tourists. Topping it off is the thrill of world-class horse racing at the Saratoga Race Course. The fine old grandstand, handsomely refurbished a few years ago, reverberates to the thundering hoofbeats of the newest crop of champions, including this year’s Preakness-winning superstar filly Rachel Alexandra, spotted there mornings taking her daily exercise.

In these peak summer weeks, Saratoga Springs offers too many high spots to count: The Adelphi Hotel’s cool, dark High Victorian bar, where time seems to have stopped in 1880; the farmers’ market where you can pick a bouquet of giant sunflowers; the splendidly classical Victoria Pool (built in 1935) and the rose gardens at Yaddo; the shoppers’ paradise of fine-crafts shops, art galleries, boutiques, and a wealth of extraordinary bistros, bars, and restaurants.

Consider that all this is deeply rooted in historic layers of summers in Saratoga Springs, harking back to the opulent era before the Civil War when the rich and beautiful came by carriage and rail to feast, dance, and go to the races. Back before that, to the turning-point battles of the Revolutionary War fought near the Hudson River on fields that are now a national historical park. And way back before that, to centuries when only the Mahican and the Lenni Lenape came to drink from springs that still bubble up all around the city, each with its small pavilion and legend, still open for everyone to sample.

In a Saratoga August, the days are bright and steamy and the nights are soft and dark—all the better to take in all the sparkle of a summer in this city.

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