Saratoga Springs, New York

Photo: The Adelphi Hotel

You keep inching farther and farther into Upstate New York. You started in the Hudson Valley. A day trip to Tarrytown, hiking in Beacon. You discovered breweries in Poughkeepsie, wineries around Rhinebeck, and farm-to-table restaurants in Hudson. Then you headed west to find farmers’ markets, waterfalls, and mountaintop views in the Catskills. Now your sights are set on the Adirondacks. But first, there’s one spot you can’t miss in the Capital District.

The Capital District is home to Albany (the capital that’s only booming when lawmakers are in town), old factories (along the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers), and sprawling suburbs (plus the big malls that they attract). It isn’t a big tourist draw. So you keep heading north on I-87. You’re 40 miles away, almost to the mountains, when you reach Saratoga Springs. It looks like a nice lunch stop. The Spa City is worth so much more of your time, though.

Saratoga Springs is historic. The British built Fort Saratoga here in 1691, and, nearly 100 years later, key battles in the Revolutionary War were fought nearby. It’s relaxing. The city’s first hotel opened in 1803, and bathhouses started using the local mineral springs just a few years later. It’s also fun. Saratoga Race Course, for thoroughbred horse racing, was inaugurated in 1863 (yes, during the Civil War). Saratoga Spa State Park was set aside in 1962. Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), a large amphitheater, followed a few years later. Saratoga Springs was one of the most popular destinations in New York.

Photo: Brentwood Hotel

It still is. Saratoga National Historic Park now preserves the battlefield. Horse races are held from mid-July until Labor Day. SPAC is the summer home of the New York City Ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The Roosevelt Baths & Spa allow you to soak in antique tubs. While the hotel options have only gotten better over time.

You have your eye on two hotels in particular. The first is a glamourous nod to the old world. The co-founder of Saratoga Race Course built this Victorian building in 1877. The grand hotel featured three-story pillars, eleborate wall moldings, and brass light fixtures. A few years ago, the hotel underwent a complete five-year renovation. It kept a lot of the design hallmarks and added modern twists. The Adelphi Hotel is once again a focal point on busy Broadway. Large rooms have coblat and gold palettes, freestanding soaking tubs, and one-touch control systems for the lights, the shades, and the music. A farm-to-table breakfast is served in the serene greenhouse. Cocktails are concocted in Morrissey’s, named after the original owner. Oysters, steaks, and martinis fill the menu at Salt & Char. While gold bikes stand ready for you to explore Downtown Saratoga Springs.

If you’d prefer to go a bit more casual this weekend, check out the Brentwood Hotel. It’s an old motor lodge that sits beside the race track. A few years ago, it was given a retro-chic makeover. The single-story building has a fresh coat of white paint, dark window frames, and a stable-inspired design. There’s a wood-paneled bar that serves complimentary coffee and tea before its happy-hour listening party (with vinyl records, of course) starts at 6 pm. The bar leads to a patio, a fire pit (s’mores kits are also at the bar), and horseshoes on the lawn. Plus with only 12 rooms—whose amenities include Tivoli radios and minibars with local snacks—the hotel never feels crowded.

Two hotels. Two very distinct styles. Two completely different vibes. It just depends on your mood. Saratoga Springs is non-negotiable, though.

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