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The Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan

Skip the Horse Races in Saratoga Springs


5. Oddball Day

The roses in the Yaddo Gardens peak in late June and July.  

Take a break from contemporary culture to explore the city’s historical sites and green spaces. Start your day with expertly baked almond croissants ($3.50 each) at Mrs. London’s, then stroll north on Broadway to gawk at the well-preserved Victorian homes that line the blocks north of Van Dam. Once you reach Skidmore’s campus, make a left and then walk back into town on Woodlawn Avenue to see former carriage houses that have been converted into modern dwellings. Next, drive fifteen minutes north to the untouched-by-time Grant Cottage ($5 admission), where President Ulysses S. Grant completed his memoirs shortly before dying of throat cancer. While you’re there, walk the short path to the Eastern Outlook, where you can take in a wide view of the Hudson Valley, bordered by the Adirondacks, the Catskills, and the Green Mountains. Head back to Saratoga and pick up lunch at Roma Foods, where you can find a selection of imported goods and order hefty sandwiches stacked with Italian meats and cheeses. See the landscape designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in Congress Park, where you can eat on one of the benches next to the carousel. If you dare, sample the mineral water—an acquired taste, to put it lightly—that trickles up at various springs dotting the seventeen-acre park. Then spend at least a half-hour perusing the labyrinthine Lyrical Ballad Bookstore, where eight rooms house more than 100,000 titles, including a good selection of local history books. Hop back in the car and drive a few minutes to until you reach the Yaddo Gardens (free admission), where you can roam the sprawling, landscaped grounds at the famous artists’ colony that has hosted Truman Capote, Langston Hughes, and many others (docent-led tours every Saturday at 1 p.m.). Drive east another twenty minutes to Saratoga National Historical Park ($5 fee for cars), the site of a decisive battle during the American Revolution, where you should set aside an hour to travel the scenic tour road that winds through the park. Head back west to Saratoga Spa National Park, once the home of a mighty bathhouse complex, and drive down the stately Avenue of the Pines before wandering the brick arcades that connect the Roosevelt-era buildings, taking a soak at the still-operational Roosevelt Baths, or having a swim in the massive Victoria Pool ($8 admission). Get cleaned up for dinner and have an old-school meal at Sperry’s, open since 1932, where the kitchen turns out dishes like filet of Dover sole ($26) and steak au poivre ($30). Afterward, wander around “The Gut,” four square blocks east of Broadway that gets as crowded as Bourbon Street in July and August. There’s history here, too: Bob Dylan used to play and sleep on the floor at Caffè Lena, and Don McLean was believed to have written “American Pie” at Tin & Lint (2 Caroline Street; 518-587-5897) before he debunked the rumor. End the night at Esperanto to try Saratoga’s favorite late-night snack: the dough-boy ($3.75), a slender calzone of sorts, stuffed with chicken, scallions, cheese, and a secret blend of spices.

Published on May 10, 2013 as a web exclusive.

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