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  • Discover the Timeless Charm of the Victoria Pool in Saratoga Springs

    Tucked away, nestled along the edge of Saratoga Spa State Park, Victoria Pool is a hidden gem that treats visitors to a unique blend of old-world charm and modern-day relaxation. The historic site serves as a timeless reminder of the elegance and relaxation that Saratoga Springs is built upon. I am embarrassed to say that I have lived in Saratoga County for 20 years and I just recently visited this breathtaking spot for the first time! I didn't even know what I was missing all those years. A Dip Into Victoria Pool's History: Victoria Pool opened its doors in 1935 and was the first heated pool in the United States. Then NY State Govenor Franklin D. Roosevelt was a strong proponent of Saratoga's healing spa waters and supported the construction of the pool as a part of a complete hydrotherapy program. The subsequent construction of Victoria Pool and the surrounding buildings used a traditional neoclassical architectural style with stately brick walls, arched promenades and sculpted accents. The Pool featured a limestone deck and and lion water spouts. It reflected the elegance of the wealthy visitors who frequently visited Saratoga at the time. Today, after extensive renovations in 2005, Victoria Pool looks very similar to how it looked in 1935 and transports visitors back to an era of sophistication and grandeur. The Pool's original boilers used to heat the pool are too costly to run, so despite being the very first heated pool the water now feels a little cooler. It is probably warmer by now, but on opening weekend the water was...well let's say refreshing! At some point an alternative, less expensive energy source may be installed to heat the water. Until then, they say cool water is good for the circulation and it certainly feels nice on a hot, humid day. An Oasis of Tranquility: One of the most captivating aspects of Victoria Pool is its serene and peaceful atmosphere. As I mentioned, Victoria Pool is located on the breathtaking grounds of the Saratoga Spa State Park. There are many great attractions and sights to see at the Saratoga Spa State Park. Read about all there is to enjoy at this amazing public space in my blog about the Spa City's Crown Jewel here. Victoria Pool is not the most obvious attraction in the State Park. It is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of everything else going on in the Park. The Pool is situated on the very edge of the Park along side the tennis courts and the Saratoga Spa Golf Course Clubhouse. There is a small parking lot outside of the Golf Clubhouse and the 58 Roosevelt Bar and Grill (off Roosevelt Drive). Once you find the pseudo-secret location, you will walk along a path surrounded by lush greenery and shaded by towering trees to find the Victoria Pool entrance. The remote pool setting, surrounded by the beautiful buildings and the gorgeous natural landscape, offers the perfect spot for peace and relaxation. While you are relaxing, keep your eye out for celebrities as several famous people have been spotted visiting Victoria Pool when they are in town. Maybe you've heard of Dave Matthews, Sheryl Crow and the NYC Ballet? They have been spotted enjoying the tranquil and low-key setting of Victoria Pool. Two State Park Pools to Choose From: It should be noted that there are two pools located on the grounds of the Saratoga Spa State Park and their differences are very important depending on the type of day you are looking for. In addition to Victoria Pool, Peerless Pool is located in the State Park. Here are the major differences: Peerless Pool is definitely geared towards a day at the pool with kids. There is a zero-depth entry pool, kiddie wading pool with a mushroom fountain and a 19' winding double water slide area. There is also a playground area right outside the pool grounds. Victoria Pool has no kiddie area and no swimming attractions like slides or diving boards, etc. Victoria Pool is definitely geared toward a more relaxing, adult day at the pool. Unfortunately, the day I visited Victoria Pool, Peerless Pool wasn't open yet and so all of the families looking to beat the heat headed over to Victoria Pool in the afternoon making for a much less tranquil environment. But that is not the norm so choose your pool accordingly. To get to Peerless Pool you enter the Park from the northern entrance and will have to pay a Park visitor fee which is $10 per car. However, once you are in the Park entrance to Peerless Pool is free. To get to Victoria Pool you will enter using the entrance to the State Park off of S. Broadway down Avenue of the Pines (one of my favorite drives in Saratoga!). There is no Park entry fee coming from this direction, but there is an admission charge of $8 ($4 for children 5-11 and seniors 62+; no charge for children under 5) to get into Victoria Pool. So depending on the number and ages of the people in your party, it may be cheaper to go to Peerless. Another reason it is better for a day with the kids. Food concessions are located around Peerless Pool, including a Ben and Jerry's ice cream stand. The only food option at Victoria Pool is dining inside or poolside at 58 Roosevelt Bar and Grill. They offer a full menu of lite fare. I ordered a turkey wrap with fries that was delicious and hit the spot. Of course you can always carry in your own picnic at both locations as well. There is a poolside bar at Victoria Pool where you can order refreshing adult beverages. I had a yummy frozen Miami Vice cocktail (mixture of frozen Pina Colada and Strawberry Daiquiri). No outside alcohol is allowed (although no one was really checking). What You Need to Know Before You Go: Ok, now that you see what a beautiful spot Victoria Pool is and you have decided to check it out for yourself, here are the nitty gritty details you need to know before you go: Victoria Pool opens weekends only from Memorial Day weekend until late June. This year (2024) Victoria Pool will be open daily beginning June 29 through September 2 (Labor Day). Hours are 10 am to 6 pm Fees (as noted above) are $8 for adults and kids over 11, $4 for kids 5-11 and seniors 62+, kids under 5 are free. For up to date information on opening dates, current hours and fees go to the website (or click here for direct access to the Victoria Pool link). There are showers, changing rooms and bathrooms available for guest use. There are lounge chairs and umbrellas available, but on a first come, first served basis. (NOTE: Regular Victoria Pool goers know that to secure these coveted items you need to line up before the pool opens...and I mean BEFORE the pool opens. The line starts VERY early. My friend offered to go at 8:30 to get in line and I thought she was crazy! But thanks to her we secured chairs and an all important umbrella (since I have to stay out of the sun due to my Lupus). When I got there at 10 (wayyyy too late if I didn't have an in-the-know friend), there was a huge line of people waiting and my friends were way at the front. But they weren't even at the front of the line. Some people had gotten there even earlier! If you are lucky, you will have a friend willing to go stand in line for hours like I did. Otherwise, just plan to bring your own chair and umbrella and it won't matter. A Timeless Destination: Victoria Pool in Saratoga Springs is more than just a place to swim and relax, it is a destination that captures the essence of a bygone era in Saratoga Springs while providing modern-day comforts. Its historic charm, combined with the natural beauty of the surrounding Saratoga Spa State Park, makes it a must-visit location for anyone seeking a unique and relaxing experience while visiting Saratoga Springs.

  • Wine Tasting at Hummingbird Hills Winery: A Delightful Saratoga Day Trip

    Are you looking for a unique winery experience that is just a short drive from Saratoga? Look no further than Hummingbird Hills Winery, where every sip brings an interesting new flavor and every glass holds a story. I recently spent a delightful afternoon with friends sampling Hummingbird Hills wines the picturesque countryside setting in Fultonville, New York. It was a wonderful experience, so thought I should share it with my fellow explorers. Discovering a Hidden Gem: Although I have lived in upstate New York for 20 years, I had never heard of Hummingbird HIlls Winery. I was invited to the Hummingbird HIlls tasting by my friend, Christina. She had received a gift certificate for a tasting for 4 and invited me to join. I am so glad she did as I discovered a hidden gem just over an hour away from Saratoga. The drive itself was also very enjoyable as I drove along country roads through quaint small towns and beautiful rolling hills of central New York. Safety note: Due to the distance from Saratoga, you need to plan ahead. I did the taste and spit method of tasting since I drove. Christina and the other ladies brought along a designated driver so they could fully enjoy each taste. The Hummingbird Hills Winery Story: Hummingbird Hills Winery is owned by a husband and wife team, Ken and Kimm Schick. They are originally from New Jersey, but decided to leave the hustle and bustle of the city and escape to a quiet country life in upstate New York. In 2001, they purchased an old 200 acre dairy farm in Fultonville, New York and relocated. The farm needed a lot of work (good thing Ken is a contractor!) and they weren't exactly sure what they wanted to do with it. Ken grew up making wine with his German father and grandfather and remembered all of the recipes and old-fashioned techniques he was taught. So, the Schicks decided to give wine-making a try and planted 1,000 young grape vines by hand. It took seven years for those young vines to produce a sufficient crop of grapes to make wine. But by the end of 2010, Hummingbird Hills Winery was growing enough grapes to regularly produce sufficient volumes of wine. They were officially approved by the State of New York and became an established spot on the map of New York Wine Trails highlighting vineyards throughout central New York and the Finger Lakes region. Today they personally tend to 22,000 vines on a 26 acre vineyard! When the Schicks started the vineyard they played around with different names, but none of them worked out for one reason or another (for example, a couple name options were already claimed when they checked with the Secretary of State). While sitting on the porch one day pondering what to call their new business, a hummingbird flew up and just hovered in front of Ken's face staring at him. They took that as a sign and decided to name their vineyard Hummingbird Hills Winery. The rest is history! The Wine Tasting Experience: Wine tasting at Hummingbird Hills Winery is not just an activity; it's an experience for the senses. Sniffing the wine allows the fruit essence to fill your nose, the sight of the wines along the wall create a visual rainbow due to the variety of grapes and fruits used to create each vintage, and, of course, each sip creates a symphony of flavors for the taste buds. The wines are handcrafted using grapes grown in the Hummingbird Hills vineyards as well as locally sourced fruits from the farmers in the surrounding Montgomery County area. The Schicks are committed to creating each bottle with minimal preservatives to keep the process as natural as possible so the natural flavors of the ingredients can shine through. Hummingbird Hills Winery has crisp whites and bold reds, but the fruit and speciality wines are Hummingbird Hill's signature blends that will really surprise you. They have flavors that highlight strawberries, pears, elderberries, apricots and cherries. Their most unusal flavor features tomatos fermented with serrano peppers (which creates a wine "lightly sweet with a unique flavor and zing")! Their tag line is "Escape from the Normal" and that definitely describes the Hummingbird Hills wines. With each pour you will hear the story about they came up with the flavor, how each wine is crafted and, most importantly, how they came up with the unique and creative names of each wine. Hint: Several wines are named after their beloved pups. Some of the recipes, such as the Elderberry and and Dandelion wines are based on old family recipes from Ken's childhood. I tended to like the fruit wines like Strawberry Delight, Hair of the Hound Dawg Apple, and Joey's Wild Watermelon. I also really enjoyed the specialty wine Strawberry Honey Ambrosia which is made with local buckwheat honey and fresh strawberries. Yummmm! My friend, Misty, who likes spicy drinks really enjoyed the Hound Dawg ToMATER that had that peppery zing at the end. I would also give props to the Lion's Tooth Blend, the Dandelion wine made from Ken's old family recipe. As I was driving, I didn't get a chance to taste the wine slushies, which looked very tasty! I would definitely plan to try one of these if you are heading to Hummingbird Hills. If you do, please let me know how they were. The Humminbird Hills wines are special and unique...something you won't get to taste anywhere else. It was an enjoyable afternoon in a peaceful setting. I highly recommend this day trip experience. Plan Your Own Hummingbird Hills Wine Tasting: To start planning your own Hummingbird Hills experience, begin with checking out Groupon. They have offers for discounted pricing for group tastings. Here is a link to the current Groupon discount. Generally the tasting is priced based on how many wines you would like to taste (but I will say they are not stingy with the tastes if you want to taste a flavor that you didn't originally select to try). To get there, click here for directions. Again, it is a little remote, so plan ahead for a designated driver or figure out how you will try the wines without drinking too much. Because this is a small family business, they ask that you call ahead to schedule your tasting so they can make sure you get the attention (and the stories) you deserve during your tasting. It is this small business vibe that makes a tasting at Hummingbird Hills a unique experience. Find their contact information (and more about this interesting vineyard) at their website here. Cheers!

  • How to Spend a Lovely Afternoon in Historic Congress Park in Saratoga Springs

    When visiting Saratoga Springs, you should definitely plan to spend a lovely afternoon exploring the Historic Congress Park. It is located right off of Broadway in the middle of the city. There are many ways to enjoy Congress Park and to take it all in will definitely take a few hours. Here are the best ways to spend an afternoon in Congress Park: Have a Picnic! If it is lunch or dinner time, grab some grub and have a picnic in the park! There are many picnics tables throughout the park or bring a blanket to spread out under a tree. If you haven't thought ahead to pack a picnic basket (or if you are visiting from out of town and don't have supplies), you can certainly find plenty of picnic options at the various restaurants and food establishments throughout downtown Saratoga. For delicious sandwiches, I recommend Saratoga Deli, Putnam Market, PDT Market or Mrs. London's. Take Your Daily Walk. If you are trying to reach your daily step count, a stroll around Congress Park is the perfect solution! There are paths that go all over the park. You can take paths with inclines, climb the Katrina Trask Memorial Stairway and take in all of the history of the park by following the self-guided walking tour. Sip Some Water From A Famous Mineral Spring Fountain. There are two springs located in Congress Park. The Columbian Spring is now an inactive mineral spring, but if you are parched after all that walking you can grab some fresh municipal drinking water that now flows from the fountain. The Congress Spring located nearby produced one of Saratoga's best known mineral waters that was bottled and sold all over America and Europe in the 1800s. The Congress Spring is still an active spring, so you have the opportunity to drink some of Saratoga's renowned healing mineral waters during your stroll through the park. Take a Rest By the Ponds in Congress Park. There are a couple of ponds in the park with benches strategically placed for maximum enjoyment. You can listen to the peaceful water sounds, watch all the people and dogs walking through the park and observe all the wildlife in the park (if you are here in the spring you may be lucky enough to catch mother ducks trying to corral all the baby ducklings). Visit the Saratoga Springs History Museum in the Canfield Casino. In the middle of the park you will see the historic Canfield Casino. The beautiful building that used to house a men's gaming club back in the day, now houses the Saratoga Springs History Museum. The Canfield Casino is often used for special events and weddings, so you may catch bridal parties out and about in the park taking amazing wedding photos. I have never been to a wedding at this venue, but I have heard it is beautiful. I have visited the History Museum and I learned A LOT about the sordid and juicy history of Saratoga Springs and the wealthy people who used to travel here for rest, relaxation and the renowned healing mineral waters (not to mention the casino and the horse racing). There are rumors that the Canfield Casino is haunted, so if that is your vibe you will definitely want to check it out! I had no ghostly sightings when I was there, but maybe you will have better luck! Take a Spin on the Historic Wooden Carousel. For only a dollar, you can take your kids (or your inner child) for a ride on an authentic wooden carousel. The Carousel opened on May 7 for the 2023 season. Until mid-June, it is only open on the weekends, but will be open daily thereafter from 11-6. Check Out All of the Monuments and Statues in the Park. There are a lot of monuments and statues located within the park. Here is what you can see: Spit and Spat Triton Fountain: Italian Garden with statues of Pan and the Meneads Around a Sundial: Spirit of Life Reflecting Pond: War Monuments: Congress Park has war monuments honoring Saratoga Springs veterans from the Civil War and World War II. Enjoy Live Music or an Art Show in the Park: Once track season begins, the City of Saratoga Springs holds weekly concerts, art shows and festivals in the park. Check out the schedule for the free Summer Concert Series here. If you are heading to Saratoga Springs this summer, make sure to make plans to spend a relaxing afternoon in Congress Park enjoying the scenery and learning about the history of Saratoga. It is a beautiful spot you do not want to miss!

  • Your Guide of Things To Do In Saratoga Springs This Summer!

    There is a palpable change in the energy in Saratoga Springs as summer approaches. When I see the outside seating areas of restaurants on Broadway reappear, I know consistent warmer weather is coming and the horse racing season is just around the corner! This will be my fourth summer living in Saratoga Springs and I am so excited. The vibe in the city becomes electric as people from all around the world fill the area to enjoy and explore the place that I now call home. It is especially exciting this summer as the famous Belmont Stakes horse race, the third jewel in the Triple Crown series, is being run at the Saratoga Race Course while renovations are taking place at the Belmont track. If you are visiting Saratoga Springs this summer for the Belmont Stakes, Saratoga horse racing, or any other reason, take a look at all of the fun things there are to do while you are here! There is so much to do in and around Saratoga Springs in the summer, so start planning your getaway so you can be one of those lucky tourists having the time of your life in upstate New York. Active Things To Do In Saratoga Springs: Hike or walk the trails in Saratoga Spa State Park. Saratoga Spa State Park is a beautiful spot just a short distance from downtown Broadway. There are beautiful trails (varying in difficulty), gorgeous historic buildings, and many other hidden gems to check out in this crown jewel of Saratoga. Read my blog about the Saratoga Spa State Park to find out all there is to see and do within the Park. Do a self-guided walking tour of all the historic springs. Saratoga is home to several carbonated mineral springs. It is a long held belief that the mineral water flowing from these springs possess healing powers. As word spread of the magical healing powers of the "waters", Saratoga became known as the "Queen of the Spas" and is still called the "Spa City" today. In the mid to late 1800's and the early 1900's, the rich and famous flowed to the city to get "healed" and Saratoga became a place to see and be seen by the rich and famous. Walking up and down Broadway today it still feels a little like that! Click here for a map that will take you past all 17 springs in the city. Don't forget to bring a cup or water bottle so you can try a sip at each spring as each one has its own distinct flavor and chemical make up. Some are very refreshing...others not so much, but just remember they all have magical healing powers! Take a road trip up to Lake George and hike in the Adirondacks. Lake George is a beautiful lake about 20 to 25 minutes drive from Saratoga. You can explore the town on Lake George (including the beautiful Sagamore Hotel right on the water) before taking one of several hikes in the surrounding Adirondack region. Check out All Trails to discover the different hikes in the area. Fun Things To Do In Saratoga Springs Shopping on Broadway (and surrounding area). There are so many unique shops and boutiques in downtown Saratoga Springs you will probably want to schedule at least a half a day for this. Saratoga is filled with locally owned clothing boutiques, jewelry stores, home decor shops and gift stores to find that unique souvenir or gift to bring home. Make sure to venture off of Broadway to explore the shops on the side streets as well. Some of my favorites are Silverado Jewelry Gallery (and check out my blog about them here), Lifestyles of Saratoga, Caroline & Main, Silverwood Home and Gallery, Northshire Book Store, Saratoga Olive Oil, and one of Saratoga's newest stores The Local Branch (read my blog about this great new shop here). And these are just the tip of the shopping iceberg! There is so much to see...and buy! And don't worry, there are also a ton of restaurants and food vendors along Broadway to grab a bite and a drink to re-energize. Saratoga Farmer's Market in High Rock Park. From May-October, the Saratoga's Farmer's Market is held in High Rock Park (just two blocks off Broadway) on Saturday mornings from 9 am to 1 pm and Wednesday afternoons from 3 pm to 6 pm. There are a variety of vendors selling local products. You can find organic fruits and vegetables, meats, baked goods and other food items, hand made crafts and beautiful flower bouquets. Live music entertains you as you browse and you can grab a snack from the food stands. I love to walk the Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings and stock up for the coming week. It is a great way to kick off my weekend. Chill in Congress Park. Right on Broadway is the Historic Congress Park. It is a peaceful place with a pond, fountains, a couple of Saratoga's natural springs and a historic carousel for the kiddos! There are also plenty of picnic tables and park benches scattered throughout the park to have a picnic or just sit and relax and watch the world go by. Read my blog about all there is to do and see in the park here. Watch the racehorses train at the Oklahoma Race Track. During horse racing season (which runs eight weeks from July 13 through Labor Day in 2023), you can find the thoroughbred horses training every morning at the Oklahoma Race Track. The Oklahoma Track is across the street from the Saratoga Race Track. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings from 7-10, the public is welcome to sit trackside and watch the horses and jockeys up close getting ready for race day. You can bring your own chairs or you can climb the Whitney viewing tower to get a bird's eye view of the horses training around the track. Pamper Yourself in Saratoga Springs Drop in to a yoga class at Yoga Mandali. If you are looking for some zen on your getaway to Saratoga Springs, you should drop in and take a yoga class at Yoga Mandali. I am a regular attendee at Yoga Mandali and highly recommend any of their classes. They offer all types of yoga classes including Vinyasa, Yin, Restorative, Kripalu and Sutra. They also have regular sound healing classes if that is your cup of tea. I have attended some sound healing classes and they are so relaxing! Check out their schedule here to see what class works best with your schedule. Price per class is $20, but they also offer 5 and 10 class bundles which result in a discounted price per class. Namasté. Get a spa treatment at the historic Roosevelt Spas and Baths. The Roosevelt Spas and Baths was established in 1935 thanks to President Roosevelt's visionary act to preserve the mineral springs in Saratoga Springs. The beautiful building stands in the middle of the Saratoga Spa State Park and still provides guests with treatments designed to improve health and wellness. Guests can expect an authentic hydrotherapy spa experience using the naturally effervescent mineral water drawn from Saratoga's springs. Roosevelt Spa offers a wide selection of different natural wellness treatments including mineral soaks, facials, massages and body treatments. Pamper your tootsies after all the exploring you will be doing at the Adirondack Foot Sanctuary. This spa focuses just on your feet and provides an amazing experience that will refresh your feet after a day at the track and get you ready for a night on the town. Read my blog about the special experience you can get at the Adirondack Foot Sanctuary. Make your face glow with a relaxing facial at Kate O'Grady Skincare. My daughters gave me a gift certificate to this spa for Mother's Day and I just went in for a rejuvenating facial that left my skin glowing! I will be doing an upcoming blog on this great spot, but wanted to include it on my list of relaxing things to do on your visit to Saratoga. Check out the webside here. Entertaining Things To Do In Saratoga Springs Experience live horse racing at the historic Saratoga Race Track. Named one of the world's greatest sporting venue by Sports Illustrated, there is nothing like spending an afternoon at the Saratoga Race Track. Every summer from mid-July through Labor Day, Saratoga Springs is the place to be! The track is open Wednesday through Sunday (with quiet days on Monday and Tuesday). Races usually start around 1, but the gates open at 11 for people to come in and secure a picnic table or spot on the grass. Reserved seats in the grandstands are available for an additional cost. In addition to the races, there are vendors selling fancy hats to sport at railing, artwork and souvenirs. There are multiple food trucks and restaurants as well as various bars to grab a drink. One thing that is great about the Saratoga Race Track is that you can also pack your own cooler with food and drinks for your party in the paddock! Another unique thing to experience is the parade of race horses and jockeys that occurs before every race. They walk right through the crowd on their way to the race track. Big race days are scheduled for August 5, 2023 (Whitney Day) and August 26, 2023 (Runhappy Travers Day), so these days will be more crowded then usual, but the experience is also more electric. No matter what race day it is, you will have a great time betting, cheering the horses and watching the people. This is a MUST DO when in Saratoga Springs during track season. This year (and in 2025) horse racing fans coming to Saratoga get to experience a unique, historic event. The Belmont Stakes will be held at the Historic Saratoga Race Course while Belmont Park is being renovated. This year a Triple Crown is not on the line (darn you, Seize the Grey), but it will still be an amazing experience. Maybe next year Saratoga fans will get to see an elusive Triple Crown winner. Go to a concert or performance at SPAC (Saratoga Performing Art Center). Inside of Saratoga State Park, is the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. SPAC is an outdoor amphitheater that hosts various shows and concerts during the warmer months. In addition to concerts, you can also see performance by the New York City Ballet, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. The biggest events of the summer are usually the Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival (a two day music festival on June 24-25) and the two nights of Dave Matthews Band (July 14-15). It is rumored that SPAC is one of Dave Matthew's favorite places to play. Check out the calendar of SPAC events here to see if there is a show or performance you would like to schedule a trip around. You can buy reserved seats or just grab a lawn ticket and bring your own chairs (or you can rent them) in order to experience the show with a bunch of new friends. Check out one of the many museums in Saratoga. Even though Saratoga is a small town, there are many museums crammed into the small vicinity. Take your pick of several within walking distance of downtown: the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame (see my recent blog here), the Saratoga Automobile Museum (in Spa State Park), Saratoga Springs History Museum (in the historic Canfield Casino building in Congress Park), or the New York State Military Museum and Veteran's Research Center (right off Broadway). If you have a car, you can take a short drive to Stillwater to check out the Saratoga Battlefield. It was at this spot, in 1777, the Battle of Saratoga was fought and the American troops defeated the British troops marking the turning point in the American Revolution. The Battlefield is a 10 mile loop with several stops along the way. You can drive, or if you have access to bikes, you can bike the loop (but there are some fairly steep sections). The Battlefield is the largest of 4 parts of the Saratoga National Historical Park with the other three being Philip Schuyler's house, the Saratoga Monument and Victory Woods. Find out more about these locations here. Join in the nightlife in downtown Saratoga. You can always find a good time in downtown Saratoga, especially on Caroline Street where bars line the street. But Saratoga in the summertime? It's a whole different experience. Every night the restaurants and bars are crowded and live music spills out into the street as you walk around looking for a place with your vibe. At any other time of the year, mostly young people frequent the Caroline Street establishments, but during track season it's a free for all. You will find all ages enjoying drinks and live music all around downtown. Here are my favorite summertime haunts: Spa City Tavern: This is a four story building with different music on each floor. The first floor generally has a live band. Spa City Tavern has a rooftop with amazing views of the city so be sure to check that out as well! Dangos Saratoga: I must admit this is one of my favorite spots during the summer and I am especially excited to check it out this summer as a new owner is spending some bucks to renovate and upgrade!). Dangos is an outdoor area with live bands. My favorite band that plays at Dangos regularly is the Refrigerators. They play all kinds of cover songs that get the crowd going. If you like to dance, this is your place! It does get packed and hot under the tent where the band plays so wear some cooler clothing if you check out this spot! Lucy's Bar: If you follow me, you know this is one of my favorite year round spots. The cocktails are amazing and the seasonal decor is insta-worthy. It is a great starting spot to grab a quick cocktail before heading out for the night. Stop here for a yummy drink and a perfect vacation photo! Cantina: If you need to eat before heading out, Cantina has delicious food and great margaritas in all kinds of flavors. I am a personal ambassador for their Coconut Margarita rimmed with sugar! It is the perfect summer drink and I encourage any one who is with me to order it. I don't think I have had a disappointed taker yet! Before dinner make sure to head up to the rooftop to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air and a bird's eye view of Broadway. Head's up, they don't serve food on the rooftop, only drinks. Hopefully these suggestions can get you started planning your Saratoga Springs getaway. If you need even more information, visit my blog at for additional tips. I have blogs about new restaurants in town, the inside "scoop" on the best ice cream in town, the best places to grab a cocktail and more! Use my site as your ultimate resource on all things Saratoga! Sign up for the email list to keep up to date on what's happening in this charming little town. See ya here!

  • What's New, Saratoga? A New Owner for an Enduring Saratoga Favorite!

    If you are a resident or regular visitor to Saratoga Springs, you know that The Country Corner Cafe is not new to the area. However, it does have (fairly) new owners and they just happen to be friends of mine! Julee and Mark O'Callaghan purchased The Country Corner Cafe from Roseann Hotaling in January 2023 and are picking up where Ms. Hotaling left off by providing a great local spot to grab a delicious breakfast. The Country Corner Cafe and the O'Callaghan's Story: The Country Corner Cafe is located at 25 Church Street (one block off Broadway) and was opened in 1991 by Roseann Hotaling. During her ownership, the Cafe started as a 19 seat diner and eventually expanded its footprint within the building to be able to serve the growing loyal customer base. The Country Corner Cafe become known for its friendly staff and the delicious food. I used to live across the street from the Cafe and would always see a bunch of people waiting to be seated. Whenever I see a crowd gathered like that I know it is a great spot I need to try! While Ms. Hotaling was building The Country Corner Cafe's business, Mark and Julee were living their lives downstate in NYC. Mark and Julee were getting their feet wet in the restaurant business by both working at the upscale Morton's Steakhouse on 5th Avenue. Mark was a server and Julee was a cocktail waitress. Morton's Steakhouse is where they met and fell in love. Soon after, they got married and had triplets. Julee spent 16 years working at Morton's Steakhouse and ultimately became the Assistant GM at a Morton's location in Brooklyn. She eventually left Morton's, but continued to work in the restaurant industry at Nordstroms employed in their restaurant division. She took a brief break from the food industry to work for Apple. During that time, Mark had left the restaurant biz to go back to school to get his degree and began a career in IT. Life was good and the O'Callaghan's loved raising their family in Long Island. But when their triplets went off to college, Mark and Julee started thinking about their future plans as empty-nesters. They had visited the Saratoga Springs area a few times and were enchanted by the charming city. Julee always had a dream to own her own restaurant or bed and breakfast and started looking for opportunities upstate. On one of their exploration trips upstate, they stopped in to The Country Corner Cafe to grab some coffee and chat about their options. Julee recalls that they were seated at Table 14 and that they noticed the groups of waiting customers. She also remembers being impressed by the delicious food and the superior customer service they received. Julee thought the place looked familiar and realized she had seen it offered For Sale on line several months earlier. She inquired and found out it was available. Mark encouraged Julee to buy it to follow her dreams. She did...and the rest is history! What's New At the Country Corner Cafe? Because Julee and Mark were so impressed by the food and the service at The Country Corner Cafe, they didn't change much when they purchased it. Julee spent time before the sale closed coming up to meet with the staff and see how they did things. As they got to know each other a mutual admiration developed, so the team stayed on after the sale. Julee has a clear intention to honor the good will and great reputation that Roseann Hotaling worked so hard to create and she wants to maintain the familiar experience that Saratoga residents and visitors have come to expect and love. The menu is basically unchanged because there is no need to change something that is already a hit. But the O'Callaghans did decide to bring back an old Country Corner favorite...Ida's Famous Oatmeal Pancakes! Proof that not dramatically changing the menu was a great idea, The Country Corner Cafe was selected as the Best Breakfast in Saratoga for 2024. There are also Daily Specials to choose from in addition to the regular menut. Julee did give me some insider information about upcoming specials for Belmont weekend. They plan to offer some breakfast and brunch specials with a "Long Island twist". She wouldn't divulge any more information, so we will just have to go to The Country Corner Cafe to check it out! Here was the Daily Special menu when I visited. The Country Corner Cafe also has take out service if you would rather enjoy your breakfast at Congress Park or on your own porch! To check out the menu and to order on-line click here. A few other new things from The Country Corner Cafe: There are no reservations taken at The Country Corner Cafe. But now, if you have to wait for a table there is designated waiting area so you don't have to wait outside if the weather isn't nice. During track season, there will be a hostess outside to help manage the customer seating and wait list. AND MOST EXCITING NEW NEWS OF ALL (WHICH IS HOT OFF THE PRESSES!): The Country Corner Cafe will have a cart at the Saratoga Race Course during the regular Saratoga track season! The cart will offer easy grab and go light bites like fruit cups, bagels, yogurt parfaits and iced coffees. You will also be able to purchase the famous Country Corner jams at the track. So, if you find yourself in Saratoga check out The "new" Country Corner Cafe to try the same great food they have been serving since 1991! If you go, say hi to Mark and Julee and tell them Amy sent ya!

  • What's New, Saratoga? Triple Crown Racing Is Coming to the Spa City!

    Saratoga's motto is "Health, History and Horses" because it has an historic thoroughbred horse racing track that has been in use since 1863. Saratoga horse racing is a popular tourist attraction with a season that typically begins in mid July and runs through Labor Day. So obviously horse racing is not new to Saratoga. But what is new this year is that Saratoga is raising the horse racing stakes (pun intended) as it has been selected to host the Belmont Stakes race while Belmont Park is being renovated. The Belmont Stakes is a huge sporting event that attracts global attention, so Saratoga Springs is planning to showcase itself on the world wide stage while it has the opportunity. What does that mean for you? A whole lot of fun and exciting events to attend! The Belmont Stakes Story: The Belmont Stakes is the third leg of the prestigious Triple Crown series. The series of three high stakes races begins with the Kentucky Derby, followed by the Preakness Stakes and finally, the Belmont Stakes. If one horse wins all three races, they win the coveted Triple Crown Trophy. The Triple Crown Trophy was commissioned in 1950, but was awarded to all horses who had won all three Triple Crown races prior to 1950, as well as those who won all three races after 1950. Winning the Triple Crown Trophy is a difficult feat and only 13 horses have been awarded the Triple Crown Trophy since 1919. The Belmont Stakes race is the oldest Triple Crown event and was named for August Belmont, a financier, politician and diplomat. The race was established in 1867 and is the third oldest race in North America. The 2024 Belmont Stakes will be the 156th running of the race. Here are some 2024 Belmont Stakes statistics: Purse: 2024 Purse is $2,000,000 up from previous year's $1,500,000 purse Distance: Saratoga's course length will be 1 1/4 mile instead of the usual 1 1/2 mile Triple Crown Potential: Mystic Dan just won the Kentucky Derby on May 4, 2024. If he wins again at the Preakness Stakes, the Triple Crown Trophy will be on the line! Fingers crossed that history will be made in Saratoga. Belmont Stakes Festival Details: The Belmont Stakes Racing Festival isn't just about the one, big Triple Crown race. It includes a whole weekend of exciting horse racing for large purses. The Belmont Stakes Racing Festival kicks off at the historic Saratoga Race Course on Thursday, June 6th and runs through Sunday, June 9th. The official Belmont Stakes Day is Saturday, June 8th. Unfortunately, the tickets for Belmont Stakes Day are SOLD OUT (but you can always try to get resale tickets on your favorite ticket resale site). If you can't find a ticket for Belmont Stakes Day, you can certainly find a watch party somewhere in the area. I know The Bunker is holding a Belmont watch party (see my blog about this new Saratoga hot spot here). There are still single day General Admission and Premier Hospitality tickets available for all other race days during the Belmont Stakes Festival. Click here to purchase tickets. Important Things to Know About Attending the Belmont Stakes Festival: Parking. Parking during the Belmont Stakes Festival will be tricky. Parking will be first come, first serve, but you can reserve a space ahead of time. You can check out the available parking and pre-purchase parking tickets here so you don't get shut out at race time. Parking lots will open at 8:30 am. NO Outside Alcohol. Unlike the regular Saratoga Race Course events, you will not be able to bring in your own alcohol for the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival. NO Tailgating. In related news, tailgating will NOT be allowed in the parking lots prior to entry. Outside Food and Soft Drinks are OK. You can bring in your own food and soft drinks. You are allowed one (1) cooler per guest no larger than 12" by 18".. Folding Chairs. If you have General Admission tickets, you may bring one folding chair per person. Gates Open at 9:30 am. Belmont on Broadway: In addition to all the exciting events taking place at the historic Saratoga Race Course, the City of Saratoga Springs is planning to put on its' own Belmont celebration right in the middle of downtown. They are calling the celebration Belmont on Broadway and have already announced several amazing events happening in the week leading up to the Belmont Stakes. It is Saratoga Springs' time to shine and they are taking full advantage of it! The City has a full slate of activities to keep the energy high and showcase Saratoga while the world's attention is focused on our little community. Downtown businesses will participate in a window decorating contest that will provide Broadway browsers with creative window displays to enjoy. Various local businesses will be providing Belmont Stakes merchandise with some offering discounts to entice those reluctant buyers. Live music will be playing throughout the downtown area and watch parties will be abundant for those who didn't get a ticket to the sold out Belmont Stakes Day. Check out the calendar on Discover Saratoga to see all of the things going on each day of the Belmont on Broadway Celebration. You should be specifically aware of the following special events taking place in Saratoga Springs during Belmont week: Tuesday, June 4: Embrace the Belmont: This event is hosted by the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame and benefits Therapeutic Horses of Saratoga. A General Admission ticket is $56 and includes beer, wine and light bites. You can purchase Silver and Gold tickets (for $500 and $1,000, respectively) which gets you premium seats to the event, recognition at the event and recognition on Therapeutic Horses social media. In addition to food and drink, you will also get up dates on the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes races by NBC Sports Reporter, Donna Brothers, who will be fresh off of covering the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Also, you can learn handicapping basics and review the Belmont Stakes racing card with NYRA and OTTB hosts. I don't know about you, but I can definitely use some help figuring out how to bet. Picking by the horse name or the jockey's jersey colors hasn't been consistently successful for me. Wednesday, June 5: Belmont Memories with Tom Durkin: Legendary horse race caller Tom Durkin will share some of his favorite and most iconic calls of the Belmont Stakes over the years. The presentation is being held at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame from 6:00. to 7:30. It is free for Museum members and $10 for non-members. Blues Travelers Concert on Broadway: The City of Saratoga is going to close down Broadway to put on a rockin' concert to kick off the Belmont Stakes weekend. The American favorite rock band, Blues Travelers, is the headliner. Opening acts will be announced soon. The concert starts at 6:00 and goes to 10:00 and best of all...IT'S FREE! Plan ahead because the City expects the concert to draw between 5,000 to 10,000 people (although when they put on a show recently in Schnectady 40,000 people showed up!). Satellite parking and shuttle options will be announced as the event gets closer. Thursday, June 6: Belmont Gala: If you are looking for something a little more upscale, the Belmont Gala is right up your alley. It will be held at the Canfield Casino and formal attire is required. It is a fundraiser to support the Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Cocktail hour starts at 7:00 with dinner at 8:00. Friday, June 7: HARDY Performing at SPAC: The country band HARDY is playing at SPAC on the Friday night before the Belmont Stakes. Saturday, June 8: Belmont Stakes Day: The main event takes place at the Historic Saratoga Race Course. Gates open at 9:30. More to Come: Keep your eye on this blog to keep up to date on all things Belmont. As the exciting week draws closer there will be announcements on additional events and activities going on in Saratoga during Belmont week. If you are visiting Saratoga from out of town, check out the Saratoga section of my blog which provides suggestions for local restaurants as well as things to see and do while visiting the area. We look forward to welcoming you to our charming City.

  • How to Make Your Next Vacation an Iconic Experience!

    Sure a trip to Europe is exciting. A week at the beach is great. But, what if your next vacation was ICONIC? It just may be if you enter for a chance to stay in one of Airbnb's Icons which are "extraordinary experiences hosted by the greatest names in music, film, television, art, sports and more." Airbnb's new Icons experiences was launched on May 8 with a lot of fanfare. Airbnb's CEO, Brian Chesky, described the new options offered on the short-term rental platform as a chance "to take you inside worlds that only existed in your imagination...until now." The first 11 Icons experiences dropped last Wednesday, with additional experiences to be dropping around the world throughout the year. What Is an Icons Experience? Airbnb is giving you a chance to take your vacation to the next level by offering "the most extraordinary experiences on earth". The Icons combine not only a stay in an amazing locale, but include a once in a lifetime experience as well. Examples of a few of the first Icons experiences announvrf include: Wake up in the Museé D'Orsay in the Paris art museum's iconic clock room (pictured above) in a luxurious bedroom designed by the same artist who designed the 2024 Olympic torch and cauldron. You can also watch the historic Opening Ceremonies for the Paris 2024 Olympics from the museum terrace. Stay in a recreation of the Disney/Pixar Up House with over 8,000 balloons attached to the roof. The house is suspended 40 feet in the air by a crane...but don't worry, it will be on the ground when you are sleeping! The house is located in Abiquiu, New Mexico nestled in the surrounding scenic red rocks. Spend the night in the Ferrari Museum in Maranello, Italy and sleep in a bed crafted of the same Italian leather used in Ferrari seats. You will also get to take a lap with Ferrari Ambassador Marc Gené and attend Emilia-Romagna's premier race as a VIP! Stay in Prince's Purple Rain House in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Explore the home that has never been open to the public until now and listen to rare and special music tracks in an exclusive studio session. These are just the tip of the iceberg. Check out the other amazing Icons experiences that were announced last week here. How Can You Reserve an Icons Experience for Yourself? Now that I have piqued your interest in these amazing experiences, you are probably asking the typical question. How much would something like this cost?? What if I told you that it would be basically FREE!!! The actual Icons stay is free but there may be an additonal per guest fee of up to a $100. Pretty incredible, right? Here is the scoop. Go to the Airbnb app and look for the Icons category on the Home Page. Click on the Icons icon (haha) and review the various experiences that are offered. A countdown clock will indicate when each Icons experience goes live. Once it does, you can request to book the experience. In the booking there will be a prompt asking you why you want to reserve the experience and why you should be granted the reservation. The lucky guests who are selected will learn of their selection by receiving a digital Willy Wonka-esque Golden Ticket. More than 4,000 Golden Tickets will be given in 2024. While the opportunity to have an Icons Experience is limited, can you imagine if you were granted one? There is no cost in requesting a reservation so why not give it a try? You just may open your email to a Golden Ticket and you will be off to a once in a lifetime, ICONIC experience! Good luck and happy travels!

  • What's New, Saratoga? Golf, Grub and Good Times at Saratoga's Latest Hotspot

    It's Par-Tee time in Saratoga! If you are a local or a regular visitor to Saratoga Springs, you will be delighted to learn that there is a new hotspot in the downtown area. Or, if you are just discovering Saratoga Springs, you will be delighted to learn about a great new place to kick off your exploration of this vibrant city! On the corner of Broadway and Congress Streets (right across from the Historic Congress Park), a new luxury sports bar has opened offering a place to play a round of indoor golf, watch your favorite sports teams or just hang out with friends enjoying the great atmosphere and the delicious food. The Bunker Story: According to The Bunker's website, lifelong friends Troy Miller and Burl McCutcheon came up with the concept of The Bunker after their first experience playing indoor golf. The friends brainstormed about what they thought would make the best possible indoor golf experience and from that discussion the idea for The Bunker was born. They opened their first location in Guilderland in October 2019, just a few short months after their brainstorming session. The reception to the initial Bunker location was so positive, they have continued to expand creating additional Bunker locations in North Greenbush, Clifton Park, Mohawk Harbor, New Hartford and, of course, the newest one in Saratoga Springs. I was told they are also opening a new golf simulation location in Latham in partnership with VENT Fitness to provide focused training programs to help golfers bring their game to the next level. From that first discussion after their initial indoor golf experience, Troy and Burl have created a space for a different type of sports bar/sports entertainment business. The guiding principle that has led them to success with their brand is to provide exceptional customer service in a luxury environment using the best technology available (all locations use the foremost golf simulation technology TRACKMAN). The Bunker in Saratoga Springs looks to fill a much needed gap in the Saratoga bar scene where patrons of all ages can come to enjoy a fun evening. What Can You Find at The Bunker? The Bunker Vibe: I love the vibe at the Saratoga Bunker location. It is open and bright with TV's everywhere! My first time going to The Bunker was during March Madness and you could catch every game on at least one TV. I am a huge football fan so I look forward to catching some college and NFL games at The Bunker with friends. The Saratoga location has two floors and although each floor has golf bays, each area has a distinct vibe. The downstairs has more of a restaurant feel with lots of tables and plenty of TVs around the space. When the weather is nice the outside walls slide away to create an open air feel. When I went to meet with the Events Coordinator, it was a beautiful day and the restaurant walls were all open. It was amazing! Upstairs has more of a club/party feel. When The Bunker has DJs, this is generally where they play. There are TV's upstairs as well, so you won't miss the game, but you will probably be more occupied with socializing. The wide windows that surround the upstairs space open up to provide fresh air and a wide open view to the surrounding Saratoga area (including beautiful Congress Park). It gave me a Nashville-type vibe. Both spaces are great and I can definitely see myself using both, especially in the summer and during track season. I have a feeling this place will be quite the hotspot. The Bunker Activities: Golf, of course! The Bunker uses the best golf simulation technology (TRACKMAN) to offer customers a wide selection of indoor golf experiences. Not a golfer (like me)? That's ok! You can join your friends in a round of simulated mini golf or play a game of Target Practice. For the more seasoned golf enthusiasts, there are several options to play a round of golf or work on your golf skills. The TRACKMAN technology is the same tool used by golf professionals (including Tiger Woods) to keep them at the top of their game. You can bring your own golf clubs if you prefer, but they do have clubs available for people like me that don't have their own. And let's not forget the kids! You can have a family night out playing on the golf simulator and The Bunker has kid's clubs available for use. The Saratoga Bunker location has six bays that can be rented by the hour. You can go with a group and split the hourly rate, but please note if you have more than 8 people in your group you will need to reserve through Event Booking. The price will be the same, but they like to be prepared for larger groups in order to make sure they can provide the high level of customer service that is their guiding principle. For hourly reservation rates click here. In addition to the individual bays, you can also rent the VIP Room for private events or parties. The VIP Room includes one golf simulator bay as well as two electronic dart boards and lots of space to hang out and lounge around. There are different packages that vary according to the number of golf bays you want, how many guests and what food and drink are included. Check the website here to get more information if you are interested in hosting an event at The Bunker. Watch your favorite teams on any one of the many TVs around The Bunker. This place is the perfect spot to round up a group of friends to watch the big game. There is lots of space, lots of TVS and great food and drink to keep you full and hydrated. Hang out with friends and listen to music! On Friday and Saturday nights (and maybe more often during track season?) The Bunker has a DJ playing tunes on the second floor. Once in a while they provide live music as well. There does not appear to be an official dance floor, but I wouldn't be surprised if impromptu dance parties break out when the DJ is playing. The Bunker Food and Drink: The Bunker in Saratoga has a full menu of delicious food choices. I was told that the Saratoga menu is a bit different than the other locations offering a wider selection including gourmet paninis, specialty wraps and a variety of salads. I have ordered a flatbread pizza with apples, brie and fig jam both times I have went to The Bunker because it was THAT GOOD. I need to make myself order something different next time I go, but it is going to be hard because I really love that apple, brie and fig jam combination. Click here to see the Saratoga food menu. They also have a kid menu for the little ones in your party. The Bunker has a full bar with lots of options. Their cocktail menu is seasonal and new concoctions will be offered. I was told their Spring cocktail menu is coming in May! In addition to the wide selection of drinks, they also have this unique contraption called The Tower. The Tower holds multiple servings so you can order it for a group or just for yourself if you are planning a crazy night! It can be filled with beer or cocktails. Price obviously depends on your drink of choice. Fun! The Bunker Saratoga Specifics: I am sure you are itching to visit The Bunker in Saratoga Springs after reading about all they have to offer! So here is the important information you need to know: Address: 307 Broadway, Saratoga Springs Parking: There is parking in the rear of the building (off Congress Street) Hours: M-Th 11 am to 11 pm Fri/Sat 9 am to 11pm Sun 9 am to 8 pm NOTE: Check here for hours during the summer and track season as they may be extended. Golf and Dining Reservations: Click here What's New at The Bunker? I was given some inside scoop that The Bunker may soon be offering Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10-2. I am sure this will be a popular option during the summer track season, so you will probably want to make reservations if you want to try it out. The Event Coordinator explained to me that as the Saratoga location is open for a longer period of time there may be additional changes coming. She said that Saratoga is a different type of location so they may have more opportunity to plan fun things. They need to let the dust settle from the opening and see the community and tourist response and then plan events and activities that fit with the crowd and the vibe. So keep your eye on their website (and this blog) for updates on fun new things to check out! In the meantime, go and check out this new Saratoga hotspot!

  • What's New, Saratoga? An Ice Cream Shop With A Unique Twist!

    I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! There is nothing better on a warm day than a cold, delicious ice cream. And Saratoga has no shortage of great places to grab a cone. But ice cream fans who find themselves at Brown's Beach on Saratoga Lake this summer are in for a delightful surprise! A new business named Ugly Ice Cream is opening right next to Brown's Beach and will serve soft serve ice cream along with a a variety of other summertime fun snacks like milkshakes, hotdogs, nachos, tater tots, get the idea. I happen to have an inside connection to the owners of this new business, so I have the inside scoop (pun definitely intended) on the Grand Opening (on May 3rd), the menu, the extra special touches and all the fun that Ugly Ice Cream will bring to Saratoga Lake. Read on... The Ugly Ice Cream Story: Ugly Ice Cream is owned by three local business men, Ariel Pagan, Joe Starr and John Starr. Joe and John are local brothers who grew up spending summers on Saratoga Lake and currently have a home building business based in Mechanicville. Ariel Pagan is the mastermind behind the "Ugly" brand as he is the owner of the very popular local breakfast diner, The Ugly Rooster Cafe, with locations in Malta and Mechanicville. Ariel noticed that there wasn't a place to get soft serve ice cream right on Saratoga Lake and started toying with the idea of opening a place to fill that niche. Joe and John thought it was a great idea and jumped on board to become part owners of the new business. Because of their local roots, the owners are especially committed to making this business a welcome member of the community. They are using local contractors and purveyors where they can, involving the community in the development and promotion of their business and adding jobs for community members. They also want to make sure they support other local businesses, including other local ice cream shops. There is definitely lots of ice cream love to go around and I, for one, love to spread my ice cream affection to various businesses. My inside connection shared with me that they are thinking of fun, collaborative ways to support and connect all the local ice cream shops. One proposal that is being tossed around is an ice cream punch card. You would get a punch when you visit each of the collaborating ice cream shops and when you get all your punches you get some kind of benefit or prize. That sounds like a "scavenger hunt" I could get behind! The Ugly Ice Cream Experience: There is one main word to describe the Ugly Ice Cream experience...FUN! Of course the menu selections will be DELICIOUS, but most importantly you will have FUN ordering, eating and hanging out at Ugly Ice Cream. The Ugly Food: Ariel has years of restaurant experience owning and operating The Ugly Rooster Cafe so he has the suppliers, the systems and the quality measures down pat. My source shared that Ariel is a very detail oriented person and has high standards to be met with regard to quality of ingredients, taste of food and the customer experience. One of the best things about Ugly Ice Cream is the commitment to using locally sourced, organic ingredients whenever possible. They strive to support small businesses and farmers in the Saratoga area, ensuring the ice cream and the food are not only delicious, but also sustainable and ethically sourced. As mentioned above, they plan to serve hot dogs, pretzels, pizza, nachos, tater tots, and O'Boys along with the soft serve ice cream and other specialty ice cream treats. One piece of inside information my informant shared with me is they plan to serve a warm cinnamon bun topped with soft serve ice cream. Excuse me....WHAT?!? Sign me up to try that when they open! The Ugly Experience: The unique twist I started this blog with (and yes, again, soft serve ice cream pun intended) is that when you order your food, you can order it "Ugly". What that means is that instead of it being served to you all pretty and perfect, it will come to you all crazy and messy. For instance, if you order nachos, the preparer will put all the nacho ingredients in a bag, shake it up and dump it in the bowl. A vanilla ice cream with rainbow sprinkles ordered "ugly" will come all smashed up and messy. If you are lucky, the server may even give it to you with an "ugly" expression to complete the Ugly experience! Apparently Ariel's high standards for food preparation and presentation are making it hard for him to think about food going out to the customer this way, so we will see if this fun aspect sticks. The food will be DELICIOUS either way! Once you get your ugly food, there will be a "Feelin' Ugly" mirror set up for that perfect Insta-worthy photo you can share with your friends about your Ugly experience. They will also have an area with games like corn hole so you can relax and have fun with friends while enjoying your Ugly food. The Ugly Brand: In keeping with the mission to support the local community, Ugly Ice Cream has utilized small local artists and content creators to curate and craft their FUN and FUNKY brand. There is an "outdoorsy" feel to the decor that fits the Saratoga Lake setting. There is just a happy vibe that permeates the shop from the logo to the fun touches around the space (like the "Feelin' Ugly" mirror mentioned above). Additionally, they are creating Saratoga Lake merchandise such as stickers, hats, t-shirts, etc. so locals can proudly rep their lake. I don't know about you, but I haven't seen a lot of options for Saratoga Lakians to show their support for their hometown lake. Tourists can also buy merch to rep Saratoga Lake and Ugly Ice Cream to remember the amazing time they had at Brown's Beach, Saratoga Lake and Ugly Ice Cream. The Grand Opening: So now the nitty gritty details you need to know so you can go have your own Ugly Ice Cream experience. OPENING DAY: May 3, 2024 GRAND OPENING CELEBRATION: Memorial Day Weekend OPEN 7 Days a Week (From May-Early October) HOURS: 11-9 (But they will be open until 10 on Friday and Saturday nights) LOCATION: 511 NY-9P (Next to Brown's Beach and Doc Brown's Restaurant) NOTE: Ugly Ice Cream is located at Brown's Beach, but the door to Ugly Ice Cream will not allow direct access to Brown's Beach. Customer's will access Ugly Ice Cream through a door outside of the beach entrance (which allows you to get Ugly Ice Cream even after the beach access is closed!) I have the Opening Day and the Grand Opening Celebration marked on my calendar. I can't wait to get "Ugly" this summer! See ya there!

  • What's New, Saratoga? A Unique Store Selling US Made Hand-Crafted Goods!

    Right in the heart of bustling downtown Saratoga, a new store made a quiet entrance into a prime spot on Broadway. The space used to be the well-known Saratoga Coffee Traders. When Saratoga Coffee Traders closed down in October 2023, the windows of the empty space were covered with brown paper so no one could see inside. Then one day last December, magically, the paper was off the windows and The Local Brand Co. was fully-stocked and open for business! The Local Branch Co. THE LOCAL BRANCH IS A LIFESTYLE BRAND FORGED ON THE ROADS AND TRAILS THAT WEAVE THROUGH THE AMERICAN LANDSCAPE. WE OFFER A UNIQUE ARRAY OF HANDCRAFTED USA MADE GOODS FOR THE ADVENTURERS, EXPLORERS AND SEEKERS AMONG US. The Local Branch Co. became one of Saratoga's newest Broadway residents in December 2023. This charming and unique store started creating a buzz right away with its beautiful hand crafted leather goods and the carefully curated selection of locally made goods and one-of-a-kind gifts. As soon as you step foot into The Local Branch Co. you are greeted with a warm and inviting atmosphere. The store's rustic decor and cozy ambiance make it the perfect place to browse for a special gift or treat yourself to something unique. Whether you're looking for a souvenir to remember your visit to Saratoga or a thoughtful present for a loved one, you are sure to find something special at The Local Branch Co. The Local Branch Co. Story: It is not just the products that make The Local Branch Co. stand out - it is the commitment to the distinguishing sentiment and guiding beliefs of the owners and employees of the company. Or as they call it, the ethos of The Local Branch Co. It is the foundation of the brand and the guiding light for all business decisions. This ethos was beginning to form in 2009 when Blaine and Makenzie Vossler, a couple who hand made artisan quality leather and apparel goods, worked out of an Airstream trailer traveling across the USA to sell their goods at trade shows, craft fairs and music festivals. As their business grew, they ultimately decided to return to their NY roots and open their first brick and mortar store in Skaneateles (pronounced "Skinny Atlas"). The recently opened store in Saratoga Springs is their second location (at 447 Broadway, right next to The Dark Horse). The Vossler's journey from artisans driving cross country to sell their handcrafted goods to owners of a retail business with two brick and mortar locations solidified the original ethos that they started with in 2009. The Local Branch Co. ethos can be boiled down to these three main guiding principles: An exploration of Americana and a focus on US made goods. A commitment to use natural and sustainable materials. An intention to be a "space creator" to promote local artisans and small makers. The commitment to these ideals is reflected in the fact all goods sold in their stores are manufactured in the US. Additionally, the store is always looking to partner with local artisans and small makers whose work and processes reflect their guiding principles. The Local Branch Co. creates space to showcase their work and help them reach a wider audience. By shopping at The Local Branch Co., you are not only getting a unique item, but you are also supporting local businesses and artisans! SIDE NOTE: If you are a local artisan that would be interested in having your product placed in one of their stores, don't be afraid to reach out to them! I was told they are always looking for new merchandise to complement their product base. They are especially looking to stock the new Saratoga store with more products made in the surrounding area. For a deeper dive into The Local Branch Co. story and their company ethos, you can check out the Journal section of their website which is a blog that highlights new products and also gives an inside look into the company, the employees, and their guiding beliefs. There is a great short video that introduces Blaine and Makenzie and gives you real insight into them and the brand of this business. I really enjoyed it and it gave me a whole different perspective of the store. You can catch the video here. What You Can Find at The Local Branch Co.: Now that the basics are out of the way, let's get to the important part! What kinds of things can you find at The Local Branch Co. stores (or online)? As you can tell from the The Local Branch Co. story, one of the cornerstones of the business is the beautiful handcrafted leather and canvas goods that are STILL made in small batches and hand-stitched by Blaine himself with the help of their workshop manager, Aaron! This includes everything you would think of from different size bags, wallets, and belts, as well as unique leather items like stamped coasters, key rings, household goods and other special gift items. In addition to the leather and canvas goods, The Local Branch Co. has a highly curated and varied collection of other US made products from small makers. The wide variety of items available is reflected in the "Gifts" tab of their website which lists these categories: The Outdoorsman; The Homesteader, The Traveler, The Nurturer, and The Kiddo. You can check out all the amazing products available at The Local Branch Co. on their website by clicking here. So...What's New for The Local Branch Co.? In preparing this blog, I spoke to Sidney Glass, the Brand Manager for The Local Branch Co., and I got the inside scoop on some of the new products that will be dropping in the Spring and Summer product launches. There will be two new leather bag designs coming out soon that will be available for pre-sale. If you are interested, be sure to visit the website and sign up for the email list so you will get first notice of the product drop and have first opportunity to snag one of these beautiful hand-stitched bags! I will help you here for a quick link to the email page. I also learned some hot inside information that is personally VERY interesting to me. Apparently, The Local Branch Co. is getting ready to launch a new Home Goods line. I am a sucker for good home decor products! The line will include leather woven baskets, table top planters, hanging baskets, wine holders/carriers and more! Sidney shared that a few items from the Home Goods line were finished earlier than expected and landed in their two stores direct from the workshop YESTERDAY! A limited number of tabletop planters, baskets and wine bandoliers are available for purchase before the roll out of the rest of the line. The remaining items from the new Home Goods line should be in stores sometime at the end of April. I, for one, will be keeping a watch out for that. Final Words... If you haven't checked out The Local Branch Co. store in Saratoga, I highly recommend you make a plan to come visit. It is a beautifully designed space filled with beautifully designed items. They bring in new product every season, so be sure to make it a regular stop when you are in town! I hope you have learned from this blog that The Local Branch Co. isn't just about the amazing products, but it is also about their commitment to US made goods and supporting small makers and artisans who produce quality goods with sustainable materials. I will end with the words of owner Blaine Vossler succinctly describing the mission and purpose of The Local Branch Co.: This is how we see the future of conscious consumerism. Knowing your maker, buying fewer better things and caring for them so they last a lifetime!

  • What's New, Saratoga? A New Weekly Blog Highlighting the Newest Attractions in the Spa City!

    Exciting news for all Saratoga Springs enthusiasts - I am thrilled to announce the launch of a new weekly blog series called "What's New, Saratoga?"! This series will highlight all the latest happenings in and around Saratoga, including new businesses, events, and more. Saratoga Springs is a vibrant and bustling city, filled with a rich history, stunning architecture, and a thriving local economy. With so much going on in and around the city, it can be hard to keep track of all the exciting new developments. That's where "What's New, Saratoga?" comes in - I will be your go-to source for all the latest news and updates on what's happening in Saratoga. Each week, I will feature a different new business in the city, giving you an inside look at what they have to offer and why you should check them out. I will also highlight upcoming events, concerts, festivals, and other exciting happenings in Saratoga, making sure you never miss out on all the fun. So whether you're a longtime resident of Saratoga or just visiting for the weekend, be sure to check out "What's New, Saratoga?" to stay in the know about all the latest and greatest in this amazing city. Stay tuned for my first post (coming VERY soon!) highlighting a very unique, new business on Broadway. You won't want to miss it! Also, if you know of a new business in Saratoga that should be highlighted, please do not hesitate to message me and let me know!

  • Best of Saratoga Springs-Quick Guide

    Best Places To Stay: Adelphi Hotel Saratoga Arms Gideon Putnam Bed and Breakfasts on Union Embassy Suites by Hilton Saratoga Springs Spa City Motor Lodge Best Things To Do: Horse Races at Saratoga Race Track (late July through Labor Day) Breakfast on the Porch at the Track Clubhouse with Free Backstretch Tram Tour Concert or Performance at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) Museum of Historical Society of Saratoga Springs in Congress Park Picnic and Carousel Ride in Congress Park Shopping on Broadway Beekman Street Arts District National Museum of Racing and Jockey Hall of Fame Live Music at Caffe Lena Bar Hopping on Caroline Street Saratoga State Park-Picnic, Hike, Swimming at Peerless or Victoria Pools, Tennis Courts, Golf, Spa Treatments at Roosevelt Baths and Spa, Farmers Market, Saratoga Automobile Museum Day Trip to Lake George or Adirondacks Saratoga Winery Best Places To Eat: Breakfast/Brunch: Sweet Mimi's Cafe and Bakery Max London's/Mrs. Londons Spot Coffee Darling Doughnuts Country Corner Cafe Breakfast at the Track (July through Labor Day) Lunch/Dinner: Cantina Chianti Druthers Brewing Hattie's Chicken Shack Henry Street Taproom Kindred Hamlet and Ghost The Local The Mercantile Mouzon House Rhea Salt and Char Scallions Solevo Kitchen Wheatfields Happy Hour: Lucy's Il Forno Bistro Chianti Morrisseys The Wine Bar Honorable Mention: *I haven't personally eaten here yet, but have heard good things! 15 Church Harvey's Osteria Danny's Best Places To Shop: Fashion: Silverado Jewelry Lifestyles of Saratoga Caroline and Main Union Hall Supply Company (Men's Clothing) Violet's The Yellow Boutique Lucia Home Decor: Silverwood Gallery Local Food: Saratoga Olive Oil Saratoga Chocolate Saratoga Tea and Honey The Savory Pantry Gifts: The Local Branch Pangea Impressions of Saratoga Dark Horse Crafter's Gallery Northshire Bookstore

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