1. Saratoga is the official home of horse racing in the summer and I, for one, can thoroughly support that. The weekends attract massive crowds to the area and that’s where the fun lies even for those bros who aren’t that into these types of ponies. The after-track bar scene is something to behold. Downtown Saratoga also heats up when nightfall comes. Lake George is close by if you need a day off from losing money. If you didn’t have fun on a weekend in Saratoga, you did something very wrong.
2. The track has races every day from the third Friday in July until Labor Day, so the peak season for visiting Saratoga is very short. The weekends are obviously the best times to go and there are only eight of them in the season. I’m sure Saratoga is quite a nice place outside of horse racing season, but that’s the big pull for visitors. The best weekend is the weekend before Labor Day Weekend because that’s when the biggest race, the Travers Stakes, is held. The weather can get quite hot on some days, but generally you’re looking at low 80s and no one’s going to complain about that.
3. You’re best off renting an apartment or a house for the weekend you’re there. There are some hotels and inns around time, but you’re going to have some downtime during your time there so a house with a backyard to grill and drink out of is the optimal play. The best location for a house is in between Lake Avenue and Union Ave to the east of Broadway. You’ll put yourself within walking distance of the track and the downtown bars, which is the best situation because cabs are a pain in the ass. If you can only manage a smaller group, look for an apartment rental downtown so you can walk to the bars even if you have to drive to the track. Some people like to stay at Lake George to enjoy the water and drive in, but that’s not optimal if you’re looking to really get after it. (Lake George is cool, but we’ll get to that later.)
4. If you end up driving to the track, there’s plenty of parking across the street. Look out for our main man Rod who sets up shop in front of a house on Union Ave between Ludlow St. and East Ave. Hopefully you brought your cooler of beer and booze with you. You can bring anything inside the track as long as it's not glass, so stock up on booze beforehand and save some money. Once inside, you should set up shop in the picnic area if you can. The picnic area provides the best opportunity to bring in your own cooler of beers and enjoy your day. The problem thee is that lots of people wake up at the ass-crack of dawn to lock down those picnic tables. Those people are friendly though, so you might be able to talk your way into hanging in their area and getting yourself some table space. (Shout out to our friends at the Bone Zone…) You can survive in the other areas of the track, but it’s just not as enjoyable.
5. You won’t go hungry at the track, that’s for sure. Danny Meyer has installed his food empire past the finish line outside of the Clubhouse area with a Shake Shack. The novelty of Shake Shack hasn’t worn off yet, so the lines are at least 30 minutes long during prime time. While those are good, I prefer the local approach. Some of the best fried chicken you’ll ever eat comes from Hattie’s downtown, but they also have a stand at the track that offers a superb fried chicken sandwich with cole slow. It should be your first lunch on every trip to the track. Poutine is big in Canada, but it also has a presence at Shirley’s in the carousel area of the track. The barbecue sandwiches at Carolina Bar-B-Q are a nice alternative as well. Thankfully beer at the track is reasonably priced with $3 domestic draft beers.
6. Hopefully you build a good base of food and drink at the track because you don’t have any downtime before hitting the after track bars. The after track scene runs from right after the last race (approximately 6:30 p.m.) until about 9 p.m. We’ll start with Siro’s since it’s the closest to the track. You might recognize Johnny Drama or E from Entourage if you see the part-owners taking a piss next to you in the bathroom. (Just don’t try to shake their hand afterwards.) Siro’s the more upscale of the two options, but that doesn’t mean it’s too fancy. A cover band plays some tunes while everybody continues to throw back the alcohol. If you’re looking to score a cougar, Siro’s is the place for you. Down the street at the Horseshoe Inn Bar & Grill, you’ll find a younger crowd partying just as hard as those at Siro’s. Things are a little less formal, but no less intense. Again we have a cover band and a better tent situation if in case it happens to rain. Make some friends because there’s a good chance they’ll be at the same bars downtown as you later in the day.
7. You’re gonna need to reload on food at some point and there’s a variety of options at your disposal. Mexican Connection is my favorite dinner option, conveniently located right next to The Horseshoe. You might have a slight wait for a table at peak times, but anything on the menu checks out as good Mexican food, whether it’s guac, the chilaquiles, or one of the combo platters giving you some tacos and chimichanga all in one. The aforementioned Hatties, which you make recognize from a Bobby Flay Throwdown, has some of the finest fried chicken in all the land. The made-to-order sandwiches at Roma Importing Company might be the best thing to consume when you’re drunk, but since they close at 6p you’ll need to get there before closing. Italian food at Pasta Pane and Forno Bistro delivers on that fix as well.
8. The bars are easy to find in Saratoga because they’re located along one main strip, Caroline Street. The crowds here are filled with people from 21-35 and the scene offers a little bit of everything. City Tavern is five floors of action which includes your standard “tavern” style bar, a dance floor where things can get interesting, and a roof deck to enjoy the weather. Thirteen, located next door, is a straight club atmosphere that’s good when you have some girls you’re looking to grind with. Gaffney’s across the street has the largest outdoor area of any bar in town and it’s laid back vibe seems to fit the area perfectly. Metro (formerly Mare) around the corner offers a cover band outside in the courtyard and club-atmosphere dancing inside. Paddock Lounge really energized itself in the last couple of years and provide a nice middle ground between bar and club. And if all these don’t work for you for some reason, just stumble down the street to the next bar.
9. When you wake up with that pounding headache, you’ll need to get some food. Compton’s offers the best hangover breakfast in town, but you’ll likely have to wait a few minutes for a table. It’s your typical no frills diner with anything you can think of on the menu. You can also do a takeout order if you don’t feel like waiting around. The Country Corner Café serves up breakfast until they close at 2/3 p.m. Corned Beef Hash and Swedish oatmeal pancakes (you read that right) are the two best things on the menu here.
10. If you need to escape the track for one day, Lake George is an easy day trip 30 minutes north. You can get on a boat and cruise around while enjoy water sports for the day. You’ll see people out there on jet skis, water skis, tubes, and all sorts of other shit. If you’d prefer to stay on land, there are a few really nice public golf courses close by. Saratoga Spa and Saratoga National are your two best options and both have received acclaim for their course quality in the past.
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