Located about three hours north of Manhattan, Saratoga Springs is a small city just south of the Adirondack Park that comes to life in a big way every summer when its horse racing track season starts. Its population explodes, with eager patrons flocking to teller windows, placing bets on a catalog of horses, cheering from the stands, and either celebrating their wins or drowning their losses at one of the many bars and restaurants downtown. It’s a fast-paced, lively, and loud experience.
But there’s another, quieter part of Saratoga. The city was built on an abundance of natural springs, which you can find in Saratoga Spa State Park, and is the perfect place for a break. Here’s a guide to exploring this destination for some peace and quiet.
Drink up the health benefits
Saratoga Springs is known as “the Spa City,” and only a few days exploring the 2,370-acre Saratoga Spa State Park are needed to explain why. Throughout Saratoga, people fill up water bottles or other containers at the free 21 natural springs. Each spring spouts cold, naturally carbonated water with a different mix of such minerals as sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and calcium. They offer a wide range of benefits, depending on which you drink.
Take the water from the Red Spring, which is rich in iron and believed to help with skin disorders, versus the centrally located Orenda Spring, which is touted to help with healthy blood. Smack in the middle of downtown Saratoga, across from the Congress Park carousel, Hathorn Spring One sits under a picture-perfect gazebo; it is the deepest of all the springs. The water here tips the metallic scale in taste but is believed to help with digestive issues.
How to explore Saratoga Spa State Park
A self-guided tour of the springs is an easy feat with a map and information in hand, while fully guided tours are led by the state park on weekends, starting at the Creekside Classroom, a four-season education center with a focus on environmental programs.
While drinking water sounds less like a trip itinerary and more like a daily reminder, it’s an ideal way to spend a few days enjoying the park as a whole—walking the trails, doing a taste test of a handful of the springs, and soaking in the mineral baths.
Roosevelt Baths & Spa
The most famous place to soak is in the Roosevelt Baths & Spa, which is part of the Gideon Putnam Hotel. The historic building dates back to 1935 and pays homage to the man who essentially saved the springs with an act to preserve them and the entire city: President Franklin D. Roosevelt. (He was an advocate of hydrotherapy himself, to help treat the effects of his polio.) As Governor of New York State, he funded and developed the Roosevelt Baths project.
Roosevelt Baths & Spa’s location on the edge of the park and across from the Hall of Springs building creates a haven where nature and wellness come together with an expansive courtyard, tall arches, and a reflective pond. Still showcasing the original subway tile, the spa taps into the Lincoln spring for mineral soaking treatments in its 42 private treatment rooms.
The soaking experience
The spa treatment at Roosevelt starts with a fluffy robe in the relaxation room before an attendant leads you to a treatment room, armed with some fun facts about the spa building and instructions for a 20-minute or 40-minute soak (which range in price from $30 to $55). The water’s brown tint—due to oxidation from iron in the water—may not appear inviting, but as soon as you step into the large tub you’ll be hooked.
The spring water is naturally cold at 55 degrees, but the tub manages to keep the perfect warm temperature due to the added warm bathwater, with a touch of effervescence from the minerals. You can add cold water as needed, before the delivery of a warm towel signals the end of the soak. There’s an entire spa menu with typical massages, facials, and other treatments, which can booked in tandem with your soak.
It may be odd to think that only a handful of miles from the park’s serene Roosevelt Baths, throngs of people are taking their chances on horses like Hot Rod Charlie and Mostly Harmless while shouting from the grandstands. But sometimes chaos makes you appreciate the other side of things: quiet moments, relaxation, and mindful rejuvenation. With the city’s beauty, natural springs for drinking, and historic mineral baths, Saratoga Springs is its own trifecta for slow travel in a refreshing weekend getaway—something we could all use now and again.