Saratoga Race Course is a bucket-list destination for racing fans the world over, and if you’re planning your first trip to the storied track, we have a guide for a complete weekend of fun for the Woodward Stakes, from where to watch at the track to the best destinations, restaurants and hotels.
Must Do List-Woodward Weekend:
Enjoy the famous Saratoga Sunrise drink! It’s made with orange juice, vodka and grenadine and served in a take-home souvenir glass at all restaurants on track. The cocktail is also available in many concession bars, though premium spirits and the souvenir glass are not included.
For the kids, there are tons of options – from breakfast at the track to fun in the backyard. For more information, please click here.
Where to Watch On-Track:
For an up-close and personal encounter with Thoroughbred racing, the track apron is where you want to be. Get in on the action right along the rail as the horses charge for home just under 40 miles per hour. The apron can be accessed on both the grandstand and clubhouse areas by walking through the main buildings on the first floor.
The paddock, or walking ring, is where fans get to preview the day’s runners as the horses are saddled before parading on the racetrack. Before each race, the trainers, assistant trainers, grooms, and owners will come down to the paddock as they prepare their horse for the day’s races. Seasoned handicappers and newcomers alike will gather here to check out the competition. The paddock is located between the Clubhouse and the Backyard.
The Saratoga Grandstand is an historic venue and offers something for everyone. The first floor includes wagering windows, quick dining options, program sales, gift shops, trackside viewing and more. The upper levels include reserved seating and more dining options. Grandstand admission is a wonderful, fun and inexpensive way to spend time at the races with friends and family, costing only $3 per person and $5 on Travers Day (Aug. 25).
For an additional $2 (grand total of $5 - $10 on Travers day) you can visit the Clubhouse portion of the racetrack. With fine dining options, such as the glamorous Turf Terrace on the third and fourth floors, the Club Terrace and the famous Carousel Restaurant on the second floor, and the At the Rail Pavilion on the ground floor. For more information about the dining options and dress code at Saratoga, please click here.
The famous backyard is a family favorite!
Filled with picnic tables under the towering trees of the picnic area. The area is sprinkled with food options, wagering windows, and monitors showing the on-track action, so fans don’t have to miss a minute. This is the area where fans are allowed to bring in their own coolers and beer or wine. Seating is first come, first served, and it’s important to know that there’s a tradition that states that any seat with a newspaper or item of clothing on it has been claimed for the day.
While in the backyard, it’s a must to drink from the Big Red Spring. The Big Red Spring burbles from the ground near the paddock at the back of the picnic area. The spring is named after Secretariat and Man o' War, the two famed Thoroughbred champions. Both horses were chestnut colored and racing fans referred to them as "Big Red." The mineral rich water of the spring is one of the reasons that Saratoga’s nickname is “The Spa.”
-Map of Saratoga-
Around Spa City
National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame
191 Union Avenue, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame was founded in 1950 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to honor the achievements of American Thoroughbred racehorses, jockeys, and trainers. Each spring, following the tabulation of the final votes, the announcement of new inductees is usually made during Kentucky Derby Week in early May. The Museum features wonderful art, trophies, and historical items, and the Hall of Fame is a must-see. There are plenty of activities for kids here, too, including the chance to try on jockey silks and ride a mechanized racehorse. It’s located directly across the street from the track, so it’s a wonderful place to round out the Saratoga racing experience.
Saratoga National Park
Saratoga National Historical Park
648 Route 32, Stillwater, N.Y. 12170
518-664-9821 ext. 224
Here in the autumn of 1777, American forces met, defeated and forced a major British army to surrender. This crucial American victory in the Battle of Saratoga renewed patriots’ hopes for independence, secured essential foreign recognition and support, and forever changed the face of the world. Now a beautiful national park, it’s a great place to spend the morning before hitting the track.
Take in the shops, restaurants and bars of Saratoga’s main drag, Broadway. At night, the street and surrounding areas are packed with revelers celebrating their time in Spa City. It’s a fun atmosphere and the place to see and be seen in Saratoga’s society. Click here to see a list of shops and restaurants on Broadway.
Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavillion
415 East Avenue, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
One of the most famous horse sales in the world, Saratoga’s Fasig-Tipton Select yearling sale is the place where the world’s most powerful people go to buy the best-bred yearlings in the country. The sale is on August 6 and 7 and will attract billionaires, royalty and stars. It’s not unusual to see Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, here, as well as racing enthusiasts like chef Bobby Flay and vitaminwater founder Mike Repole. General admission to the sale, which begins at 7 p.m., is free, and dress code is cocktail attire. The sales are a must-see if you plan to be in town then.
Places to Eat:
464 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. 12866
Mrs. London’s is the best breakfast in town. Go here for a very good cup of coffee and stay for the pastry and Danishes. Everything is fresh and delicious, and it’s the perfect place to indulge your sweet tooth before a big day at the track.
30 1/2 Caroline Street, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. 12866
Rub shoulders with the owners of the horses running at Saratoga at this upscale dining area. A favorite since it opened in 1932, Sperry’s has a decadent menu that attracts racing’s elite. Late night, their outdoor area becomes a popular watering hole for the glitterati and is a great place to socialize with friends. Make reservations!
168 Lincoln Avenue, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. 12866
Located directly across the street from the Clubhouse entrance to the track, Siro’s is the place to see and be seen both for dining and late night revelers. Saratoga’s elite come here to dine and drink, and it’s not unusual to see crowds of people in black tie mingling after a fundraiser, ball or party. This place is expensive, though, so be warned; but the scene is not to be missed.
45 Phila Street, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. 12866
Affordable dining with a Southern flare, Hattie’s is a fantastic option for lunch or dinner. Their fried chicken is so legendary that they even have a stand at the racetrack!
745 Saratoga Road, Wilton, N.Y. 12831
Another hotspot for horse racing’s owners, trainers and jockeys, the Well, as it’s affectionately known, serves up the best steaks in town. All sides are served family style, and their corn is always mouth-wateringly fresh.
40-42 Lake Avenue, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. 12866
The Parting Glass serves up traditional Irish pub fare as well as live music, dart games, and dancing. A favorite spot for horsemen and fans alike, it’s a very fun and casual dining option.
Where to Stay
25 Lake Avenue, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. 12866
24 Gideon Putnam Rd., Saratoga Springs, N.Y. 12866
534 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. 12866
232 Broadway (Route 9), Saratoga Springs, N.Y. 12866
The Brunswick at Saratoga
143 Union Avenue, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. 12866
The Carriage House Inn
198 South Broadway, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. 12866
The Inn at Saratoga
231 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. 12866
800-274-3573 or 518-583-1890
* All Photos Courtesy of Penelope P. Miller/America’s Best Racing