Submitting to peer pressure-centric encouragement, we spent a recent weekend in Saratoga Springs…and lets talk about fabulous. While several other detours had brought us through the bustling hub of Broadway for low-impact rations and fuel-ups, this would be the first considerable amount of time spent by either Stephan or myself in this town of equine and mineral baths.
To this day highly prized for its Greco-Roman inspired baths and eponymous bottled water, Saratoga Springs sits shrouded in pine forests about 30 miles north of Albany. Seeking respite and an “us” weekend, we found all that and more. The day started withlunch at PJ’s Saratoga Style Bar-BQ with a gut-enhancing lunch of ribs, brisket and pulled pork, complete with this local and tourist roadside attraction’s bar of condiments and sauces. Shacking up at the esteemed Gideon Putnam Resort, we were dropped into the heart of the Saratoga Spa Park. Baths, spas, quads and performance theaters pepper the grounds of the estate, which is accessed by the awe-inspiring Avenue of the Pines (aptly named for the California redwood-esque pines that austerely stand watch over the avenue’s comings and goings).
The trek into town leaves one with the sense that Saratoga Springs, while showing hints of contemporary American corporate development, for the most part lives in a different – much earlier – time. Grandiose road signs advertising restaurants, country clubs and motels (the latter of which takes the largest piece of real estate pie) entice visitors with a 1960’s Poconos-like feeling of life that hasn’t yet lost it’s luster (sorry Poconos).
Broadway itself is alive and well with independently run boutiques, clothiers, bars, bookstores, thrift shops, and restaurants aplenty. Should a loop of the town’s main drag (in drag) be in your cards, check these guys out:
Lyrical Ballad Bookstore, retailing volumes since before either of us were conceived, is a loosely organized smorgasbord of literary jewels. Sure you could pop in here to pick up some charmingly antiquated leather-bound dictionaries or atlases of the New World, but why waste your time on that when a little searching culls up such display-worthy gems as the 20th Anniversary program from the Icecapades ($3.00) or Golden Book’s “Danny’s Got A Secret” ($12.00)? The bookstore is at 7 Phila Street and can be reached at 518.584.8779.
Ravenous exudes a European mentality, from its menu of crepes and frites to it’s 12-seat communal table. Offering lunch, dinner and the internationally gay-acclaimed favorite, brunch, this street corner creperie serves up a tantalizing mix of sweet and savory crepes with pommes frites dipping sauces galore. Start my Sunday morning with french fries? Sold.
City Tavern’s multi-story complex offers a light pub menu with complete bar(s) on each of its 5 floors. The icing on the cake, however, is their rooftop deck, open during the year’s warmer months and providing a fabulous view of the bustling downtown.
Circus Cafe is the only result spit back from an internet search for gay nightlife in Saratoga Springs, so an obligatory visit is in order – for no other reason that to absorb the charmingly over-the-big-top circus-themed decor. Sorry, though, Britney’s not included (believe me, we asked).
Be not completely tunnel-visioned by Broadway’s charm, however, as a journey to Saratoga Springs’ newly renovated Beekman Street Arts District (a few blocks west of Broadway) offers plenty of other treasures:
Feast Gallery’s dashingly handsome curator, Benjamin, is always available to show off the ever-changing space’s exhibits. While focused on contemporary art of various mediums during the time of our visit, the well sunlit, second floor venue’s collection is always changing.
Girard Stoneware had to be one of the favorite stops of the trip…if for no other reason than to peruse the handmade wares of rugby-chiseled cousins Andrew and Patrick (whose work is as charming as their gregarious personalities). Currently exhibiting vases, bowls, cups, and the like, Patrick’s hands shape every piece as Andrew mans the sales floor. Drop in for a firm handshake from the latter; handmade tea cup set from the former.
Considering a weekend staycation or visiting for Capital Pride? Consider Saratoga Springs, you won’t be disappointed. And leave us some comments if we missed any other favorite spots!