This past May, two of my friends, both recently single, decided to hold their own Saratoga Springs bar crawl, because they “didn’t have time to wait around for an organized one.” Caught in the trenches of saratoga living’s 20th Anniversary issue deadline, I didn’t think I’d be able to participate. “Tell your editor he has to cover the crawl for the magazine!” one of my friends suggested (obviously joking—a three-person bar crawl isn’t exactly compelling feature material). Though SL didn’t cover the crawl—I was able to slip out of the office long enough to hit five bars—the seed was planted, or so my friends claim. A week and a half later, I was assigned a story about club-going in Saratoga: one that required me to go on, yep, a club crawl. Coincidence? Maybe. Serendipity? Probably. Pure fun? Definitely.
Saratoga’s club scene isn’t exactly as wide-ranging as that of larger cities, but we have a solid handful of bars, taverns and clubs where dancing’s permitted and encouraged. The first weekend in June, I rallied four of my friends—two of the OG crawlers and two newbies—for the second bi-weekly Saratoga crawl. What I found was an array of options for clubbing in our small city, from dark, crowded rooms to open-air dancefloors, all of which bring a unique flavor to the nightlife capital of Upstate NY: our home, Saratoga Springs.
THE NEWBERRY MUSIC HALL
Specialty Drink: Five are advertised on the menu, including The Lucille Ball, a Shirley Temple for grown-ups
Best Night To Go: Friday
Crowd: Couples 40+
Overheard: “Everyone generally seems to know what they’re doing out on the dancefloor.”
The Newberry used to be kind of a mystery to me. Located underground, it shares its main door on Broadway with The Comedy Works, and hosts Next Level Church on Sunday mornings. But the Newberry itself is a club, with a U-shaped bar, giant dancefloor and stage. The night of my club crawl, a comedy performance was in session, so the dance club wasn’t operating, but I was told to come back on a Friday for the weekly Latin Night. When I came back the following week, this time on a solo voyage, I found close to a dozen couples tangoing to Spanish music by DJ Frankie Ramos. (The Newberry hosts tango fusion classes at 7pm and 8pm on Fridays before open dancing at 9pm). As someone who generally tries to stay away from can’t-hardly-breathe, crowded clubs, this is definitely my kind of place—at least on Fridays.
Vibe: Upbeat, young
Specialty Drink: Jell-O shots
Best Night To Go: Saturday
Music: Dance mash-ups
Crowd: Ages 21-35
Overheard: “I don’t like Jell-O.”
Sinclair is one of the Spa City’s newer nighttime hotspots. Opened in 2017, the place quadruples as a bar, dance club, cornhole range (in the summer), and vintage arcade. The crowd is young, the lights are neon pink and the DJ spinning on the patio the night I was there was one of the best I’ve heard in town for dancing. The word on the street about Sinclair is either (1) “I’ve heard that place is cool!” or (2) “I love that place!” Both are true.
Vibe: Party time
Specialty Drink: We’ve heard the Lake George Cider Project is very popular
Best Night To Go: Saturday
Music: Variety (country, pop, ’90s); mix of live music and DJs
Crowd: Festive, ages 21-55
Overheard: “You look better with your shirt unbuttoned.”
At its enviable prime perch on the corner of Caroline and Putnam, Gaffney’s has long been a Saratoga institution. Its range of atmospheres—the crowded patio area, always bumping with live music; the darker indoor bar and dancefloor; and the quieter upper floor, where you can catch the hockey game over a bag of free popcorn—make it a bar you can spend the entire evening at. (And I would’ve, had I not had a full night of crawling ahead of me.) You’re bound to run into someone you know and be left with a permanent smile on your face. This is what Saratoga’s all about!
THE SARATOGA CITY TAVERN (4th Floor)
Vibe: Very loud and crowded
Specialty Drink: $5 Bud Light, as advertised
Best night to go: Saturday
Overheard: “Get a Vodka Red Bull—you know you want it.”
Another local staple is The Saratoga City Tavern. Rising high above its neighboring bars on Caroline Street, the tavern has five floors (including a roof-deck), each with its own vibe. For clubbing, you want the fourth floor. The lights are dim (besides the colored strobes), the music is deafening and the floor is as slick with spilled drinks as you’d expect, given the number of bumping bodies in the room. The fabled fourth floor is the true club experience in Saratoga, and you don’t want to miss it.
Vibe: Concert dependent
Specialty Drink: Tito’s Vodka is the most-ordered spirit
Best Night To Go: Depends on who’s performing
Music: Various (jam bands, pop DJs, jazz, open mic nights)
Crowd: Concert dependent
Overheard: “This Miller Light tastes like a caramel smoothie.”
Formerly the Putnam Den, Putnam Place has recently undergone a major, stunning facelift, introducing a brand new mirrored bar, a giant LED screen and killer patio area. The venue’s vibe changes with the performers of the night: Jam bands bring in the older hippie crowd, rap artists appeal to Skidmore College students and saratoga living’s 20th Anniversary party, with music by Cuban quartet ALTA HAVANA and DJ Trumastr, welcomed the entire city. The night of my club crawl, it was the first option, with psychedelic patterns shifting on the LED screen behind the band Dr. Jah and the Love Prophets, and people in tie-dyes head-bopping to the music.