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Saratoga Race Course 2019: Everything Fun To Do On Dark Days At The Track

From golf outings to museums and hikes, there's no shortage of fun activities to help fill the racing void on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Saratoga National is a great place to spend one of Saratoga Race Course's dark days.

With Saratoga Race Course’s eight-week summer meet already in full swing—this weekend marks the running of the $1 million Whitney—it’s entirely possible that track-goers and non-Saratogian visitors alike might be thrown for a loop as to what to do on the two “dark days,” or Mondays and Tuesdays through September 2, when the track’s closed. The way we see it, it’s like having a four-day weekend every week! And it so happens that there are a wide range of fun activities that you can take part in around the Capital Region and beyond, where you can spend the prior week’s winnings at the track. As always, saratoga living has already done the hard work of curating a list of enjoyable, not-so-obvious activities to do during the track’s dark days, which, as it turns out, aren’t so dark anymore.

Go For An 18-Hole Golf Outing

The Spa City is renowned for its selection of beautiful golf courses, including the crown jewel, Saratoga National Golf Club, on Union Avenue, which was designed by award-winning golf course architect Roger Rulewich. With full knowledge that racing fans are looking for fun things to accomplish on dark days, Saratoga National offers discounted tee times every Monday through Wednesday from 8am to 3pm. Also, get in some great putting at some of the other local courses, such as Saratoga Spa Golf Course in the Saratoga Spa State Park, which offers a New York State resident discount, and McGregor Links Country Club in Wilton. We’d also suggest checking out Airway Meadows in Gansevoort—there’s an actual plane landing strip in the middle of one of the course—and Brookhaven Golf Course in Porters Corners, just outside of Saratoga. Beer-lovers will also enjoy Fairways of Halfmoon Golf Club, which has an actual craft beer tap room at the course. That’s only the tip of the iceberg.

The Saratoga Automobile Museum has great exhibits such as the ‘Wheels of Change: Cars & Culture in the 1960s,’ pictured here. (Saratoga Automobile Museum)

Brush Up On History At The Museums

History’s one-third of the official motto of Saratoga (“health, history and horses”), so of course, we have a great showing when it comes to museums in the area. For car lovers, the Saratoga Automobile Museum, located in the Saratoga Spa State Park, cannot be missed. There’s also the New York State Military Museum on Lake Avenue in Saratoga, which has some 15,000 artifacts dating from as far back as the Revolutionary War all the way up to the global war on terror. (You can’t miss it; there’s a real Sherman tank on its front lawn!)

The Hyde Collection, an art museum in Glens Falls, should also be on your list. It’s normally closed on Mondays, but it’s having a special Museum Mondays at the Hyde from 10am to 5pm all track season long through September 1. The museum is offering a free shuttle service from the Adelphi Hotel to the museum, courtesy of the Albany Auto Group, through August 26.

Other museums of note that are a bit of a longer drive from Saratoga proper? The Museum on Blue Mountain Lake, a kid-friendly favorite in Blue Mountain Lake, NY; The Clark in Williamstown, MA, which has a sprawling art collection; the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, the Farmers’ Museum and the Fenimore Art Museum, all in Cooperstown, NY; and the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA. All are about 1.5 hours from Downtown Saratoga.

Adirondacks
It’s a steep climb to reach the summit of Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, NY. (Carl Heilman II)

Enjoy The Great Outdoors

With Lake George and the beautiful Adirondack Mountains just north of Saratoga, how could something outdoorsy not make it on this list? For those seeking an extended weekend journey, Saratoga is part of an ever-growing network of trails that crisscross the entire Capital Region. (Check out our “hikes for beginners” series here and here.) Hikers can even go farther by hooking up with the Empire State Trail, which includes more than 400 miles of off-road routes that run as far south as New York City and all the way west to Buffalo (to walk that far, of course, it would require more than just a four-day weekend). But you don’t even need to leave Saratoga to get a wonderful taste of nature. In addition to the Spa State Park, you can also take shorter, scenic hikes along the Spring Run Trail at East Avenue or the Bog Meadow Brook Nature Trail, right off of Lake Avenue.

Caffe Lena
Peter Yarrow, one of the founding members of classic folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary, playing at Caffè Lena. (Joe Deuel)

Catch Some Monday/Tuesday Night Entertainment

For starters, there’s an incredible lineup of shows at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center all summer long, including The Philadelphia Orchestra‘s summer residency in August, as well as a number of other hidden gems around town that fall on the track’s dark days. Caffè Lena hosts an Open Mic Night every Monday, where participants can play a number on the same stage that music legends such as Bob Dylan, Don McLean and Ani DiFranco ave performed. All ages and styles of music are welcome.

For those that want to continue tempting Lady Luck, Saratoga Casino Hotel has Club 55, which offers $10,000 in prizes every Tuesday from 11am to 8pm. Earn entries every Tuesday for a chance to win and also enjoy a discounted lunch and dinner at the Garden Buffet.

And fans of trivia are definitely in luck! Saratoga and the Capital Region are prime locales for trivia every night of the week.

Hamlet & Ghost
Some of Hamlet & Ghost’s delicious signature cocktails.

Drink And Eat To Your Heart’s Content

Downtown Saratoga is known for its burgeoning food scene, and there’s no shortage of local restaurants and bars right on Broadway offering their own dark day deals and specials. For instance, to help cool down this summer, Saratoga Tea & Honey on Broadway has Matcha Mondays, offering $3 iced (or hot) matcha teas all day long. The Wheatfields provides Meatball Mondays, $15 all-you-can-eat meatballs with salad, bread and herb garlic butter (it’s also offering a “2 for $20 To Go” every Monday, which includes an entree, salad and bread to go for just $20).

For one of the best happy hours in town, look no farther than Hamlet & Ghost which hosts its happy hour every Monday through Thursday with $1 oysters and $5 margaritas and old fashioned cocktails. Specifically for the dark days’ crowd, Saratoga Winery on Route 29 is offering free music every Tuesday from 3-6pm (plus a great happy hour that starts at 4pm. And on Tuesdays, Dango’s Saratoga has its popular Wing Night, 25-cent chicken wings from 3pm to midnight. Also, don’t miss Taco Tuesdays at two of Saratoga’s most popular restaurants, Harvey’s on Phila (with $2 tacos and $5 margaritas) and Cantina on Broadway (also with $2 tacos and $10 buckets of cold Coronitas). Why not visit both?

Hadestown
Amber Gray (center) starring as Persephone in the Broadway musical ‘Hadestown.’

For The More Adventurous…Catch A Show On Broadway

For those of you who want to take the four-day weekend option and leave the Spa City completely, New York City is just a 3.5-hour train ride (give or take) from Saratoga Springs (or a little less, if you venture to the Albany-Rensselaer station). Catch the train down to Penn Station—we’d suggest reading the latest issue of saratoga living to pass the time—and grab tickets to a hit show such as the new Beetlejuice musical, which opened in April, or the Tony Award-winning Hadestown by Caffè Lena regular Anaïs Mitchell.

Great Barrington
The historic Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center always has something going on inside.

Take A Road Trip To The Berkshires

Speaking of theater, you can jump in your car and drive two hours southeast of Saratoga to Western Massachusetts’ The Berkshires, where there are a ton of spectacular summer theater festivals and performing arts groups wowing audiences. Head to the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, MA to enjoy the Berkshire Opera Festival’s performance of Don Pasquale on August 27 (a Tuesday). The Berkshire Theater Group (an amalgam of three performance spaces) in Stockbridge, MA and Pittsfield, MA is also offering theater programming throughout August. Additionally, there’s the famous Williamstown Theatre Festival every summer in the Williamstown, MA, not even 1.5 hours from Saratoga. The festival has shows running through the majority of August, including Ghosts by legendary Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen and the world premiere of Before the Meeting by Canadian writer Adam Bock on August 7 (a Wednesday, but it’s worth skipping a day at the track to check it out).

View of Montréal’s Clock Tower and Jacques-Cartier Bridge in the city’s Old Port. (Michael Vesia)

Drive Up To Montréal

Montréal is actually the closest large city to Saratoga Springs, just a straight three-hour shot up the Northway (New York City is a hair longer by car). During the summer months, The City of Saints really puts its arts scene on display. In the month of August alone, visitors can enjoy everything from the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal’s Classical Spree, whose music director is none other than The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Yannick Nézet-Séguin, from August 7-11; to an inside look at the world of fashion at the 19th Annual Fashion & Design Festival from August 19-24; and, for the foodies out there, the Montréal Rib Fest, a three-day street festival of all things barbecue-related from August 16-18. Toward the end of the track season, August 23 through September 2, is the popular Montréal World Film Festival, with movies by both first-time and established filmmakers from more than 70 different countries.

Who knew that dark days could be so busy? Get cracking, because there are only four more weeks of Saratoga racing left!

Jeff Dingler
Jeff Dingler

Jeff Dingler is saratoga living's Senior Writer. He's a graduate of Skidmore College and a professional musician.

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