Founded in 1776, the city of Saratoga Springs has long been a popular resort town in upstate New York. Numerous natural springs dot the landscape around Saratoga, and the mineral waters are believed to have natural healing powers. Home to some of the earliest European-style spas in the United States, Saratoga Springs quickly gained renown in the 19th century as a vacation destination. As the years went on, the town also became famous for horse racing with the opening of Saratoga Race Course in 1863, and the races are still a major draw every summer. Nowadays, you can visit Saratoga for a day at a spa, watch horses gallop around a track, enjoy a ballet, an opera, or an open-air theater, and tour one of the numerous museums in the town (via
With a long President’s Day weekend ahead of us, my wife and I decided to head once again to visit family in Adirondack State Park. Along the way, we detoured to Saratoga Springs for a delicious dinner, a relaxing trip to a spa, and a jaunt through a museum filled with classic cars. All in all, it was a great weekend!
Before beginning, however, some automotive updates are in order:
While I might come across as a Honda snob, I do appreciate high-mileage accomplishments from any vehicle, and so one Chicago-area driver certainly warrants a mention in this blog. Brian Murphy, owner of a 2007 Nissan Frontier, recently achieved a significant milestone: 1,000,000 miles in a truck that he originally bought new! He works as a delivery driver, and for the past thirteen years has racked up all those miles – that would be two round trip journeys to the moon, or more than forty trips around the circumference of the Earth’s equator. However you quantify it, that’s a lot of driving! A few days later, Nissan gifted Brian with a new truck. Congratulations, Mr. Murphy.
And now, onto some updates closer to home:
The Accord continues to roll along without complaint. I took it for an alignment recently, and the service tech said, “The suspension is in terrific shape, the engine is great… it’s running perfectly.” Good to hear!
It might be a while before I reach 1,000,000 miles, but I’ve got 150,000 in my sights! Saratoga Springs
Our first destination: Saratoga Springs, about three hours north of New York City.
With clear skies as far as the eye could see, we set off for upstate New York.
After about three hours of driving, we arrived at Saratoga Spa State Park. Notice the dramatic difference in climate between New Jersey and New York – a blanket of snow covered everything, and temperatures were far below zero.
We treated ourselves to a night at the Gideon Putnam Hotel. Built in 1935, the hotel is named after one of the founding fathers of Saratoga Springs.
The hotel was a quiet, spacious, comfortable place to spend the night. As I will discuss further below, the natural springs of Saratoga are renowned for their healing properties, as the waters are valued both for bathing and for drinking. Our room came with two bottles of spring water – one still, one sparkling. It was some of the freshest water I have ever tasted.
Everything old is new again! I like how the hotel’s original phone booth has been preserved, and now comes equipped with a suggested hashtag for all your Instagram and Twitter needs!
For dinner, we made reservations at Taverna Novo, a small Italian eatery in Saratoga. Rather than struggle to find parking, we took an Uber from our hotel to the restaurant, and our driver picked us up in a 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee with over 288,000 miles on it! He said he changes the fluids religiously, but otherwise it has been problem-free. We enjoyed chatting with our driver, “J,” about his vehicle, and my wife was excited to see how far her Jeep might be able to go!
Dinner was sublime. We started with two delightful appetizers. First, Olive Taverna Novo, a warm olive medley cooked with citrus zest and olive oil. Our second appetizer was Polpo Grigliato e Cannellini: grilled octopus with cannellini beans. For an entrée, I had the Dungeness crab gnocchi (pictured), which was amazing.
My wife enjoyed the veal chop with roasted vegetables and carrots. Her thoughts on the dish? It was out of this world. Taverna Novo is a fantastic restaurant and we would definitely stop by again. One word of warning, however: the place is tiny (seating for approximately 25 people only), so if you want to go, make a reservation in advance. And then enjoy!
In the early 20th century, extensive pumping of the natural springs of Saratoga saw a reduction in water levels, which threatened the long-term viability of the springs. Control of the springs was assumed by the state of New York in 1909, and it officially became a state park in 1962. After World War II, US military veterans and Holocaust survivors were treated at the park (via Wikipedia). It has long been a destination for those needing to rejuvenate. On Saturday morning, my wife headed to the Roosevelt Spa for a morning of relaxation.
My wife’s morning included a 20-minute bath in the mineral waters of Saratoga Springs, and a massage. She learned a fun fact: when mineral water comes out of the ground, it is very cold. The spa mixes it with warmed tap water, but the chemical reaction turns the mineral water brown. It’s the only time I can imagine when brown water is ok to use.
The springs are freely available for the public to use – when I stopped by the State Seal Spring, several people were filling jugs of water to take home. I filled our water bottles with clear spring water. The mineral water, which poured from another tap on the back of this fountain, is also safe to drink, but the sulfur smell may be a bit strong for most people’s liking. During the winter, the water splashes and freezes on the ground, so do watch your step as you approach the taps.
While my wife enjoyed a morning of spa relaxation, I went for relaxation of another kind – the Saratoga Automobile Museum is housed in the old Saratoga Bottling Plant, where the park’s mineral water would be bottled for shipment.
Opening in 2002, the Automobile Museum features the cars of New York state. The first floor holds a collection of vehicles owned by private citizens from across the Empire State, while the second floor holds two displays: one of the cars made in New York, and the other about racing history in the state. I love how the museum preserved much of the architecture of the original bottling plant.
So many cars to see!
The “I Love Cars” exhibit on the first floor houses a collection of vehicles from private owners around New York, with stories of how they purchased their classic car and why they love it. So cool!
Despite the small size of the museum, it was filled with a diverse array of vehicles, such as the 1949 Indian Scout motorcycle and the 1932 Plymouth PA Thrift convertible pictured here.
When I was young, my grandmother would tell me stories of cars having a “rumble seat,” an exposed seat which folds into the vehicles’ trunk. The seat is also known as the “mother-in-law seat” (via Wikipedia).
There may not have been any Hondas or Acuras in the exhibit, but there certainly were some amazing machines, such as this 1966 Chevrolet Corvette hardtop. This one came with the optional 427 engine, a beast of a motor that put out over 400 horsepower!
James Bond would probably enjoy driving this 1978 Lotus Eclat Sprint.
This 1983 Volkswagen Golf GTI is certainly RADwood-ready!
Two Ford Model T’s were hiding in the back corner of the exhibit. What you see here is a 1925 Ford Model T Popcorn Wagon. The wagon has a gas engine to move the vehicle, and a steam engine to cook popcorn, hot dogs, and other foods. Food trucks are soaring in popularity nowadays, so consider this the grandfather of your local taco truck!
The second floor held an exhibit on cars produced in New York state, such as this Franklin. Operating from 1902 until 1934, Franklin Automobile Company was based in Syracuse. After the company closed, its air-cooled engines were bought by Preston Tucker, to be used in the Tucker automobile.
The 1909 Paterson Motor Buggy (left) was built in Flint, Michigan and you can see its strong ties to the horse-drawn carriage. The 1910 Maxwell AB Runabout was built in Tarrytown, New York, and has far more resemblance to what we think of as a “car.”
I loved the details of the old Maxwell, including the engine crank! In the 1920s, Maxwell was absorbed into the new company of a former Maxwell employee. The man’s name? Walter Chrysler.
In the earliest days of automobiles, before the steering wheel was the primary way of changing direction, cars used a tiller to change direction. Talk about imprecise! And check out the horn, too!
At the New York Auto Show in 1961, a West German company named the Quandt Group unveiled what they saw as the next evolution of the automobile: the Amphicar.
The Amphicar is just as it sounds: an amphibious car! Capable of traversing both roadways and bodies of water, it was never a major success. President Lyndon B. Johnson owned one, and would take guests to his Texas ranch on rides in it, often telling his passengers that the brakes had failed as the car headed toward the lake on his property, before safely splashing into the water and motoring onward (via Wikipedia).
New York has a long history of motorsports, and Richard Petty’s 1985 #43 Pontiac stock car is proudly on display, having been donated to the museum by a collector from New Hartford, New York.
Driver safety has certainly come a long way – can you imagine driving this at 100 mph?
In 2010, this Dyson Racing Mazda-powered B09/86 Le Mans Prototype won the American Le Mans series championship. New York-based Dyson Racing donated this car to the museum in 2017.
And what trip to a classic car museum is complete without a hood ornament collage?
In the lobby was a cool exhibit on the history of women drivers from the earliest days of motoring. I loved this collection of quotes I found on one of the walls.
The museum also had a small exhibit on the history of the building as a spring water bottling plant. The left-most bottle (State Seal) has water drawn from the same spring where I filled up earlier in the morning.
After finishing with the spa and the museum, my wife and I spent a little time wandering the downtown area of Saratoga Springs, which is filled with many cool, independent shops. At Saratoga Tea & Honey we picked up a small gift for a friend.
Our other stop was Mrs. London’s Bakery. If you stop here, you must try the lemon poundcake. It’s simply divine.
After a morning of relaxation, we headed into town for a quick lunch at Wheatfields Restaurant and Bar. My wife had seen the menu online, and was excited about a large, comprehensive listing of gluten free entrees.
While I had an excellent cheeseburger, my wife enjoyed the pesto radiatori (gluten free!) with shrimp. Both dishes were fantastic, and fueled us up for our drive further north. Adirondack State Park
What has become one of my favorite destinations: the Fulton Chain of Lakes region of Adirondack State Park.
As we headed north into the Adirondacks, it felt like we were driving into a snow globe.
It’s winter in the Adirondacks, which means it is snowmobile season! These little tracked machines can seemingly be heard throughout the entire state park.
Snowmobilers are also big business during the winter. Many local businesses make their money during summer tourist season and again during winter snowmobile season. For instance, the Enchanted Forest Water Safari water park in Old Forge, New York, a summertime hotspot, is also the location for a snowmobile refueling station.
My wife and I spent a late afternoon at Arrowhead Park in Inlet, NY, taking photos. Arrowhead is connected to one of the more grisly events in New York history: in 1906, Chester Gillette murdered his girlfriend Grace Brown at nearby Big Moose Lake. He was arrested several days later at the (now defunct) Arrowhead Hotel in Inlet. The murder was the basis for two major works of fiction: Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy and its film adaptation A Place in the Sun, which starred Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor. Both the novel and the film take liberties with the facts of the case. For the true story of this tale, I would recommend Murder in the Adirondacks by Craig Brandon.
We were treated to a gorgeous sunset over Fourth Lake.
The winter scene was fantastic.
The rapidly changing sky made for gorgeous photos.
After Mother Nature finished dazzling us with her gorgeous winter scene, it was time to head out of the park.
The impressive all-wheel drive system of the Jeep, along with the set of Nokian WR G4 SUV tires, make this a fantastic winter ride. It’s fun to bring the Accord to the Adirondacks in the summertime to carve up the mountain roads, but for plowing down snow-and-ice-covered trails, you can’t beat a Jeep!
Before heading home on Monday morning, it was time for one last look at the lake and mountains.
After fighting hours worth of traffic on the New York State Thruway, we finally made it home. The Jeep was a reliable, comfortable, safe companion for our journey, and continues to impress us. Hopefully, it will also get close to 288,000 miles!
Saratoga Springs is a wonderful retreat any time of the year. The Gideon Putnam Hotel is open year round, but it definitely makes for a comfortable winter getaway. The
Roosevelt Spa, a part of the Gideon Putnam Resort, is open year round from 8:30 am – 7:00 pm for all your relaxation needs. Those more interested in automotive history can spend several hours exploring the Saratoga Automobile Museum. The museum is open from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm Wednesday through Sunday during the winter, Tuesday through Sunday during the fall and spring, and seven days a week during the summer. Admission is $8.50 for adults, $4.00 for children ages 6-16, and it is free for children below 6. Active duty military personnel, senior adults age 65+, and students age 17+ can enter for $6 as well.
Thanks for coming along on this snowy journey down the open road ahead.
‘Til next time.