The Saratoga Traveler: Day Trips, Weekend Getaways & Hidden Gems

Kim B: June 2011 Archives

This weekend if Fourth of July which conjures up images of flags waving and fireworks bursting in air. But even after the Fourth there is still plenty of summer left. Hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, boating, hot air ballooning or parasailing there are always plenty of things to do outdoors in and around the Saratoga area.
The next big thing I'm looking forward to is Park Fest held at Gavin Park in Wilton. Park Fest will be held on July 9th. There is free admission, amusement rides for $1.00 each, eating contests, concerts, a classic car show, food and drink along with my personal favorite-- Pig Races!!

Thinking about attending Park Fest? Or been there before and can't wait for it again? Come back and tell me what you thought. I'll be sure to post my day at Park Fest with lots of photos too!

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Sundae on the Farm

Last Sunday was Father's Day and it's getting harder and harder for us to find new and interesting ways to celebrate, especially with our kids getting older. So when I heard about Sundae on the Farm I thought what an unusual way to spend Father's Day -- visiting an actual dairy farm. 

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This was the 16th annual Sundae on the Farm, this year held at Clear Echo Farm in Northumberland.  When we arrived at the farm we were loaded onto a tractor and taken across the farm field and given a brief tour of the farm's operation.  It was amazing how well these cows are treated.  Water beds, tube ventilation, milked three times a day, barn cleaned three times a day.  They must make some really good milk!!!  The event is run by volunteers from other farms in Saratoga County, which take turns hosting the event.

Here are some facts we learned on the tour:

Saratoga County has 650 family-owned farms

There is 74,800 acres of farmland in Saratoga County

25% of Saratoga County's farmland has been lost to development in the past 4 decades, the fastest rate in the Capital Region

Saratoga County farms contribute more than $100 million annually to Saratoga's economy

Saratoga County farms produce products such as milk, eggs apples, flowers, wool and vegetables.

But Sundae on the Farm isn't just about how many cows the farm has or what they eat.  It's also about teaching others about where your food comes from, how to prepare it and where to buy it locally to support farms here in Saratoga County.

There were demonstrations throughout the day of sheep shearing, goat milking, calf bottle feeding and even cooking demonstrations.  There was a farmer's market where fresh cheese, jams and other goods could be bought.  And the reason for the name -- Stewart's ice cream sundaes scooped up by the dairy princess herself!

I think the best way to sum up the day is in photos.  

Family Fun on the Farm in Photos

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Have you been to Sundae on the Farm?  Share your thoughts and experiences.  Have a unique place in Saratoga you want to share? 

DSC_0325.JPGFor me nothing beats free and believe or not I've come up with some pretty good free deals right here in Saratoga. So whether you live here or are visiting here and are looking for some fun, family friendly free things to do -- I just you covered!



1. Tours of the Oklahoma Track
The Oklahoma Track is where the horses exercise during the season and is part of the Saratoga Racecourse. The tour is led by Tom Gallo and sponsored by the Parting Glass Restaurant. They meet at 8 a.m. and will give a tour of the backstretch area where you will be introduced to some legendary horses and trainers while watching these amazing animals "workout". It's a great way and FREE way to get a behind the scenes look at horse racing, owning and training. You never know, you just might pick up a tip to use if you bet during the season. Reservations are required and can be made by either calling or emailing the Parting Glass.
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2.  Breakfast at the Track
One of the best parts of track season, at least for me, is Breakfast at the Track.  There are no crowds, you're able to roam the track and get up close and personal with the horses and admission is free.  Even though there is a charge for the breakfast buffet ($14.95 for adults and $7.95 for children 3-12), a tram tour of the backstretch area, watching the Paddock Show and a Starting Gate Demonstration are available after breakfast and are all free.

3.  Parks
There are several parks in the Saratoga area among those are Congress Park, Camp Saratoga and Adirondack State Park.  
Congress Park
 has a great history and even though admission to the park --it's statues, walking areas, fountains and lush picnic areas -- is free, within the park is The Canfield Casino and the Carousel, both of which have admission fees.

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Pack a picnic lunch and spread a blanket on the ground, enjoy the shade of a tree and people watch.  Or attend some of the free events that the park hosts like concerts and art shows.
Camp Saratoga
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With walking trails, a fishing pond and BBQ area Camp Saratoga might be one of the best kept secrets in the Saratoga area.  Located in Wilton, Camp Saratoga allows trout fishing in Delegan Pond from April 1st to July 1st for those 16 and under.  After July 1st adults can fish until October 
1st.  There is no cost to fish as long as you have a valid NYS fishing license and 2 fish can be kept.
Adirondack State Park
 is over 6 million acres with picnic areas and scenic drives.  More on that later.

4.  Walking Trails
I was surprised at how many walking trails there are in the Saratoga area.  I'm sure I've only discovered a fraction of them.  This past Saturday we ventured out to Camp Saratoga, Opdahl Farm and Louden trail all in Wilton, took a long walk and lots photos.  Opdahl Farm is home of the Karner Blue butterfly, a rare and endangered butterfly.  They're very small and not easy to see so be sure to keep an eye out for them on the path and in the fields.  Louden Trail is near Wilton Mall with parking on Louden Road.  It was hard to imagine a pine needle lined path that winds its way through the woods so close to the mall.
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Here's a tip:  if you're going to be walking on any of these trails be sure to wear the proper clothing and shoes, they maybe walking trails and even though they are well maintained there still might a few tree roots or stones on the paths.  And very important: use bug spray.  More than likely there will be many, many mosquitoes.
Not into walking trails?  Then you can try an early morning or an evening walk at Wilton Mall, inside and air conditioned for those days when it's too hot to walk outside, and while your there you can window shop....which leads me to my next free activity.

5.  Window shopping  
Broadway in downtown Saratoga Springs is the perfect small town street for window shopping.  The landscape is changing with new and unique shops opening.  You can stroll down the street from one unique shop to another and even though you might be tempted to drop some cash in one or more, you can get away completely free including parking and still have a nice walk, especially if you include a stroll through Congress Park.  While downtown checking out the windows, don't forget to look up and take in some of the amazing architecture that can be found on Broadway -- Greek Revival, Late Victorian and Classical Revival from 1800-1899.
Wilton Mall also provides an opportunity to window shop with too many stores to mention.  Walk from store to store and price items then come back when you're ready to buy.

6. Fishing Spots

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There is no doubt that Saratoga Springs and the surrounding area is full of lakes, streams, creeks and ponds but some, well most, are on private property and don't offer public access for fishrmen.  But if you know where to look you can find a fishing spot that might be secluded enough for you to catch "the big one."  As I mentioned before Delegan Pond at Camp Saratoga offers free trout fishing and is a lovely spot to spend an afternoon.  Ballston Lake also offers a fishing pier, free of charge.  There are many spots along the Kaydeross Creek that offer public access along with walking trails and scenic spots. The Hudson River offers several public fishing spots, although it can prove rather difficult with boaters on the water churning it up.  There is one spot (that I want to keep secret) that my husband and I love on the Hudson.  We try to go on a weeknight when there aren't any crowds (or really any people at all) since it seems to be a popular spot on the weekends.  Round Lake also has free public access for fishing but can be a popular spot since it's appropriate for families with young children.  I'm sure there are other free fishing spots...so if you care to share I'd be happy to find more.

7. Kayak and Canoe Put in Access
Just like fishing in Saratoga (and surrounding areas) there are many places to put in a kayak or canoe.  Ballston Lake and Round Lake are both good areas, along with several places along the Hudson River.  The Kaydeross Creek offers put in spots but if there hasn't been much rain the creek might actually be too low to kayak or canoe in, same for the Battenkill.

8.  Historic Sites
Here are a two examples of historic sites that can be visited for free:
The Drinkhall also known as the Saratoga Visitor's Center, listed on the Register of Historic Places in 1974.
The Gideon Putnam Burying Ground located on Franklin St., listed on the Register of Historic Places in 2003.
Although other historical sites might be on private property there will still be markers with information about what happened and who was involved.  This is a small sampling:
General Henry Knox Trail in Bemis Heights at the intersection of US 4 and NY Rte 32.
Colonel Ellsworth, Lincoln's first law clerk burial spot, located at Central Ave South and South Street in Mechanicville.
The 77th Regiment NY Volunteers marker located in Congress Park
Site of Camp of General Burgoyne located in Schuylerville on Spring Street
The Surrender Tree located in Fort Hardy Park on Ferry St in Schuylerville
British Army Grounded Arms is at the entrance of Fort Hardy Park
You can't deny that this area of Upstate NY is filled with history -- battlefields, markers and cemeteries making it an easy and fun way to walk on some of the same ground that was walked by those who've only read about in history books.

9.  Scenic Drives

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When we first moved to Saratoga we took a few weekends and evenings to just orientate ourselves to the area and what we found was a place that was dotted with farms, babbling brooks, creeks and magnificent scenery all around.  Now I know that a drive isn't really free (cost of gas has to count for something) but if you're looking for some stunning scenery to photograph or maybe a hidden place to have a picnic then hop in the car and drive.  I promise you won't be disappointed.  A sure fire scenic drive is through the Adirondack State Park -- all six million acres of it.  Rte 28 is a popular road that goes through the park and through small towns and past pristine lakes.  The Adirondack Scenic Byway offers three scenic drives, one on the Adirondack Trail; which runs through the center of the park and has an interpretive center and let's you take in some spectacular scenery at Tupper Lake, Blue Mountain and Indian Lake.  The second is The Adirondack Central Trail which starts above the Hudson River in Glens Falls where you will travel the north end of Lake George along the 32 mile length then up into the mountains.  The third is the Olympic Byway which runs past Whiteface Mountain and along the Ausable River to the Olympic Village in Lake Placid.  This route joins the Seaway Trail near Sacketts Harbor on Lake Ontario

10.  Tour of Springs
A trip to Saratoga Springs wouldn't be complete without a tour of the 17 mineral springs that make up Saratoga Springs.  Each one has it's own unique flavor and mineral content.  For a self guided tour visit the Visitor's Center for a map and brochure and don't forget to bring your cup.

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So that's it.  My top 10 free things to do in Saratoga and the surrounding areas.  Hope one them sparks your interest enough that you want to try it.  Have other ideas for free fun?  Feel free to share.  After all, nothing beats free!

The Battle of Saratoga was one the most historically important battles of the American Revolution and a turning point in the life of Benedict Arnold. Within the park there are 4 sites that proved to be crucial in the fight for American Independence -- The Battlefield, The Schuyler House, The Saratoga Monument and Victory Woods and today admission is free.
So come and learn about the significance of Saratoga in the fight for American Independence.

Happy Father's Day

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I wanted to wish all the father's out there a Happy Father's Day!
We are off to Schuylerville to Clear Echo Farm, free farm tours and ice cream -- what could be better??

So what are your plans?

Park Fest 2011

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I just found a brochure for this year's Park Fest and it looks like it's going to be a good time.

*FREE CONCERTS by Soul Session, Zucchini Brothers and the Tequila Mockingbirds.
EXOTIC ANIMALS to be featured including red fox, baboon, large red tailed boa and others in an petting zoo.
*ICE CREAM EATING CONTEST sponsored by Ben and Jerry's for ages 5-8, 9-12 and 13 & up. Prizes and ribbons for the winners.
*CLASSIC CAR SHOW with trophies and prizes.
*PIG RACES -- Tons of fun watching piggies run around a track, snorting and squealing. (5 shows)
*CRAFT FAIR--Lots of handmade and homemade items from jewelry to food.
* BLUEBERRY PIE CONTEST-- Bake a great pie? Enter to win the Blueberry Pie contest. The first 10 pies entered in each age group will be used for judging.
*1K & 5K RUN-- The 1K will be held at 11 am for runner ages 6-13 and the 5K will be at noon for ages 14 and up. The first three finishers in each category will be awarded prizes.
And to top it all off there will be fireworks at dusk!
This is just a sampling of some of the the fun that will be at Park Fest.
Park Fest will be held on July 9th at Gavin Park on Jones Rd. And it's free admission.

Hope to see you there!!

We had an entire day to explore Vermont last Saturday.  We drove across the border and entered at Arlington, a picturesque village with lots of opportunities to take photos.  First we stopped at a local cemetery.  It might sound morbid but I like taking photos at cemeteries...they are full of history and local lore, not to mention peaceful.  

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Okay, so it sounds a little Halloween like but there is something fascinating about a cemetery... you can learn so much about a town just by walking through and towns in New England have some of the oldest cemeteries in the U.S.  The symbols on the headstones tell the story of the deceased person.  The Puritans didn't believe in religious symbols so they would put carvings on the headstones like angels or skulls that would represent the soul going to heaven.
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This photo is of a headstone with an angel on it.

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This photo shows a headstone with a skull on it (the one with the flag in front of it)


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This headstone has an urn on it symbolizes the person being taken to heaven, behind it is a headstone with the Mason symbol.


Taking a tour of a local cemetery will give you insights into some history of the town -- what types of people lived there, their religions, stations in life or how they died -- all from a headstone. So don't be afraid to stop at a cemetery that you come across.  Walk the grounds, read the headstones and get a mini history lesson.

We headed a little further through Arlington and came across a covered bridge.
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This was a covered bridge that you drive across, once across there is a park and the town grange.
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Covered bridges are all over Vermont and always make for great photo opps.  It was the first time that we drove across a covered bridge.  The park made a nice spot to stretch our legs and get some more great photos.  If we had licenses we might have tried to do a little fishing.
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We drove further and met with road construction that caused a detour.  When you come to something like this and you have no idea where you are, it makes for a nice distraction and more than likely you won't get lost.  With this detour we ended up in Manchester, another quaint New England town known for its shopping outlets.  We stopped at what used to be the grist mill, which is in the middle of the shopping outlets.  Another peaceful spot to take some photos.
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Manchester looks like a nice walking town so if you want to take in some of the world class shopping like Michael Kors, Betsy Johnson or any of the many shops just find a place to park and walk from one to the next.

It was a glorious weekend for camping -- clear skies, cool temperatures and light breeze, which is also the perfect kind of day for a hot air balloon ride. Lake Lauderdale Campground in Cambridge NY hosted the 5th annual Hot Air Ballon Weekend in conjunction with the Cambridge Balloon Festival. The skies over Cambridge filled with balloons but we had a more personal encounter. At the campground balloon pilots set up and took off from the field which was just behind our campsite. Capt. Mike from Carried Away Balloon Flights offered a Saturday morning flight and evening flight and a morning flight on Sunday.

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Saturday night was the highlight of the "balloon weekend". Once it got dark then the fun really started with something called "Moon Glow".  A trailer was set up with sound equipment for music (good music too!) and a basket with a burner was just outside the trailer.  In the field were two hot air balloons.  As the sun started to set the balloons were slowly filled with air by the light of the burner in the basket.  As it got darker the burner was lit up so that the rising balloons could be seen.
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After the balloons were inflated then their burners were hit randomly in something called a "twinkle" so that pictures could be taken.  It was spectacular -- the light of the burners ripping through the night sky to reveal the colorful balloons. What a incredible way to end a fabulous weekend.
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Lake Lauderdale Campground is located in Cambridge NY about 45 minutes from Saratoga and near the Vermont border.

P6050041.JPGA small campground with large sites which is family and pet friendly. 

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 The sites include seasonal as well as daily sites. The site we had was was on a  corner near the entrance and across from the office. It was a very large site, which was good because it was close to the office/store and recreational area but bad because people camping on the hill behind us kept cutting through our site. Our camp site was also across from the playground -- again good and bad since sound travels across the open ground and we could hear the children playing and then crying when it was time to go home.

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The office also holds the camp store that has a variety of many but just a few of each thing and the prices were very good I thought.  We bought candy bars for our camper pies and they 
were $1 each as was the Klondike ice cream bars and no tax.  Adjoined to the store is the recreation room with a big screen T.V., ping pong and other games.  Even though Lake Lauderdale is nearby most of the access is private so it's difficult to find a spot to fish or put in a kayak.  But a little further is Dead Lake and I did see of a couple of places with access to fishing.  There really isn't much to do at the campground for adults but sit around the campfire.  It's really more of a family campground, but makes for a nice spot that is close to Vermont for a day trip.
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About an hour's drive from Saratoga Springs is the village of Sharon Springs, a farm town with beautiful rolling hills, green mountains with spectacular views and a surprisingly vibrant downtown. It was a glorious day with temperatures in the 80's, blue skies and billowy white clouds. When we got the there around 11:30 on Sunday the Garden Festival (which was one reason we came to Sharon Springs) was in full swing.

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As we drove into town all the familiar landmarks from "The Fabulous Beekman Boys" (the main reason we came to Sharon Springs) greeted us -- The Beekman 1802 Mercantile, The American Hotel and the Black Cat Cafe all featured on the show.  We drove past the Mercantile and saw Brent standing on the front porch, greeting patrons and engaging them in conversation.  I was a little surprised and excited, I might actually get to meet one of the Fabulous ones!  After finding a parking place, which was surprisingly easy to do, we walked up the sidewalk toward the Beekman. It was a much smaller store than I expected but filled with all the familiar items from the show.
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A Year Of Sacrifice
For those of you not familiar with the show "the Fabulous Beekman Boys" on Planet Green here's a little background. It's basically a fish out of water story of 2 city boys who move to the country here in Upstate NY and start a goat farm.  But it's also much more than that.  The show chronicles their ups and downs, not only with making a go of it on the farm, but also what this endeavor does to their relationship. Brent lives on the farm full time while Josh works in Manhattan during the week.  Their goal is make a million dollars during what they term their "year of sacrifice" which has now turned into two years.
One Hundred Percent Chemical Free and Handmade
We had ordered soap for my mother in law for Christmas and she raved about it so I wanted some for myself.  All the soap made at the Beekman Mansion is 100% chemical free and handmade from the goat milk gathered from the goats on the Beekman farm. The scents are representative of different seasons on the farm and for every month of the year and range from floral to more spicy.  I chose Summer which comes in a large bar and has an herbal scent and June which has the scent of mock orange.

I also picked up a housewarming gift for a friend.

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Then it was over to the cajeta, a spicy, sweet caramel sauce made with goat's milk that comes in mild and habanero -- we decided on the milder version after trying a sample.  My husband couldn't wait to try it on some ice cream with bananas, which he said was amazing.  Since we've bought it I'm trying to come up with new ways to use it.  Maybe as a drizzle over brownies or truffles or even in a sweet and savory sauce for chicken.  I'll just have to experiment.
We also decided on some heirloom tomato seeds from Landreth, the oldest seed company in America.  We've already got a garden started and usually have too many tomato plants but the varieties sounded so interesting that had to give it a try.
We got in line to pay for our choices when we were greeted by Maria.
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 "You two have been here before."she said.  "No, first time." we said.  She gave us both hugs.  "Well, I love your color coordinated shirts!"
We told her that we are ardent fans of the show and she said that the third season was in jeopardy, and they are not sure if they do have another season if it will be on Planet Green.  We paid for our purchases and headed outside to see if we would be able to have a chat with Brent.  He was warm and approachable.  I mentioned to him that I write a blog for saratoga.com and gave him a business card.  "We've spoken online," he said.  I have to admit I was surprised and touched that he remembered.   We chatted briefly and he wanted to see what we bought inside.  I told him I bought a "summer" soap for a friend who is having a housewarming and he offered to sign the wrapper.  He also shared a little secret to make the soap last longer -- cut off a small piece and keep the rest of the bar out of the water and it will last up to two months.  He then posed for a picture (I do not like having my picture taken but I had to -- it was Brent after all!)
P5290075.JPGDuring our conversation he remarked how much he loves Saratoga Springs, especially downtown.  I told him if they are ever in town let me know so we can meet up.  I mentioned that I saw a photo of the baby chicks on the farm.  He asked if we went on the farm tour and I told him not this time.  He said to be sure to get farm tour tickets for the Harvest Festival in September.


Beekman Mansion circa 1802

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The Beekman farm is visible from Rt 10 which we realized when we saw a line of cars in front of it.  Josh was in charge of giving tours of the farm (we will be sure to get tickets for Harvest Festival so I can meet the other "fabulous" one), which included the barn full of chicks and goats and of course the famous (or infamous) Polkaspot the llama.  I guess we'll have to wait until September for the full report.
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If you're thinking of taking a drive out to Sharon Springs or stopping on your way to Glimmerglass State Park or Cooperstown then try these directions:  From Saratoga take Rte 29 West through Broadalbin and Galway. Turn left (south) at Johnstown on 30A, then head for Rte 5 at Fonda.  Turn right and take Rte 5 west along the Mohawk River and into the town of Palatine Bridge.  Turn left onto Rte 10, go through Canajoharie and follow it into Sharon Springs. From the Albany area, take I-90 west to Canajoharie, and turn south on Rt 10.
You will be met with spectacular scenery and many points of interest to stop at along the way.  Take a day trip through the Leatherstocking region of New York and reward yourself with some goat's milk soap.  How could that be baaad?

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Kim Bernard

Moved to Saratoga from St Louis MO (home of The Gateway Arch, Baseball Cardinals and of course Anheuser-Busch) with my family for my husband's job. In the last 2 1/2 years we've had the opportunity to explore and discover day trips, hidden gems, along with some of the most beautiful, historic, interesting and curious places in New England. So come with me and look through a Midwesterner's eyes at Saratoga and beyond. I hope you enjoy your adventures and feel free to share yours and together we can feed our travel bug!