Get healthy and relaxed in upstate New YorkSep 16, 2014, 5:02 PM
Saratoga Springs is famous as an elegant, upscale horse-racing town, drawing more than 100,000 fans each summer as racegoers arrive to party. But Saratoga is also great to visit when the crowds disappear after the racing season (from July 20 to Aug. 25). It’s this time that a quieter side of Saratoga Springs appears anchored around — health, wellness and beauty. It’s an ideal weekend escape, only three hours north of Manhattan.
The city has recently welcomed a slew of new spa offerings, include a just open juice bar where gorgeous young women serve shots of ginger in delicious fresh juices. There’s a new organic beauty spa where the founders make their own bespoke products — some using the spring’s famous healing waters.
Start at The Roosevelt Baths & Spa, a spa-resort first built as a huge bathhouse complex in the 1830s, where you can still soak in original deep porcelain tubs filled with fizzy mineral spring water rich in iron and magnesium. The area is known as a “place of swift water” sacred to the Native Americans. The water is said to help increase blood circulation and cell oxygenation and to eliminate toxins from the body.
The experience begins when you slip into the mineral water piped directly from a spring beneath the building. It’s mixed with hot water to bring the temperature to 97 degrees and keep carbonation at its peak.
It’s hard to stay grounded as the water makes you buoyant and blissfully relaxed. An hour later, an attendant brings in a fluffy warm towel before a spin in the the spa’s recently revamped relaxation room. It’s an energizing experience. A 40-minute mineral soak costs $35. Or, try an aromatherapy mineral bath ($40) rich with essential oils like lavender, sandalwood and rosewood for “centering and balancing” the body and mind. Spa director Kimberly Rossi says while one bath is good, three is great and 21 is the “restoration cure,” as done back in the day.
If you have time, book acupuncture or an Ayurvedic consultation. The spa is part of the Gideon Putnam Resort, and is also in the 2,300-acre Spa State Park, which includes the Saratoga Performing Arts Center — home to the New York City Ballet in the summer.
If you want to see the mineral waters up close, you can walk, talk and taste them on a new tour through the park with Trent Miller , who calls himself a “water witch.” His tour visits six or more different springs, where you can sample their waters and learn about their healing powers. He advises bringing empty jugs to take the healing waters home.
Next, head to the vibrant main shopping street and to the Saratoga Juice Bar — the town’s first! — that opened this summer and where you’ll find cold pressed fresh juices and smoothies being whipped up. Try not to be an impatient New Yorker — great juices take time — and join the laidback and friendly locals lining up for juices including the “Spirit of Life,” with cucumber, spinach, celery, apple, ginger and lemon.
When you are ready for more relaxing, head to the Saratoga Botanicals Organic Spa & Store, just opened last November by partners Nicole Fellini and Franesa Pyle, who are self-professed product snobs. “We care about everything we put in and out of our bodies and the spa really reflects that,” said Pyle. Products are made right in their studio, with essential oils and, often, plants from the Saratoga region.
The organic facials using Saratoga Springs’ healing water in the toners leave skin feeling tighter, smoother while clearing away blemishes. According to Pyle, Elizabeth Arden came to Saratoga Springs to get water from a stream called the Big Red, but she couldn’t stabilize it for her products. The stream is walking distance from the spa.The spa has three treatment rooms, and also offers facials using acupuncture. You can browse products out front, or read beauty/spa magazines at the tea bar.
Head to the recently opened Northshire Bookstore, where general manager Nancy Scheemaker oversees a wonderful shop with comfy seating designed for browsing. There’s a significant space for mind/body/spirit books, along with fitness, yoga, meditation, health and diet as well as an excellent cookbook selection.
Now that you’re hungry, go to Capriccio Saratoga on Henry Street (they’ve had another restaurant in Albany for 30 years) where owner Frank Rua uses hearty vegetables like kale and endives for salads. He also does a mouth-watering, wood-roasted leg of lamb, roasted asparagus and artichokes.
Stay at the Saratoga Hilton (from $159), right in town and walkable to shops and restaurants, and with a sun-filled floor-to-ceiling glass restaurant, The Springs, overlooking flowering gardens. The hotel is not fancy, but includes large clean rooms and free Wi-Fi.
Or make your base in the six-month oldPavilion Grand, a 48-suite hotel with full kitchens. The property takes its name from the nearby Pavilion Hotel built back in in 1819. It may now be closed, but its newer namesake is thoroughly 21st-century — and includes a juice bar and spa, that offers facials, massage and yoga. Studios from $219.