SARATOGA SPRINGS — Entertainment and racing industry officials say Saratoga Springs is headed for a busy season as they discuss what to expect this summer and tips for making the most of it.
Elizabeth Sobol, president of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, said attendance at the Freihofer Jazz Festival was up, along with ballot and orchestra ticket numbers. Sales of Live Nation concerts are also doing well, she said.
Tom Bellhouse, executive director of West Point Thoroughbreds, said he expected 2023 to be “breaking records” and at “record highs”.
Officials say there is so much to look forward to this summer.
One of the big things to remember this summer is that Saratoga Springs is not only a city of health, history and horses, but also a cultural tourist destination, Sobol said. The SPAC’s summer season kicks off this weekend with concerts by TLC and Shaggy and Dead and Company.
Beyond that, Sobol said the traditional event she’s looking forward to this summer is the Saratoga Jazz Festival in Freihofer, June 24-25.
“It’s an iconic festival that’s constantly reinventing itself and attracting amazing artists,” she said.
She said it was one of the longest running jazz festivals in North America.
The New York City Ballot and the Philadelphia Orchestra will also return.
The season at Saratoga Racetrack begins July 13.
“When I first moved here, I realized it wasn’t a state holiday because everyone I knew across the state was there,” Bellhouse said. “It’s something we’re looking forward to, and it’s something that’s been circled on pretty much everyone’s calendar ahead of time.”
Najja Thompson, executive director of New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc., said his favorite tradition is when the announcer and crowd say “they’re off at Saratoga” after the first game announcement.
“It was a magical moment to hear 35,000 people in unison and so excited to get the conference started,” he said.
Skip Carlson, vice president of external affairs for the Saratoga Casino Hotel, said he is looking forward to the Aug. 2 Saratoga Hospital Gala, which he calls one of the city’s best summer networking events.
“A thousand of your best friends so you can meet people you know,” he said. “It’s just across the street. We’re hosting it in a huge tent on the football field.”
Overall, officials are expecting a record-breaking season — from huge crowds at the track to huge numbers of participants in SPACs and across the city.
The panelists also suggested people check out the many other places and things to do in Saratoga Springs, including various restaurants around the city.
“Our neighborhood is full of hidden gems, with so many restaurants and shops, and the best advice I can give people is to get off the beaten path,” Bellhouse said.
Sobol said people should check out Caffè Lena, which attracts many different artists throughout the season.
On the track, Thompson said, people can see another side of the car by taking a breeding tour on the farm. The tour includes a breakfast buffet, the opportunity to watch morning training, and a chance to visit one of the stud farms.
He also said the National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame would host an exhibit to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Secretariat’s Triple Crown. Additionally, he recommends that people browse the farmers market before visiting the Whitney Observation Deck when visiting the area.
Officials are also advising people to make hotel and restaurant reservations now if they haven’t already, as everything will be booked up quickly.
“If you have friends or family coming to Saratoga in July or August and they haven’t booked a hotel yet, tell them to book now because this town is really getting booked up,” Carlson said.
He also said that 80 percent of hotel rooms are sold out on weekdays. Over the weekend, that number jumped to 95%.
Sobol also said Saratoga Springs is great for cycling and encouraged visitors to bring their own bikes.
Contact reporter Shenandoah Briere [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @ByBriere.