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Saratoga & Schenectady

Saratoga Springs retains the luster that made it a Gilded Age mecca.

Saratoga Springs hasn't lost any of the luster that made it a Gilded Age mecca for high rollers and glitterati. In fact, it's added a whole new level of accessible and very civilized charm.

When the thoroughbreds are running in August, at the nation's oldest racetrack, every day — and night — seems like a carnival. You can breakfast at the track, dining by the rail while the steeds are exercised. Or head across the street before post time to be dazzled by the display of colorful silks worn by renowned jockeys on display at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

World-class horse racing at the Saratoga Racetrack.

There's more to Saratoga than racing or wagering. Its beautiful downtown (winner of the National Historic Trust's Main Street Award) is filled with fascinating shops, restaurants, charming architecture and coffeehouses to sit in and watch it all. Just outside the city is Saratoga Spa State Park, 2,200 acres of swimming, golf, tennis and trails.

Nearby Saratoga National Historic Park honors the crucial Battle of Saratoga.

The Saratoga Performing Arts Center holds sway in summer. Get a seat in the Amphitheatre or bring a blanket and listen beneath the stars to the best in classical, pop, and jazz. There are two bathhouses in the Park, where you can relax in the mineral waters and understand what's lured people to the area for over 300 years. The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore college, fills out the culture quotient with exhibits of contemporary art in all its guises.

Though there's no racing, the city of Schenectady, located on the Mohawk River, holds its own in historic importance. The downtown Historic Stockade District, filled with a fine collection of 18th- and 19th-century homes, is worth a long stroll. On a more contemporary note, the beautifully restored Proctor's Theatre, a famous vaudeville house in its day, is the place for "direct from Broadway" musicals and A-list entertainments.