Saratoga Springs is fortunate to have two lovely parks close to downtown. Historic Congress Park, opposite the Visitor Center, is the most significant and best restored green space in the city. First developed in the 1820s as a private park to sample the mineral waters, it was redesigned in the 1870s, adding Olmsted-style ponds and curving pathways to be closer to nature. At the turn of the century, Richard Canfield expanded the park by creating the Italian gardens to the northeast of the Casino. The park is also home to a 1910 carousel, carved by Marcus Illions and the only remaining intact two-row carousels in the country.
High Rock Park, a narrow grassy area at the base of a bluff, lies on the geological fault line that runs through the City. This age-old fault zigzags through a solid layer of shale, releasing mineralized water from deeper limestone beds. Here one finds two flowing springs – the Governor and the Peerless. The original spring for which the park is named is no longer running, but its medicinal properties were well known to the Mohawk Indians who passed through this pine-covered region seasonally. High Rock Park is a pleasant stroll from Congress Park and is home to the Farmers’ Market, May through October.
Also nearby is the 2,200-acre State owned Saratoga Spa State Park, a natural and cultural treasure. It offers many opportunities for recreation, including walking, swimming, playing tennis, golfing and picnicking. It features “sweet water” and naturally carbonated mineral springs throughout the grounds.
In 1935 an elegant European-style spa was officially opened to make the health-restoring waters more available to the public. Its buildings harmonized with the lovely natural surroundings, and included a pool complex, hotel (now the Gideon Putnam Hotel and Conference Center), bottling plant (now the National Automobile Museum), Hall of Springs, theater, golf course, and the Roosevelt Bathhouse where one can still soak in mineral water followed by a massage!
Several nature trails are accessible within the city limits, including Bog Meadow, Lake Lonely, Skidmore’s North Woods, Hemlock Nature Trail, and Railroad Run.