My mom and I had such a blast touring the Capital-Saratoga region this past weekend! As winner of the Greenest NYer contest, I was awarded a 3-day green getaway in NYS by Escapemaker.com. I stayed at two of the region’s Green Heart NY hotels certified green by Audubon International/Green Leaf and visited my choice of one of I LOVE NEW YORK‘s ten iconic green destinations. As you read on, you’ll see that the region offered us a very delectable experience!
My mom and I rushed to Penn Station with our overnight bags – neither of us are early birds – but arrived just in time to board on Amtrak’s Adirondack route to the Albany-Rensselaer stop. To be sure, we asked a fellow passenger if we were heading in the right direction. She told us that she made the mistake of oversleeping once and ended up in Montreal, but rest assured, she was getting off in Albany too, so we didn’t worry too much about missing our stop … we even took a nap, no shifts necessary.
In less than two hours, we found ourselves in New York State’s capital city. After checking into Albany’s 74 State Street and sampling the amenities, we took in the sights and headed to LarkFEST. Across 10 blocks down popular Lark Street, it is known as the “largest, one-day, outdoor festival in NYS” with a bunch of vendors, food, and music. We wandered around the festival and it was great to be part of such fun and excitement! Eventually, or inevitably, our tummies growled, so we stopped for lunch at Bomber’s Burrito Bar before making our way to the New York State Museum, which displayed a diverse collection on cultural and natural history. From “Native Peoples of New York” to “The World Trade Center: Rescue Recovery Response,” this Museum is a must-see for any Albany visitor. Tip: kids and adults alike would enjoy riding The Carousel near the café on the 4th floor.
After walking around all afternoon, we headed back to our hotel to freshen up for dinner. Deciding that we weren’t hungry just yet, we checked out the hotel’s bar on the 2nd floor, where I enjoyed my first-ever tiramisu martini – indeed, it tasted exactly like a tiramisu dessert, very yummy. You’d have to ask the bartender for the ingredients, but I think there was some Bailey’s…
Dinner at Marché was fantastic! Located in the back of our hotel’s lobby, this restaurant is known for its incorporation of fresh, local ingredients into its Contemporary American dishes (like its décor), and we enjoyed A LOT of dishes courtesy of the hotel and chef, including the Endive salad, French Onion Soup, New England Clam Chowder, Mini Crabcakes, Risotto du Jour, Diver Scallops, and Grilled Atlantic Salmon. To top it all off, we shared the Seasonal Fruit Crisp with peaches. We headed back upstairs for some free jazz before heading back to our rooms. All in all, it was a very productive day. You thought the dinner sounded mouthwatering, wait until you hear what we had for breakfast the next morning! Nothing like Eggs Florentine combined with Challah French Toast (with local maple syrup and vanilla bean butter churned in-house) to give us a great start to our next stop … Saratoga, here we come!
Upon arrival at the Gideon Putnam Resort in Saratoga, my mom and I dropped off our bags before making a mad dash to the legendary Roosevelt Baths & Spa so we didn’t miss our mineral bath appointment! As one of I LOVE NEW YORK’s Iconic Green Destinations, this quaint, beautiful location is suited for weddings, bachelorette parties, and pretty much any occasion you can think of.
Late afternoon, we toured downtown Saratoga Springs where I managed to take some pictures of hotspots like Congress Park, which houses its very own carousel, springs and fountains. For all you horse-racing fans out there, you’d be happy to know that there is a wide variety of horse statues scattered throughout Saratoga Springs. I managed to get a picture of one tall enough to reach my chin with some tippy-toeing action. Sadly, sitting on the statue was prohibited…
The last part of our itinerary was to stop by The Local Pub and Teahouse, where we had amazing “fish and chips” and Dundee Oktoberfest beer. We also had the pleasure of meeting owner Jonathan Haynes of the Phinney Design Group, known for its green building consulting. Jonathan informed us that there were compostable straws, organic teas, and a green roof on top of the restaurant to consider. This was icing on the cake. The cherry would have to be the parents who brought in their baby – this place welcomes people of all ages!
Our final day in the region included my visit to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve and Discovery Center, but before I go on, I have to add that my mom and I couldn’t help but have similar, amazing dishes like the day before – “Eggs Florentine” and “Cinnamon Swirl French Toast” with fresh berries and maple syrup. We soon met and thanked Executive Chef Brian Sterner for this delicious (not to mention seasonal, organic, and locally harvested – the big three!) breakfast at The Gideon Putnam’s Restaurant and Bar. I think he may have been inspired by the surrounding, hand-painted murals of the Adirondacks and Saratoga Springs by Irish painter James Reynolds – these artworks certainly enhanced our dining experience. We also had the pleasure of meeting Jim Thompson, Director of Maintenance. He told us about the resort’s GreenPath initiative, including the switch to more energy efficient light bulbs and to shuttles that rely on biodiesel.
So back to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve and Discovery Center! I learned about how the Albany Pine Bush “represents one of the best remaining examples of an inland pine barrens ecosystem in the world” and how the “wild blue lupine” wildflower is critical to the survival of the endangered Karner blue butterfly, which is part of a greater system that supports our way of life. Considered a beautiful gem and a great resource to many audiences for a number of reasons, the Albany Pine Bush Preserve is visited each year by thousands of people … and would you believe some dogs and other non-humans too?
I couldn’t help but view and snap away at the rich fall foliage and classic architecture throughout my trip. As we zoomed by the Hudson River once more to arrive at Penn Station, I realized that this was just the beginning of my mission as “The Greenest New Yorker.” For the longest time, one of my top personal goals was to explore more of New York State – I’m sure this speaks to many New Yorkers. This being my first time on Amtrak, as well as my first time in Albany and Saratoga, I couldn’t have imagined a better way to start off my journeying of NY State, and I cannot wait to write about my future travels as I embark on more green adventures through the rest of the State’s regions.
P.S. For more great travel ideas in Upstate NY, check out the Escapemaker.com website. You can search for getaway ideas by date, by distance you are willing to travel, or by destination.