Winter Fun in the Capital-Saratoga Region

Winter is here, and with it comes a plethora of activities that make the Capital-Saratoga region of New York a great place for a getaway! Summer lakes become ice rinks, hiking trails turn into cross country skiing hotspots, downtown storefronts open their door for foodie festivals, and historic plazas transform into winter hubs of activity. If you would rather be indoors, there's also world-class theater, exhibits, music, and food. So bust out your winter coat, hop on Amtrak and head to the Capital-Saratoga region to check out these winter-inspired ways to have fun:

Empire Plaza Ice Rink | Photo Courtesy of New York State

Friends and family gather at the Empire Plaza Ice Rink in downtown Albany. | Photo Courtesy of New York State

Get Outdoors!

Empire State Plaza Ice Rink

Whether beneath the warm, afternoon sun or under a starry night sky, ice skating with family and friends is one of winters iconic activities, however lacing up on a frozen lake might not be prudent. Instead, the Empire State Plaza Ice Rink in downtown Albany offers public ice skating in a unique setting from the beginning of December through the end of March. And it’s free!

Located steps from the New York State Capitol, skaters enjoy views of The Egg performing arts center and New York State Museum while gliding through Empire State Plaza to music. At night, a state-of-the-art lighting system illuminates the rink.

The staff regularly holds clinics to teach people how to skate and how to play hockey, also free of charge.

After skating, you can warm up at the full-service snack bar, open Friday nights and weekends. Other amenities include 25¢ lockers and inexpensive skate rentals. Rentals are available whenever the rink is open: $4.00 for adults, and $3.00 for children ages 12 and under. A photo ID is required to rent skates. Rentals are free on Saturday’s courtesy of Hannaford Supermarkets.

Empire State Plaza Ice Rink is open daily from 12 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (weather dependent).

Horse Drawn Sleigh Rides at Lapland Lake. | Photo Courtesy of Adirondacks.net

Horse Drawn Sleigh Rides at Lapland Lake. | Photo Courtesy of Adirondacks.net

Horse Drawn Sleigh Rides at Lapland Lake

Not a skater? There’s no skill required when it comes to enjoying a horse-drawn sleigh ride at Lapland Lake. The relaxing, 30-minute ride takes passengers along scenic, private roads from the Nordic Vacation Center’s main lodge to tranquil Woods Lake.

Back at the lodge, you can enjoy activities like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing on the woodland trail system designed by former Olympic skier, Olavi Hirvonen, or take advantage of the wood-burning sauna. Kids will love Lapland Lake’s junior tubing hill, ice skating pond and illuminated night skiing.

Tickets for sleigh rides are $25 for adults and $15 for children, ages 4 to 14. Children, ages 3 and under, are free with a parent. Tickets may be purchased online in advance (recommended) or onsite the day of your visit (subject to availability). A $5-per-person discount is available for lodging guests, season’s passholders and with the purchase of a regular Lapland Lake facility-use pass. Private sleigh rides for up to 10 people may be reserved by telephone at 518-863-4974.

Horse Drawn Sleigh Rides at Lapland Lake are planned for December 28, 2019, and January 4 and 18, 2020.

The Polar Plunge at Grafton Lakes Winter Festival. | Photo Courtesy of Sébastien Barré

The Polar Plunge at Grafton Lakes Winter Festival. | Photo Courtesy of Sébastien Barré

35 Annual Grafton Lakes Winter Fest

The Grafton Lakes Winter Fest at Grafton Lakes State Park is a family-friendly festival overflowing with fun things to do on snow and ice. The festival includes a polar plunge into Long Pond, free snowmobile rides with the Grafton Trail Blazers, ice rescue demonstrations, horse-drawn carriage rides, snowshoe races, hikes from the LL Bean Tent, and a snowball throwing contest. If you need to warm up, you can also explore the exhibits in the Welcome Center & Beach Nature Center.

Grafton Lakes Winter Fest is Saturday, January 25, 2020, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Snow or no snow, it’s a go.

Saratoga Chowderfest. | Photo Courtesy Gail Stein, Frozen Moments in and Around Saratoga

Patrons line up for tastings at Saratoga Chowderfest. | Photo Courtesy Gail Stein, Frozen Moments in and Around Saratoga

Saratoga Chowderfest

The Saratoga Chowderfest is one of the area’s most anticipated events of the year and the perfect activity on a cold winter’s day. Visitors stroll through downtown Saratoga, sampling a variety of chowder concoctions from participating restaurants. Over 80 super soup chefs participate, including those from Saratoga County’s best restaurants and caterers.

After tasting whichever the delicious, unique chowders appeal to you, for only $1.00 per cup, you can vote for your favorite! To participate, pick up a ballot from any participating restaurant or print one from the Saratoga Chowderfest website. Vote for your favorites at DiscoverSaratoga.org/Vote, or drop off your ballot at the Saratoga Springs Heritage Area Visitor Center or the gallery at the Saratoga Springs City Center by 5:00 p.m. on the day of the Chowderfest. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony at the Saratoga Springs Heritage Area Visitor Center at 6:30 p.m.

Aside from the many choices of chowder, the festival also features live music [what kind?] and family-friendly activities.

The 2020 Saratoga Chowderfest is Saturday, February 1, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Proctors Theatre marquee. | Photo Courtesy of Andrew Shinn

The marquee at Proctors Theatre. | Photo Courtesy of Andrew Shinn

Stay Warm!

Proctors Theatre

The Capital-Saratoga Region’s hub for Broadway shows, film festivals and special events, Proctors Theatre began as a vaudeville house in the early 20th century. Inside, the original MainStage theater, with its Italian baroque-style and Egyptian-influenced architecture, is worth a visit just to see its elaborate design. In 2003, Proctors added the adjoining, 434-seat GE Theatre; launched Marquee Power, making it the only performing arts center in the country to heat and cool itself and surrounding properties; and opened the Apostrophe Cafe, named for the lack of an apostrophe in the theater’s name. It also houses the Schenectady Heritage Area Visitors Center.

This winter, the fantastic line up at Proctors Theatre is sure to warm you:

  • 2019 NY Cat Film Festival
    GE Theatre at Proctors
    Jan 4, 2020
  • Simon and Garfunkel Story
    MainStage at Proctors
    Jan 10, 2020
  • Taimane
    GE Theatre at Proctors
    Jan 11, 2020
  • Your Best One
    Proctors Theatre
    Jan 17 – Feb 09, 2020
  • Once on This Island
    MainStage at Proctors
    Jan 17 – Jan 18, 2020
  • We Shall Overcome
    MainStage at Proctors
    Jan 19, 2020
  • Shen Yun
    MainStage at Proctors
    Jan 21 – Jan 22, 2020
  • Color Out of Space
    GE Theatre at Proctors
    Jan 22, 2020
  • National Geographic Live – Spinosaurus: Lost Giant of the Cretaceous
    MainStage at Proctors
    Jan 23, 2020
  • Road
    MainStage at Proctors
    Jan 25, 2020
  • Pretty Much the Best Comedy Show – Jan 2020
    Proctors Theatre
    Jan 25, 2020
  • Mandy Patinkin in Concert: Diaries w. Adam Ben-David on Piano
    MainStage at Proctors
    Jan 31, 2020
  • NY Dog Film Festival (2019)
    GE Theatre at Proctors
    Feb 1, 2020
  • Dinosaur World Live
    MainStage at Proctors
    Feb 2, 2020
  • The New Colossus
    MainStage at Proctors
    Feb 7 – Feb 8, 2020
  • The Doors: Break On Thru – A Celebration of Ray Manzarek
    The Addy at Proctors
    Feb 12, 2020
  • Fiddler on the Roof
    MainStage at Proctors
    Feb 18 – Feb 23, 2020
  • Mummenschanz: You & Me
    MainStage at Proctors
    Feb 26, 2020
  • National Geographic Live – Coral Kingdoms and Empires of Ice
    MainStage at Proctors
    Feb 27, 2020
  • Passport Series: Altan
    GE Theatre at Proctors
    Feb 27, 2020
  • Blue Man Group Speechless
    MainStage at Proctors
    Feb 28 – Mar 1, 2020

Take Amtrak to the Capital-Saratoga Region

Take Amtrak to Albany-Rensselaer Station (ALB). Use Amtrak’s See New York and Save 15% Discount! Weekday (13) and weekend (11) trains operate from New York-Penn Station (NYP) to ALB, about 2.5 hours. Four trains run daily from Niagara Falls, New York (NFL) to ALB, about 6 hours. ALB is also reachable daily by Amtrak service from Chicago (Lake Shore Limited), Toronto (Maple-Leaf), Montréal (Adirondack) and Rutland (Ethan Allen).

Pick up your Enterprise Rent-a-Car at ALB. Use the code, NYTRAIN, for a discount when making your reservation. Click here to reserve your rental car, or call Enterprises Albany-Rensselaer office at 518-427-3893.

From ALB, drive 2.3 miles to Empire State Plaza Ice Rink. Rideshare is also available. Grafton Lakes Winter Fest is 21.9 miles from ALB.

From ALB, drive 36 miles to Saratoga Chowderfest, or take Amtrak to Saratoga Springs Station (SAR). Enterprise Rent-a-Car will pick you up at the station and take you to your rental car. Call 518-587-0687, to reserve a car and to arrange a pick-up.

From ALB, drive 68 miles to Lapland Lake, or take Amtrak to Amsterdam Station (AMS). Enterprise Rent-a-Car will pick you at the station and take you to your rental car. Call 518-843-8535, to reserve a car and to arrange a pick-up.

From ALB, drive 20 miles to Proctors Theatre, or take Amtrak to Schenectady Station (SDY). Enterprise Rent-a-Car will pick you up at the station and take you to your rental car. Call 518-374-7890, to reserve a car and to arrange a pick-up.

Where to Eat in the Capital-Saratoga Region

AFrey_Capital-Saratoga Region - Wolff's Biergarten, Restaurant Interior

Wolffs Biergarten

895 Broadway, Albany, NY 12207

Authentic German beer garden and Wurst Haus (sausage house). German fare. Dartboards. Endless, free peanuts. Enjoy a soccer match. Oktoberfest Block Party.

AFrey_Capital-Saratoga Region - Lanzi's on the Lake, Lake Chicken meal while overlooking Lake Sacandaga

Lanzis On the Lake

1751 NY-30, Mayfield, NY 12117

Upscale Italian restaurant. Floor-to-ceiling windows. Expansive, waterfront deck-seating with a spectacular view of Great Sacandaga Lake.

AFrey_Capital-Saratoga Region - Sweet Mimi's Cafe & Bakery, Challah French toast

Sweet Mimis Cafe & Bakery

47 Phila St, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

The best breakfast in Saratoga Springs! Cozy atmosphere. Seasonal specials. Artful display of homemade baked goods.

Lo Porto's Ristorante Caffe, Ziti Con Cozze_Capital-Saratoga Region

LoPorto Ristorante Caffe

1751 85 4th St, Troy, NY 12180

Wide selection of gourmet dishes for a drop-in lunch or a fine dining experience in the evening.

AFrey_Capital-Saratoga Region - The Anvil Inn Restaurant, Seafood Pesto Alfredo

Anvil Inn

67 Broadway, Fort Edward, NY 12828

Located in an 1840s blacksmith shop. Italian and American menu with items such as pasta, Alfredo, and seafood dishes.

Where to Stay in the Capital-Saratoga Region

AFrey_Capital-Saratoga Region - The Saratoga Downtowner, Inside the courtyard lounge

The Downtowner

413 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

A stylish, modern hotel located in the heart of downtown Saratoga Springs. Loft-like rooms with a minimalist aesthetic. The perfect base for exploring the area and for walkable nightlife.

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