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Top 10 Things to Do in Saratoga for the Holidays

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Top 10 Things to Do in Saratoga for the Holidays

Saratoga Holiday Events: Puppets, Trees, Food, Wine, Santa and Some Great Holiday Shopping

A lot of the holiday happenings around Saratoga are age-old traditions. It’s only natural that a city full of history would celebrate the holiday season in such a way. Whether time-honored or new, Saratoga has all the makings of a magical holiday season. Here’s our picks for the Top 10 Things to Do for the Holidays in Saratoga.

Saratoga Festival of Trees1. Saratoga Festival of Trees

Kicking off the holiday season is Saratoga’s annual Festival of Trees. Beginning November 30 at the new Saratoga Springs City Center, for five festive days, guests will be privy to 250 beautifully decorated trees, wreaths and centerpieces, as well as browse holiday items available for purchase to make your own home a winter wonderland. A preview reception, Unwrap the Magic will be held on the 30th and is a great way to beat the crowds and donate to a good cause. The preview reception is geared towards adults, with live entertainment and appetizers and wine provided by Longfellows and Olde Bryan Inn. The festival runs Nov 30-Dec 4. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for seniors and $3 children over age of 10. Click here for more info on the Saratoga Festival of Trees.

2. Victorian Street Walk

The Victorian Street Walk is an annual tradition held each Thursday after Thanksgiving. Saratoga closes down traffic on Broadway and transforms the main strip into a Victorian, winter wonderland. Blanketed in lights, wreaths and other festive decor, as you walk up and down the sidewalks, you’ll be met with carolers dressed in period costumes and other street performers, like magicians and musicians. Santa will be setting up shop in his very own special cottage with his real-life reindeer, welcoming visits from the local children. Free hot beverages and treats will be served to keep everyone warm and full of the holiday spirit. Enjoy the nightly stroll December 1 from 6pm-8pm. For more info on the event, visit

3. Saratoga-North Creek Railway’s Polar Express

While a lot of these events seem to be made for children, adults themselves shouldn’t be shy, since something about Christmas brings out the kid in all of us. Like the Nutcracker, the Polar Express is a story synonymous with the holiday season. This November 18-December 28, the Polar Express will be brought to life aboard the Saratoga Railway. Meet Santa, and enjoy caroling, hot cocoa and a round-trip journey to the railway’s own North Pole. On the way to the North Pole, the book’s characters (like the elves, Santa and the memorable conductor) will greet you and keep you company along the way. Trains leave the station at 6pm and 8pm and ticket prices vary by seating—coach, lower and upper dome. To purchase tickets and for full event info, visit

Saratoga Candlelight Tour4. 22nd Annual Candlelight House Tour

The 22nd Annual Candlelight House Tour will take you through the festively decorated homes in and around the Fifth Avenue & Phila Street neighborhoods. I enjoy home decor and making my own house a home, and every time I drive up down those historic streets, I always wonder at the beauty of what’s inside. If you think the way I do or just want to see some decorated mansions, the Candlelight House Tour is the perfect night out. For an extra fee, a swanky reception will follow at the Saratoga Golf and Polo Club with food, drinks, live music, holiday gifts and a silent auction. The Candlelight House Tour takes place on Friday, December 2. Tickets are $40 for members, $50 for nonmembers and $75/$85, including the reception. To reserve a spot on the tour or for more info call 518-587-5030.

5. Ballston Spa Rocks the Holidays

Not too petered out from the Victorian Streetwalk and the Festival of Trees, head over to Ballston Spa for Ballston Spa Rocks the Holidays, a weekend-long celebration that truly does rock. The 3-day festival takes place December 2nd-4th and is jammed packed with events, including a holiday parade, breakfast with Santa, a tree lighting, great holiday shopping and deals, book signings and much more. The Friday night festivities also coincide with First Friday in Ballston Spa, so no doubt there will no lack of activities to keep your attention. For more info, visit

6. Saratoga Restaurant Week

Ok, so technically it’s not really part of the holidays, but during the holidays, people like to eat, so we figured we could squeeze it in. And if that doesn’t work, then consider this, the price is really a gift–$18.69 for a 3 course meal at some of the area’s best restaurants from December 2-8, 2011. Click here for more info on Saratoga Restaurant Week.

7. Christmas Cookies & Hot Cocoa with the Saratoga Santa, Saratoga Winery

Now here’s an event that mom & dad can enjoy, along with the kids. On December 17th, the Saratoga Winery will be hosting a holiday wine tasting, while the kids get to hang out with Santa. Santa will be on the premises from 11am-1pm only (he’s a busy guy), but from 1pm-4pm, you’ll get to listen to live holiday music by Pat Decker. For more info, visit

8. “Dreidels N’ Donuts”, Chanukah Family Celebration, Clifton Park Family Center

It’s true that Christmas celebrations tend to overpower the holiday season, but let’s face it, not all of us are Christmas celebrators. For those who celebrate Chanukah, here’s an event you may want to check out—the Clifton Park Chabad will be hosting its 6th annual Chanukah Family Celebration, called “Dreidels N’ Donuts,” at the newly renovated Clifton Park Center at 5:30 PM on Thursday, December 22nd. Activities include an annual lighting (and construction) of the “Can Menorah”, live music, dreidel game, hot latkes, doughnuts & more. Admission is free. For more info, contact Rabbi Yossi at 518-495-0772.

The Puppet People, A Christmas Carol9. The Puppet People’s A Christmas Carol

If you’re looking for a real treat this holiday season, then you definitely won’t want to miss this one. The Puppet People will be bringing their spectacular handcrafted marionettes, shadow puppets, masks, costumes, sets, and professional soundtrack (which includes many holiday favorites) to the Saratoga Springs Public Library for a day packed with three performances of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. A giant 9-foot parade puppet will also be part of the mix. Tickets are free. For more info, visit

10. First Night Saratoga 2012 — New Year’s in Saratoga

Ring in 2012 with a New Year’s celebration of the arts with the community. Each year, thousands come to experience New Year’s Eve in Saratoga, and for good reason—after Times Square, First Night Saratoga is the largest New Year’s gathering in the state. This year, on December 31st, 14,000 people are expected to swarm the streets of downtown Saratoga. Local and visiting revelers can spend a night filled with music, art, comedy and other entertainment on Broadway and Saratoga’s surrounding streets. This year’s celebration is called “Art Unleashed” with special events all over town, including the Saratoga Arts’ In Bb 2.0, a collaborative music and spoken word project conceived by Darren Solomon and developed with contributions from local musicians. If you play any sort of instrument, you too can be a part of the exciting collaboration. Click here to learn more about First Night Saratoga. If you’re interested in getting in on the fun a little early, you also may want to check out the pre-First Night Party at Longfellows on December 7th.

Some honorable mentions that you may also want to check out…

Halfmoon/Clifton Park’s Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony

Thursday, Dec. 1; Rt 236, Clifton Park; 6:30pm–celebrate the official start of the season by the lighting of the town’s tree. Holiday trees can be purchased in memory of a loved one or friend. 518-664-2951 for more info.

The Tradition of the Peppermint Pig:

The tradition of the Peppermint Pig started ages ago in the 1880s with local Saratoga candy-makers. In Victorian culture, the pig represented good health, happiness and prosperity. Old fashioned candy-makers molded the Peppermint Pigs during the holiday season out of hard peppermint candy (similar in taste and texture to a candy cane) and colored a pig-pink.

After Christmas dinner, the tradition remains to break the Peppermint Pig inside a small cloth pouch with a miniature hammer. All family member share in eating the candy pieces and hope for good fortune in the coming years. Buy a Peppermint Pig at Saratoga Sweets, Crafter’s Gallery, Impressions of Saratoga and The Candy Co. of Saratoga.

Happy Holidays Saratoga!!!

–This article was co-written by Monica Sirignano and Aubree Cutkomp.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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