The Weekend Getaway: Saratoga Springs, NY

Saratoga Tips on Gambling, Fried Chicken, Mob Mentality & MORE!

My number 1 rule when it comes to gambling is if I don’t hit my first bet, I walk away.

However, my #1 rule when it comes to everything else in life is don’t ever give up. So you can see how after I lost my first bet on Friday, I felt conflicted. Then I continued betting. And losing. For about 14 races. Eventually, the karmic gods praised me for my fortitude and awarded me with a $196 exacta in the last race, so I only walked away about $50 down.

Stick with me and you’ll be alright.

I had planned on sharing betting tips on this post, but considering my strategies led to me more to posting pictures with the hashtags #spiraling and #theyrecomingformypinkyfinger, rather than raking in the cash, I'm going to expand the topic matter.

Tip 1: Learn how to bet on the horses from the professionals.

         Download the One-click Pony app!

         Download the One-click Pony app!

Tip 2: Indulge in Hattie’s Fried Chicken. It is more than worth it

Lucky for me, Saratoga isn’t just about gambling. It’s also about traditions; some of which date back to over 150 years ago when the races first began and others that have sprung up over time. During our visit, it was “Hats Off to Saratoga” weekend, which meant I was able to whip out my favorite accessory – the hair piece – and go wild. And if there’s one thing I enjoy more than betting, it may be playing dress-up at the track.

Because there’s just nothing like putting on a fancy dress and eatin’ fried chicken. 

Tip 3: Dress up! See the Saratoga dress code rules here.

While the style in Saratoga ranges from conservative to casual and everything in between, there are some basic rules to abide by. If you’re sitting in the regular Grand Stand or hanging in the picnic grounds, a tee-shirt and shorts will fly – BUT, keep in mind that they don’t have to. Even in the picnic area, many people choose to honor the age-old tradition of summer hats and sundresses. On the flip side, if you’re seated in the Clubhouse, Box Seats, or any of the other luxury options, definitely be sure to get a little dapper.

Tip 4: Rush The Gates!

Mama once said, “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?” to which my answer has now been forever altered to: “Depends on how much fun the jump is."

Every morning during the fleeting 6-week racing season, track-goers line up with their chairs and tablecloths as early as 5AM to wait for the gates to open at 7AM. Once the gates open, the crowd charges forward like angry cattle breaking free from a corralled-off, grass-less space. People sprint into the park to slap belongings down on picnic tables and lay claim to grassy sections for chairs, umbrellas, etc. Since we were sitting in the picnic area on day two, our fate was inevitable. We had to join the mad dash. I was not let down.

To give you an idea of how seriously people take this tradition, here are a few sound bites from my experience:

“Once the gate opens, it’s free game.”

“Yeah man, we’re blowing past all these people.”

“I got my Nikes on and everything. I’m ready to GO." 

Then, as the time drew nearer and tensions mounted...

 “Stick to the original plan!”

“Hold the line!”

And my personal favorite, “We just got married last night. This is our wedding run!”

While 7AM may seem early, it’s hilarious and so worth the experience – plus, you can go back for a nap afterward. 

Tip 5: Check out some live music! 

audio Block
Double-click here to upload or link to a .mp3. Learn more

The most unexpected part of the weekend came when we were wandering around the downtown music festival. Home to a fabulous summer line-up, it is very common for DMB, Phish and a slew of other uber-talented artists to frequent the Saratoga stages. Of course, the hometown bands also contribute their fair share of surprise rock sessions and street parties. In fact, one band really struck a chord. Having strolled over merely by chance, we came across the band Better By Morning in none-other than the obscure post office’s parking lot on Saturday night – and, in a sweetly serendipitous moment – fell in love with their sound. I reached out to the band, (essentially, a group of teenagers) and asked for a sample. Turns out, they are just producing their first single.

From open mics to cover bands to primetime performers, Saratoga has it all, every night of summer. Take a look at the full concert calendar here.  While the summer’s first weekend music festival has passed, there are plenty more to attend to, including Wine and Music Fest Sept 5-7.

The Weekend Getaway: Montauk, NY

(Scroll for galleries & recommendations)

Ditch Plains, Montauk, NY

Ditch Plains, Montauk, NY

And so it began: my very first trip to the Long Island coastline.

The roads were a deepening dark. Shadows loomed around every bend, and with the tank nearing empty at a quickening pace, I was scared, anxious… and alone.

LOLLL, JK!  It was 11AM on a gorgeous day and I was with my boyfriend.  And his family.  And, like, 28 of their closest friends.  Just keeping you on your toes.

It was, however, truly my first time “out east,” as they so fancily say and I did have just a tad bit of nervous excitement about it (but, you know, in a totally very casual and cool way, right?).

Anyway.

Having been raised on the beaches of Jersey, not once did I find it strange growing up that I had never been to other popular, North East shore towns. Ocean City, Maryland and Delaware’s Dewey and Bethany Beach seemed, quite frankly, unnecessary trips. And, Long Island? Well, that just seemed silly. If I could ride my bike to the beach, why would I ever get in a car for the same thing?

Nonetheless, despite all my former protests and reasoning, here I was, so as not to remain ‘ignant, driving out of the city on a Wednesday for an extended-weekend stay in Montauk.

Cruising through the Hampton towns, we passed a series of charming downtown areas, each one lined with a mélange of fancy, high-end stores mixed in with dainty mom n’ pop shops. We also, to matt’s delight, just missed the entrances to a few antique shops. I’m still reeling.  

In between towns I marveled at the wineries and large plots of appealing-yet-untouched land as commercial real estate grew fewer and farther between. Finally, after quite some time of shamelessly looking for celebrities while (also shamelessly) pretending I was auditioning for a role in The Great Gatsby, we arrived in Montauk. And, even the die-hard “Jersey Shore” girl in me has to admit, I loved it.

Of course, it likely helped that I was being shown around by a collection of 20+ year Montauk veterans. So check it out! 

Montauk Highlights: 

Where To Eat

Ditch Witch – Does Zagat rate food trucks? Because they should give Ditch Witch a 30. Serving up a variety of perfectly-pressed paninis, salads, quesadillas and smoothies, the Ditch Witch located at Ditch Plains beach was easily one of my favorite meals of the trip. I mean, who knew you could have freshly made mozz and local basil prepared on artisan bread at the beach? It's all about the paninis in bikinis.

John’s Drive-in – Located right in the downtown area, this classic drive-in spot has deliciously creamy hard ice-cream. I’m talking REAL GOOD, like stays-creamy-even-after-being-in-the-freezer-2-days and IDGAF-if-I’m-wearing-a-bikini-tomorrow-give-me-the-cake-batter-or-I-bite-your-hand-off good.

Montauk Golf Course – Apparently, this course is one of the top 10 hardest in the country, which is probably why they have a deliciously hearty breakfast to prep you for it. I lament to say, however, that the dog ate my clubs so I wasn’t able to participate this time and instead was resigned only to having breakfast overlooking the sprawling course. Ugh, FML.

Lobster Roll, aka LUNCH – To ease the sorrow of a vacation’s end, we decided to fill up on arguably the best lobster roll in the country on our way out of town. Award-winning and frequented by very big names, I once more shamelessly purveyed the scene in search of a famous face, and I think I may have seen Giuliana Rancic’s husband. Or I guess Bill Rancic? Whatever. He may not give the place any points, but the lobster, clam chowder and clams casino definitely do. 

And of course, at home! Beach life in Montauk is all about casual backyard grilling. Especially when you happen to be vacationing with a renowned NYC private chef. #amysamuel

What To do

Montauk Brewery – With a selection of deliciously smooth brews, you would never guess this place is only 2 years old and in its nascent brewery development. Go visit the brewery and sit down for a few samples with the ever-friendly Erin, pictured above.

Go fish! / Gosman’s – Montauk is widely known as the “fishing capital of the world” to many. Unfortunately, my vomition center (it’s a thing) doesn’t enjoy long spans of time on small boats in open seas, so I stayed on land. Conversely, the boyf digs fishing, so I still got to reap the benefits of his labor. My only regret is skipping out on the chance to sit at Gosman’s on the dock with some oysters and a cocktail as the boys came in from their trip. That, my friends, is my kind of fishing. It is also what repeat trips are for. :-)

The Beach – Duh.

Montauk Point Lighthouse - As a national historic landmark built in the 1700s and authorized by George Washington himself, it's worth the 5 minute drive. Plus, #selfienation.

Bonfires – Montauk allows bonfires on the beach at night which makes going to the bars vs. going back to the beach for drinks a very, very easy decision.  Reminiscent of late-nighting at Takanassee Beach in Long Branch, NJ as a kid, Ditch Plains had me feeling right at home.

And for some bonus shots!

 

 

Summer Reading & Best Sites for the Bookworm

It is never truly summertime until I have 1) managed to get margarita-drunk on a weekday in celebration of absolutely nothing other than the weather, 2) accumulated both forehead and boob sweat within 5 seconds of being on the 1 train and 3) compiled my summer reading list.

Alas, it is now officially summer as I have completed all three impressive-I-know tasks.

Reading has always been a favorite pastime of mine. A truly cathartic activity, certain books have inadvertently given me perspective on different aspects of my life at different times – not to mention, the required suspension of disbelief provides for some nice right-brained exercise. And most importantly, it makes me feel better about all the other unproductive shit I take part in on a daily basis while giving me some $10 vocab words to almost always improperly insert into casual conversation in an attempt at genius (“A” for effort, though, amirite?)

Anyway, here’s a list of some classics that I’ve conjured up for this summer:

Gettin effed up on knowledge.

Gettin effed up on knowledge.

A Dystopian Novel to Keep My Anxiety Mounting: Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

A Love Story with Big Words: Emma, Jane Austen

A ‘To Read in Your 20’s’: On The Road, Jack Kerouac

Mo’fckin Feminism: A room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf

So I Can Intelligently Join the Next Cocktail Party Discussion: Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

A High School Re-read, since-forgotten or previously only spark-noted: To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Le

If you’re having difficulty narrowing down your summer reading list, have no fear. You can outsource your indecision to the Pandora-like http://whatshouldireadnext.com where recommendations are provided based off the book title you input into their system.

Or, if you’re looking for something more specific/want to make sure you have a variety of different books on deck, I like http://www.openingthebook.com/whichbook/. This site enables you to combine and weight different characteristics of a book (from the plot to the mood of the writing).  

And, naturally, you can never go wrong with the lists over at www.goodreads.com