It’s that time of year. The last weekend in August. Travers. The Travers Stakes is the pinnacle of the Saratoga racing season, and the city celebrates the historic racing meet (now in its 148th year) with a weeklong festival of activities, live events, and parties. The streets are flooded with bodies, restaurants are filled for hours on end, and parking is impossible. There’s a busker for every corner and an illegally parked Maserati for every street. It’s what makes Saratoga go, and the businesses are adept at capturing the tourist dollars before the season comes to a close. More power to them. But what about those who don’t have skin in the game?
For many yearlong residents of Saratoga Springs, the week leading up to Travers is high time to get out of town, and for those who happen to live several miles outside the city, the rule is simple – avoid at all costs. Luckily, the greater Capital Region has a lot to offer. After all, it’s one of the last weekends of the summer, and it’d be shame to spend it in the basement for fear of cigar-sucking men in Hawaiian shirts or women with hats the size of Weber grills. It may feel like it’s the center of gravity at this time of year, but there’s plenty of fun to be had outside the Saratoga city limits.
Now, you can always escape to one of the lesser populated lake spots, grab a flight or two at a brewery, or check out a restaurant you’ve been meaning to try. The Washington County Fair is in full swing, but that too is not for those looking to step out of the crowds. If you’re looking for outdoor recreation, there’s always plenty to do in the Adirondacks, although the High Peaks trails can get very crowded themselves. Perhaps consider tubing on the Battenkill River (through Battenkill Canoe and Kayak), check out a trail or preserve in the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, or give railbiking a shot in North Creek (through Revolution Rail Co.). One of my favorite spots for getting away from the madness is the southern end of Lake Champlain (Westport or Essex) – it’s beautiful, calm, and relaxing, but it’s not for those craving activity.
For those looking for what’s going on at museums, theaters, clubs, and so on during this final weekend of August, I’ve detailed a few options below. The weekly guide in The Alt is always a good starting point – these suggestions are just a few hand-picked activities (out of many) that might pique your interest or help you create a weekend excursion.
Take a trip to the Northern Berkshires. Do not miss your chance to see Nick Cave: Until at MASS MoCA. This huge, immersive installation is jaw-dropping. There’s so much to see at MASS MoCA these days, but this exhibition is a singular experience, and it closes on September 4. Imagine 16,000 wind spinners, millions of beads, miles of crystals, and thousands of ceramic figures. Together, they form a wondrous, poignant, and topical show by one of the most daring and exciting artists working today. Spend the night in the area and check out Picasso: Encounters at the Clark, which is on view through August 27. As The Alt noted in June, this exhibition examines the creative collaborations that fueled Picasso’s work, especially in large-scale printmaking. Both exhibitions are worth the trip.
If Cave and Picasso are not your style, perhaps it’s time to finally visit Hancock Shaker Village or the Adirondack Experience – Museum at Blue Mountain Lake (formerly the Adirondack Museum). Both museums have boldly reimagined their brand and their programs. The Adirondack Experience just opened a 19,000 square-foot, interactive exhibition titled Life in the Adirondacks, which explores the Adirondack Park and its people in new ways. Under the directorship of Jennifer Trainer Thompson, Hancock Shaker Village is bursting with new energy. The Shaker Barn Music series, the Food for Thought lecture series (and monthly dinner), new tours, and the Seeds Market Café are just a few of the exciting additions. Making: Then and Now, a contemporary art exhibition that features work by Gregory Crewdson, Don Gummer, Stephen Hannock, Jenny Holzer, Maya Lin, and others, is also on display. For Capital Region and Saratoga County residents, Travers weekend seems like a good time to check out the buzz in Hancock or Blue Mountain Lake.
The Capital Region and its neighboring areas are never short of live music. While there’ll be plenty of music and live events in Saratoga Springs during the Travers Festival, there’s much going on outside the Spa City. Here are a few highlights for the music-seekers.
Interested in a folk/roots music festival in a beautiful spot? Summer Hoot is a three-day music festival at The Ashokan Center in Olivebridge (Ulster County). It kicks off on Friday, August 25 and runs through Sunday, August 27, and it offers two stages of live roots music, as well as camping, local arts and crafts, and many family-friendly activities. This year’s lineup includes The Mammals, Dan Bern, Sarah Lee Guthrie, Rhett Miller, The Sweetback Sisters, Jay Unger and Molly Mason, Heather Maloney, and more than 17 other bands. It’s the perfect music festival to close out your summer.
For the classically-inclined, the Lake George Music Festival ends its two-week run on August 24 with a Grand Finale by the Lake George Music Festival Symphony Orchestra. The program includes Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, a world premiere of violin concerto by Sheridan Seyfried, a pre-performance lecture, and a post-performance talk.
Meanwhile, at The Hollow in Albany on Saturday, August 26, WEQX presents The Sea, The Sea with special guest Girl Blue. The indie folk-pop duo, who have received praise from NPR, American Songwriter, No Depression, the Huffington Post, and many other outlets, are Upstate New York favorites, and this concert promises to be a great time. (Girl Blue is a favorite of The Alt. Check out her VAlt session.) Doors open at 8pm.
Lastly, if you’re looking to catch a play, the region has you covered, albeit a little travel might be required. The venerable Shakespeare & Company continues its open air run of The Tempest at the Roman Garden Theatre Lenox (MA). Directed by Allyn Burrows, the play features Nigel Gore as Prospero and Jason Asprey as Calaban. Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield (MA) continues Stephen Sondheim’s Company. And, if you’re willing to travel a bit, Dorset Theater Festival just north of Manchester (VT) offer David Mamet’s American Buffalo, starring Treat Williams, Stephen Adly Guirgis, and Oliver Palmer.