The Saratoga Springs Heritage Area Visitor Center opened this week for the first time in 16 months and just in time for tourists and the track.
A team of volunteers, along with a couple of part-time staff members, and a visitor center director, Karen Verrigni, field questions from guests, which generally center around the best places to shop and eat, said Darryl Leggieri, president of Discover Saratoga, in a press release.
Typical inquiries from visitors include the best shopping and dining in the area, information about the history of Saratoga Springs, and recommendations for interesting cultural sites, said Leggieri.
“That in-person interaction is really valuable,” he said. “[It is] something you can’t get from your phone.”
The center typically assists about 40,000 visitors a year, the bulk of whom come during the summer racetrack season.
“[The visitor center is] a one-stop-shop for anything Saratoga-related: history, self-guided tours, maps,” said MacKenzie Zarzycki, director of marketing and communications at Discover Saratoga. The center at 297 Broadway is within walking distance of the majority of Saratoga’s restaurants, bars, and shopping, Zarzycki said.
The decision to reopen the center was made by Saratoga Springs Mayor Meg Kelly, Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan and Leggieri, he said. The City Council voted unanimously to reopen the center.
“After more than a year of being closed, we are pleased to reopen the Heritage Area Visitor Center. Welcoming all our visitors and community members is a true joy. Thank you to Discover Saratoga for their willingness to open and provide this important service,” said Kelly in a press release.
The building is owned and principally funded by the city of Saratoga Springs, but Discover Saratoga is in a contract with the city to run the center, said Zarzycki.
Discover Saratoga, also known as the Saratoga Convention & Tourism Bureau, is an economic development organization that aims to market Saratoga County as a desirable destination for meetings, conventions, and groups, Zarzycki said.
The center was built in 1915 as a trolley station for the Hudson Valley Railway Company, and became a designated visitor center by the state of New York in the 1980s, Zarzycki said. The center came under the management of Discover Saratoga about five years ago, she added.
The visitor center is hosting a summer concert series at nearby Congress Park throughout July and August. Concerts will take place on Sundays from July 11 to 25 at 7 p.m., and Tuesdays from August 3 to 24 at 7 p.m.
Local businesses are sponsoring the concert series, which will allow the performers to be paid, said Zarzycki.
The center’s updated hours for this summer are Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They will also have guided walking tours Tuesday through Saturday, beginning at 10:30 a.m. outside the visitor center. Tours can be booked online at www.walkingsaratoga.com.