Friday, August 14, 2009

SPAC: Navigating the entrances and August Traffic

Welcome to my home venue in my backyard. I've been attending concerts at SPAC (Saratoga Performing Arts Center) for 30 years now. Some of you readers probably weren't even born yet. My second Grateful Dead show ever (6/27/85) was also the largest official crowd at SPAC at 40,231. I will fondly remember that show because I swear I lost my color vision and was attending the Mad Hatter's Tea Party after consuming too many grams of mushrooms. I was also present at the last Grateful Dead show at SPAC on 6/28/1988 when the skies opened up and the fences were torn down and the boyz were forever banned from SPAC. Please honor the motto of leave no trace and pick up after yourselves in the lots and park so Mr's Fishman, Anastasio, Gordon & McConnell can be welcomed back with open arms.

I know most of you tour dudes and dudettes think that the summer tour ender at SPAC is the biggest thing in town. Unfortunately, you would be mistaken. Saratoga, "The August Place to Be" is a racing town as in the four-legged variety. People with last names of Vanderbilt, Whitney, Mellon, Flay, Steinbrenner and members of the royal family of Dubai (or at least their horses) flock to the historic race track in August and traffic in and around town can be a nightmare. Add a concert the magnitude of Phish into the mix and a cluster fuck of traffic is bound to exist. It once took me an over an hour to go from Broadway in Saratoga to the Rte 50 SPAC entrance on a concert night during racing season. I think the total distance is probably no more then three miles. I mentioned to my mother who was driving, I could have run it faster. NOTE: Post time for the last race at Saratoga flat track is 6:3o PM but lots of people leave earlier. Once people start leaving Rte 9 will be gridlock. Stay away from Union Street in Saratoga and the exit 14 area if you want to make it to the show on time!!!

Since the concert is on Sunday, traffic heading north on the Northway shouldn't be too bad until you exit at route 13N onto Rte 9. From there up to the Avenue of the Pines entrance expect lots of traffic. Its a Left hand turn at a traffic light on a divided highway onto Avenue of the Pines. there is some Parking along the Avenue of the Pines on the right side if you don't mind a hike in. When you turn into the Park, the Saratoga golf course will be on your left behind a wall of tall pines. For some reason the official directions to SPAC send you this way to get to the Rte 50 (main box office entrance of the park). You wind up winding your way thru the park if you want to park in the main SPAC parking lot (see below for alternate directions from the Northway).

I am not sure how true this will hold but per the official SPAC website FAQ's:

  • Gates open 1 hour prior to MOST Live Nation events.
  • Parking lots open 2 hours prior to MOST Live Nation events.

My guess is the largest shakedown street area will be the main route 50 parking lot. If you want to park in this lot, my advice is to get there early. It will fill. There is also parking on the opposite side of route 50 in various impromptu lots and this can be a bit of a hike also. There is a pedestrian bridge across rte 50. USE IT. A few years back a DMB fan was killed in a hit and run walking along Rte 50 after the show. It would be a shame if some hapless phan didn't get the chance to make it to Indio.

Above I mentioned that the official directions send you up rte 9 and thru the Park to get to the main lot. If you want to bypass this Ill give you my directions to rte 50 from the Northway. Take exit 12 onto 67 West. for those of you directionally challenged that's a left hand turn. Before you consume any party favors take note that exit 12 has a series of roundabouts. I've driven this stone cold sober and the experience can be mind altering. But once you've navigated these head due west on rte 67 to rte 50. right onto rte 50 N , thru the village of Ballston Spa and the Main SPAC parking lot will be on your right. It might be about 15 minutes total but you wont have the rte 9 traffic and all the slow park traffic to navigate. (If you need provisions exit right, heading east towards Rte 9 and there is a Price Chopper in a shopping plaza on the left and a dunkin donuts on the right)

In days past I've parked on the side street where Saratoga Honda is located and taken a path I know of into the State Park to the Gideon Putnam entrance of SPAC. DO NOT!!! Park there or at Four Winds Psych Hospital people have been towed!!!!

If you happen to be in one of the little parking lots in the state park and there are a lot of them remember your bearings in daylight. Make a practice run too and from the entrance. Also remember which entrance you came in. If you need to get back to Rte 9 you need to exit out the Gideon Putnam entrance which will be to your left if you have your back to the shed and right if you are on the lawn in steerage with me . If you need to exit to rte 50, go right if your back is to the shed left if your facing it. Rte 50 isn't to hard to navigate too, but I can tell you that those tall pines, coupled with a nice August humidity mist and a sea of tripping billies make it really easy to lose your bearings if you are parked somewhere in Spa State Park. I literally ran around in circles after a DMB show trying to find my path that disappeared into the mist, and I have run races in, snowshoed, skied and space danced my way over most of the park over the years.

If you are hungry. BFF Kim and I often stop at PJ's BBQ on Rte 9 on your right heading north. Its a little pricey but its not bad and the only place east of Buffalo you can get Beef on a Weck. What the eff is a Weck?. Its a seeded, salty roll with caraway seeds. I take mine with horseradish.

If you are bypassing Merriweather and heading to Saratoga from Hartford, well you have lots to do on Saturday. You can take in the races at both the flat (day time) and Harness tracks (night time). Also present at the Harness track is a Racino which has slot machines and Video Poker (no table games). You can also hang out at the Peerless or Victoria Pools within the Park itself. There is a nominal entry fee for the pools. And you can also wander historic downtown Saratoga which has numerous, bars and restaurants and shopping.

SPAC has a curfew but I honestly don't remember if it is 11 PM or midnight. Rumor is that one or more of the band members will show up to play at The Parting Glass Pub for an after party with Jeff Strange (a 15 yr member of Irish folk band Donnybrook Fair). I have to work on Monday so unfortunately, this chica will not be attending.

Anyone with specific questions can DM me on twitter @irongirl01 or post a comment here and I'll do my best to answer them. It looks like I am going to have one and possibly two tickets available if the dude who is supposed to meet me, Kim, Zack and Nate doesn't show for his and if Dr Pauly doesn't have a buddy who needs one. They are lawn seats face value $62.50.

The State Park has various mineral springs/baths for which Saratoga is known. As Phil Lesh has called them: healing waters. Personally, the water tastes worse then Genesee Cream Ale which I liken to skunk piss. I haven't had a drink in years but the thought of it still conjures up a bad taste in my mouth. I suppose the mineral water is an acquired taste.

Most of all have fun be safe and have a great show. This will be my first live PHISH show


Dr. Pauly said...

Awesome tips! Thanks

Gary said...

Nice post...6/27/85 was my first Dead show and I went down that same rabbit hole I think! Life changer. The '88 show was also memorable for how long we could stare at a speaker stack and get down.

Enjoy the show, loving this tour.

weez said...

Just called the box office.....lot opens at 4:30.

grapesofwrath75 said...

Gordon Stone is playing the aftershow @ The Parting Glass. It's rumored (and I think likely) that Gordo might show.

Ruben Bailey said...

last time at SPAC we parked on the golf course around 6pm...DEFINTELY GET YOU BEARINGS if you park there....after the show, in the dark, about 100 heads just wandering around trying to figure out how to get to he golf course parking....none of the "event security" could direct us...actually a funny scene...people doing laps and finally realizing we were all "lost"..until FINALLY someone made it to there car and fired up headlights...a beacon to get us all to our cars..just another night on tour I suppose! have fun. def. top 5 outdoor venues IMHO.

mikey freshh said...


change100 said...

Enjoy your first show! Wish I could be there!

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