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Spotlight: Albany, NY

Four hundred years of history meets a modern renaissance in New York’s vibrant and friendly capital city. Discover world-class art and entertainment, architectural masterpieces, unique shops and galleries, an exquisite day spa, fun festivals, craft beverage trails, and deliciously diverse restaurants.

 

Why you’ll love Albany:Albany Palace Theater

There’s so much to see and do, from tours of the majestic State Capitol to biking along Hudson River trails, to great concerts and theater at stunning venues, and the historic Palace Theatre to the modern, gravity-defying Egg at the Empire State Plaza.

Jump to: Can't miss family fun | Spend a day | Spend a weekend | Spend a week | Where to stay | Where to eat | What the locals say | Cool things to know | Getting there

Three things you can't miss

The New York State Capitol

Built in the style of a French chateau, this architectural marvel has ornate details like the "Million Dollar Staircase" carved with 300 portraits of famous New Yorkers. Take a look and see how many faces you recognize.

NYS Capitol - Photo Courtesy of Capital- Saratoga Tourism, Inc.Empire State Plaza

Catch breathtaking views on a stroll across this striking marble complex that stretches from the State Capitol to the NYS Museum. Impressive structures include Corning Tower and the Egg, a unique performance center. The underground Concourse displays the greatest collection of Modern American Art in a public space. In winter, reflecting pools transform to a free ice-skating rink. 

Albany Heritage Area Visitor Center & Planetarium

Trolley tours, walking tours, and the Historic Downtown Albany Food Tour (new for 2018, Fridays from May 4 to October) start here. Don’t miss the fantastic Henry Hudson Planetarium. Get travel information and learn all about Albany, from 1609 to present day.

Things to do in Albany with kids

Mountain Ridge Adventure

Families love the treetop challenge course and zipline park set on a mountaintop in Glenville, about 30 minutes from Albany. Spring through November.

New York State MuseumNew York State Museum - Cohoes Mastodon 1487

Ride a full-size 1912 indoor carousel and time-travel back to the Ice Age. Encounter giant woolly mammoths that once roamed New York’s landscapes. See an Iroquois longhouse and exhibits highlighting the Erie Canal, gemstones, and old-time fire engines. 

Huck Finn’s Playland

With classic kiddie rides, thrill rides, and concessions, this family-friendly amusement park is fun for all ages. Open from spring to early September. 

Spend a day

Start at the Albany Heritage Area Visitors Center for a quick orientation on local history and fun things to do. See a planetarium show and take a Historic Downtown Albany Food Tour (Fridays from May 4 to October) to taste treats from five local restaurants and learn about the local history in between bites.

Albany Heritage Area Visitors CenterTake a short walk up the hill to visit the magnificent State Capitol, a marvel of 19th-century grandeur.

After a Capitol tour, stroll across the Empire State Plaza to see the NY State Museum’s fine art and fascinating exhibits on the Erie Canal and Adirondack Wilderness. 

Have dinner at The Olde English Pub & Pantry in the 1730s Quackenbush House. If time permits, stay for the music, from traditional Irish fiddlers to vinyl-only DJ nights.  

Spend a weekend

Friday evening

Get a feel for the city with a stroll along Lark Street, called the Greenwich Village of AlbanyC.H. Evans Brewing Company at The Albany Pump Station. 19th-century brownstones house unique shops, galleries, cafés, and bars with a cool neighborhood vibe.

Walk across the Empire State Plaza for a night-lit view of Albany’s dazzling architecture.

Relax over dinner at the Albany Pump Station, home of the C.H. Evans Brewing Company.

Saturday

Browse the Albany Heritage Area Visitors Center’s museum galleries and gift shop featuring crafts by local artisans. Get info on local history, attractions, and tours, and you’re set to explore the city.

After a walk to see the State Capitol, continue across the Empire State Plaza to explore the NY State Museum. On the way, see the world-class Plaza Art Collection displayed along the quarter-mile-long underground concourse: 92 abstract works by Alexander Calder, Helen Frankenthaler, Jackson Pollock, and other famous artists.

Pick up lunch at Steuben St. Market to bring on a bike ride along the Hudson River. Begin at the Corning Preserve, where residents and visitors use Albany’s new bike-sharing program, CDPHP Cycle, to rent smart bikes ($5 an hour; spring through fall).

For a taste of local flavor, tour Nine Pin Cider Works, producing hard cider from 100% New-York-grown apples and fruits. The Tasting Room café pairs cider with local cheese and charcuterie plates. Reserve a Saturday tour of Albany Distilling Company, crafting small-batch rum and whiskey.

The Egg - Center for Performing Arts, Empire State PlazaTake in a show at the Egg, a work of modern art in itself, or the grand Palace Theatre, home to the Albany Symphony Orchestra and hosting top stars from the Rolling Stones to Jerry Seinfeld, world-class ballet, and traveling Broadway productions.

Sunday

Explore Washington Park, an Albany landmark. One of America’s oldest parks, it features historic memorials, sculpture, a lake, trails, and garden paths. The Lakehouse Amphitheater presents free theater all summer. In May, a sea of vibrant colors greets visitors as nearly 200,000 tulips bloom during the Tulip Festival.  

Enjoy lunch at The Iron Gate Café, a local favorite with garden seating near Washington Park. Vintage interiors have chandeliers and artwork-lined walls; a 1960s-themed room is dedicated to Elvis Presley.

Visit the Albany Institute of History & Art, within walking distance of major landmarks. Established in 1791, New York's oldest museum holds cultural treasures and surprises, from enchanting Hudson River School paintings and Victorian fashions to Ancient Egyptian mummies.

Cap off your trip with a scenic Hudson River tour with Dutch Apple Cruises, sailing mid-April through October. 

Spend a week

Monday

After a quick orientation at the Albany Heritage Area Visitor Center & Planetarium, set off on a trolley tour or the Historic Downtown Albany Food Tour.

Get a sky-high view of the Hudson River Valley and foothills of the Adirondacks and Catskills from the Corning Tower Observation Deck rising from the Empire State Plaza to the 42nd floor. Named after America’s longest-serving mayor, Corning Tower is the tallest building in New York outside of Manhattan.Plaza Art Collection- Plaza Tours

Ride the elevator all the way down to the underground Concourse to see the Plaza Art Collection called "the most important State collection of modern art in the country" by the director of NYC’s Museum of Modern Art. 

Take a Monday-night cooking class that culminates in a four-course dinner at Café Capriccio. Their Italian cuisine has delighted guests for over 30 years. Register online. 

Tuesday

Get a quick, tasty breakfast at Cider Belly Doughnuts and walk to the nearby Corning Preserve. There you can rent a smart bike with GPS ($5 an hour), thanks to Albany’s CDPHP Cycle bike-sharing program, for a scenic ride along the Hudson River.

Visit Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site, historic home of Revolutionary War General Philip Schuyler and his family. By the way, General Schuyler was Alexander Hamilton's father-in-law—yes, that Hamilton.

For a luxe vacation within your vacation, rejuvenate at the exquisite Spa Mirbeau day resort, a creation by the acclaimed Mirbeau Inn & Spa of the Finger Lakes. Le Bistro serves inspired global cuisine.  

Wednesday

Unwind amid nature’s tranquil beauty at Five Rivers Environmental Education Center in Delmar. Just a few miles from downtown Albany, the preserve has a visitor center with kid-friendly exhibits, bird-watching windows and guided activities like summertime star walks, snowshoeing, and maple syrup programs. The visitor center, picnic area, and several trails are wheelchair-accessible. 

Mirbeau Inn & Spa - Photo by Chuck WainwrightThe splendid State Capitol is a must-see on an Albany visit. You’ll spot the elegant castle-like structure at the northern edge of Empire State Plaza. 

Browse the diverse collections of the New York State Museum at the Plaza’s southern end. One of many large-scale exhibits, Votes for Women, celebrates the centennial of women’s suffrage and depicts the struggle for equal rights, from the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention through 1917 when the women of New York State won the right to vote.  

For a fun evening, set off on a dinner or moonlight dancing cruise with Dutch Apple Cruises, sailing the Hudson mid-April through October. 

Thursday

Stroll amid Victorian architecture, Tiffany windows, and unique galleries in historic Troy, seven miles away. Hunt for treasures at the Gristmill Antique Center. Here, 35 professional dealers sell furniture, art, jewelry, rare books, toys, and vintage clothing. 

Prefer an outdoor adventure? Get a bird’s-eye view of an old-growth forest at Mountain Ridge Adventure’s treetop challenge course and zip line park in nearby Glenville.

Albany's Alive at Five concerts rock Thursday nights all summer at Jennings Landing amphitheater in Corning Riverfront Park. National acts perform and local vendors sell food and drinks, from ice-cold beer to hot BBQ. Bonus: free admission.

Catch a performance—concert, comedy, theater or dance—year-round at the Egg, a unique landmark balanced above the Empire State Plaza.  

FridayAlbany Skyline

Celebrate Albany’s rich heritage at the Irish American Heritage Museum. Discover the contributions of the Irish people and culture in America via exhibits, from The Irish Famine of 1845-1853 to The Irish & the Erie Canal. 

Take an hour-long guided tour of the USS Slater. Moored on the Hudson River, it’s the only World War II Destroyer Escort still afloat in the US. April through November. 

For a taste of local flavor, follow the Capital Craft Beverage Trail. Choose a designated driver or a car service like Premiere Transport. Four local sites—Albany Distilling Company, Nine Pin Cider Works, C.H. Evans Brewery, and Druthers Brewing Company—are so close together you might choose to walk.

For laughs head to the Funny Bone Comedy Club, hosting some of the nation’s best stand-up comedians, from Jim Breuer to John Witherspoon.

Saturday

Watch for birds and other wildlife in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, a habitat for flora and fauna, from the red fox to the endangered Karner blue butterfly. Year-round visitors hike, bike, or cross-country ski through the park.

Albany Institute of History & Art 888Enjoy top-notch entertainment at the Palace Theater; the jewel of Albany presents pop and classical music, comedy, and special events. 

Drop by the City Beer Hall for a great meal before a show or a night of fun. The hoppin’ gastropub features live music, vinyl and hooka nights, ’90s dance parties, hillbilly brunches, and great brews. Communal-style seating is ideal for sharing a pint with friends, old and new.

See a play at Capital Repertory Theatre, Albany’s professional resident theatre. Year-round shows include drama, Broadway musicals, comedy and world premieres.

Sunday

Spend a morning at the Albany Institute of History & Art, one of America’s oldest museums, to see captivating Hudson River School paintings, exhibits on Colonial Albany, and Ancient Egyptian artifacts.  

Gather a bounty of delicious treats to take home on a Sunday Funday at Goold Orchards in nearby Castleton. Open year-round, the farm store sells pies, doughnuts, cider, local cheeses, and a great variety of apples. On-site, Brookview Station Winery creates award-winning wines and famous Joe-Daddy’s hard cider. Pick strawberries and raspberries in summer; apples and pumpkins from September through November. 


Hotels in Albany

Budget:The Desmond Hotel

Holiday Inn Express Albany–Downtown

Clean, comfortable rooms; near downtown attractions. Hot breakfast bar, free parking, and shuttle within five miles. 

Mid-range:

The Desmond Hotel

Voted the region’s best by Capital Region Living magazine. Near Albany International Airport and Wolf Road shopping; minutes from downtown. Americana design models a colonial village; indoor courtyards, fountains, four-poster beds, balconies above year-round landscaping. Restaurant, pub. 

Hampton Inn & Suites

Guest rooms and suites with mini-refrigerator and microwave. Free parking and hot breakfast. Walk to the Capitol, Empire State Plaza, shops, dining, and entertainment. Yono's restaurant. Fitness center. 

Luxury:

Morgan State HouseRenaissance Albany Hotel

Classic 1927 DeWitt Clinton hotel renovated into a contemporary four-star Marriott; one block from Empire State Plaza. Old world charm and modern conveniences. Concierge, limo service, high-end Wellington's restaurant.  

The Morgan Statehouse

Elegant 1884 mansion on Washington Park. Luxe amenities, down duvets and pillows, plush robes. Parlor, fireplace, garden, complimentary snacks. Walk to Lark Street, restaurants, shops, and entertainment. 

Where to eat

$

Cider Belly Doughnuts

Fresh-baked doughnuts, specialty coffees, cider, juices, and bubble tea. Downtown; open daily. 

McGeary’s Irish Pub

Shepherd's pie, fish and chips, wings, sliders. More than 25 beers on tap. Live music. 

Steuben St. Market

Unique downtown deli and café: fresh local produce, dairy, and cheese; organic snacks and grocery items. Breakfast sandwiches, smoothies, gourmet salads, wraps. Ready-to-go lunch and dinners.

$$Angelo's 677 Prime

Jack’s Oyster House

Classic American cuisine. One of Albany’s oldest restaurants; charming original wood interior with chandeliers and checkered flooring. 

Olde English Pub & Pantry

English specialties and American favorites in the 1730s Quackenbush House. British beers, craft cocktails. Music, story-telling.

Wolff’s Biergarten

Downtown beer garden: casual brunches to late-night drinks. Rows of wooden tables line the spacious bar lit with antler chandeliers. German beers.

$$$

Angelo’s 677 Prime

Steaks, seafood, salads, sushi, and modern takes on classics. Signature desserts, wine list with 500 selections, specialty cocktails. 

Yono'sCafe Capriccio

Romantic eatery in a historic brownstone; authentic Italian cuisine: handmade pasta, house specialties from osso buco to slow-roasted porchetta with prosciutto. On "best of" lists for 35+ years. 

Yono’s

Chef Yono Purnomo’s signature new American cuisine with Indonesian spices sources the Hudson Valley. James Beard Foundation award. Popular since 1986. 


What the locals say

“I'd suggest the Albany Institute of History & Art. It has one of the best collections ever, of any place, of Hudson River School art, Thomas Coles, and so on. Their exhibits are always absolutely fascinating. And they also have Egyptian mummies. They fascinated me most of all when I was 12 years old.”

-William Kennedy, Author

“I love its times of grace and greatness, its political secrets, and its historical presence in every facet of the nation’s life.”

-William Kennedy, Author

“I would happily suggest sampling our great arts institutions. We have all these amazing arts entities: Capital Rep, our wonderful theater company, and of course the great Palace Theatre, where there are all sorts of events of every possible kind.”

-David Allen Miller, Conductor, Albany Symphony OrchestraAlbany Tulip Festival - Photo Courtesy of Albany Tulip Festival

“Every visitor should walk around downtown. Take a Capitol tour, walk around the Empire State Plaza and see the modern art collection, visit the shops, dine in a restaurant.”

-Schuyler Bull, Fort Orange General Store

“The first thing to do is stop by the Visitors Center. The incredible staff knows every single thing about New York State.”

-Timber McCarthy, Hampton Inn & Suites

“Go out and explore! Whether it's the Empire State Plaza and all the artwork, or the New York State Museum that's free to the public, there are a lot of different things downtown to experience: walking tours, historic mansions, and much more.

-Shannon Licygiewicz, Albany Capital Center

“My favorite is the Corning Tower, the largest skyscraper upstate. And our hotel next: We're very happy it's been restored and is open again.”

-Kevin Landry, Renaissance Albany Hotel


Cool things to know

-Author William Kennedy is an Albany native. Many of his novels feature fictional characters inspired by locals and highlight incidents of Albany's rich history and supernatural events.  

-Lark Street was used as a location during the filming of Ironweed, based on Kennedy’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel.

-Albany’s fascinating skyline includes a 28-foot-tall canine statue, Nipper, perched atop a warehouse on Broadway. The city’s top dog and mascot, built in 1900 and standing at his post since 1958, Nipper is still an icon today. Look for 20 artist-decorated replicas on downtown sidewalks each summer.

-Albany is home to the first Pride Center in Photo Courtesy of Capital- Saratoga Tourism, Inc.the nation, the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Council/Capital Pride Center, founded in 1970. The Huffington Post recently reported that Albany is the 7th most LGBT-friendly city in the US.

-Albany’s rich brewing tradition began nearly 400 years ago with the earliest Dutch settlers. In the 1650s, twelve breweries operated in the village of Beverwijck (present-day Albany) and the surrounding region.

-Nearby Troy was home to the real-life Uncle Sam, a meatpacker who fed the soldiers in the War of 1812 and inspired the national symbol.

-Albany merchant Richard Pease printed America’s first Christmas card in 1849, a small lithograph of a family surrounded by holiday gifts and treats. Clement Moore’s poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, was published in the Troy Sentinel in 1823.

-Other notable Albany inventions include plastic billiard balls and (George Costanza/Seinfeld fans take note) perforated toilet paper; invented by Albany businessman Seth Wheeler in 1871, it revolutionized the industry and became his company’s most lucrative product.


Getting to Albany

By train

Take Amtrak to the Albany-Rensselaer station. About a five-minute taxi ride from downtown Albany.

By car

• From NYC to Albany: 2.5 hours

• From Boston to Albany: 2.5 hours

• From Buffalo to Albany: 4.5 hours

• From Philadelphia to Albany: 3 hours and 45 minutes

• From Montreal to Albany: 3.5 hours

• From Toronto to Albany: 6 hours

• Saratoga Springs to Albany: 40 minutes

• Lake George to Albany: 58 minutes

• Lake Placid to Albany: 2 hours and 15 minutes

By air

Albany International Airport, on Albany Shaker Rd in Colonie, is seven miles northwest of Albany. Lyft provides transport to and from the airport.

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