Next weekend, my parents are coming to visit me in my current [temporary] town in Upstate NY. In typical parent fashion, my mother suggested that I plan the itinerary for the weekend, which required me doing a little bit of research about things to do in the area. After taking the time to do all the required research, I figured I’d save you the hassle of ever having to plan a trip here and give you some quick hits on restaurants, activities, maybe some scenic outdoor hot-spots. With that, here is my first online travel guide:
For being the state capital of New York, Albany is much smaller than you’d think – especially considering its cousin, NYC – but there is no shortage of fun things to do downtown. Albany has plenty of history with its Colonial-era structures and its reputation for having one of the first railroad systems in the world and being one of the original thirteen American colonies.
In the event this is your first time visiting the city, I highly recommend going the tourist-route and visiting all the incredible historic landmarks and sites of downtown. Some great starters are Empire State Plaza and Washington Park. Both are open to the public and are where you’re bound to get the best views of the city downtown, no matter how crowded they may be. From there, it’s not far to the NY State Capitol Building, which I might add is very hard to miss. It along with the NY State Education Department Building are massive and beautiful and smack dab in the middle of downtown. Even if you can’t go in, the outside architecture is breathtaking.
For the history buffs traveling with you, the NY State Museum and the Albany Institute of History and Art can be found along with many other cultural museum experiences downtown. I personally have not yet been to visit them, but maybe that’s something I’ll tackle with my parents next weekend. We’ll see!
If you are interested in seeing a live production of some sort during your time visiting, the Times Union Center is an indoor stadium venue where many major musical artists come to perform. The Palace Theatre and The Rep are concert halls where you can see live theatrical shows – many traveling Broadway shows stop by during their tours, so if you can’t get tickets to Les Mis in NYC, be sure to check out when it’s coming to Albany.
If you are looking for a more relaxed day, a lot of UAlbany students will recommend visiting Lark Street, home to many cute bars and coffee shops, and if your travel group is anything like my family, you may also find yourself wandering around Crossgates Mall to escape the summer heat or the winter chill.
If you find yourself wanting some fresh air, very close to Albany, you can find a couple of nice walking or biking trails: Albany Pine-Bush Preserve, Great Dune Trails Loop, or the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail.
Bars & Restaurants:
I haven’t taken too much time to visit the many restaurants of Albany for lunch or dinner, but one restaurant that is always recommended to me is Bellini’s Counter, which evidently has incredible food at a pretty reasonable price. (Really, you won’t go wrong with any Italian restaurant up here, but many folks who read travel guides like to have a name of one, so here you go.) Brunch is my favorite meal of every weekend, so I’ve made my way to Albany quite a few times for that, and my favorite restaurants for Brunch are Treviso by Mallozzi’s (full brunch buffet) and The Capital Bistro (free mimosa!!).
If you’re looking for somewhere to try a taste of Albany, look no further than the Albany Pump Station to try some local brews. If you aren’t partial to beer (or gluten), you can instead try Nine Pin Cider Works.
A hidden gem unknown to visitors is Speakeasy 518, an actual speakeasy with rules against electronics and loud voices and a full “authentic” drink menu that resembles one you would see during prohibition. Visiting the speakeasy has been one of my #1 favorite things to do in Albany, so I highly recommend it! Oh and I almost forgot to mention: you need a password to get in!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my quick hits on what to see and where to eat in Albany! Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming extended guide on Saratoga, NY and the tiny town of Schenectady. If you’ve been to Albany before or find your way up here in the near future and have a location or attraction to add to the list, please leave your suggestion in the comments!
Disclaimer: I was not paid or given any freebies for promoting these local businesses. These are my personal reviews and preferences, so keep that in mind when ordering your tickets or reserving your table.