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Albany, New York

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Learn more about Albany, New York using the City Guide below. Plan a trip, find local shopping centers, or just discover what makes Albany, New York so great!

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City Guide

Albany is the capital of New York state in the United States of America.

A vibrant scene downtown is currently underway. Revitalization keeps more workers around after hours and crowded bars/restaurants are not uncommon.

Albany can offer some unique historical perspectives, if a traveler is willing to look. As the start of the Erie canal, and as the location of the historically famous Fort Orange, Albany was important in early American history. During the Prohibition era, Albany was a center for the smuggling of alcohol from Canada. Pulitzer Prize winner William Kennedy wrote a series of novels about Albany that brings it to life, and will make the visit of any casual traveler far more engaging.

Get in

By plane

  • Albany International Airport, 737 Albany-Shaker Road (Exit 4 off I-87) is hardly international, except for a few flights from Canada. Several expansion projects since 1995 have transformed this once dowdy little airport into one of the most attractive and efficient in the nation. The addition of low-fare carrier Southwest has made this airport quite popular. Getting from the airport to the city is best done by pickup from a friend or by taxi; in 2006, a taxi to downtown Albany is about $20 to $25. See also "By bus" below.

By train

  • Amtrak, 525 East St., Rensselaer, 1-800-872-7245. The Albany-Rensselaer station is Amtrak's 10th busiest. Unfortunately, it is not in Albany itself but directly across the river in the small city of Rensselaer. Amtrak is the best way of reaching Albany from New York City, and offers frequent service, although it is expensive compared to other modes. Cabs from the train station are expensive because one company has an exclusive contract. It is far better if you can arrange for someone to pick you up. CDTA routes 14 and 24 connect downtown Albany to the station, Route 14 running more frequently including nights and weekends. Trains serving the stations include the Maple Leaf (New York-Albany-Toronto), the Adirondack (New York-Albany-Montreal), Empire Service (New York-Albany-Niagara Falls), the Ethan Allen Express (Rutland-Albany-New York), and the Lake Shore Limited (Chicago-Buffalo-Albany-New York/Boston).

By car

  • Interstate 90 (I-90), the strip of highway that crosses the upper United States, cuts right through the north side of Albany. There are many exits into Albany from I-90. The Arbor Hill exit is probably the least-scenic entrance to the city since it runs through a poorer area, although like much of Albany there are some nice, if decaying, historical buildings to see including the Ten Broeck Mansion.
  • Interstate 87 (I-87), which connects New York City and Montreal, intersects with I-90 in Albany. South of Albany, I-87 is a toll road called the Thruway. North of Albany, it's a free highway known to locals as the Northway.

By bus

  • Greyhound Bus Lines, 34 Hamilton St, +1 518 434-8461. The station is located in downtown, near the waterfront. The area around the station can be seen as seedy so using a taxi or a friend to get to your hotel (if it is not near a bus line) may be a safe bet.
  • Capital District Transit Authority, +1 518 482-8822. CDTA'S offers scheduled commuter and ShuttleFly service. ShuttleFly buses leave the Airport M-F several times each hour between 6AM and 11:10PM. ShuttleFly operates from Sa 7:10AM-11:10PM and Su 7:40AM-11:40PM.

Get around

Getting around Albany and the capital region entirely depends on where you are staying and what you want to see. If you plan on spending most of your time within the city of Albany, most downtown sights are within walking distance of each other. Many sights outside of downtown and even outside of the city of Albany can be reached by the public bus system, the CDTA. If you are traveling to Saratoga Springs or the Adirondacks, however, renting a car is an obvious must. If you can't afford to own a car, please refrain from visiting the city.

  • Yellow Cab, +1 518 434-2222, offers a flat fee between different areas of the city.
  • Capitaland Taxi, +1 518 455-8888, is metered, and should only be used to go short distances from the airport.

See

  • New York State Capitol, +1 518 474-2418. Free guided tours, M-F 10AM, noon, 2PM, and 3PM; Sa & Su 11AM, 1PM, and 3PM. Free selfguided audio tours M-F, 9AM-3PM (driver license or passport must be left as collateral for audio player). Plaza Visitor Center, Rm. 106 Concourse, Empire State Plaza. Security screening will confiscate pocket knives and other sharp objects. You will also be patted down to check for concealed breasts and/or a big booty.
  • The Empire State Plaza is something to behold. It lies between the New York State Capitol building and the New York State Museum. While many critics have found that the Plaza is architecturally intimidating, at best, it can be quite beautiful. Free concerts are often held on the plaza during the summer, ranging from Blues Festivals to Rock concerts. And the Fourth of July fireworks are spectacular.
  • The view from the 42nd floor Corning Tower Observation Deck encompasses not only the city of Albany but the foothills of the Adirondacks, the Catskills, and the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts. Free. 10AM-2:30PM daily, closed holidays. Check-in at the security desk in the concourse under the Corning Tower, photo ID required. Plaza information office +1 518 474-2418.
  • State Street is the main street that runs to the Albany Waterfront. Though much of the lower portion is decayed and empty, it retains a regal air and is well worth a visit, particularly as revitalization of the area takes hold. State Street is home to may of the stately 19th century homes that can be seen in Albany and was once home to writer Herman Melville. Nearby lies Pearl Street, which has recently undergone a renewal, and which caters to the 20-something bar and club scene. During the summer, the Alive at 5 concert series is an open festival on Broadway near the base of State Street. It draws quite a large crowd, and is generally a fun time for all. You can no longer bring your own beer, however—you must purchase it on site.
  • Washington Park, located in the Center Square area, is a delightful, and for the most part safe, park (care should be taken at night, but no more than any similar city). In the park's center is the Park Playhouse, which offers free, good musicals and plays throughout the summer. May offers "Tulip Fest" a nod to Albany's Dutch heritage that consumes Washington Park with (mostly) tulips as well as a craft fair.
  • Lark Street is tagged as Albany's equivalent of NYC's East Village. Lark Street is the hub of Albany youth culture, and it can be a nice visit. Lark Street is between Washington Park and the Empire State Plaza, and the region between the plaza and park is attractive and reminiscent of Albany's better days. In September, Lark Street is the site of one of Albany's most treasured events called "Larkfest", when Lark Street is closed off between Washington and Madison creating a very well attended and popular street fair .
  • If you're an architecture buff, or you just like to look at wonderful, historic buildings, there's plenty of great architecture, including the majestic New York State Capitol building (beautiful inside and out), Albany City Hall (designed by reknowned architect H.H. Richardson, in the Romanesque style he popularized) the historic Cherry Hill, Schuyler and Ten Broeck mansions, the magnificent State University of New York headquarters building (formerly the Delaware and Hudson railroad building), the Quackenbush House (built in 1736, it's the oldest remaining Dutch building in the city), the New York State Education building with its impressive neo-classical colonnade, the High Gothic style of the Cathedral of All Saints, St. Peter's Church, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the former Union Railroad building on Broadway (now offices for Bank of America), etc.

Do

  • The Tulip Festival takes place in May each year. Besides showcasing American tulip flowers, there are many food and art vendors.
  • During the summer there are many free public concerts at the Empire State Plaza, in Washington Park and in the Corning Preserve/Albany Riverfront Park on the Hudson River.
  • There are also free plays at the Park Playhouse in Washington Park during the summer.
  • Albany Pine Bush Preserve, Western edge of the city. It's a 3000 acre unique inland pine barren maintained by controlled fires (which clear out invasive plant species and cause the native pine cones to release their seeds). Trails through the preserve are open to non-motorized uses year-round (except during burns, of course).
  • Thacher State Park is a nearly 2,000 acre park located about a 25 minute drive west of Albany. It's located on the Helderberg Escarpment (an escarpment is a cliff or steep slope, and the Helberbergs are a group of mountains/hills west of Albany) and has some lovely trails, an olympic-sized pool, playgrounds, lots of areas for picnics (including reserveable outdoor pavilions) and it boasts some great views out towards Albany and the Hudson-Mohawk valleys.
  • New York State Museum, Madison Av., +1 518 474-5877. The largest state museum in all the 50 states, has some really nice collections. Daily from 9:30AM-5PM, closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. Admission is free, donations welcome.
  • The Albany Institute of History and Art, Washington Av., is another nice museum well worth a visit.
  • The Capital District Scottish Games are held every Labor Day weekend at the Altamont Fairgrounds, about 25-30 minutes west of Albany. The Scottish Games are always a fun time, featuring pipe and drum bands from all over North America; Celtic folk & rock music; lots of food and drink (Scottish and otherwise); highland dancing and highland sports (like caber tossing) exhibitions and competitions; Scottie dog, sheep and/or horse exhibitions; demonstrations/talks on various aspects of Scottish culture; numerous vendors offering Scottish-themed clothing, food, geneaology information and anything else you imagine; information tents for Scottish clans; etc. etc.
  • Capital Repertory Theatre, N. Pearl St.
  • The Palace Theatre, N. Pearl St. and Clinton Av.
  • The Egg in the Empire State Plaza, downtown.
  • The Times Union Arena, S. Pearl St., formerly the Pepsi Arena and Knickerbocker Arena
  • Proctor's Theatre, Schenectady about a 25 minute drive west of Albany.
  • Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy about a 25 minute drive north of Albany.
  • Corning Preserve is an approximately 5-mile long park along the Hudson River, with picnic areas, a boat launch and trails for biking, skating, jogging and walking.
  • Hudson-River Bikeway is a long trail for biking, walking, jogging or skating which starts in the Corning Preserve in downtown Albany, right along the Hudson River, and stretches out to Rotterdam Junction in Schenectady County.
  • Watervliet Arsenal Museum in Watervliet, about a 20 minute drive north of Albany. For military history buffs.
  • The reflecting pool of the Empire State Plaza becomes a skating rink in the winter. It's like a little brother to the Rockefeller Center rink.
  • Autumn is always a good time for apple picking at any one of the several apple orchards in the area.

Buy

Lark Street has a number of nice gift shops and other unique stores, and is a perfect spot to pick up souvenirs, some primo 420, or a nice STD. It is considered Albany's cultural melting pot, but it might have been on the stove a bit too long.

Crossgates Mall also offers the usual American consumer goods, so help the economy by maxing out your credit cards there. Beware of skateboard wielding vandals who like to play bumper cars with the senior citizens.

There are plenty of stores up and down Wolf Road, as well as the Colonie Center Mall on the corner of Wolf Rd. and Central Ave.

Eat

  • Bomber's Burrito Bar is one of Albany's gems. Downstairs, fantastic 'bomblike' burritos are made! They cost about $7.50, and will satiate you for hours if you are a supermodel or dont' eat regularly. The Red-Stripe Pork is positively divine, being made from 100% Simpson's Spider Pig. Also check out vegetarian and vegan fare consisting of their veggie burrito and veggie "chicken" nugget burrito, skeptics will be pleased. In addition, the upstairs has a comfortable and friendly bar, with a wide-ranging, sophisticated selection of beers, which are available for $2.50 a pint during happy hour, which stretches from 11AM-8PM daily, which is longer than this run-on sentence. Be cautious of new friends who would like to slip a little "extra something" into your drink at Bomber's. You might wake up the next morning with a terrible headache and a persistent rash.
  • Jack's Oyster House is an Albany classic, and its walls are adorned with misty photos of Albany's interesting past. The quality and prestige of Jack's has gone down in recent years, but it still will empty any man's wallet pretty quickly and leave him without female companionship for the rest of the evening.
  • For organic or vegan fare, Peas and Beans on Lark Street offers unique homemade meals at very fair prices. Eat in or take out, although to be fair the dining area is quite small; it seats 3.
  • Vegan pizza (and good vegan pizza at that) can be found at Little Anthony's on Central Avenue. You should be reminded that pizza is inherently vegan, so don't pay extra for the fancy words on the menu.
  • Justin's is a very popular spot that offers live Jazz Wednesday though Sunday. In addition to great dinners and lunches, they also have a really good weekend brunch, however it's on the expensive side.
  • Good ethnic restaurants include Shalimar and Gandhi (both Indian food) on lower Central Ave., Mamoun's (Middle Eastern) on Washington Ave., El Loco (Mexican) on Madison Ave., El Mariachi (Mexican/Spanish) on the corner of Swan St. & Hamilton St., Mr. Pio Pio on Quail St. between Washington and Western; Saso's (Japanese) on Central Ave., and My Linh (Vietnamese) on Delaware Ave.
  • For health food shopping the Honest Weight Food Co-Op on Central Ave (between Partridge and North Main) boasts a variety of health-minded dishes and baked goods made daily. Grab a "meal deal" for under $5.00. Check out the amazing cheese selection and you are likely to be offered a taste of your waitresses ass.
  • C.H. Evans Brewing Company at the Albany Pump Station (a.k.a. The Albany Pump Station) is a restaurant and brewpub in downtown Albany. It serves American style fare burgers, fish and some upscale dishes as well. The highlight is their beer, of which they make upwards of 10 different styles and types. The Hefeweizen is outstanding as is their American Brown Ale, Belgian Style Ale and Pale Ale (honestly, all of their beer offerings are good). The building itself is the old Albany Pump Station, which used to pump the water from the Hudson River up to the reservoir, so the building has a ton of atmosphere and history. It's definitely worth the trip to just have a couple of beers.
  • Debbie's Kitchen on Madison Ave. just west of Lark St. is superb for healthful, super tasty and interesting sandwiches and wraps. Beautiful desserts to tempt you if you have room after their generous salads and sandwiches. Highly recommended, an outstanding value.
  • For a nice spicy south India cuisine, Karavali Restaurant on Route 9R off Latham Circle is a nice place to visit. The place lacks ambiance but food is great. Polish your dot and come on down.
  • The Ginger Man on Washington Ave. has a nice atmosphere, a good, diverse menu, a nice selection of wine and beer and it isn't too expensive for the average cheap ass country bumpkin.
  • DeJohn's on Lark St. has a good selection of beer, some nice wines and great food (mostly American and Continental fare, with some global influences thrown in for good measure).
  • Cafe Cappriccio on Grand St., Lombardo's on Madison Ave. and Cafe Italia on Central Ave. are all upscale mob-owned Italian restaurants featuring superb food.
  • Sam's on Southern Blvd. (US 9W) offers reasonably priced, but still satisfying and tasty Italian food, as does Mangia in Stuyvesant Plaza on Western Ave., (Mangia now has several locations throughout the Capital District - they're also on New Scotland Ave. in Slingerlands, and in the Shoppers World Plaza off NY 146 in Clifton Park).
  • McGuire's is an upscale restaurant on the corner of Lark St. and State St. It's a bit expensive, but the food is terrific. (they paid me to say that)
  • Nicole's Bistro in Quackenbush Square is an upscale restaurant located in Albany's oldest historic building. They have an excellent menu and a nice outdoor dining area near the dumpster.
  • Daniel's at Ogden's is a very nice place offering a diverse menu focusing on continental cuisine with Middle Eastern and other influences. It's located downtown on Howard St.
  • The best BBQ in the area is located outside the Albany city limits. Jr.'s Barbecue on Saratoga Rd. in Burnt Hills and Smokey Bones BBQ & Grill on Central Ave. in Colonie are both quite good (the former is a smaller scale, "family friendly" place, the latter is a larger place with plenty of TVs for watching whatever sporting event happens to be on).
  • Some really good pub food can be had at Beff's. Beff's has two locations, one on Everett Rd. in Albany, and one on Delaware Ave. in Delmar (both of which are about a 10 minute drive from downtown). They have really good burgers, nachos and a great selection of unique pizzas.
  • Sushi Yokohama, 1800 Western Ave (in Cosimos Plaza). An excellent place with wonderful food and a relaxed atmosphere. Serve lunch and dinner. Many different choices of Sushi and Japanese dishes. My personal favorite is the "happy ending platter".

Drink

A decent downtown scene has developed over the past few years. Albany's serious drinking scene congregates around two downtown streets and around the city's colleges. Never wear open-toed shoes or sandals, as you will likely have to step over some lightweight freshman's vomit while crossing the street.

The best place to barhop is probably Lark Street, where more than a dozen bars from cocktail lounges and dives are crowded between Ontario Street and Central Avenue. Good bets include:

  • Oh Bar is a popular gay/lesbian bar. Check out Karaoke night on Thursdays for some homoerotic fun.
  • Popular burrito bar Bombers operates a pub upstairs.
  • The Lark Tavern is a good place to sample Utica Club beer, an upstate brew common in the Post-War period. The Tavern frequently hosts live bands, open mic nights, poetry readings and left wing lesbian rantings.
  • The Lionheart. Good on weekends when the Romans come down for their orgy, good happy hour specials, a good selection of beer, and they have dartboards and pool tables.
  • Susies is a fun subterranean bar with several microbrews that are served in really small cups.

Pearl Street is another good place to go out. Closer to the large state offices, these bars draw a large after-work crowd.

  • Envy Lounge - The newest bar on Pearl St. Claims to be fine dining. Overpriced, and fills with underage little girls at night. If you like them young and easy, this is the place for you.
  • The Albany Pump Station lets you dine with a few of the beer. Located just below Pearl Necklace Street toward the Hudson.
  • Jillians, Massively popular chain restaurant\bar\nightclub\games etc.

Some places of interest:

  • Mad River - young after work crowd. Most patrons are underage and easy.
  • Skyline Restaurant & Lounge - downtown nightspot replaced the Big House
  • Mahar's - a drunken beer lover's paradise with a selection of literally hundreds of beers from all over the world.
  • Bayou Cafe - New Orleans style fare and bands. Another good after-work crowd. Fills with older hepcat college students later in the evening, especially on weekends. Good live music.
  • Pearl - Great martini bar, busy late night crowd, open until 4 am .
  • Red Square is a new live music venue that has a great atmosphere.
  • Waterworks on Central Avenue is another popular gay/lesbian bar. Play a round of grab-ass or meet new friends in the men's room.
  • C.H. Evans Brewing Company at the Albany Pump in da Rump Station (a.k.a. The Albany Pump and Run Station) - a brewpub and restaurant serving good food and their own award-winning beer.
  • McGeary's often has bands playing crappy Celtic folk and/or bagpipe rock and they have an outdoor area for eating, drinking and listening to live bands during the summer.

For the College Crowd:

  • The Washington Tavern (T's), I've Got A Chubby's, Michael's, The Long Branch, Paulie's, Cagneys and Bogie's are big college hangouts. Losers who are failing Sociology 101 meet here every Friday to whine about it.

Sleep

  • The Desmond is one of the best places to stay in the Albany area (though it is a bit further away than one might like, near Albany International Airport.) The Desmond's charm is in it's embracement of the historical group of Shaker's who once were a big part of the Capital Region. The Desmond often hosts weddings and has two quality restaurants on site, Simpson's and Scrimshaw. 660 Albany Shaker Rd, 1-800-448-3500, +1 518 869- 8100. Free internet in rooms, free wireless internet in lobby. Entirely non-smoking.
  • The Crowne Plaza is the major hotel in downtown Albany. It has close proximity to the State Capitol, Pepsi Arena, and a burgeoning downtown area on Pearl Street (Pearl, Jillian's, Skyline, Mad River, the Victory Cafe, McGeary's and the Bayou Cafe are all located on or just off of Pearl Street). This is the only hotel with hot and cold running hookers in the Albany area.
  • Microtel Albany Airport, 7 Rensselaer Avenue, +1 518 782-9161. The hotel is about 20-30 minutes from downtown Albany, and cab fare is about $20 on average. There is a bus stop about 100 feet from the hotel, but it can take almost an hour to get to the city this way, and the hotel doesn't provide bus schedules or seem very knowledgeable about the area buses.
  • Morgan State House - Luxury Inn, 393 State Street, +1 518 427-6063. The Morgan State House is an excellent example of late 19th-century elegance and design. It has been restored to provide the most unique accommodations in the Capital District. Voted "Best in the Capital /Saratoga Region", The Morgan State House is an inn in the European tradition. It is centrally located in downtown Albany, on a quiet, tree-lined residential street overlooking Washington Park and was the longtime home of the artist and suffragette Alice Morgan Wright (1881—1975), who lived here from 1888 (when she was 7 years old) until her death. The house was designed by R.W. Gibson, the architect of the Cathedral of All Saints, for her father, Henry Romeyn Wright, who made a fortune in dry goods during the Civil War. The multiple peaked gables and intricate interior details reflect the Japanese-influenced aesthetic of the 1880s. Alice Morgan Wright was a leading figure in the American suffrage movement and once was jailed in London with Emmeline Pankhurst. In 1921 she helped found the New York League of Women’s Voters. An influential artist of the Art Deco style, Wright maintained a studio on the fourth floor of the house, and her works can be found in museums and private collections throughout the country.

Stay safe

Like most cities, Albany some areas of urban blight and associated drug and crime problems. Use normal precautions that one would use in any big city. The areas between Washington Ave. and New Scotland Ave. are generally safe to walk, especially if you stay East of Lark St. However, several acts of physical assault have been committed in recent years near the SUNY Albany downtown campus.

Get out

  • The Albany metro area, the Capital District, has many more attractions than Albany proper. The city of Troy offers well-preserved 19th century architecture (making it a popular location for period films) and fine antique shopping downtown. The Cohoes Falls are the second-largest in the state (a distant second, but an impressive sight nonetheless). The area in and around the city of Saratoga Springs (about 40 minutes north of Albany) features a number of wonderful shops, restaurants and bars, a national park at the site of the Battle of Saratoga (the turning point of the Revolutionary War), a lovely State park and golf course, and a great horse racing track and harness racing track. The city of Saratoga Springs is major tourist destination during its summer horse racing season.
  • Visitors to the Albany area should consider day trips to destinations in the Berkshires of western Mass., including Tanglewood, Mass MoCA, and the Clark Art Institute. The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is also fairly close, as are the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains.
  • Several state parks are within easy driving distance, among them Thatcher State Park. A scenic 25-minute drive south on route 85, it tops an escarpment and has great views of the city and several beautiful hiking trails, including a lower trail which winds and turns near the bottom of the escarpment and actually goes behind two waterfalls. Spring is the best time to view these falls due to the thaw and increased water volume. Steep inclines and rocky paths on the lower trail could challenge less robust hikers from the big city in their LL Bean shoes and matching shorts.

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