One might be forgiven for thinking that the capital of the State of New York is New York City. In fact, its capital is Albany, and it is one of the most historic cities in not only the state but in the US as a whole. With a population of less than 100,000, it is one of the best-kept secrets of the East Coast.
Albany is full of historical sites and expansive parks that make it an attractive tourist destination. Remnants of the Dutch colonization period remain to this day and you can be taken back in time when you visit the scenic city. A hub of transportation and logistics in the 19th century, Albany also boasts some of the earliest railroads in the world.
Interactive Map of 25 Things to Do in Albany (NY)
1. New York State Capitol
Built-in 1899, the New York State Capitol is often referred to as the most beautiful capitol building in the country. The building is steeped in history and four US presidents would pass through its harrowed halls at one point in time.
Costing an astounding 25 million USD (equivalent to 768 million USD), it was the most expensive public building in the country at the time of its construction. It is therefore not surprising that it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1979.
2. New York State Museum
Directly facing the State Capitol is the New York State Museum, the oldest and largest public museum in the US. Operated by the New York Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education, it is housed on the first four floors of the Cultural Education Center that is also home to the New York State Archives and New York State Library.
Its permanent exhibits include the Adirondack Wilderness, the American Stoneware Collection, Minerals of New York, Windows of New York, and the World Trade Center: Rescue, Recovery, and Response among others. It also operates a number of research programs such as the Biodiversity Research Initiative.
3. Washington Park
From the Tulip Festival in the spring to the Capital Holiday Lights in December, Washington Park offers visitors and locals alike a variety of events and activities throughout the year. The scenic park was created during the second half of the 19th Century based on a design by Calvert Vaux and Fredrick Olmsted, the designers of Central Park in New York City.
The park is also fitted with tennis courts, basketball courts, and playgrounds, making it an ideal place for a picnic. If picnics are not your cup of tea, you are also able to visit the park for the day and simply go to one of the many dining establishments that surround the park.
4. Albany Institute of History & Art
A short walk from Washington Park, the Albany Institute of History and Art is one of the staples of Albany. Founded in 1791, it is one of the oldest museums in the US and houses permanent exhibitions on both local and world history.
The Hudson River School: Landscape Paintings from the Albany Institute, Traders and Culture: Colonial Albany and the Formation of American Identity, and Ancient Egypt are just some examples of these exhibits. It also hosts a wide range of temporary exhibitions across a wide range of areas, meaning its patrons are sure to be impressed by the museum.
5. Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site
Home of Phillip J. Schuyler, a Revolutionary War General and US senator, the Schuyler Mansion is one of Albany’s preeminent historical landmarks. He lived in the mansion from 1763 to 1804, raising his 8 children with his wife Catherine van Rensselaer. It overlooks the Hudson River and served as the sight of tremendous political intrigue, military strategizing, and the wedding of Schuyler’s daughter to Alexander Hamilton.
Today, the site offers visitors a portal to the past and gives them insight into how 18th-century high society lived in the US. The two-story structure is part of the US National Register for Historic Places and is designated a National Historic Landmark.
6. USS SLATER
The USS Slater is one of less than a dozen destroyer escorts that survive to this day and now serves as a ship museum. Its namesake Frank O.Slater was killed during the Battle of Guadalcanal during WWII and was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.
Commissioned on May 1, 1944, USS Slater served in the US Navy during WWII and was later transferred to the Hellenic Navy of Greece where it was renamed Aetos. Following its deactivation from the Hellenic Navy in 1991, it was towed back to the Hudson River and became a ship museum.
7. Crailo State Historic Site
Built in the 18th Century, Crailo was named after the Van Rensselaer estate in the Netherlands and loosely translates to “crows’ wood” and its Georgian style structure reflects the English influence on 18th-century Dutch settlers.
It served in a variety of capacities from a boarding school to a church rectory before it was donated to the State of New York in 1924. The structure now serves as a museum of the Dutch in the Hudson River Valley. The two-story structure now welcomes visitors from near and far and gives people an insight into the early days of colonial America.
8. Dutch Apple Cruises & Tours
One of the most popular tours you can go on in Albany are with the Dutch Apple Cruises and Tours, which offer several scenic cruises on the Hudson River. Its exclusive cruises take its patrons along the most historic sites across the Hudson River.
While the cruises don’t operate year-round, visitors can still go on the walking tours that the company offers. These walking tours take visitors to all the sights of downtown Albany such as the Capitol, state museum, Albany Institute of History and Art, Governor’s mansion, city hall with an expert guide that brings all the sights to life.
9. Irish American Heritage Museum
The Irish American Heritage Museum recognizes the contributions that Irish Americans made to the establishment of the American identity. Initially opened in 1992, the museum moved to its 3,250 square foot compound in 2012.
Its permanent exhibits include the Irish Americans in the Civil War, the Irish and the Erie Canal, and Dublin: Then and Now. Moreover, it also hosts a number of temporary exhibits throughout the year. The museum not only serves to introduce Irish heritage to visitors but also that the 36 million Irish-Americans don’t lose touch with their Irish heritage.
10. Lincoln Park
Lincoln Park is a place steeped in history. It served as the site of a battle between the Dutch and Mohawks in 1626, and also became Albany’s first public playground in 1900. Located in downtown Albany, the park boasts Albany’s only outdoor non-wading swimming pool, tennis courts, a football field, and basketball fields among other recreational facilities.
In the winters, visitors can sled down the seemingly never-ending hills. Lincoln Park is a great place to relax after a day full of adventure and sightseeing. Perhaps you will even be moved to join in one of the cardio, dance, wrestling, and karate groups practicing in the park.
11. Albany City Hall
The current site of the Albany City Hall was constructed between 1880 – 1883 and stands out with its imposing 202-foot tower. Albany’s carillon is part of the tower and is made up of 49 bells of various sizes. It was constructed in memory of fallen soldiers in WWI and with a donation of 45,000 USD from 25,000 citizens.
The breathtaking music of the Carillion is best experienced from Corning Park or Academy Park, located just behind, and in front of the City Hall respectively. Acclaimed by many as the most beautiful building in America at the time of its construction, it also houses the Mayor’s office, city council, and the city’s court system.
12. Times Union Center
The Times Union Center is an indoor arena with a maximum capacity of 17,500 and hosts most collegiate and professional teams located in Albany at some point. As of 2020, the only team that plays their home games at the Times Union Center is the Sienna College Saints of the NCAA. However, previous teams that called the Times Union Center home include the Albany River Rats of the American Hockey League, Albany Empire of the American Football League, and a host of other sports teams.
The stadium also periodically hosts NBA and NHL games in addition to various concerts and other sporting events. Musical icons such as Celine Dion, Paul McCartney, and U2 have all performed at the arena.
13. Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was built in 1852 and is one of the oldest Catholic cathedrals in the US. In fact, it is the second oldest cathedral in New York State, as New York City’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the only older cathedral.
A shrine to the Diocese of Albany that can trace its history back more than 150 years, it is located on a one-acre parcel of land on what is now Route 20, just a stone throw away from the New York State Museum. As the largest place of worship, its imposing structure dominates the Albany skyline.
14. Huck Finn’s Playland
Hoffman’s Playland operated as the premier amusement park in the region between 1952 and 2014. When the Hoffman’s announced their intention to retire in 2014, Warehouse at Huck Finn’s purchased the rides, moved it to its warehouse location in Albany, and opened Huck Finn’s Playland in 2015.
The amusement park operates various rides such as a merry-go-round, a rollercoaster, and a boat ride among others as well as an indoor selection of arcade games. Whether you are looking for wholesome family fun or just looking to unwind, Huck Finn’s Playland is sure to bring out the inner child in you.
15. Corning Preserve
The Corning Preserve is a park that runs by the Hudson River and features scenic running and biking trails. A 5 million USD improvement project involving the expansion of existing trails and the construction of new ones was completed in 2016.
Its Jennings Landing is a 1000 seat amphitheater hosts event such as the Alive at Five summer concert series and the Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival. You can also set off on a kayak ride across the Hudson River from the Albany Rowing Center at the Corning Preserve Public Boat Launch.
16. Opalka Gallery
The Opalka Gallery is an exhibition center housed at the Albany campus of Russell Sage College and features modern and contemporary art and design from nationally renowned artists. It is a 7,400 square foot facility constructed in 2002 and consists of a vaulted gallery as well as a 75 seat presentation hall.
Built on the reputation of its predecessor, the Rathbone Gallery is to become one of the premier exhibition centers in the region. In addition to its exhibitions, Opalka Gallery serves as a cultural hub, regularly hosting lectures, movies, concerts, and other events.
17. Capital Holiday Lights
The Capital Holiday Lights brings the holiday spirit to life. Set up annually at Washington Park, the lights provide visitors and residents a truly impressive sight. There are also a variety of features such as Letters to Santa and various walking events like Pet Walk Night and Triple F Walk Night that are staples of the Christmas season in Albany.
However, the best way to experience the Holiday Lights maybe to drive through the show. Sponsored by a host of national and local businesses, the Holiday Lights have become one of the most beloved traditions of Albany.
18. Palace Theatre
Constructed in 1931, the Palace Theater was the largest movie theater in Albany when it opened. Designed by John Eberson, the world’s most revered architect of his time, the Palace Theatre is simply a masterpiece. Having been briefly closed in 1969 when it became unprofitable, it was soon purchased by the City of Albany and became one of the preeminent event venues in Albany.
It hosts a variety of events such as concerts, ballets, dance performances, Broadway shows, classic movies, and stand-up comedies. Palace theatre also hosts private events including but not limited to weddings, corporate events, and graduations, making it a true centerpiece of Albany.
19. Moses Statue – King Memorial Fountain
Yet another attraction of Washington Park, the Moses Fountain is an imposing statue at the heart of the park. The 10-foot statue is a monument to Rufus King, a beloved 19th-century banker. When his eldest son died, he left his inheritance for the construction of a tribute to his late father.
The ensuing statue was finished in 1893 and features a 10-foot Moses on top of a 19-foot pile of rocks. Its biblical reference to the Old Testament story of Moses hitting a rock with his staff, making water flow from the rock was a metaphor to the exploits of Rufus King whose sound fiscal policy saved the people of Albany significant amounts of money.
20. New York State Women Veterans Memorial
Located next to the New York State Museum, the Women Veterans Memorial is a bronze and granite sculpture completed in 1998. The 8-foot sculpture designed by local artist Hy Rosen was erected in memory of the New York State women that served in the armed forces over the past two centuries as well as those that will serve in the future.
Surrounded by a grove of Japanese zelkova trees, the monument provides a place to take a rest during a long day of excursions and serves to remind people of the often overlooked role that women play in the armed forces and military conflicts.
21. Tivoli Lake Preserve
The Tivoli Lake Preserve is the largest rural preserve in Albany and the third-largest urban park in the state of New York after the Central Park in New York and the Normanskill Farm in Albany. The 8-acre park was established in 1975 and is the home of numerous natural attractions including a variety of wildflower and animal species.
The 7-mile long Patroon Creek, a tributary of the Hudson River also runs through the preserve. It has expansive walking, running, and biking trails for you to enjoy and its lake is also a great place for fishing. In the winter, one can engage in snowshoeing and cross-country skiing at the preserve.
22. Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza
The Rockefeller Empire State Plaza is a government building complex attached to the New York State Capitol. It comprises of 4 government service buildings, the Corning Tower (the largest skyscraper in the State of New York outside New York City), the Egg (a theater), the Cultural Education Center (home of the New York State Museum), the Robert Adams Building for Law and Justice, the Legislative Office Building, and the Swan Street Building.
It is said that Governor Nelson Rockefeller commissioned the construction of the complex after being embarrassed by Albany’s underwhelming infrastructure during a visit of Dutch Princess Juliana.
23. Ten Broeck Mansion
Looking for a peek into the life of Dutch settlers in early colonial America? The Ten Broeck Mansion was built by General Abraham Ten Broeck and his wife Elizabeth Van Rensselaer. He would name the commanding structure overlooking the Hudson River “The Prospect” but would live for only 12 more years after its construction. After his widow’s death three years later, the mansion would undergo extensive refurbishing and remodeling before being purchased by Thomas Orcott in 1848.
The prominence of the Orcott family and the mansion made a significant impact on the development of the Arbor Hills neighborhood of Albany. It was purchased by the Albany County Historical Association in 1948 and has been maintained in a manner consistent with 19th-century life.
If you need a break from visiting the endless historical sites of Albany, you might look towards the Crossgates Mall. Opened in 1984, it is the third-largest mall in the State of New York and houses 180 stores. Whether you are looking to bring home some souvenirs or do some window shopping, you can hardly go wrong with Crossgates.
More than a simple mall, Crossgates is also home to a Homewood Suites and Tru by Hilton hotel. When you add the state-of-the-art Spa Mirbeau to all this, you may even get lost in all the comfort and amenities to the extent that you forget to delve into the rich history of Albany.
25. City Line Bar and Grill
City Line Bar and Grill is a must-visit if you are ever in Albany. Located on the border of Albany and Guilderland, City Line Bar and Grill offers customers a unique experience by providing creative, quality products.
The Pub offers a wide selection of cocktails, wine, and spirits while the restaurant offers an Albany take on international cuisines. The restaurant also offers a comfortable environment to relax after a long day and you can even step onto their patio to take in the summer breeze. It is difficult to believe that an establishment with its reputation and quality also offers affordable prices.