When you hear Albany, what is the first thing that comes to mind? New York State’s Capital? Blank stares as you just have no idea. Well, I am here to show you that there are fun things to do in Albany, which are perfect for a quick weekend getaway.
I will admit that I have never been to #Albany just for fun. It has always been for something education related -- a conference (Sept. 2016), a state exam review (July 2017), etc. However, I have never missed out on an opportunity to explore Albany when I am there. Each time, I have enjoyed myself and hope that I have the opportunity to return for leisure (or for work) someday in the near future!
In an effort to showcase more of New York State outside of New York City, I am writing this blog post, providing you with a guide that you can use to plan a weekend getaway from NYC!
Keep reading this blog post as I will answer some of the most commonly asked questions:
Can you do a day trip to Albany from New York?
Is Albany worth visiting?
What is Albany, NY known for?
How do I get from NYC to Albany?
What is the fastest way to get from Albany to New York?
What is there to do in Albany?
So you are probably wondering… Is Albany worth visiting? What is Albany NY known for?
Well, let me give you the low down…
Did you know that Albany was established in 1614? That actually makes Albany one of the oldest cities in America!
Albany is the capital of New York, so for those interested in seeing all the state capitals, you must come here!
Albany is also the oldest city in the state, so there is a LOT of history! The English took control of the city in 1664 and named it after the Duke of Albany (interestingly enough!)
Albany is close enough that you can make a day getaway from NYC if you are looking for something different or a break from the hustle and bustle of NYC.
Now that I have convinced you to visit, you are also probably wondering… What is there to do in Albany? Check out my 2 day itinerary below:
Day 1: Arrive in Albany + Explore
The easiest way to get to Albany from #NYC is by Amtrak. Hop on the Empire Service 235 towards Albany-Rensselaer Amtrak Station! An alternative is to take the bus through Greyhound or Megabus (although I have not tried this route yet!).
Once you arrive, check out the following:
1. Visit the New York State Museum:
Located in Downtown Albany, this museum explores the cultural and natural history of New York State. There is a variety of history, science and art exhibitions that offer an in depth overview of New York State through the years, such as “Adirondack Wilderness,” “Beneath the City: Albany Archeology,” “Native Peoples of New York,” and “The World Trade Center: Rescue, Recovery, Response.” The museum is FREE, but I encourage you to make a donation!
TIP: Do not plan to visit this museum on Mondays as they are only open Tuesday - Sunday. This makes a great activity, especially if it is raining. However, I recommend seeing it no matter what!
2. Explore Empire State Plaza:
Here you will find a collection of buildings and monuments, including the New York State Capitol and the New York State Museum. Many of the things that I am suggesting you explore are conveniently located in this centralized area. I highly recommend wandering or even just relaxing while you are here. Did you know that the plaza was the vision of Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller? He had a vision to create "the most electrifying capital in the world," and so he commissioned a chief architect (and friend) to create the design.
TIP: If you travel during the summer time, you may have a chance to catch up with one of the many free community events that are presented at the Empire State Plaza in Albany. Summer at the Plaza includes concerts, movies, and festivals starting in June. There is also a regular Farmers Market on Wednesdays from 10am-2pm (with cooked food too!) at the plaza! Check out the Empire State Plaza’s social media platforms to stay up to date with events!: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
3.Tour the capitol building:
The New York State Capitol -- listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a National Historic Landmark -- was built in 1899 for $25 million dollars (equivalent to $753 million today). At the time, this was the most expensive government building and took 32 years and 5 architects to construct! Since the 1880s, the capitol has served as the home of the New York State Legislature. I highly recommend thoroughly walking around the exterior and interior.
TIP: Take a guided tour of the NYS Capitol building. I have not had the opportunity to do so, but hope to someday. Weekday tours do not require a reservation, while Saturdays tours do. All tours are FREE, making this another cost effective option to explore!
4. Catch a show at the Egg
This is legitimately one of the most unique buildings that I have ever seen -- and it will be for you too. Called the Egg (clearly because of its shape), this structure is actually a center of performing arts. Amazingly, this building goes down through six stories deep into the Earth. I lucked out that during my most recent visit, Ziggy Marley was playing! I decided to stay an extra night so that I can see him live and that show did not disappoint. I managed to get a picture with him as well!
TIP: Check out the Egg's website to see if there are any productions occurring (or plan your visit around one), including musical theatre, dance and music concerts.
5. Eat Dinner at Charter Restaurant at The Hilton Albany Downtown
Although I typically would not recommend dinner at a hotel, I was quite impressed. I also typically would not have dinner at a hotel, but my colleagues and I were super tired when we arrived on a Wednesday evening after work for an 8 AM workshop the next day. However, their appetizers, entree and desert did not disappoint. Even if you are not staying at this hotel, it is worth grabbing a drink and ordering some appetizers while you relax from a long day of exploring!
Day 2: More Exploration
1. Try some Cider Belly Donuts
Someone gave me this tidbit when I was visiting and it did not let me down! They have an assortment of donuts ranging from $1.00-$2.00. Of course, you cannot come here without trying the apple cider doughnuts! It is impossible to leave here just buying only one. This is conveniently located across the street from The Hilton Albany Downtown, where I was staying for the workshop. That meant I literally would run across the street to buy donuts during break before they sold out because they were that good :-).
Come early to buy as they sell out very quickly! They close by 2 PM, but double check for hours.
Make sure to get the doughnuts when they are freshly out the oven aka very warm! It’s a different experience.
2. Visit the Albany Institute of History & Art:
This is another worthwhile museum! I randomly found this on Google and it exceeded my expectations. It contained lots of interesting exhibits and was not too crowded, making for a pleasant experience. I hear that they rotate the exhibits so it is possible that you will have a different experience when you go. This is a place of history, as it is actually one of the oldest museums in the United States -- founded in 1791! WOW!
TIP: Make sure not to plan to visit on a Monday or Tuesday, as they close both days! Also, they do special Thursday evening hours and 1st Friday hours. However, double check for circumstances such as the pandemic, which may change that.
3. Grab food from Capital Q Smokehouse
I was amazed to discover this delicious, random Southern-style BBQ joint in Albany. Although it is quirky,, the food is worth it! I went to this spot both times I went to Albany and it did not disappoint. I’ve had both chicken and BBQ pork ribs.
TIP: Order to go and bring it to your hotel or eat it at a park as there is not space carved out to eat in the restaurant.
This ends your journey in Albany!
You can decide to stay in Albany overnight or take the next Amtrak ride back home to NYC.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
TRANSPORTATION: How do I get to and around Albany, NY? What is the fastest way to get from Albany to New York?
As I mentioned before, the easiest way to get to Albany is by Amtrak from NYC is by Amtrak. Hop on the Empire Service 235 towards Albany-Rensselaer Amtrak Station! It takes just about 3 hours! An alternative is by bus through Greyhound or Megabus (although I have not tried this route yet!).
Once you are there, I either walked (as many things were walking distance from Downtown) or relied on Ubers for things further out. However, I did see several buses to take for public transportation.
LODGING: Where should I stay in Albany, NY?
When I stayed overnight in Albany, it was at The Hilton Albany Downtown. It is SUPER convenient to most things you want to see, either walking distance or a short cab ride. They also have a restaurant with delicious food. I felt welcomed!
FOOD: Where should I eat in Albany, NY?
My 3 main recommendations, which I explain in more detail above, are:
Cider Belly Doughnuts
Capital Q Smokehouse
Charter Restaurant at The Hilton Albany Downtown
Can you do a day trip to Albany from New York?
Yes! It is completely feasible since Albany is only 3 hours from NYC by Amtrak or bus (or 150 miles). If you do make it a day trip, I recommend taking an early train/bus to Albany and taking a late train back so you have as much time as possible to explore. To not feel rushed though, I recommend spending at least one night. You can take an early train so you can have a full day to explore and save by spending one night at a hotel.
What is there to do in Albany?
This whole itinerary is about spending a weekend in Albany, NY so hopefully you’ve learned something :-).
Here is a list of activities that I included in this post to check out:
Visit the New York State Museum
Explore Empire State Plaza
Tour the New York State Capitol
Catch a show at the Egg
Try some Cider Belly Donuts
Visit the Albany Institute of History & Art
Grab food from Capital Q Smokehouse
What should I keep in mind when planning a trip to Albany, NY?
Albany has more than the NYS capitol! If you truly want to experience everything it has to offer, I would recommend spending at least 2 days so that you are not rushed.
Many things close on Monday, so keep this in mind when planning your trip.
The Empire State Plaza has a lot of events and activities (as well as the Egg, the Center for Performing Arts), so check out both of their websites to see what events are coming up and you can plan around them!