Welcome to You're New Here Week on AOA. All this week we'll have stuff to help get you acquainted with the Capital Region -- whether you recently moved here, or just want to see this place through new eyes.
Having grown up in the Capital Region, I sometimes forget to notice how great this area is for raising kids. With mountains and cities, history and beauty within easy access, local kids are pretty lucky. If you're new to the area and have little ones as members of your crew, there are plenty of great activities and destinations to discover. Albany and the surrounding areas are full of things to do and great resources.
Most of the items on my list are things that I have fond memories of from my own childhood, which have also become favorites of my own kids.
These are Capital Region classics and standards, the starter pack of local destinations that you'll return to over and over.
The New York State Museum/Empire State Plaza
This is the quintessential Albany afternoon. The State Museum is always a good destination with kids, no matter what age. In the winter it's a great spot to let toddlers run. In the summer it's an educational, air-conditioned excursion. Be sure to find the longhouse, the prehistoric dioramas, the old subway car, take a spin on the historic carousel, and play in the interactive Discovery Place.
After a couple of hours spent exploring the museum, head up to the Empire State Plaza to check out the large-scale sculptures, the reflecting pools, and Albany's famous Egg. (If you check out the plaza on a summer Wednesday you'll also find a farmer's market and live music. In the winter, there is an ice skating rink on the plaza that is a ton of fun.)
Thacher State Park, Indian Ladder Farms
Many people who grew up in this area have memories of the Thacher Park overlook and hiking the Indian Ladder trail. The overlook is the best place to get a bird's eye view of Albany and the surrounding towns. There are many trails, a playground, picnic areas, and natural areas to explore around the park. The Indian Ladder trail is popular because it goes along and below the cliffs, including a pretty magical spot below a waterfall. The trail is easy enough for young kids - there are two steep staircases, but we hiked it with a 4-year-old and it was no problem.
Afterwards, take a short ride to Indian Ladder Farms, where you can see the overlook and cliffs of Thacher from below. Indian Ladder is the spot to get delicious cider donuts, pick apples/strawberries/blueberries/pumpkins (depending on the season), visit farm animals, take a hayride, buy local produce, or just get dirty on the playground.
Troy Waterfront Farmers Market
The Troy farmers market is the place to be on Saturday mornings. Over 80 vendors, live music, great food, a friendly vibe, and grassy areas by the river to picnic with the kids. The market is the best way to take in Troy's historic buildings, interesting businesses, and many dining options.
A day in Saratoga
Saratoga Springs is just about a 45 minute ride from Albany. And you can very easily fill a day there. (But be forewarned: everything will be very crowded during the Saratoga Race Course season).
My top picks for a day in Saratoga with kids: wander along Broadway, stop in to browse the extensive children's section at Northshire Bookstore, make a stop at Ben & Jerry's for a treat, mosey to Congress Park to watch the ducks and ride the carousel, and head over to the Peerless Pool at the Saratoga Spa State Park.
Huck Finn's Playland
photos: Patrick Correia
Watch your kids squeal with delight on the boats, take a family ride on the train, soak up the old-fashioned kiddie ride fun at Huck Finn's Playland. We're lucky enough that this treasure was saved last year, and your kids will always remember summer evenings spent riding the Ferris Wheel and eating soft serve ice cream. (If you need to grab dinner afterwards, check out Druthers or Wolff's Beirgarten, both are nearby and family friendly at meal times.)
Nicole Correia is a non-profit communications professional by day and freelance writer by night. She enjoys writing about the Capital Region, parenthood, food, and the places people call home. She can be found on Twitter and on her website
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