Ideas for stuff to do that don't involve alcohol?

glass of albany tap waterEmily emails:

You've been very helpful in the past to others so I'm hoping you help me out. I'm wondering if you could ask readers for sober activities around the capital region. I recently stopped drinking and it wasn't until then that realized just how much recreation/socialization revolves around alcohol. I'm very open minded and willing to try anything, but I'm looking for something a little more outside the box than hiking Thacher Park. I appreciate the help. I'm sober, not dead!

Sometimes it does feel a bit like "just add booze" is the recipe for many events.

So, it sounds like Emily's willing to try some new things. Got a suggestion? Great, please share!


Here are some ideas: Fishing, trampoline park, Funplex, go-carts, batting cages, driving range, mini golf, movies, walk around Lake George, car races at Lebanon Valley, Fonda, or Albany-Saratoga Speedway, Valley Cats game, laser tag at Zero Gravity, Howe Caverns, rodeo at Double M, go camping, Great Escape, Water Slide World, star gazing, museum, river tubing, rollerskating at Guptills

I get the sentiment, but even so, it's hard to tell exactly where Emily is coming from. There are overwhelming numbers of things to do, and sometimes I have a hard time choosing between them. Museums and historical sites, free and paid shows/concerts, speaker series, bike and nature trails, waterways and parks, food and cultural festivals. Volunteer opportunities galore. Workshops, arts and crafts, skills instruction at any number of galleries or markets or other venues. Sports leagues, gyms, outdoor recreation groups, cycling and running clubs. Community gardening. Coffee-shop reading. Theater. Hard to give suggestions without a more focused request, but I'm just scratching the surface here. Think of something you enjoy and I'm sure there's a way to get more involved in the area if you look into it. AOA puts up weekly and daily events listings, as well as detailing other types of opportunities, and they're far from alone.

Oh, and i heard there's a new casino....

First two thoughts:
Music- There are SO many music nights at libraries (I've seen posts from Albany Public and Altamont often) or ice cream shops (Emack and Bolios) and coffee shops.
Second thought:
Local art community has had so many non-booze-centric events. (Collage nights in Troy.)
And the local political scene is ramping up. So many groups focused on so many issues. Find one you love and go for it!!!

How about meeting friends at the many small cafes or ethnic restaurants that don't have liquor licenses, but do serve nice beverages -- coffee drinks, chai tea, mango lassi, might not even notice there is no alcohol.

I'm always at a loss for what to do on weekend nights that doesn't involve drinking too, so I'm looking forward to hearing what others suggest, but during the day I've got some ideas!

- Trampoline Parks - There are two nearby, and I think they actually are open in the evening. It's not just for kids!

- 5 Wits - Sort of like escape the room, but cooler. I've heard very good things about this one in Crossgates.

- Outdoor Adventure Parks - Not open until summer, but these are outdoor ropes courses where you strap in a harness and complete physical challenges. The one at Jiminy Peak is great, and I've heard Adirondack Extreme is too.

- Indoor ice skating - HVCC has a rink that's open to the public, as well as the Albany Indoor Hockey rink. Check their websites for open skate hours.

- Mop and Bucket does improv classes every now and then, if you're feeling brave.

- The Pottery Place lets you paint your own pottery

- Canvas, Corks and Forks in Schenectady and Troy does serve alcohol, but also serves N/A beverages and has free mac and cheese.

- Tabletop games are an obvious choice, Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride are both way more fun than monopoly!

- The indoor water park at the Great Escape in Lake George is pretty cool.

- Indoor rock climbing. Ahem.

- I know you said you're looking for something more out of the box than hiking, but it really can't be beat (especially once everything dries out!). I highly recommend joining the Adirondack Mountain Club ( if you're interested in doing bigger mountains. Great way to meet people too!

Shoutout to my sister, who isn't a drinker but does tons of fun stuff all the time, because I got most of these ideas from her :)

@Ed, I appreciate the suggestions. I'm literally looking for ANYTHING. My life has revolved around alcohol for so long (trivia? Booze, dancing? Booze, sitting in the park? Booze) that I have a really difficult time thinking of events where there isn't alcohol. For example, does anyone know of a trivia night that doesn't take place in a bar?

@Emily: The Albany Public Library has hosted a few trivia and spelling bee events (for adults) in the past. I don't think it's a regular thing, though.

Hey Sober Not Dead! Congratulations! You’re going to feel great, lose weight and save a ton of $!

Here's a little list I've been implementing for my own sober journey:

Evening Outings (sometimes the hardest, especially on the weekends):

Dinner Places: Sweet Basil (Delaware Ave), Jewel of India (Lark), Alibaba (Troy), Beirut (Troy), Jake Moon (Clarksville, they serve wine and beer but it's low key)

Movies: there are lots of adventurous movie spots that don't involve the mall, The Linda, Time and Space Limited (Hudson), The Palace, Crandall Theater (Chatham)

Music/Theater: The Palace, The Egg, The Linda, Mass Moca, Café Lena (very small list of wine & beer), Cap Rep, NYSTI, Park Playhouse, Steamer 10, Curtain Call, Upstate Films (Woodstock), Woodstock Playhouse

Outdoors: Tour of Bannerman Castle, Walkway Over the Hudson, Olana, Vanderbilt Mansion, FDR Estate, Staatsburg, Art OMI, Dia Beacon, Firetowers (, Wiawaka (, Battenkill River Sports (Cambridge).

Sports / exercise! It's amazing the lack-of drinking that can occur when you immerse yourself into some form of athletic activity. Whether you're training for a race (running, triathlon, etc) or chasing stats (weight lifting, losing weight, etc), the full weekday immersion is an awesome feeling both physically and mentally.

Game nights/Potluck nights: If you have a set group of friends who are supportive of you, how about setting up regular game nights/"ladies' nights" at their various apartments/houses. Everyone usually brings a snack or dish to share, and takes turns hosting (if they have room!). I always have a great time, drink or not. Sure, some people bring alcohol, but not everyone drinks or needs to drink. (Also, if they're good friends, and you'd rather not even be around alcohol, I would hope they'd abstain)

Restaurant week day specials: lots of restaurants have good deals on weeknights...maybe search a few restaurants that have food specials and get together with a few friends to take advantage of them (The Cheese Traveler has cook-outs over the summer)

Weeknight movies: Madison theatre often has cheap movies during the week, and during the summer there are several outdoor movie opportunities that are free (in downtown Albany on Broadway, in West Capitol Park., etc.)

Free summer music: Alive @ 5, shows on Empire Plaza on Wednesdays over the summer; waterfront shows in Troy; Downtown Albany has food truck nights during certain evenings over the summer and there's music

Softball/kickball: I've participated in an adult intramural softball league. It was somehow connected to Anthony's sports bar, but only insofar as membership involved the offer of free crappy beer at the bar after games (not everyone chose to indulge). There were weekly games, and it was a fun way to socialize regularly over the summer, and I am not good at softball. At all. (Also, if you're into running, there are running groups/running clubs)

Classes: The Arts Center in Troy offers classes in various disciplines. Many seem to run over several weeks. Might be a fun way to learn a new skill or hone one, and meet people. Albany Public Libraries sometimes offer free classes about different things (like crafts/sewing, etc.) and the schedules are on their website.

Bethlehem also offers some very affordable evening and weekend classes. Here's the current spring schedule:

We lived in the Albany area for something like 24 years without drinking. From that perspective, it does seem like most of the big public gatherings are solely focused not only on drinking, but on drinking to the point of puking. So . . . those are to be avoided. It does make it hard that most of the nightlife is bar-centered, and sounds like you want to stay away from that. But there are coffeehouses and Emack & Bolio where you and friends can just go and hang. There are many suggestions above that are great. Among non-free things, there's MopCo Improv in Schenectady, the Albany All-Stars Roller Derby, all kinds of music events at Caffe Lena, etc.

Thank you everyone who contributed! It's so appreciated. Navigating the world of recovery can be a little tricky sometimes, so any help at all is wonderful.

I hit up Guptill's every other weekend or so, because I mean? Biggest indoor roller rink in the world (I think?) which is pretty rad!

I do wish they would get some theme nights going or something other than top 40, buuuuut tbh it's so fun and such a big space who cares?

We go a lot, haha, it's a lot of kids of course but also adults! Some of the same crowd of grown-ups is usually there every weekend doing their thing!

There are many AA meetings in the Capital District, even if you don't fit in the category, they are filled with people. Chris O'Donnell is still looking for volunteers for the Tulip Festival, Mother's Day weekend 434-5411.

If you like tea, there is a monthly tea club at professor javas. For $12.00 you get to try a bunch of different teas and eat a yummy vegetarian meal. It is a good way to meet people and learn more about tea.

Your Saturday morning could become a trip to the Troy Farmers' Market. There are some booze vendors, but you can just slide on by. Lots of folks seem to make a day of it there. HVCC has great community Ed classes. Ever tried bellydancing? Every weekend seems to have some kind of fair or festival. Last weekend was the woodworkers' showcase in Saratoga.

Get an old bike and fix it up. Learn how to do it yourself at the bike rescue. Ride it everywhere. Take care of it. Find places and spaces you didn't know exist. It can bring you a new perspective on your surroundings and it's a good way to spend some time alone (or with friends who bike/ look out for community rides).
Volunteer on the Capital Roots farm in Troy or get a community garden plot of your own through them.

I've never been but this Wild Walk tree top hike and giant bird nest/nature center, etc. looks pretty cool - easy day trip to Tupper Lake:

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