Must-do Albany/Troy activities for new arrivals to the Capital Region?

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Lindsay emails:

Some long-time friends of mine will be moving to the Capital Region in June, and I was looking for some expert/crowd-sourced advice on must-do Albany/Troy/etc activities for Capitol Region neophytes, anywhere from the mundane-- signing up for Price Chopper rewards cards-- to fun things, like attending a concert at SPAC.

We know there are more than a few people in the AOA crowd have moved to this area from somewhere else. And we're guessing you might have some good ideas. On the flip side, if you've lived here all your life, we bet you might have a few things in mind that someone would now only only from maybe living here most of their life.

So, got a suggestion for Linday's friends? Please share! And a sentence or two explaining your suggestion can be helpful.

Earlier on AOA: You're New Here


I moved to the area last June from Florida and had never been to upstate NY. Here are some places I visited that gave me a good introduction to the area:

Thatcher Park - do the little hike to the waterfall. The views are amazing, it's not too difficult and really shows how beautiful this area is.

New York State Museum - it's right downtown so you can get a feel for the downtown area. The architecture is insanely gorgeous. The museum is great and runs by donations.

Market 32 Bistro - its like the IKEA of grocery stores.

Saratoga Springs Downtown - make sure you actually go DOWNTOWN. I went to Saratoga 3 times before I realized there was an entire downtown area that has tons of awesome food, bars and parks.

The Indian Ladder Trail at Thacher Park (little hike to the waterfall) has been closed since July 2, 2017.

First Friday in Albany- Gallery tour first Friday of the month

Troy night out in Troy- Gallery tour last Friday of the month

Saturday Troy Farmers' Market

Alive at 5- free concert series at the Corning Preserve Thursday nights during the summer

Tulip Fest, Lark fest, and Art on Lark

Washington Park

Empire State Plaza- attached to the museum- free ice skating in the winter

Mohawk Hudson Bike/Hike Trail

CDPHP Cycle: Albany Bike Share Program

Lodges Department Store- the oldest department store in the city

to name a few...

Valley Cats! I was lucky enough to win tickets (thanks AOA) a few summers ago and took my 14 year old nephew..he'd been to some MLB games in his home state (I'd never been to any baseball game, major league or otherwise) and we had a blast! Great hometown spirit from the fans, the location is easy to get to and it was such a fun way to spend a summer afternoon..(or evening, if you go to a night game) 10/10 will do again when he visits this summer

+1 for ValleyCats games, they are a blast and very affordable. NYS Museum is a good stop for a rainy day.

Visit the Stockade in Schenectady and take walk around the neighborhood on a nice spring day. Also, watch for when Jumpin' Jacks has their July 4th fireworks and view them from Riverside Park in the Stockade.

Also in Schenectady, Vale Park and Cemetery is amazing.

Cultivate a friendship with someone who has a boat on Lake George.

Get a library card!

Most libraries let you check out free passes for local museums!

Librarians Know Things. Talk to the librarian!

Libraries have oodles of materials about the area! Check them out!

And it is all free.

*Drops mic*
*Is shushed by Librarian*
*Apologizes. Quietly.*

1. don't read the guidebooks or the economic development/chamber of commerce publications---much too narrowly focused! :-)

2. Troy's farmer's market
3. walk through washington park & lake house
4. Catch a movie at Proctor's
5. howes cave
6. hike up to a firetower (Kane Mountain or Dickinson Hill or Hunter Mtn)
7. Albany Rural or Oakwood cemeteries
8. Catch an art exhibit at The Tang or UAlbany or Sage College
9. Sign up for dinner at the Culinary School at Schenectady Comm College
10. Watch H.S. or College Rowing @ Head of the Fish
11. Pick your own Apples or Berries or Pumpkins or flowers
12. Next March, go to a sugarhouse during Maple Sunday
13. Try to get a tour of the Nanotech facility
14. Catch the Albany Symphony, preferably in Troy Music Hall or at EMPAC
(I'll stop here :-) )

The four cities in the region are actually just larger friendly towns each rich in history, diversity, and opportunity. It is a relatively reserved/conservative-in -a -1950-way area, a bit reluctant to change the status quo or embrace "transplants", but it is a nice quality of life, and there are signs that things are evolving!

enjoy your time here.

+1 Thacher, but also all the other parks, trails, public areas. Lots to explore.

SPAC is fine but there are some really great venues in the cities. Look for something that might interest you at Troy Music Hall, Proctors (duh), The Palace, The Egg. Also the Low Beat and Hollow get high marks for bar venues. EMPAC...

Troy Night Out, Albany First Friday, farmers markets...great ways to introduce yourself to a variety of local businesses and organizations.

Read AOA daily. Never-ending supply of ideas. Also Keep Albany Boring, Nippertown (for arts/entertainment).

Ooo, I somehow didn't know about the SCCC Dining area. Marking that down :)

A big summer staple around here is the drive in. There are several in the area so chances are you live within 15-20 minutes of one.

Love going to the top of the Corning Tower observation deck and the tours - there's an Empire State Plaza art tour, Capitol building tour, a Food/History tour (in Albany and Troy), there are Stockade tours in Schenectady, a tour of behind the scenes at the Track in Saratoga, a tour of the Schuyler Mansion (good spot for Hamilton fans). I've lived here a long time and I still learn things on the tours.

The Adirondack Balloon Festival is also worth the 45 minute drive and getting up early. It's in the fall. But enjoy the summer. This is the best time of year to check the area out :)

I'm not from the Cap Region originally, so these are the things that have impressed me and friends who visit. Walk them through the plaza after sunset. Walking past on a clear night, my breath sometimes catches a bit when I see the striking, unusual view.

My out of town friends have most enjoyed trips to Nine Pin's tasting room, renting kayaks on Fish Creek in Saratoga, Troy Farmers' Market and later getting wine and cheese Lucas Confectionery, and strawberry picking at Samascott Orchards.

So much. There is so much to do and be a part of right here and even more very close by. Don't let the haters (and there are a bunch) tell you how boring and backward this area is!

Price Chopper/Market 32 is a must....hey its huge but its still local and we don't have Wegman's(who is NOT local)
Shop the Co-Op and Menands Market.
Farmers Markets- there is one almost everyday someplace.
Find the old skoolers still doing it right. They are everywhere around here...
DeFazio's,Marino's,Sovrana,Cardona's,Capiello's,Villa Italia, Chester's,Perecca's,,The Fountain, Oscar's,
Find the new skoolers making it happen. Lots of creatives inspiring each other to do fun things all over the area.
Gastro Pub, Albany Distilling, Nine Pin, Wolf's Biergarten, Druthers,Low Beat ,Madison Pour House,Galleria 7 Chester's, Fort Orange, Dutch Udder.......I'm not going to describe all these places just GO!
Spectrum Theater
or just get a bike
Make Winter your friend (it last awhile and if you don't embrace it, it will destroy you) Gore Mountain, Albany Muni for sledding, skate at the plaza, play shinny at Washington park or Bukingham Pond, X country in Saratoga State Park, Curling in Albany or Schenectady
Join a sports league or club
See Live music, there is lots here and we draw a lot of legit acts at great venues big and small across the region.
Empire State Plaza art collection
Make Spring/Summer count (it can seem short) SPAC, ice Cream for dinner,Golf,Frolf,Lakes and water holes all over. Ride a bike to work or play or for no reason other than its fun!!

I could go on and on.........

If you have a car and you pretty much have to have a car I would check out many of the great hikes that can be done as daytrips in our area.

Some great spots include Katterskill Falls and Overlook Mountain to name just a couple

As a newbie myself - my girlfriend and I moved to Troy about year ago from Baltimore - I'd add our favorite activity to the list, which is riding our bikes along the Uncle Sam bikeway in Troy then peddling down 5th avenue for a stop at the Snowman before continuing onto the Peebles Island trail and the "black bridge trail." It's a wonderful bike ride. We've also been having a lot of fun running the various 5Ks in the area.

Hike the Pine Bush and visit the nature Center
Brunch on the patio at the Iron Gate Cafe
The summer trail running series from the Albany Running Exchange
Peppermint pigs at christmas

+1 Snowman for ice cream.

Guptills for roller skating

Defazio's for everything on the menu

Stewarts because Stewarts

Cars and Caffeine on River St.

Blue Benn in Bennington, VT

The Ruck for wings and beer

Lake Placid

Sacandaga Lake

Wander around Washington County (Cambridge, Argyle Cheese Farmer, Battenkill Creamery, Taylor & Sons Brewing)

I now live in Portland, OR but these are some of the things I miss about growing up/living in the Capital Region.

Grafton Lakes State Park is great for swimming and has nice hiking too.
Daytrips to Lee Outlets in Mass. or Outlets in Lake George.
Tanglewood and Jacobs Pillow in Mass. aren't that far either.
Clark Art Museum in Williamstown, Mass has world class art.
Beauty of Adirondacks, Catskills, Berkshire and Green mountains are an easy drive.
Also love all the farmers markets.
Lived in area all my life and there are lots of local nature areas as well..

Nancy is absolutely right.....the Clark is fantastic, as is MassMoca (though distinct target audiences). For any newbies, pls rest assured that the Berkshires are part of the capital region (state lines and local attitudes be damned! ha ha). And there are plenty of agricultural fairs (Altamont, Washington County just to name two. Fulton County has old school car racing on its dirt track). Saratoga aside from the racing hosts a dressage, and Polo matches in the summer. Yado gardens is worth a peek on its open house days. cooperstown, the finger lakes are all within range.
well, I'm rambling, guess it's a sign that I have great affection for my adopted hometown Region.

If you have kids, stop at the observation area next to Albany Airport and then have a picnic on the grounds of the Shaker Historic Site and visit the chickens, turkeys and oxen then hike around Ann Lee Pond.

Take the tour of the NYS Capitol and the NYS Education Dept building. Take a boat ride on the Erie Canal or hike the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. Visit Schuyler Mansion, Ten Broeck Mansion, Historic Cherry Hill and the parts warehouse at Historic Albany Foundation (old house stuff!)

There are endless daytrip possibilities: Saratoga Springs, Schoharie Valley (Howe Caverns, hike Vrooman's Nose), Hudson (antiques, restaurants, fire museum), Berkshires, Cooperstown etc. so much to do and see!

I think it is important to join a local club of your interest to meet people. Albany Running Exchange, Hudson Mohawk Roadrunners, and many Meetups that have various interests ie. kayaking, hiking. Attend local festivals like the Tulip Fest. Free music concerts? Just about everywhere all summer long!

I love many of these suggestions and agree. One I would add that I don't see yet is Dutch Apple Cruises. One, it is a lovely boat ride in and of itself with some nice beers on board and some snacks. It's super relaxing on a nice day to go with a person or few. But, it's real shine comes from the little history lesson you get. There are so many neat little tidbits to learn and cool little sites to see along the Hudson. I have gone so many times but it's still one of my favorite things to do. You can often see herons, sometimes eagles, and falcons, and other fauna too.

My Capital Region must-do list: tour the Capitol/go to the Corning Tower observation deck, visit Thacher Park, bet on a horse at Saratoga.

Must-eat/drink: Cider Belly donut, Stewart's ice cream, mozzarella sticks with melba sauce, Nine Pin cider.

There are plenty of other great restaurants/hikes/museums/events etc. Bookmark AOA to read up on those! But these are things that we have that other places don't.

last summer we decided to act like tourists and take advantage of some local places we haven't been. Check out the Saratoga battlefield for beautiful views and some cool history. The tugboat roundup at the Erie Canal locks in Waterford is a great way to spend a few hours.

And after you've done all these great activities, you are only a few hours away from Montreal, Boston and NYC!

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