Albany is the capital of New York State, and contrary to popular belief – it does NOT suck! Whether or not you’ve explored this city, you gotta keep reading on as I give you exactly what you need to know to have a solid day bopping around town. My hope is to give everyone the opportunity to experience the city and decide for yourself…whether or not it sucks.
Parking can be a problem no matter what city you’re in, so to make this the most enjoyable trip possible, you should park along the Albany Riverfront at the Corning Preserve (plus it’s FREE!) and walk the newly opened Skyway towards downtown and Clinton Square. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes – you’ll be doing plenty of walking today.
Stacks on Broadway is open 7am – 3pm every day of the week, so drop by for a coffee and enjoy the big bright windows that flood the space with natural light. While you’re waiting for your order be sure to grab a map of the Capital Walls Murals – this will come in handy later. You can grab a croissant or bagel from Stacks too, but it is also worth the walk around the block to Coulson’s News & Deli – they’ve been slinging Sammy’s for over 100 years.
Now that you’re full and fueled, you can scope out about a dozen Capital Wall’s downtown public art installations and murals curated by Tony Iadicicco of Albany Albany Center Gallery on your way up State Streets towards the NYS Capitol Building. Consider dropping over to the new Williams Street Pedestrian Walkway which reactivated a neglected alleyway that is sandwiched between two parking garages next to the MVP Arena. It’s a little out of the way, but it features a bright and colorful mural with ample seating – pro tip: walk to the top of the adjacent parking garage for a brilliant view of both the Walkway and Downtown Albany.
You can book a tour of the Capitol Building HERE – they even do tours during spooky season so be sure to bring a change of pants – kidding!! The tour is a quick 90 minutes, leaving plenty of time to flow through the Plaza Concourse where you can check out a vast corridor filled with a mid century art collection curated by Governor Nelson Rockefeller – love him or hate him, he did have excellent taste in modern art.
The Corning Tower Observation Deck is accessible directly through the concourse – but make sure you have quarters on you for the binoculars at the top that give you views as south as the Catskills! Also accessible from the concourse is the New York State Museum which is open Tuesday through Sunday 9:30am – 5:00pm for you to explore some of New York State’s most significant natural and cultural diversity, both past and present. Admission to the museum is free, so spend as much or as little time browsing as you wish. You can pop up to the Plaza after – and if it’s Wednesday they have Farmers Market and food trucks for you to enjoy.
From there, head up Madison Ave towards Lark Street for some lunch and maybe a little shopping, too. Lark Street is its own little village and is considered the heart of the city by many featuring brilliant 19th and 20th century architecture, vibrant nightlife, and a wide variety of good eats. Grab a souvenir from Lark Street Mercantile or Elissa Halloran Designs, new shoes from Season’s Skateshop. On the food front I would recommend Rain Modern Chinese, Soho Pizza, or my personal favorite, Herbie’s Burgers. Grab a drink from the newly reopened Lark Tavern, Savoy Taproom, LoFi, OH Bar, Susie’s, or my all-time favorite Dive Bar: Palais Royale (Best enjoyed 12am and beyond). There are also a couple of great venues to grab a show in the neighborhood – Lark Hall and the Fuze Box – make sure to check out their websites for the schedule.
Now that you got a little retail therapy out of your system, it’s time to take a stroll through the park. But not just any park – Washington Park. Inspired by 19th century architect Frederick Law Omstead who designed New York’s Central Park, Washington Park was named one of the nation’s 100 most important parks by the American Association of Architects. The park features 80 acres of greenspace with monuments, gardens, a pond, a skatepark, basketball and tennis courts, an outdoor concert venue, a dog park, and playgrounds scattered throughout.
By now, you’re probably wiped – and you earned it! You can snag a CDPHP Cycle so you can just cruise back down to the riverfront and call it a day.
Although we’ve only scratched the surface, if you follow these suggestions you will certainly leave Albany with a better understanding and appreciation for one of the oldest cities in New York State. A day like this may leave you wanting more, so I might just have to pop back on here and map out your next trip to Albany. We can dig deeper, trust me. Although many call it ‘Smallbany’ I can assure you there is still so much more to discover.
Jonah Michel can be found creatively connecting in the City of Albany. Additionally, he focuses on ‘stuff worth talking about’ around the Capital Region and beyond as a core member and producer for the media outlet Two Buttons Deep.
IG: @aroundalbany | @twobuttonsdeep