Visiting Albany, NY

My aunt-in-law is on her annual visit from Russia and would like to make a day trip to Albany tomorrow. Since the weather looks to be fairly crapulent, having an idea of where/what to go/do seems better than parking around the capitol and having a walkabout.

With the exception of seeing a couple shows at the Egg, I’ve never been to the city before. Would any Cap area Dopers have any suggestions? She’s not all that into shopping (though not completely averse), but is a bit vague about what she wants to do – I think just looking around at the city/architecture is what she had in mind. Oh, on a side note, she doesn’t speak English, if that makes a difference. Is the Capitol itself worth seeing? Any museum recommendations? Eateries that must be sampled?



I like Albany but it’s not really a tourist attraction. It’s a state capital and a minor port city - two enterprizes that don’t really draw a crowd.

The New York State Museum at the Empire State Plaza is good. But after that I got nothing.

If you go to the state museum, the last time I was there it had a 9/11 memorial section which I thought was worth seeing, it had debris and wrecked vehicles from ground zero. It was surprising to see that kind of stuff in person (especially when I wasn’t expecting it).

You should be able to walk around on the plaza where the Egg is, I don’t think the reflecting pools are filled this early in the year but it’s kind of interesting to see. From there there are several state buildings of varying degrees of architectural interesting-ness, but nothing really impressive.

For food, there are many “ok” places but I have a hard time coming up with a “must eat” place. Maybe I’ve lived here too long. Bombers is the typical recommendation, but honestly I think it’s as much a tradition thing than having anything to do with the quality of the food.

You may want to scrap tourism in Albany and head on up another 20 miles or so to Saratoga Springs. MUCH more oriented towards tourists, has the horse races, the saratoga battlefield, a great downtown boutiquey area, and is totally beautiful and walk-friendly. I’ve been a few times b/c my brother went to Skidmore College and I always wanted to spend more time wandering around!

The horse races won’t start until July, unless you mean the harness track, which also has a casino.

But I agree; it’s a great town.

If you want a nice Albany restaurant, then either LoPorto’s at the Sign of the Tree (in the Plaza) or the original LoPorto’s (In Troy).

For that matter, you’re only an hour west of SW Vermont… although it’s certainly not the right time of year to visit.

Sign of the Tree is closed until they find a new vendor.

Other than the Museum - which has a lot to offer - and the tour of the Capitol building - which might not be quite as interesting if you don’t understand English - I’d add to the head up the Northway to Saratoga recommendation.

There are a couple of decent art museums (Albany Institute of History and Art is an option), but Albany is a capital, not a tourist mecca.

If you do want to eat in Albany, and don’t mind spending a bit, Jack’s Oyster House is a must. Le Serre has even better food, but Jack’s is a institution. Don’t let the name fool you – it’s a very upscale place, and not just for seafood, and the service is a pleasure.

Saratoga has plenty of good restaurants, and the National Museum of Racing. The battlefield (which is not anywhere near the city) just opened today (actually, if you want to see a battlefield, I recommend the Bennington Battlefield in Hoosic Falls, NY).

Just wanted to post a quick follow-up in case someone in a similar position searches the board. In short, I’d say Albany may have been given something of a short shrift. I get that it’s not a family fun vacation spot, but for a quick jaunt it was quite pleasant.

In the end we only made it there for a couple hours (other things came up) but it was a good time. It had stopped drizzling for the time we were there, but it was a bit dank and windy.

The Capitol was beautiful, and even though we didn’t make it for a scheduled tour, we were able to walk around fairly freely. The Western Staircase was exceptional, and had a lot of placards detailing its history and renovation.

Right outside the Capitol is Empire plaza, very much worth the hour or so spent walking through it. Besides the vistas and contrasting (but workable) architecture between the plaza and the Capitol, the expansive sculpture garden was quite a treat.

I’d lived in DC for several years, and though the scale is much different Albany has a familiar feel. We didn’t have time to make it into the Museum of New York or up to the observation deck at the end of the plaza, nor follow the audio walking tour of the area, which means another trip in the future.

All in all, I’d say that Albany was a surprisingly nice visit (albeit a short one), and much better than, say, Hoboken (no offence to Hobokeners out there!).