Being the capital, Albany is a totally great spot to visit whilst visiting some of the top spots in New York State. Yes, it’s a city that’s sometimes overshadowed by its Sibling city, New York, but it’s certainly worth visiting – especially when driving the eastern fringes towards Vermont. Trust me, there’s a heap of the very best things to do in Albany that’s just perfect for a little gander.
From an international perspective, it can be easy to see New York state as just the ‘Big Apple’. Though, there’s so much more to do here, with Albany being one city that’s totally worth exploring.
So, to get you on your way, I wanted to share some of the very best things to do in Albany during your visit. Have the most incredible trip.
1.) New York State Museum
Founded in 1836, the New York State Museum is easily the largest and oldest state museum in the United States. This alone makes it totally worth a trip to Albany, especially for the millions of artefacts it holds within its walls.
Home to the most notable experts in the United States, the museum features collections in different fields, such as archaeology, history, sciences, and the arts. It’s the kind of place that’s great for the whole family – though, plan well, you can spend hours inside!
Plus, you can easily pop by Lincoln Park that’s right next door if you’re fancying a stroll in one of Albany’s parks.
Getting peckish? Hop over to Dove and Deer for their buttermilk chicken. It’s so delicious.
2.) Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Within walking distance of the New York State Museum, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is stunning to see. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that visiting is one of the very best things to do in Albany for its stunning architecture.
Not only is the outside totally beautiful but the chancel and apse, along with the rest of the internal structure are just mesmerising. Oh, and be sure to spot The Lady Window which depicts the life of the Virgin Mary.
3.) The Empire State Plaza
The Empire State Plaza is a totally impressive area featuring monuments and buildings that make Albany so distinct.
One of the most notable points of interest is the New York State Capitol building, built-in 1899 and has been host to the New York State Legislature and is a National Historic Landmark.
Guided tours are available so you can learn all about the history of the New York State Capitol and the whole region in general.
Plus, you’ll be able to check out the New York State Museum, catch a performance at the Egg or try your hand at ice skating in the winter months.
It’s totally fun… well if you don’t fall over!
Also, for views, check out the Corning Tower Observation Deck that’s open Monday to Friday between 10 am to 4 pm.
4.) Lake George and Saratoga Springs
Okay, hear me out., I know it’s technically not Albany itself but you have to visit Lake George. It’s one of the very best things to do in Albany if you’re fancying a trip to explore the natural beauty of the state. Plus, it’s only around a 55-minute drive from the city.
With the stunning Adirondacks mountain range, Lake George is a popular spot in the summer months, especially. It’s got everything from water sports, ferry cruises, and trails that meander that shoreline and hills.
If you’re something of a rambler, head to Shelving Rock Falls, which is epic. Love a hike? Then, join the Sleeping Beauty Mountain Trail which has some stunning views over the region.
Though, if you’re fancying a more chilled-out trip; check into The Sagamore which overlooks Lake George itself.
Some of the most popular activities in the area are whitewater rafting, hiking, and boating. You can also go on an ice-cream trail, have a fun outdoor picnic, or go camping around Lake George.
Also, as you drive up from Albany, make sure to stop off at the beautiful, Saratoga Springs. Once here, you will be to take in the historic spa and an array of public springs where you can totally chill.
Plus, Saratoga Springs has a bustling shopping district and yummy foodie spots, like Uncommon Grounds which has the best brews and bagels.
5.) Capital Repertory and Palace Theaters
Founded in 1981 in an abandoned marketplace at Pearl Street, The Capital Repertory Theater (or the REP) is a gem to visit. It’s one of the very best things to do in Albany, especially if you love live performances.
Best of all, the Capital Repertory Theater has a full schedule all year round. This means there’s always something going on, so check out its list of performances before your trip.
Also, for an informal bite, head to Washington Avenue, Dan’s Place Two. It’s a perfect stop for a hearty breakfast and totally chilled and authentic to Albany. We love it.
Alternatively, head over to Palace Theater that’s located in the heart of Albany itself. Not only is the venue incredible, but it hosts award-winning shows from across the US.
6.) Washington Park
Washington Park was established circa 1880 and was designed by Frederick Olmstead and Calvert Vaux. Which, if you’re in the know, are the people who conceptualized the famous Central Park in New York City. Sprawled over about 81 acres, it’s the perfect little chillout space in the heart of Albany.
Oh, and don’t forget that Spring and summer seasons are totally vibrant in Washington Park. In spring, you can see tulips that are just starting to bloom – they’re all so pretty.
Plus, in summer, the Park Playhouse hosts a series of plays that you can watch for free – just make sure to check out the schedules online before your trip.
7.) Albany City Hall
Perched just shy of the New York State Senate, seeing Albany City Hall is one of the very best things to do in Albany if you’re interested in the capital’s history. The building itself is totally gorgeous and well worth taking a gander at whilst strolling the downtown area.
After taking a nose around, check out the nearby City Beer Hall that’s so gorgeous and quaint. Plus, their grilled octopus is so good.
8.) Albany Pine Bush Preserve
Tucked on the city’s northwest corner, just along New Karner Road, the Albany Pine Bush Preserve is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. It’s easily one of the very best things to do in Albany if you’re wanting an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Though, to be honest, Albany never really feels that busy!
Better still, there are approximately 18 miles of winding trails in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve that are totally beautiful to explore on a sunny day. Now, for me, it’s the summer months that are best for hiking here.
Just make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the Karner blue butterfly, which is considered a federally endangered species. Though, truthfully, I’ve never been able to spot it.
9.) Albany Institute of History and Art
Regarded as one of the United States’ oldest museums, the Albany Institute of History and Art was established in 1791 and now hosts a massive collection of the region’s heritage. While this museum is most well-known for its paintings of the Hudson River, it is also home to a heap of displays and archives that are pretty awesome to visit.
The Albany Institute of History and Art chronicles the history and culture of the people who have settled in the Upper Hudson Valley from the late 1600s up to the present day. Some of the best exhibits permanently housed in the museum contain personal objects, manuscripts, furnishings, photos, and art pieces. It’s like a big nosey around into the past!
Afterwards, drop by Umana Yana for a late brunch or lunch in Albany. Their red curry fish tacos are just so good.
10.) Schuyler Mansion
For those not in the know, Philip Schuyler was a veteran general of the Revolutionary War. Oh, and the United States Senator in the 1780s – so a pretty big deal. After his death in 1804, his mansion underwent different ownerships and renovations until it was acquired by the state of New York in 1911 and turned into a historic museum that’s well worth a visit today.
The Schuyler Mansion faces the Hudson River, providing a lovely urban view of the river and the city’s skyline. Inside the mansion are various artefacts, furniture, paintings, and decors dating back to the 18th century. It’s easily one of the best things to do in Albany if you’re fancying a delve into the past.
Also, for a great sandwich, pop by, dp An American Brasserie. Here, they serve up a tasty Nashville hot fried chicken sandwich that’ll leave you stuffed (and your mouth on fire). Plus, their swordfish bites are yummy!
11.) Lark Street
A haven for artists and free souls, Lark Street is also referred to as Albany’s “Greenwich Village”. Just a block away from Washington Park, Lark Street has heaps of bars, art galleries, antique shops, restaurants (Healthy On Lark is a favourite), and cafes where you can spend all day.
As you stroll along the street, you’ll likely stumble upon live musical performances (on the weekends) and seasonal festivals in the summer.
12.) Corning Preserve and Thacher State Park
Located in downtown Albany, Corning Preserve is a waterfront park covering 15 acres of land along the Hudson River. You can explore the Corning Trail by biking or hiking, too. On a sunny day, it’s a great place to go, with a picnic in hand, and chill.
Oh, and Jennings Landing can also be found within the preserve. It is a waterfront amphitheatre that hosts plenty of festivals and events, especially in the seasons of spring through fall.
Also, if you’re fancying a little trip just outside Albany, pop over to Thacher State Park. It’s a great stopping point as you head further west through New York and has a heap of trails to stretch your legs.