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Albany, NY City Guide

by Stephanie

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A skeptic at first, architect Shadi Khadivi didn’t think she’d ever find a love for her new home of Albany, NY. But now, four years later, she has embraced this capital city and is sharing with us some of its many hidden gems. Check out what Albany has to offer! –Stephanie

Read the full guide after the jump…

When my husband and I first moved to Albany, we were not quite sure what I would think about it. Prior to moving I heard that the late Andy Rooney was from Albany when he mentioned it on 60 Minutes during one of his banters. On a trip to scope the place out, we met a local and he described Albany as the best place to live because it was 2 ½ hours from NYC, 3 hours from Boston, 3 hours from Montreal and an 8-hour flight to Italy. My husband and I fell very quiet when we realized the best things he thought about Albany was the proximity to other big cities! Sure, Albany has a bad reputation on the news for the bad politics of New York State and the city can sometimes feel transient because many political figures, state workers, and county workers commute in, leaving the place quiet after hours. However, after only living here for four years, I can confidently say that things are on the up and I love the things I am seeing and experiencing.

I brace myself for the reactions of friends or acquaintances when they make assumptions of Albany. Typically, the conversations are something like “Wow, Albany. How far is that from NYC?” Or “It must be cold in the winter,” or my favorite is always “What?! You can get a house for how much?”

I have grown to embrace Albany. It is a diverse, walkable city, that has communities nestled around gorgeous historic buildings, rich historic roots, public parks, public pools, public ice skating and a gorgeous waterfront (okay, it is bifurcated by the highway like many upstate cities), but you can still enjoy the Corning Preserve and take in the mighty Hudson River. On top of all that, it is the capital of New York State.

Public Spaces

Washington Park

Washington Park has many elements of a city park that are exciting to experience. It is noted to be an “Olmestedian Park” because F.L. Olmsted did provide a detailed plan and drawings when the park was conceived. However, William Edgerton is given much credit for the park when it was finished. It is 90 acres and has over 300 species of trees. The park is beautifully maintained by the City of Albany’s Department of General Services. It became Washington Park officially in the late 1800s and prior to that, the space was dedicated to cemetery, parade grounds, private estates and unused landscape. It is a widely used park. Many people in the neighborhood use it as a backyard and an opportunity to run into friends and neighbors. 

The Washington Park Lakehouse is located at one of the lowest points of the park on the north shore of Washington Park. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has survived largely as originally constructed and represents one of the park’s most significant intact historic resources. Russell White designed the lake house in 1929 in a Spanish Revial mode. It is a prominent visual feature of Washington Park. Stepped seating has been constructed into the adjacent hill to accommodate the audience in the summer months. In the summer months there are free plays that are run through the Park Playhouse that was founded in 1989. Park Playhouse has been producing free, outdoor summer theatre in Albany’s Washington Park for over 21 years. Be sure to check out their schedules – the plays under the stars on a summer night are just gorgeous!

Along Washington Park stand glorious brownstones built as early as 1860. While many of these homes are now broken up into apartments, there are many that are single-family homes. One can easily spend a day strolling along State Street, Madison Avenue and Willett Street.

Stay:

The Albany Morgan Statehouse Inn is located right off Washington Park. There are two types of accommodations available. There are actual rooms in the inn that are gorgeous. Then, there are actual studio apartments available as well, these are called “The Washington Park Studios.” I would opt to stay in the actual B&B, if possible. 393 State Street, 518 427 6063

Center Square/Townsend Park/ Washington Avenue

Do:

Visit local designer Elissa Halloran Design. She has a unique collection of jewelry, artwork and crafts in her shop. 229 Lark Street, (518) 432-7090

Seasons Skate Shop: Noted to be the only skater-owned and operated shop in the Capital District. This place has a unique assortment of skateboards and gear. 211 Lark St, Albany, NY (518) 729-2685

New Scotland Antiques: This place is filled with treasures. You just have to be patient. The hours are odd and it is a bit of a mess in there. 240 Washington Ave, (518) 463-1323

Greatfinds Thrift Boutique: The most amazing thrift store in town. The window displays are elegantly catered and frequently changed. The prices are great. This is a must-see. It is not open on weekends. 260 Washington Ave (518) 449-7715

Museum:

Albany Institute of History and Art: Founded in 1791, the Albany Institute of History & Art is one of the oldest museums in the United States. It also is the major repository for the region’s heritage, with nationally significant collections. The genesis of the Albany Institute of History & Art began with The Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, Arts, and Manufactures, founded in New York City in Federal Hall.  125 Washington Ave, (518) 463-4478

Eat:

The Wine Bar & Bistro: Upscale restaurant with delicious foods prepared for the season. They have a gorgeous backyard – I would suggest sitting in the secluded and atmospheric patio. 200 Lark Street, (518) 463-2881

Kinaree Asian Resturant: This place has the most delicious Thai food in the area. Don’t be fooled by their “pan-Asian” sign. 193 Lark Street, (518) 813-4944

McGuire’s Restaurant: The food is pricy and for the most part hit-or-miss as is the spotty service. However, they have the most beautiful bar with a curtain wall view of Lark Street and State Street. Sitting outside is a major feature of this place. 353 State Street, (518) 463-2100

Café Hollywood: Don’t be turned off by the horrible interior conditions and horrible music selection at this place. If you find yourself parched for around 5 o’clock walk all the way through and ignore everything you see and go straight to the backyard and enjoy the quiet patio and great beers on tap. Be sure to not stay too long as the crowd is really frat boy esque and can be annoying after a certain time.
275 Lark Street (518) 472-9043

Crisan Bakery & Edible Art Gallery: Small family owned and operated has the most delicious assortment of delicately designed and assembled pastries. They are all made fresh with local and organic ingredients.  In the summer months they have gelato that is made right in their bakery. Ana Claudia Crisan Calbria’s work has been featured in the British Vogue. She specializes in spun sugar.

Drink:

Stacks Espresso Bar: Stop in for a delicious espresso or coffee. The owner is highly knowledgeable and passionate about his beverages. 260 Lark Street, 518 331 6378

Brew Craft Beverage Shop. Brew is a newly opened beverage shop focusing on craft beer, specialty coffee, and other quality drinks for off-premise consumption. It is tastefully designed and really fun to visit. They have frequent tastings that create quite a crowd! 209 Lark Street, 518 512 3490

Capital Wine: A locally owned and operated wine store. It is often a prime intersection to run into friends and neighbors around the area. They have an assortment of wines with an assortment of prices. They have wine tasting on Friday’s at six and it is a big scene to meet all the locals. 
348 State Street, 518 689 0160

Stay:

State Street Mansion B&B: It is located on historic  State Street within walking distance to Washington Park, Lark Street, and New York State’s Capital buildings. The historic brownstone built in 1881 offers gorgeous interior details. 281 State Street, 518 462 6780

To get a real local feeling there are also a few listings in Albany on airbnb

Empire State Plaza An amazing contribution to modern architecture, designed by architect built in 1859-1976, Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza is a unique architectural masterpiece that houses 11,000 New York employees in a complex of ten buildings. This local version of Brasilia is a point of controversy in Albany. Constructing the plaza did displace many locals and it did bifurcate the downtown from many other neighborhoods.  The plaza houses several departments of the New York State administration and is integrated with the New York State Capitol completed in 1899, which houses the state legislature.  Among the offices located at the plaza are the Department of Health. However, the Plaza offers a world-class modern art collection, New York State’s Museum, Library and Archives, a distinctive performing arts center, convention center and more. It serves as a monument to the diversity and significance of New York, and also as a testament to Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, whose determination and vision brought about its creation. To plan a visit to the Empire State Plaza, please call or visit the Plaza Visitor Center, located on the North Concourse (518.474.2418).

Delaware Avenue Neighborhood:

Public Spaces:


Lincoln Park: The first public park in Albany has a unique history from being the site of a skirmish in 1626 between the Dutch and Mohawks . The park features Albany’s only outdoor non-wading swimming pool, along with several tennis courts, basketball courts, and football and baseball fields. The park contains the larger of Albany’s two public pools, the Lincoln Park Pool. It covers approximately 2 acres (0.81 ha), is 7 feet (2.1 m) deep in center, and can hold over 300 swimmers at a time. The pool may be the largest cement pool in the Northeast
.

Do:

Spectrum 8 Theatres locally owned and operated, the Spectrum 8 has unique movies and showings.
290 Delaware Ave. 518 499 8995

Fort Orange General Store locally owned and operated this store features local and creative artists in the Capital Region and Hudson Valley. Every item is beautifully curated and displayed.
296 Delaware Ave, 518 729 3703

Emak & Bolios This place has great ice creams. It has a lovely enclosed outdoor seating area perfect for listening to live music and enjoying the night. 366 Delaware Ave, 518 512 5100

Eat:


New World Bistro Bar Locally owned and operated and not to mention delicious and unique foods. This is a local favorite for all kinds of people. It has a nice out door area for cool summer nights. 300 Delaware Avenue, 518 469 0520

Cardona’s Market a staple for Italian groceries. They have a delicious selection of food in their deli counter. 340 Delaware Ave, 518 434 4838


Broadway: Warehouse District

Do:

Silver Fox Salvage: This place is a gem. You can find unique and antique items. They offer an eclectic variety of decorative architectural salvage parts. It is really a great place to look before you do any renovations or have ideas for a craft project. 20 Learned Street 518 265-1836

Eat/Drink:

Wolff’s Biergarten: This place was the catalyst that spun interest and crowds to the industrial Broadway district. This place has delicious beer on tap with an assortment of German bar foods. It is a fun and friendly atmosphere for families of all ages including kids. 895 Broadway 518 427-2461


The Old English Pub and Pantry located in the historic Quackenbush House located in downtown Albany- this hot spot has an amazing interior but also has a cool front patio as well as an enclosed garden in the back. 683 Broadway, 518 434 6533


Nine Pin Ciderworks  Local and brewed in the region. Nine Pin offers a diverse assortment of cider selections. 929 Broadway, 518 499 9999


West Hill/West End:

Public Spaces:

Tivoli Park: New York’s second largest urban nature preserve outside of Central Park in Manhattan.

The city bought the Tivoli Lake Preserve in the Arbor Hill/West Hill neighborhoods back in 1851. Its man made lake was built to be part of A-town’s water supply system.  It is about 82 acres.

Bleecker Stadium: Was built as a Federal public works project and originally the stadium was the Bleecker Reservoir constructed in 1850.  It is a multi purpose stadium in Albany. The stadium was once a reservoir for the Albany public water system. It has a baseball diamond, football/soccer field and a softball field used by various organizations.  Franklin D. Roosevelt, governor of New York Stat established a jobs relief program that made the conversion of the reservoir, which had become obsolete. This led to 500-1000 jobs and the stadium opened on Thanksgiving Day in 11934. 721 Clinton Ave, 518 438 2166

Swinburne Park Skating Ring: This skating ring provides an all weather protected ice skating ring from November- March.  Located at Clinton Ave. and Manning Blvd. 518 438 2406

Do:
Historic Albany Foundation Historic Albany Foundation is a private, not-for-profit membership organization established in 1974.  HAF has fulfilled its mandate through public education, promotion and membership, provision of design and technical assistance, community projects, advocacy for endangered buildings, publications, tours, lectures and operation of an architectural parts warehouse
.  89 Lexington Ave, 518 465 0876


Historic Albany Foundation Part’s Warehouse:
Open since 1978, the Capital District’s only not-for-profit architectural salvage warehouse.  It is filled with architectural gems and requires time to explore all the intricate aspects of salvaged building parts.  Be sure to check their hours on their website as the Parts Warehouse is not open every day. 89 Lexington Ave, 518 465 2987

Eat:

Rolf’s Pork Store: Family owned and operated since 1968, Rolf’s Pork Store offers over 60 homemade verities of smoked cold cuts, wurst, hams and much more. This is not a sit down place, but you can order something to go. It is a real experience and the smell of meat resonates right as you set foot in the door. 70 Lexington Avenue, 518 463 0185

Honest Weight Food Co-op: The newly relocated co-op has been operating for over 35 years. This place has a lovely selection of local groceries. An added benefit is the beautifully designed seating area to enjoy your meal or read a book. 100 Watervillet Ave, 518 482 2667

Downtown Albany

Do:

Albany City Hall: is the seat of government for the City of Albany. It houses the office of the mayor, the Common Council chaimber, the city and traffic courts. The building was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson, who was knon for his Romanesque style and opened in 1883. 24 Eagle Street, 518-434-5284

Van Ostrande- Radliff House AKA 48 Hudson
The Van Ostrande-Radliff House is one of only a handful of North American urban Dutch houses to survive into the twenty-first century, but even greater rarities exist within its construction. It was built is 1728. The modified anchor beam framing for the side jambless fireplace is the only surviving example of this construction type in the United States, and represents a type of construction that was common in both New York City and Albany throughout most of the period of Dutch cultural dominance. The gem was recently acquired by Historic Albany Foundation. HAF is working towards stabilizing it and bringing it back to life.  48 Hudson Avenue, 518 465 0876

Palace Theatre

Built in 1931, the 2,844 seat theater is owned by the City of Albany and run by the Palace Performing Arts Center. The Palace Theatre hosts more than 150 events annually, from public performances such as concerts, plays, educational programs, live comedy and a classic movie series to private events such as weddings, dance competitions, corporate events and graduations. It is also the annual home of the Albany Symphony Orchestra.The Palace was designed by John Eberson, a theatre architect noted for his atmospheric designs. Although the Palace includes some atmospheric features in its design it is not considered an atmospheric theatre. In 1979 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

19 Clinton Avenue, 518 465-3335

Angela’s Bridal Even if you are not gown shopping. This place is spectacular to see.  It located in the heart of downtown in a recently renovated and repurposed bank building. The space is vast and the gowns delicate and elaborate pieces of art placed in the large volumes of space. 126 State Street, 518 869 1848

Eat/Drink:

City Beer Hall  Nested at a unique intersection in downtown Albany, this building stood vacant and underutilized for many years until the owners re opened it. It has a lovely roof deck that overlooks the Empire Plaza and serves lunch, dinner, late night and bruch ever weekend.
42 Howard Street, 518 449 BEER

Speakeasy 518 
Don’t be turned away by the modest and undescript entry and the red light. You’ll have to knock to actually enter the space, once you’re in you’ll be amazed by the atmospheric and interesting space. Speakeasy 518 serves unique mixed drinks and finger foods. Be sure to bring cash as there are no cards accepted. 42 Howard Street, 518 449 2332


Jack’s Oyster House Located in the heart of downtown Albany on the premier State Street. Jack’s was established in 1913 and three generations later run by the grandson of the original owner. The space and the food are amazing.  They serve lunch and dinner. 42 State Street, 518 (518) 465-8854

Cider Belly Doughnuts  Opened in 2014, this place makes the most delicious doughnuts in Albany. They are fresh, reasonably priced and really easy to accidentally order bakers dozen and eat four on your way home. They are really open on weekdays and are working on weekend hours.  25.1 N. Pearl Street (518) 253-4640


The Merry Monk  This place has an assortment of foods and delicious beers on tap.
90 N. Pearl Street, 518 463 6665

Mansion District:

Do:

New York State Executive Mansion is the  official residence of the Governor of New York.  It has housed 31 governors and their families. The Italiante building was constructed in 1856 as a banker’s private home. The mansion is the first governor’s residence in the country to earn Gold status using the LEED for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) rating system.  Free guided tours of the Executive Mansion are given on Thursdays from September to June at 12:00, 1:00, and 2:00 p.m. by reservation only, be sure to call ahead reservations must be made two weeks ahead. 138 Eagle Street, 518.473.7521

Radix Ecological Center Located on a ½ acre former vacant lot near downtown Albany, the main educational building is a 20-foot by 60-foot solar greenhouse, built in 2011. This haven for urban farming and sustainability is located in a very densely populated part of Albany. Their mission is to promote ecological literacy and environmental stewardship through educational programs based around demonstrations of sustainable technologies. They offer tours and have workshops. The best way to reach out to them is on their website.  Intersection of Grand Street and Warren Street

Grand Street Community Arts

This community and neighborhood staple was formed in 2003 in the Mansion Neighborhood as a way to bridge the cultural and economic divides in the neighborhood. It is located in what was once a blighted and vacant church that was constructed in 1907, St. Anthony’s Church. In 1972, following the construction of the Empire State Plaza and the demolition of many homes in the South End, St. Anthony’s had lost its congregation and closed its doors. In 2003, Grand Street Community Arts purchased St. Anthony’s from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, reopening its doors as a community center.

GSCA has offered programs for teens, especially the award-winning Youth FX film/video program and Youth Organics!, a summer urban agriculture program. GSCA has also offered classes, after-school programs for kids and has hosted fashion shows, exhibitions and artist’s projects, and performances. 
68 Grand Street
518 463-2222


Eat:


Lombardo’s Restaurant has been operating since 1919. In 1934, prohibition was repealed and the present barroom was acquired. The room previously housed an Italian consulate office and an ice cream parlor. People often recall the black and white tiled floors, the iconic art murals on the walls and the original bar itself with it’s old world charm intact. It has delicious Italian food and is open for lunch and dinner.

121 Madison Avenue, 518 462 9180

Hill Street Cafe known to be a neighborhood café, this place offers a great selection of bar foods and beers. 182 Madison Avenue, 518 462 3544

Pine Hills

Do:

Madison Theatre The theatre opened in 1929, located in the Pine Hills neighborhood, this theatre offers a stellar admission price of $5.00. Recently re-opened and brought back to life, it sure doe offer an affordable and cool evening out. 1036 Madison Avenue, 518 438 2094

Eat:

Bread and Honey located right in the Pine Hills area; this bakery provides the community with delicious baked goods- the most famous includes their Montreal style bagels. 809 Madison Avenue, 518 567 7158
Capital Q Smokehouse delicious bbq nothing more, nothing less. Cash only. 
329 Ontario Street 518 GET PORK
Hudson River Coffee House Great coffee, tasty sandwiches, bagels and a live performances. This café opened in 2010 and is owned and operated by locals
. 227 Quail Street,  518 449 2714

Waterfront:

Public Spaces:
Corning Preserve Albany’s waterfront location for outdoor activites. This has a beautiful bike lane nested right by the Hudson River.

Eat/Drink:

Riverfront Bar & Grill Nested right on the Corning Preserve, this old ship that is now footed in the river has supreme views of the water at night. The food is decent and the beer is great on tap. 51 Erie Blvd, 518 462 4738

Central Avenue/ Washington Avenue

Known to be the place to get great Ethnic foods. I find Central Avenue the place to go for delicious and reasonably priced foods.

Do:

St. Pauly’s Hotel Known to be Albany’s oldest tavern. It is a great place for live music
337 Central Avenue, 518 426 8028

The Low Beat This place is known for great Indi Music and beer.
335 Central Avenue, 518 432 6572

Eat:

Umana Restaurant and Wine Bar This place not only has delicious food but an amazing atmosphere.
236 Washington Ave, 518 915 1699

Ocean Palace A real gem of Hong Kong style food. A family operated restaurant. The chef, Peter Chan takes great pride in his work. 68 Central Avenue, 518 434 2888


Northeast Dumpling House Delicous dumplings made fresh. Cash only 299 Central Avenue, 518 433 2658


Shwe Mandalay Delicious and fresh Burmese style food. Made fresh and reasonably priced. 214 Central Ave, 518 512 3474

Taiwan Noodle a variety of fresh Taiwanese food. The atmosphere is lovely and the food is very tasty. 218 Central Avenue 518 436 1328


Parivar Spices and Food An Indian grocery store with a food court in the back. The food court has an assortment of amazing vegetarian chaat. 1275 Central Avenue, 518 512 5118

Uptown:
University at Albany is the main campus. It is a blissful display of modern architecture designed by Wallis Harrison. It was constructed from 1963-1964. The campus bears what is known to be Stone’s signature style of bold unified design, expressed by towers, domes, fountains and soaring colonnades and a sweeping canopy. 1400 Washington Avenue.

Group and Organized Activities in Albany:

Albany Rowing Center
Albany Running Exchange
ASAP Dodgeball League
Biking in Albany
Capital Hills at Albany Golf
Capital District Youth Rugby
Outdoor Competitive Volleyball
Out of Control Ski Club
Albany Pine Bush Preserve
Capital District YMCA
Special Events in Albany

Hiking/National Parks

Suggested For You

Comments

  • Stephanie, I was laughing reading your post because I moved from Albany to NYC, and all I hear now is “Albany?? Wow it’s so far.” People in NYC call White Plains upstate, so I go on to correct them saying “You don’t understand…I’m from Albany.”

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