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As the capital of New York State, Albany sits the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers. Albany is also is the epicenter of upstate New York’s Capital Region. Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, arts, food and craft beer brewing, or outdoor pursuits, Albany and the six counties that make up the Capital Region (also called the Capital District) have plenty to do for travelers wanting to see the sights after business hours.
Downtown Albany and the Empire State Plaza
New York’s State Capitol buildings, Empire Plaza, and the surrounding downtown area is rich with history, architecture, and culture. Walkable and free, the Empire State Plaza consists of a humongous, square fountain that is surrounded by the NYS Museum, NYS Library, five very tall government buildings, and The Egg, Center for the Performing Arts–which is really shaped like a concrete egg—offering evening shows all year. The fountain becomes a winter plaza skating rink and is fun way to get outside during the winter evenings since it is open until 8 pm and has free skate rental on Fridays. Up the street, Albany Institute of History and Art often has evening programs and has free admission on Thursdays nights.
During the warmer months, downtown Albany really comes alive. Summer at the Plaza guarantees something interesting happening most summer and early fall evenings. Every Thursday at 5 pm, the Alive At 5 is a free outdoor summer concert series is a popular event that happens at Jennings Landing on the Hudson River. You can walk to Jennings Landing by a pedestrian bridge off of Broadway Street, near the State University Plaza System Administration building, which is a gorgeous, historical, 100-year old Gothic-style building. It worth the extra minutes to marvel at the imposing structure at ground level before walking over the bridge, where you can also view the building and it’s amazing 13-foot tower from a higher vantage point.
Bike, Ski, Run, Hike: Mohawk-Hudson Bike Path
The paved, 300+ mile Mohawk-Hudson walking/bike path will keep you busy all year long. Rent a bike from CDPH Cycle! Then Then pick up your bike any of the green bike stations located all over the Capital Region. Several local ski shops rent snow shoes and cross-country skis if you want to go during the winter.
Troy is enjoying a cultural renaissance as chefs, microbreweries, confectioneries, bakeries, and coffee connoisseurs have revitalized Troy’s downtown and waterfront. Just taking a stroll through Troy’s streets you’ll encounter lots of coffee shop evening poetry slams, open mics, wine and beer tastings, side walk sales, art galleries, buskers, and more. You might even want to find the plaque on River Street commemorating where the Night Before Christmas was written. Poestenkill Falls offer an urban sanctuary near Troy’s famous Oakwood Cemetery, final resting place of Uncle Sam and where many people enjoy walking for the fall foliage colors.
Just 40 minutes north of Albany, Saratoga Springs anchors the northern part of the Capital District. Open until 7 pm, Roosevelt Baths and Spa offers mineral spring soaks for a small price. President Franklin D. Roosevelt opened this bath house in 1935 since wellness-seekers came from all over the country to enjoy soaks in the mineral-rich waters. Now open to the public in a state park, the rooms and tubs are private, so you’ll need a reservation. Surprising, these springs are not high in sulfuric content, so you won’t be smelly when finished soaking. Note: While spa-like, this spa is not for those expecting high-class luxury but rather a unique, low-cost, and relaxing experience. Also, due to all the minerals, the water is a little brown which alarms some soakers.
Saratoga has many restaurants open late so you can enjoy fine dining after your soak. Downtown Saratoga has upscale shops and smaller local shops that would make an evening or night time stroll pleasurable. Besides the Roosevelt Baths, Saratoga Spa State Park also has many hiking paths featuring numerous water fountains located along the paths where you can taste the effervescent mineral waters, read up on the history of wellness-seekers and the health benefits of the water, and, in the fall, enjoy the famous Northeast’s autumn colors.
Finally, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) is a partially covered, amphitheater offering premier evening events, shows, and concerts throughout the year; the best deals are seats on the lawn—rain or shine!
Thomas Edison and his company General Electric still power much of the activities in the Electric City. Proctors Theater is a turn-of-the century Victorian theater that has been maintained in all its gilded glory; check out its schedule of events for evening shows, plays, and concerts. Schenectady is an easy gateway to evening hikes in the Lisha Kill Preserve, or a walk or bike ride along the Mohawk-Hudson Bike Path.
Whether you like the outdoors or arts and culture, the Capital District has something for everyone. If you are in a hurry, grab a slice of pizza or a sub sandwich from any local shop. Then head out to enjoy Albany and the Capitol Region’s plethora of sights and sounds.
Visiting New York?
- Head 10 minutes outside the city with Hoboken After Five
- Explore Manhattan in New York After Five
- Enjoy Broadway and Time’s Square in New York’s Midtown After Five
- Go further south to New York’s Financial District After Five
- Build your work travel routine with the Road Warrior Handbook