Best Places to Visit in Albany
Albany is cold when it comes to business travel hype. Despite being the capital of New York State and home to major cultural attractions, the city is often overlooked. The must-see list includes several excellent museums and stunning architectural landmarks.
Albany is also a place worth visiting for those who want to learn about New York State’s history, art, and government. Albany also offers a friendly, realistic feel and lively atmosphere. The city’s diverse population has a vibrant restaurant scene that offers a variety of ethnic options and many cozy cafes.
As an added bonus for travelers, there are many worthwhile attractions just a short drive away. For example, it’s easy to take a day trip further north to Saratoga Springs or Stockbridge, one of the best places to visit in the Berkshires, Massachusetts.
Have a look at our list of the Best Places to Visit in Albany and make your trip enjoyable.
10 Best Places to Visit in Albany
Let’s explore the top 10 Most Beautiful and Best Places to Visit in Albany:
1. New York State Capitol
Even if you have visited many state capitals before, be sure to visit the New York State Capitol. The unique architecture of the New York Capitol sets it apart from all other state capitals in the country.
The New York State Capitol replaced a small state capitol and took 32 years to complete from 1866 until Governor Theodore Roosevelt’s inauguration in 1899. No expense was spared for a luxury construction project that cost more than $25 million (more than the cost of the US Capitol).
This unique 19th century monument has a neo-Gothic facade built from solid granite walls. Unlike most state capitals, the New York State Capitol has a Mansard roof (typically French architecture) rather than a dome. While the exterior is pretty classy, there’s no hint of the exotic interior.
Passing through the entrance hall, the visitor marvels at the astonishing architecture. The building is a mix of Moorish Gothic and Romanesque Revival styles, reminiscent of Venice or the architecture of Spain’s Andalusia region. Design themes include circular arches, meticulously hand-engraved capital letters, and ornate geometric patterns. Exquisite craftsmanship and large spaces give the interior a luxurious and inviting feel.
Guided tours (available Monday to Friday between 10:00 and 12:00) allow visitors to enter the building free of charge. This includes access to the building’s common areas after a one-hour tour and a guided tour led by a knowledgeable doctor.
After touring the interior, visitors may want to spend some time in West Capitol Park next to the Capitol. Tourists and government workers alike enjoy this pleasant shade for a picnic lunch or to relax on a park bench under tall, shady trees. Food trucks are located next to the park on Washington Avenue.
Across the street from the Capitol is Empire State Plaza, a long walkway with decorative pools and picnic tables. It takes about 10 minutes to walk along the Esplanade from the Capitol to the New York State Museum.
Address: Empire State Building, Albany, New York
Official website: https://empirestateplaza.ny.gov
2. Hudson River School
Visit the Albany Institute of History and Art to see famous 19th-century American landscape paintings by a group of artists known as the Hudson River School.
Beginning in 1850, New York artists began to paint picturesque landscapes of the Hudson Valley on canvas. Considered the founder of this artistic movement, Thomas Cole has inspired many other painters.
It is easy to see the similar influence on the style of the Hudson River School paintings. The paintings depict idyllic landscapes that demonstrate an appreciation of the wilderness, attention to detail and a sense of realism. Many paintings focus on idyllic farmland scenes, such as grazing animals. Kids will have fun counting the number of cows in the picture.
The Albany Institute of History and Art’s Hudson River School Landscapes collection includes more than 90 works (on display in the Hearst Gallery on the third floor). For visitors, the collection is one of the museum’s most popular ongoing exhibits.
Some notable Hudson River School landscape paintings include Robert Havel, Jr.’s Hudson River Landscape; Sarah Cole’s Catskill Chalet View; Memoirs of an Old Man by Asher B. Durand (c.1845); Thomas Cole’s Mediterranean Coast Landscape and Towers (c. .1832-1836); Frederic Edwin Church in the morning looking east from the Catskill Mountains over the Hudson River Valley (c. 1848) and Studying Nature, Dresden, Lake George (c. 1870), David Johnson.
In addition to artwork from the Hudson River School, the Albany Institute of History and Art displays a collection of art and historical objects from the Upper Hudson Valley from the 17th century to the present. Visitors learn about history and arts and crafts traditions through exhibits of paintings, drawings, furniture, ceramics, and other artifacts.
The museum is open Wednesday-Saturday from 10:00 to 17:00 and Sunday from noon to 17:00. Facilities include a gift shop, a research library (open by appointment only), and a cafe serving lunch and snacks.
Address: 125 Washington Street, Albany
Official website: https://www.albanyinstitute.org
3. New York State Museum
Designed for young learners and lifelong learners, the New York State Museum immerses you in a variety of educational disciplines. The collections pay special attention to the history and natural environment of New York State.
Founded in 1836, the New York State Museum is the oldest museum in the state. The museum also has the largest exhibition space and impressive collection in the state, with 16 million specimens in its natural science collection and 1 million objects in its history and anthropology collections.
Visitors will be amazed by the variety of exhibits in the collection’s artistic, anthropological, archaeological, scientific and historical collections.
Highlights include the “Birds of New York” ornithology exhibit; the New York Metropolitan exhibition; the Historical archeology exhibit showing the 17th century Dutch fur (beaver hair) trade and the New Holland Fort Orange colony (present-day Albany). Some archaeological exhibits compare artifacts such as pieces of clay brick or Romer’s glass with the same objects depicted in contemporary Dutch paintings.
It is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30 to 17:00. The entrance is free. The museum has a gift shop, cafe and outdoor terrace.
Address: 222 Madison Street, Albany, NY
Official website: http://www.nysm.nysed.gov
4. Washington Park
Take a walk, relax on a park bench, or enjoy a picnic in Washington Park. This expansive tree-lined park provides a refreshing open space in the heart of Albany.
Washington Park was created by landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmsted, who created Central Park in New York between 1870 and 1880. The landscape looks natural (almost idyllic), one of the hallmarks of Olmsted’s design aesthetic.
The park features extensive lawns and English-style gardens, a five-acre lake with lakeside cottages (with toilets), a children’s playground, benches and walks in the shade of wooded oaks.
Local residents enjoy the park as a place of rest and relaxation throughout the year. A popular place to socialize with friends, throw a frisbee, play tennis or basketball. You can even go cross-country skiing here in the winter.
Washington Park hosts a wonderful tulip festival in May in honor of the city’s Dutch heritage (though the tulips start blooming in mid-April). Visitors flock to a designated area of the park dedicated to tulips to be dazzled by more than 100,000 colorful blooms. Banners placed in front of the tulips identify the varieties. The festival begins with a traditional Dutch street sweeping ceremony, followed by tulip tours, concerts and tulip sales.
From the end of November to January 3, the holiday lights in the capital’s Washington Park are on. More than a hundred holiday lights and lighting scenes adorn the park to help visitors get into the holiday spirit.
Visitors should also explore the fascinating historic district surrounding the park, where tree-lined streets are lined with old brownstone houses. Skylark Street near the park is particularly lively, with many locally owned shops, eclectic boutiques, quaint cafes, takeaway pizzeria, and ethnic restaurants. For an indulgent meal, head to the corner of Lark Street and Madison Avenue. You will find many casual dining options and trendy restaurants in this area.
Address: Washington Park, Albany and Willett Streets, New York
5. Hudson River
The Hudson River looks calm today with its gentle flow and dense forests, but the waterway has witnessed a number of dramatic historical events over the past 400 years.
In 1609, English explorer Henry Hudson made a voyage to explore the trade routes to China under the auspices of the Dutch East India Company. Instead, Hudson found a river that bears his name. He made his way to the city of Albany, where the Dutch East India Company established a trading post.
The Dutch named the area Beverwyck (Beaver Town) because the river was full of beavers, making the area profitable for the fur trade. When the colony of New Holland was taken by the British as a colony of New York in 1664, the city was renamed Albany in York’s honor and James, Duke of Albany (James II), who would later become King of England.
A pivotal moment in history occurred when the Erie Canal was completed in 1825, providing a link between Albany’s Hudson River and Lake Erie further north. The Erie Canal made Albany the commercial center of New York, allowing the city to grow and prosper.
Visitors can take a sightseeing cruise to learn more about the history of the Hudson River and enjoy its picturesque scenery. The Dutch Apple Cruise gives you the opportunity to glide down the Hudson River while listening to historians provide insights about the river and the area. Inspired by 19th-century Hudson River ferries, the Dutch Apple II is made of Adirondack white cedar wood and the deck is made of teak. Ships leave from Dock Street in Albany.
Other activities along the Hudson River include biking or hiking on the Mohawk-Hudson Cycle Trail. Visitors can try part of this 10-mile coastal route from Albany to Cohos Town. Visitors can rent bikes from CDPHP Cycle!
6. Homes 18th-Century Citizens
From 1763 to 1804, the famous and wealthy Revolutionary War general, Philip J. Schuler, and his wife, Katherine Van Rensselaer, lived at the Schuler Mansion in Albany. (Their daughter Elizabeth married Alexander Hamilton in 1780.) The original 80-acre hill estate included a working farm, orchards, and formal gardens. The Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site (32 Katherine Street) is open to the public for guided tours from 11am to 5pm, Wednesday through Sunday, mid-May to late October. Tours can only be booked in advance.
Recently reopened after a decade of renovations, this historic 18th-century Cherry Hill home built for a prominent local family has been converted into a museum displaying original artifacts dating back to 1787. Interiors, books, clothes, diaries and photos up to 1963. Visitors can take guided tours of the historic Cherry Hill House (June-November, Fridays 13-16:00, Saturdays 10:00-16:00); a reservation is required.
In a historic district in Albany, Ten Brook Mansion (9 Ten Brook Plaza) is a handsome Federal-style home built in 1797-1798 for General Abraham Ten Brook. The property has gorgeous formal gardens and colorful flower beds. To see the interior of the house, visitors must pre-register for a guided tour. Tours are available on Fridays and Saturdays from mid-May to mid-October. Ten Brook House’s beautiful gardens are open to the public free of charge from late March to early November (dawn to dusk).
It’s worth the short drive (three miles from Albany) into the town of Rennselaer to visit the Crelo State Historic Site. This 18th century mansion houses a Dutch colonial museum in the Hudson Valley. The Crelo National Historic Site is open to the public for guided tours from mid-May to October, Wednesday through Sunday. Tours are available every hour from 11:00 to 16:00. Reservation is not required.
In the town of Cohoes (10 miles from Albany), the Van Schaick Mansion was built in 1735 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The mansion played a role in both the French and Indian Wars and the American War of Independence. Most notably, the mansion was used as a military headquarters during the American Revolution and was where the Battle of Saratoga was planned. Van Schaick Mansion is open every second or third Sunday of the month from 13:00 to 16:00. To see the inside of the mansion, visitors must take a guided tour.
7. New York State Education Building
Sign up for a guided tour and prepare to marvel at the extraordinary architecture of the New York State Education Building. Constructed between 1908 and 1912, the building is located in Washington, D.C. It has grand proportions and neoclassical elements reminiscent of the monument.
The most impressive aspect of the building is its façade, the longest portico in the world. The 36 columns are made of Vermont marble, each 90 feet high.
The New York State Education Building is free to the public with a 45-minute guided tour. Tours are organized at 12:30 noon on Saturdays. and 14:30 Reservations are required.
Guided tours are led by the knowledgeable staff at the New York State Museum. Guided tours take visitors through the ornate chandelier-lit Chancellor’s Chamber, the limestone-clad Regency Chamber, and the Rotunda (Dome) adorned with 36 frescoes about the importance of education.
Address: 89 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY
Official website: http://www.nysed.gov/nysed-building/tours-state-education-building
8. The Egg
Visitors ask themselves, “Is it elegant or ugly?” they may ask.
The Albany Performing Arts Center is affectionately known as “The Egg” because of its oval shape. Built between 1966 and 1978, The Egg has hosted concerts, comedy shows, dance performances, and lectures.
Egg Center for the Performing Arts has two halls: the 450-seat Lewis A. Swyer Theater and the 982-seat Kitty Carlisle Hart Theatre. The State of New York owns the center and is managed by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire Plaza Performing Arts Center Corporation.
Egg overlooks the Empire State Building, the hub of urban activity in downtown Albany. The area is full of shops, restaurants and cafes.
Address: Empire State Building, Albany, New York
Official website: https://www.theegg.org
9. Corning Tower
One of the main attractions in the Empire State Building is the Corning Tower Observation Deck on the 42nd floor of the Corning Tower. The covered observation deck has floor-to-ceiling windows that allow visitors to enjoy uninterrupted views.
The panorama includes the Hudson River, the Hudson Valley, the Catskill Mountains to the south, the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts to the east, and the Adirondack Foothills to the north.
The scenery looks gorgeous especially in the fall when the leaves change color. It is a good place to appreciate the red leaves as the tower can be seen from afar.
The Corning Tower Observation Deck is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 to 16:00.
Address: Empire State Building, Albany, New York
10. Hamilton’s Footsteps
One of America’s Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton spent most of his life in Albany. He married Elizabeth Schuler, daughter of American Revolutionary War general Philip J. Schuler in Albany.
The Historic Albany Foundation offers guided “Walking in Hamilton’s Footsteps” tours. The foundation also offers self-guided walking tour maps with various historical sites related to Alexander Hamilton.
Stops on the self-guided tour include the First Church, where Hamilton’s fathers-in-law are members of the congregation, and a historic house at 50 State Street, where Alexander Hamilton’s quarrel with rival Aaron Burr led to the end of Hamilton’s life’s deadly duel.
Hope you like our choice of the best places to visit in Albany. If you think there are some more beautiful places to visit in Albany, we should cover them. Write us below in the comment box.