15 Best Things to Do in Albany, NY

Albany, NY
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Nestled in the picturesque Hudson Valley, Albany in Albany County is a historic city with roots dating back 400 years.

It has an incredibly rich history and is home to several important landmarks and museums.

It is also the birthplace of many significant inventions and achievements throughout history, such as the telegraph, electric motor, and celluloid plastic.

Albany has been a hub for banking, railroads, and international trade since it officially became the capital city of New York in 1797.

Though often overshadowed by more famous cities in the state, this metropolis has much more to offer apart from stately buildings and government institutions.

Not only is Albany home to stunning historical architecture, but it also boasts a vibrant cultural scene, making it a place well worth visiting.

Here are the 15 best things to do in Albany, New York:

Immerse Yourself in Art, Science, and History at the New York State Museum

Sculpture in front of the New York State Museum
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There is no better place to learn about history, science, and art than the New York State Museum.

Founded in 1836, the New York State Museum is the oldest and largest state museum in the United States.

Throughout the years, it has become a home to some of the leading scientists in the nation, including the founders of American paleontology, botany, and ethnology.

You can find this institution at the southern end of the popular Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza.

Facade of the New York State Museum
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Learners of all ages will surely enjoy roaming around its 100,000-square-foot area filled with engaging and educational exhibitions.

The museum has more than 15 million specimens and artifacts on display, providing you with many opportunities to learn about earth sciences, biology, and human history.

Public educational programs for children and adults are also available all year at the New York State Museum.

Admire the Building Architecture before Catching a Captivating Show at The Egg

Exterior of The Egg
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At The Egg, you can feast your eyes on gorgeous architecture and enjoy an exhilarating performance at the same time.

When its construction was completed in 1978, The Egg quickly became one of Albany's iconic buildings.

Designed by Wallace Harrison, the building was meant to accommodate numerous events and performances.

From afar, it looks like a public sculpture, but upon closer inspection, you'll notice that its interior is much more detailed.

Entrance to The Egg
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The stem structure that holds the upper "egg" actually leads down six stories deep into the land.

The Egg is home to two theatres: the smaller Lewis A. Swyer Theatre, which typically hosts chamber music concerts and educational programs, and the grander Kitty Carlisle Hart Theatre, which is used for musicals and other grand productions.

The Egg at the Empire State Plaza is a must-visit, especially if you are an avid fan of the performing arts.

Aerial view of The Egg
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Shop to Your Heart’s Content at Crossgates

Treat yourself and indulge in a little retail therapy at a shopper's paradise in Albany called Crossgates at Crossgates Mall Road.

With over 150 options, shoppers will find themselves in bliss while browsing the range of stores located on two floors and spanning 1.6 million square feet.

In addition to being a great place to shop, Crossgates has a wide selection of popular restaurants and retailers.

Moreover, the fitness center and cinemas are worth checking out if you're looking for other activities.

To those looking for a little bit of relaxation, Crossgates has something to offer you as well.

The mall has a hotel run by the Hilton Group called Homewood Suits & Tru and the Spa Mirbeau, which was voted one of the bests spas in America.

Crossgates is the perfect place to shop, dine, enjoy, and relax under one roof.

Enter a Land of Ethereal Beauty at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve

Bird perched on a tree at Albany Pine Bush Preserve
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Escape the city and visit the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, a protected land area where you can appreciate the beauty of nature.

Situated in the middle of Catskill and Adirondack mountains, the preserve spans 3,350 acres.

It's a critical habitat for species that rely on inland pine barrens and other common northeast species.

This place is famous for the rolling sand dunes that support its ecosystem.

Trees at Albany Pine Bush Preserve
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Although its environment is described as dry and infertile, this place can still preserve a great diversity of life, including the endangered Karner blue butterfly.

When you visit this National Natural Landmark, you will discover more about the natural, geologic, and cultural past of the area.

You can also hike on one of its many recreational trails and see a unique variety of rare plants and animals.

At Albany Pine Bush Preserve, you will enjoy furthering your knowledge of history, plants, animals, and geology through its many hands-on activities.

Wild flowers along Albany Pine Bush Preserve
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Witness the Historic Seat of the New York Government at the New York State Capitol

Exterior of the New York State Capitol
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Get a glimpse of the history of the state government at the New York State Capitol.

The New York State Capitol, located at the top of Albany's State Street hill, has been home to the government of New York since the 1880s.

With its gorgeous Romanesque and French Renaissance-style architecture, it's no surprise that this building was only completed in 1899, nearly 32 years after its construction began.

When you visit this opulent location, you can enjoy 45-minute tours, which will take you around its grand areas.

Side view of New York State Capitol's exterior
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You can explore the Hall of Governors, the legislative chambers, the Governor's Reception Room, and more.

If you're a certified history buff, you're in for a treat because you will surely enjoy hearing about the complete history of the building during the tour.

Who knew the New York State Capitol was home to so many interesting secrets?

From its famous inhabitants to ghost stories, you'll also be delighted by the place's rich history.

A chamber in New York State Capitol
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Experience an Exciting Tee Time and Play Golf at Capital Hills at Albany

Capital Hills at Albany is the perfect place to play golf if you're looking for an enjoyable game at the putting green.

This beautiful, luscious golf course is the perfect place for players of any skill level.

With its six holes bordering Norman's Kill creek, you're sure to enjoy your game without worrying about having enough space for playing.

Not only is this course scenic and challenging, but it also provides practice facilities so you can improve your game.

A Pro Shop is also available here, which offers high-quality golf clubs and other merchandise.

After golfing with your friends or colleagues, you can swing by Martels Restaurant at Capital Hills at Albany, where you can relax and enjoy delicious grilled food.

Climb Aboard a Ship That Has Endured World War Battles at the USS Slater Museum

Front view of the USS Slater Museum
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Get a taste of maritime history at the USS Slater Museum, the only WWII Destroyer Escort that remains afloat today.

The USS Slater served in battles in the Atlantic and Pacific during the second world war.

After numerous extensive restorations, the USS Slater was finally able to regain its former glory.

The ship is now moored on the Hudson River and serves as a museum.

Visiting this remarkable museum, especially if you are well aware of the events during the wars, is something you will definitely not forget.

Aerial view of the USS Slater Museum
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Given that the ship has been restored to how it was in 1945, you will feel like you went back in time when you tour the museum.

You'll be able to walk the decks where heroes fought for their lives, aim the weapons mounted on the ship, and discover how sailors lived.

You’ll also hear amazing stories from knowledgeable guides that will take you around the museum.

More importantly, you'll be able to help preserve the USS Slater and its history since all of the proceeds from the tour tickets and merchandise are intended for the ship's preservation.

Take Pictures of the Gorgeous Flowering Plants at Washington Park

Daytime view of Washington Park
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Washington Park is a gem for those who love being in nature.

It was established in the 1870s and 1880s, based on a design by Calvert Vaux and Fredrick Olmsted.

Both men are known for their work in Central Park in New York City.

Washington Park in the downtown area is beautiful all year round, but it's especially stunning during the spring and summer months when the flowers are in full bloom.

Furthermore, the park features many trees, shrubs, and other plants that enhance its beauty.

Pretty tulips at Washington Park
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Besides beautiful flowers in the park, there are also several sculptures for visitors to enjoy.

When you visit Washington Park, you can have a great time taking selfies with your friends or just lounging around on the grass.

You can also use some of its facilities, including the tennis courts, basketball courts, and playgrounds.

This is the best spot for you if you're looking for a place to relax and unwind surrounded by nature.

With tall trees and vibrant flowers everywhere, it's impossible not to feel at peace here.

Aerial view of Washington Park
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Cruise on the Hudson River with Dutch Apple Cruises and Tours

Enjoy the scenic views as you tour the Hudson River with Dutch Apple Cruises and Tours.

The Dutch Apple II, built in 1986 and designed with classic elegance, is a vessel the company uses to tour guests around the Hudson River.

You can rent the boat and see the beautiful sights Albany offers from a different perspective.

Not only can you experience the beautiful scenery while sailing down the river, but you can also enjoy a delicious meal.

You won't go hungry during the tour as the boat has everything you need—from candies and burgers to beers and spirits.

If you want to commemorate milestones in your life, you can also book this boat and celebrate with your loved ones on the Hudson River.

No matter the occasion, whether it's a birthday, graduation, wedding, or reunion with friends or colleagues, Dutch Apple Cruises and Tours has you covered.

Explore American History at the Historic Cherry Hill

Discover America's enduring history through the lens of a household that lived in a gorgeous family home by visiting Historic Cherry Hill.

The family home of Philip and Maria Van Rensselaer, this 1787 museum has been kept in its original condition.

The Van Rensselaer family owned Cherry Hill for five generations before Emily Rankin, the last descendant, left it to the people of New York State.

A year after Emily's death, the home opened as a museum in 1964.

The home boasts an amazing collection of artifacts and manuscripts that have been amassed over the past three centuries for visitors to explore.

The Historic Cherry Hill strives to educate all guests on the importance of critical thinking skills through its award-winning educational programs and public tours.

The individuals managing this museum have vowed to make Historic Cherry Hill a prominent community gathering space and a recognized research center and hub for heritage tourism.

If you come to this house, you'll be able to dive deep into the country's history through all of the antiques owned by not just one family but many different families that have lived here.

Enjoy the Breathtaking Sights from the Corning Tower Observation Deck

Exterior of the Corning Tower Observation Deck
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Standing at a whopping 589 feet and 44 stories tall, the Corning Tower is the tallest building in Albany, and the Corning Tower Observation Deck on the 42nd floor offers stunning views of the entire city.

On a clear day, the Observation Deck on Quackenbush Square offers pristine views of Albany that can extend miles.

From this vantage point, you can see the Hudson River Valley and the foothills of the Adirondacks and Catskills.

In clear weather, you may even spot the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts.

Facade of the Corning Tower Observation Deck
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This is a great place to relax while checking out the many beautiful places surrounding the city.

You and your loved ones will enjoy taking memorable photographs with this observation deck's gorgeous views.

This is the perfect spot for you if you want to enjoy the sunset or simply soak up panoramic city views.

Learn about the Distilling Process at the Albany Distilling Company

Visit the Albany Distilling Company and get a behind-the-scenes look at how alcohol is distilled and bottled.

The Albany Distilling Company offers guided tours of the facility that offers a peek into the distilling process from start to finish.

At this distillery, you can see how the experts use both contemporary and traditional methods to make outstanding spirits.

You can watch a wide range of spirits being distilled, including their signature spirits, the Ironweed Aged Whiskey and Cool Yard Unaged Whiskey.

This destination will also teach you about the state's influence on whiskey production.

The Albany Distilling Company is a great place to visit if you have always been interested in the distilling process and want to learn more about it.

Check Out Artworks with National Significance at the Albany Institute of History & Art

Exterior of the Albany Institute of History & Art
UpstateNYer, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Find out more about the art, history, and culture of the Upper Hudson Valley through the gorgeous exhibitions at the Albany Institute of History & Art.

The United States is home to many excellent museums, and Albany Institute of History & Art is one of the oldest and most significant.

Founded in 1791, it houses various works and art collections that are nationally significant.

Interior of the Albany Institute of History & Art
Henry Bellagnome from Troy, New York, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This museum displays many objects documenting the life and culture of the Upper Hudson Valley region from the late 17th century until today.

You can browse through eye-catching fine arts, intriguing photographs, beautiful furnishings, and even personal objects and documents.

If you're looking for a souvenir to remember your visit, the museum shop offers a variety of items related to some of the exhibits.

Exhibit in the Albany Institute of History & Art
Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Check Out the Beautiful Architecture of the New York State Court of Appeals

Exterior of the New York State Court of Appeals
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Feast your eyes on a Greek Revival building by visiting the New York State Court of Appeals on Eagle Street.

Henry Rector designed it in 1842.

In 1971, this majestic building was recognized and became a part of the National Register of Historic Places.

The New York State Court of Appeals building's facade is an elegant reflection of the ancient Greek Temple of Nike Apteros on the Acropolis, making it seem like it was taken right out of a painting.

Interior dome of the New York State Court of Appeals
Daniel Case, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Discover the beauty of the Corinthian columns, the intricate details of the pediment, and the overall structure of this magnificent building.

The New York State Court of Appeals is a must-see, especially if you're into architecture.

Side view of the New York State Court of Appeals
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Other Things to Do Nearby

Laugh, Cry, and Sing along to the Performances of Playhouse Stage Co.

Playhouse Stage Co. is dedicated to providing affordable yet exceptional and unforgettable productions for all audiences.

Established in 1989, the company held some of its first free productions at the outdoor theatre in Washington Park.

Some of their memorable performances include the staging of classic stories like Little Women, Alice in Wonderland, Oklahoma!, and Into the Woods.

Playhouse Stage Co. is dedicated to offering educational programs emphasizing the importance of communication and teamwork among young people in the community.

You will experience a range of emotions when you see the first-class performances by the actors in this company.

Be sure to catch one of their shows and discover the exceptional prowess of their actors and production team.

Final Thoughts

These are just some interesting places you can visit and activities you can do when in Albany, New York.

These destinations are a must for any traveler looking for fun and one-of-a-kind experiences.

If you love architecture or are simply on a search for a good time with friends, look no further because these places have it all!

Be sure to try these best things to do in Albany, New York on your next visit.

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