Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Schenectady, NY

  • Published 2022/02/23

Schenectady is a small city nestled within the Capital Region of New York.

This city is known for its rich culture in one of the United States’ oldest cities.

Historically, Schenectady was originally designated as a borough in 1765, but in 1798, it was chartered as a city.

Its name is unique; it is derived from the Mohawk Indian word “Over the Pine Plains” or “Schau-naugh-ta-da.”

The city is situated on Mohawk River’s bend, and it is a 20-minute drive north of New York State Capital Albany and an hour drive south of Lake George.

Schenectady welcomes visitors with attractions significant to its history.

Its streets are lined with well-preserved centuries-old buildings that take you back to the old days.

This upstate city has a lively community that you can see through its shops, restaurants, recreations, and culture.

There is a lot in store for everyone who wants to visit Schenectady.

Visitors can roam around its old residential communities and discover rich backstories about them.

In addition, Schenectady is also a haven for outdoor enthusiasts since it’s a short distance from popular outdoor destinations, especially the Mohawk River.

Schenectady is a wonderful destination for everyone from its lively community, entertainment, history, and outdoor activities.

If you’re seeking excitement in this upstate city, here are the 15 best things to do in Schenectady:

Watch Broadway Performances at the Proctors Theater

Exterior of the Proctors Theater.

Brian Logan Photography /

The Proctor’s Theater is a historic entertainment venue in Schenectady that opened in 1926.

It is a beautifully-restored theater that presents top-notch Broadway tours and other live performances.

Name sign and the street at Proctors Theater.

Brian Logan Photography /

Being the premier performing arts venue in the Capital region, this theater regularly shows Broadway performances.

At the same time, Proctors Theater is a popular venue for concerts, comedy shows, classical productions, dance programs, symphonies, and operas.

If you’re a Broadway fan and want to watch live performances while touring around Schenectady, visit the Proctors Theater or perhaps check out their website for scheduled shows.

Exterior view of the Proctors Theater.

Brian Logan Photography /

Visit the Museum of Innovation and Science

This educational attraction in Schenectady is a popular tourist destination for those with curious minds and even average tourists.

Its main goal is to grab children’s interest in science and innovation.

With that in mind, the Museum of Innovation and Science is filled with interactive and hands-on science-themed exhibits and galleries.

These exhibits and galleries have toys and equipment useful to educate children who tour the museum.

The Museum of Innovation and Science was founded in 1934.

In 1997, it officially merged with General Electric’s Electrical History Museum.

Today, it houses more than 15,000 artifacts relevant to science and technology and a lot more.

This museum in Schenectady is an excellent place to bring your kids to have an awesome experience.

Get Mesmerized at the Central Park Rose Garden

A walkway framed with roses at Central Park Rose Garden.

JackSpot /

Schenectady’s Central Park Rose Garden is a romantic and mesmerizing outdoor attraction that you need to visit with your loved ones.

The garden is filled with rose bushes that are mesmerizing and blissful to the eyes.

The Central Park Rose Garden is popularly known throughout Schenectady as one of the most romantic places couples love to visit.

It has a wide array of roses that grow abundantly in the entire garden.

The Central Park Rose Garden underwent restoration in the 1990s through the efforts of Schenectady’s community, forming the Rose Garden Restoration Committee.

The group restored, upgraded, and maintained the beautiful garden up to this day.

More than 4,000 rose bushes saturate the garden with colorful hues and fragrant scents, making it perfect as a background for taking nice photos.

Learn Interesting History at the Schenectady History Museum and the Grems-Doolittle Library

This local museum is nestled in the middle of Schenectady’s Stockade, a historic district in the city.

Historically, Schenectady’s Stockade has the highest number of historic period houses in the United States based on the National Park Service’s data.

The Schenectady History Museum and the Grems-Doolittle Library is the perfect place to learn the backstory of this city through its walking tours and interactive exhibits.

In addition, this local museum has respected speakers that offer educational tours and forums for visitors who are eager to learn more about Schenectady’s history.

It is a wonderful destination and a starting point to discover the rich history of Schenectady.

You can also explore its vast collection of paintings, artifacts, publications, maps, heirlooms, and photographs from past prominent people of Schenectady.

Play Games at the Rivers Casino & Resort

Exterior of the Rivers Casino & Resort.

George Burns /

The Rivers Casino & Resort is one of Schenectady’s best attractions.

This casino, which opened in 2017, is one of the focal points of the Mohawk Harbor project.

Whether you’re a high roller or a simple tourist who wants to witness beautiful attractions, the Rivers Casino & Resort is a great place to visit.

Around 1,100 machines from penny to high limit slots are available at the casino, with 70 table games and 15 poker rooms.

Name sign of Rivers Casino & Resort.

George Burns /

The casino’s operator, Rush Street Gaming, is also behind the top-notch casinos in Des Plaines, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.

In addition, the casino has an upscale fine-dining restaurant that serves various international cuisines.

At the same time, other entertainment features a spacious and cozy bar and lounge.

The Rivers Casino & Resort is truly an excellent place to visit either for leisure or entertainment in Schenectady.

Conquer the Outdoor Challenges at the Mountain Ridge Adventure Park

The Mountain Ridge Adventure Park boasts the only zipline park and treetop challenge course in the Capital Region.

It is a must-visit place for you and your family if you’re itching to engage in various outdoor activities.

It has exciting features like ziplining, rope swings, hanging bridge crossing, and obstacle courses.

In addition, the Mountain Ridge Adventure Park is nestled on top of a 1,000-foot mountain, and it’s near Saratoga and Albany.

In total, this outdoor adventure park features seven exciting courses, each with varying challenges, and is available for all ages.

Check Out the Mabee Farm Historic Site

Exterior of the Mabee Farm Historic Site.

Schenectady County, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Mabee Farm Historic Site was built way back in 1705, making it the oldest farm in Mohawk Valley.

Today, it is a popular historical site worthy of checking out for great historical and recreational purposes.

It has a deep history and a charming riverside appeal, making it a nice place to explore a bit.

It’s one of Schenectady’s nearest and most popular historical sites, just an 11-minute drive north in Rotterdam.

Historically, Mabee Farm served as a fur trading post in 1670 by Daniel Janse VanAntwerpen.

He traded with Native Americans for fur until, in 1705, the farm was sold to Jan Mabee.

The farm has been passed from his generations for more than 300 years.

Amazingly, the original farmhouse made from logs is still standing today.

Touring inside the farmhouse’s weathered pine floors tells you a lot of backstories of how the people of Schenectady County lived back in the day.

Buy Fresh Produce and Hot Food at the Schenectady Greenmarket

Man selling goods at Schenectady Greenmarket.

Henry Bellagnome from Troy, New York, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Town markets are always a great sight to see whenever you visit another town or city.

Schenectady Greenmarket is no different from those charming and festive town markets, making it a must-place visit in the city.

Visiting this place lets you choose from a wide selection of food vendors, joints, cafes, and great food to enjoy.

Cider bottles at Schenectady Greenmarket.

Henry Bellagnome from Troy, New York, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It serves a diverse selection of Jamaican, Indian, Asian, and Louisiana-style cuisines that are just irresistible.

Of course, the best part of visiting the Schenectady Greenmarket is buying fresh produce from local farmers.

It is a great place to buy freshly harvested vegetables, fruits, homemade treats, ingredients, and locally-made preserves.

In addition, Schenectady Greenmarket is open almost the entire year, from May to November.

Maple syrup stand at Schenectady Greenmarket.

Henry Bellagnome from Troy, New York, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Browse through the Schenectady County Public Library

Although most tourists don’t usually visit libraries, it is a haven filled with hidden gems for some.

With that in mind, check out the Schenectady County Public Library, which serves as a great place for bookworms.

This local library is considered a jewel in town since it is the most extensive among the libraries in the Capital Region.

It houses a wide array of books on various topics.

Whether you’re a bookworm or a casual tourist, the Schenectady County Public Library is an interesting place worthy of checking out.

Be Amazed of Nott Memorial Hall’s Architecture and Beauty

Exterior of the Nott Memorial Hall.

Brian Logan Photography /

Nott Memorial Hall is more than just the symbol of Union College but the most popular tourist attraction in Schenectady.

The 16-sided structure of Nott Memorial Hall is one of the United States’ most beautifully-designed Victorian buildings.

The entire structure took 20 years to complete, mainly because of the Civil War, which deprived it of funding.

Closer view of Nott Memorial Hall's exterior.

​English Wikipedia user Daniel Case, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The structure was originally part of French architect Joseph-Jacques Ramée’s plans to have a focal point in the campus back in 1812.

The structure was dedicated to American education icon Eliphalet Nott, who was also a president of Union College back in the day.

However, his plans were not materialized until 1858 through Nott’s grandson, Edward Tuckerman Potter’s designs.

Nott Memorial Hall is filled with 709 tiny colored glass illuminators in terms of design.

Its lower portion is girded by bands of red slates that bear Talmud, a Hebrew inscription on it.

Today, thousands of tourists visit this famous structure and the beloved focal point of Union College.

Discover the Graves of the Vedder Family Cemetery

Historically, the Vedder Family were the pioneering settlers in the Mohawk Valley, particularly the Schenectady area.

Today, their remains lie in a small cemetery located beside a shopping mall in Schenectady.

Thirteen headstones are found in this small cemetery, dating back from 1705 to 1829.

A brick wall was constructed around the small cemetery after it nearly got demolished during the shopping mall’s construction.

Fortunately, Schenectady’s locals rallied to oppose its demolition and called to preserve this historical site.

It ultimately led to the cemetery’s preservation and restoration, which holds an important historical significance to the Schenectady.

Today, you can visit this cemetery and find interesting backstories of the pioneers of Schenectady.

Taste Delicious Food at Arthur’s Market

Throughout Schenectady, Arthur’s Market is a historic cafe that follows 225 years of a culinary tradition maintained until today.

They are known for their top-notch specialty coffee, homemade pastries, baked goods, grocery, and delicious food.

The building that houses Arthur’s Market also has historical significance to Schenectady for being constructed back in the late 1700s, witnessing the city’s history through the years.

Arthur’s Market has become a household name in Schenectady’s culinary scene regarding food.

Locals love to dine at its restaurant or order their delicious food items.

They have different pastries, such as bacon cheddar scone, chocolate hazelnut hand pie, cookies.

Their food menu features breakfast, lunch, and dinner focusing on classic American comfort food.

Everything on Arthur’s Market’s menu is a must-try, so if you’re hungry, visit this famous food icon in Schenectady.

Kayak along Mohawk River

The waters of Mohawk River.

wendy blanchard /

Mohawk River is a wonderful place for waterborne activities like kayaking.

You can visit Upstate Kayak Rentals for their top-notch kayaks available for hourly-rate rentals.

Mohawk River offers a scenic view and calm waters, especially along the harbor area.

Winter view of Mohawk River.

Raymond B. Summers /

Explore the charming waterways of the Mohawk River while comfortably paddling aboard a kayak.

Aside from kayak rentals, Upstate Kayak Rentals also offers travel adventures along the Mohawk River.

There’s no better way to explore the Mohawk River than a kayak, so whenever you want to paddle, check out Upstate Kayak Rental’s official website to book a reservation.

Appreciate Arts at the Hamilton Hill Arts Center

Suppose you’re interested to see African-American arts and culture.

In that case, you need to visit the Hamilton Arts Center.

This place, founded by Margaret Cunningham in 1968, is a unique place to find top-notch African-American artworks.

Cunningham’s artwork thrived during the Civil Rights movement, and it’s inspired by the Black Arts Movement and Black Pride.

The Hamilton Hill Arts Center uniquely combined African-American and African art culture through character-building and educational activities that ultimately benefit the youth.

Today, the arts center thrives in promoting, preserving, and continuing developing African Diasporic arts and culture.

The Hamilton Hill Arts Center is an excellent place to see various artworks from aspiring African-American artists from a wide range of genres.

Take a Bite of Morrette’s King Size Steak Sandwich

The Morrette’s King Steakhouse has been operating in Schenectady since 1947.

This family-owned restaurant is popular for its iconic signature cheesesteaks that everyone should try out.

Morrette’s King Size Steak Sandwich has been serving Schenectady’s best cheesesteak sandwiches that are cooked and prepared upfront.

According to regular customers, its cheesesteak sandwiches haven’t changed a bit.

It still maintains the quality and flavor they experience in every bite.

With that in mind, you should order its famous cheesesteak sandwich before you head back home from Schenectady.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re an outdoor adventurer, art aficionado, or history buff, something is waiting for you in Schenectady.

This post shows that Schenectady is a wonderful place to explore and find out its hidden gems.

Of course, Schenectady has more than meets the eye, but it is up to you to explore.

To have a great start to your travel adventure in Schenectady, make sure to visit the places listed on this post.

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