Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Schenectady, NY

  • Published 2023/02/12

Schenectady is a city in Schenectady County, New York.

It’s rich with history, culture, and plenty of free activities and attractions worth exploring.

This upstate city has plenty of fun things to do; however, this article will only focus on the free stuff.

However, that doesn’t mean the activities and attractions are any less fun.

On the contrary, it’s the exact opposite.

You can even create an itinerary of your trip filled with only the free things to do in Schenectady, New York.

So if you’re looking for ways to save on your trip, here are 15 free things you can do in this marvelous city.

Visit the Nott Memorial

Exterior of Nott Memorial

UpstateNYer, color correction and perspective/barrel adjustments by User:Jaakobou, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nott Memorial is a beautiful, neo-Gothic building on the Union College campus in Schenectady, New York.

This iconic building was designed by renowned architect Edward Tuckerman Potter and was dedicated in 1858.

The beautiful landmark features a variety of intricate details, including sandstone carvings, stained-glass windows, and grand hallways.

The Nott Memorial is also home to the Union College’s Fine Arts Collection and permanent art exhibit, including artwork from faculty members and students.

Top half of Nott Memorial

UpstateNYer, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Mandeville Gallery in the Nott Memorial also holds free public exhibitions and events annually.

Apart from admiring the magnificent structure, you can also explore the grounds of Union College and its nearby attractions.

Since admission is free to the Nott Memorial, stop by and admire this historic Schenectady.

Remember that you will need to book a reservation before you can access the Union College campus.

Interior of Nott Memorial

UpstateNYer, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Enjoy a Peaceful Reading Session at the Schenectady County Public Library

The Schenectady County Public Library (SCPL) is the premier public library of Schenectady County.

Located at 99 Clinton Street, this incredible resource provides access to books, magazines, audiobooks, DVDs, digital media, and more.

The library offers free programs and services such as computer classes, book clubs, and a writing center.

If you’re looking for a peaceful place to sit down and read, the SCPL is the perfect spot.

With plenty of comfortable seating, a library is ideal for reading a good book or researching the city’s history.

You can also use the free WiFi to catch up on the latest news or browse your favorite websites.

The Schenectady County Public Library is a fantastic place for visitors and locals of all ages to explore and learn.

Spend a Day Outdoors at the Veterans Park

Veterans Park is one of the premier park destinations in Schenectady, New York.

Located at 185 Lafayette Street in Schenectady, this park is an excellent spot for spending a day outdoors.

This simple park doesn’t boast many amenities; it’s a park that only features trails, benches, and a plethora of trees.

However, that’s what makes it great.

The park offers a peaceful and picturesque backdrop for relaxing walks or picnic lunches in summer.

You can enjoy the fall foliage and take in the magnificent views of the Mohawk River.

The Schenectady Veterans Park also features a fountain in the middle with a monument commemorating the veterans who served in World War I.

It’s a great place to appreciate the beauty of nature and reflects on the sacrifices made by the veterans.

Enjoy the Scenery at Riverside Park

Located along the banks of the Mohawk River, Riverside Park is a great place to enjoy the scenic view of Schenectady.

Established in 1913, the Schenectady Riverside Park, alongside other parks, has a long history of providing recreational and leisure opportunities to those who visit.

The park offers plenty of outdoor opportunities for outdoor recreation, such as walking trails, boat launch sites, and fishing areas.

You can also find an assortment of sports fields, such as an open space for playing football or soccer, a basketball court, a playground for kids, and four tennis courts.

There are also plenty of trees surrounding the area that make for a great spot to have a picnic or sit and enjoy the view.

Riverside Park is a fantastic place to take in the natural beauty of Schenectady, New York.

Make sure to drop by and discover all that it has to offer!

Visit the Historic Vale Park

Vale Park is one of the oldest and most historic parks in Schenectady, New York.

Located near downtown Schenectady, this park has been around since 1857.

It began as a cemetery and later developed into a park in the 1950s.

Today, Vale Park is a fantastic spot for spending time outdoors and exploring the city’s history.

The cemetery is still well preserved, with historic tombstones and monuments providing a glimpse into the city’s past.

You can easily spend an hour or two exploring the grounds, as there are plenty of winding trails and a serene lake for boating.

The park is also surrounded by thick foliage, making it a great spot to appreciate nature.

Admire the Blooming Roses at Central Park Rose Garden

Trail lined with flowers at Central Park Rose Garden

JackSpot /

Schenectady’s Central Park contains a beautiful rose garden, one of only eight All-American Rose Selection-certified public gardens in New York.

The Central Park Rose Garden is a popular destination for visitors and locals.

When the season is right, you can admire the beauty of thousands of blooming roses in full color.

Located at 1791 Central Parkway in central Schenectady, Central Park Rose Garden visitors are treated to a stunning display of over 4,000 bushes with over 300 unique varieties.

From hybrid tea roses in various colors and shades to floribunda, shrub, and Grandiflora, this garden will surely delight you!

The Central Park Rose Garden’s centerpiece is an idyllic fountain that surrounds a bed of perennials, creating a tranquil oasis for visitors to admire and appreciate nature’s beauty.

The Central Park Rose Garden is a must-see destination, from fragrant roses to breathtaking views.

Learn Local History at the Schenectady County Historical Society

The Schenectady County Historical Society is a great place to visit to enrich your knowledge about the city’s history.

Located at 32 Washington Avenue, the museum exhibits at this free attraction allow visitors to learn more about the region’s culture, lifestyles, and history.

The museum also features a variety of interactive exhibits that allow visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the city’s past.

The Schenectady County Historical Society is eagerly connecting with the local community by offering various fascinating programs.

The Schenectady County Historical Society invites you to experience the area’s fascinating historical past through interactive displays, lectures, training sessions, concerts, and events.

These events are available at four distinct locations: the Mabee Farm Historic Site, Grems-Doolittle Library, Brouwer House, and the Schenectady History Museum.

Some of these locations offer admission, but most events are free to attend.

So, make sure to drop by and enjoy all the Schenectady County Historical Society offers.

Go on a Picnic at Jerry Burrell Park

Jerry Burrell Park is an excellent spot for a picnic in the heart of Schenectady, New York.

Located in downtown Schenectady, New York, this newly upgraded park features a wide range of recreational activities, including a dog park, basketball court, picnic area, and walking path.

There’s also an ample open green space where you can relax and enjoy the lovely views of the city skyline.

This spot is also great for picnics and gatherings, as you’ll find plenty of picnic tables, grills, and shelters.

Jerry Burrell Park also features a playground with sandboxes and swings for children to play on.

Since the park is free to access all year round, it makes for an ideal spot to spend quality time with friends and family.

If you want to picnic in Schenectady, Jerry Burrell Park is the perfect spot.

Cool Down at the Splash Pad at Tribute Park

While Schenectady doesn’t get as hot as other cities in the state, it can still get pretty warm during summer.

Visitors and residents love to cool down at the Splash Pad at Tribute Park.

This free and fun water park at 868 Eastern Avenue has various water features for kids, adults, and even dogs.

Plenty of fun spray jets, geysers, and fountains make it an excellent spot for cooling off on summer days.

The park also features a shaded area with picnic tables, benches, and plenty of space for kids to run around.

So, if you’re looking for a fun place to cool down during the hot summer months, head to the Splash Pad at Tribute Park.

Ride a Bike at Mohawk Hudson Bikeway

The Mohawk Hudson Bikeway is a scenic biking path that stretches 48 miles from Rensselaer to Schenectady.

Stretch your legs and explore the wonders of Upstate New York on the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail.

This stunning trail offers a seamless connection between Albany and Schenectady counties in the Capital District.

Thanks to its smooth, paved surface, you can make your journey more enjoyable.

The path is included in the sprawling Canalway Trail system that stretches from Buffalo to Albany alongside the historic Erie Canal.

This route is excellent for group biking, as there are plenty of rest stops and picnic areas.

You can also take a break to appreciate the views of the majestic Hudson River and the surrounding countryside.

So, if you’re looking for a free way to explore Upstate New York, check out the Mohawk Hudson Bikeway.

Play Field Sports at Mt. Pleasant Fields

Are you looking to get active and play some sports while in Schenectady?

If so, head to Mt. Pleasant Fields at 1121 Forest Road.

This park is a great spot to play field sports such as soccer, football, baseball, and cricket.

It features an excellent field with grassy surfaces and plenty of different areas for team sports.

The park is always bustling with people wanting to get their game on, so bring your friends and join the fun.

You can also watch if you prefer watching people play instead.

You can enjoy the park’s scenic views while cheering on your favorite teams.

If you want a free place to get active and play team sports, check out Mt. Pleasant Fields.

Join Community Events at Front Street Park

Front Street Park is an excellent spot for people wanting to get involved in the local Schenectady community.

Located at 179 Front Street, this park is well-known for hosting various free events and activities throughout the year.

The Front Street Park hosts various events and festivals, such as Community Days, Summerfest, and the Schenectady Winter Fest.

These events are great ways to mingle with others in the community and get involved with the local culture.

You can also participate in free fitness classes, art workshops, and live music performances at Front Street Park on certain days.

If you want to participate in free community events in Schenectady, check out Front Street Park.

Play Soccer at College Park Field

Soccer may not have the biggest scene in Schenectady, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a great place to play.

Make your way to College Park Field at Nott Street, and you’ll find one of the best places to play a friendly game of soccer.

This field is perfect for people of all skill levels.

You can join an organized game or kick a ball around with friends.

The field is also equipped with a few benches and tables for you to take a break or have an outdoor picnic.

If you want a free place to play soccer, College Park Field is the perfect spot.

Explore the Stockade Historic District

A statue at the Stockade Historic District

Brian Logan Photography /

The Stockade Historic District is a well-known neighborhood in downtown Schenectady.

Nestled in the northwest corner of Schenectady is a bustling district on the banks of the majestic Mohawk River.

The iconic Stockade Historic District has been home to residents for the past three centuries and is renowned as one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods.

Boasting as one of only four esteemed historic districts in Schenectady, this attractive neighborhood is a sight to behold.

A building at the Stockade Historic District

Brian Logan Photography /

The Stockade Historic District features some of the best-preserved historic homes in the city and a variety of parks and trails to explore.

See this district’s long and rich history through its architecture and the charm of its buildings.

Since it’s free to enter and explore, you can take time to wander around the streets of this neighborhood and admire its captivating charm.

A church at the Stockade Historic District

Brian Logan Photography /

Other Things to Do Nearby

Appreciate Nature at Plotter Kill Preserve

Trail at Plotter Kill Preserve

James Casil /

Nestled in the scenic town of Rotterdam, New York, is the Almy D. Coggeshall Plotter Kill Preserve.

Located at Mariaville Road in nearby Rotterdam, this vast 632-acre reserve is the perfect destination for a day filled with outdoor adventure and exploration.

It provides visitors with unrivaled access to incredible hiking trails along Route 159, a stunning waterfall, two ponds, and a variety of wildlife.

Upper falls at Plotter Kill Preserve

bobistraveling, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The preserve also offers plenty of trails and paths for biking, hiking, and birding, perfect for those who enjoy being in nature.

The Plotter Kill Preserve is a great spot to appreciate nature and enjoy outdoor recreation.

It’s also accessible for free, making it an absolute must-visit destination for anyone exploring Schenectady County.

This preserve is 13 minutes from Schenectady.

Explore the Albany Pine Bush Preserve

The small-town vibe of Schenectady is a refreshing contrast to the hustle and bustle of other prominent cities in New York State.

If you’re still looking for a nature getaway not far from the city, why not go to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve?

The Albany Pine Bush Preserve is in Albany, New York, 18 minutes from Schenectady.

It is also one of the premier inland pine barrens in the area.

Locals call this place Pine Bush, a convenient and accessible location with natural beauty worth exploring.

The preserve offers the ultimate outdoor adventure, with many activities like hiking, biking, jogging, exploring, and admiring nature.

It is also home to various rare plants and animals.

If you love butterflies, you’ll be delighted to find the endangered Karner blue butterfly here.

The preserve also has a Discovery Center where you can learn more about the plants and animals in the region.

The Albany Pine Bush Preserve is a great place to spend an entire day.

Besides being free, it’s an excellent escape from the city, full of exciting things to see and do.

Final Thoughts

Despite its small size, Schenectady has plenty of free attractions and activities to entertain you.

You can explore the city and participate in various free events, from bike trails to parks.

If you want something to do while in town, consider the best free things in Schenectady, New York.

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