Albany is the seat of Albany County and capital of New York State as well as home to several centers of higher learning including the University at Albany, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Science, and Sage College. The state capital is located on the west bank of the Hudson River and about 150 miles (241 km) north of New York City. It was one of the 10 most populous city in the United States in 1810 but today a medium size city of just 98,000 (2012). Albany is economically tied with the nearby counties of Troy, Schenectady, and Saratoga Springs – collectively known as the Capital District.

Things to See & Do in Albany

A must-visit destination for any visitor to Albany is the Empire State Plaza, a city landmark and huge government complex. It is also home to the Empire State Plaza Art Collection, featuring modern art placed across the complex. For a bird’s eye view of Albany and the surroundings, head to the Corning Tower Observation Deck at the Empire State Plaza. Another destination is the late 19th century New York State Capitol, home of the New York State Legislature. Albany City Hall is another historical building, completed in 1883, and features a 49-bell carillon.

Downtown Albany
Downtown Albany by Skeat78

There are not that many museums in the state capital but a must-visit museum is the New York State Museum. It is the oldest state museum in the United States and explores the cultural and natural history of New York State. Another interesting museum is the USS Slater, a decommissioned destroyer escort used during World War II. Major urban parks include Lincoln Park and Washington Park, featuring green open spaces forested areas, and lakes. The Albany Pine Bush Preserve and Tivoli Lake Nature Preserve are sanctuaries to a variety of natural vegetation and various species of wildlife.

New York State Capitol

State Street, Albany, NY 12230; 518-474-2418

The New York State Capitol in Albany is the home of the New York State Legislature. The State Capitol is located on State Street, sandwiched between West Capitol Park and East Capitol Park. The current building is the state’s fourth capitol building, constructed between 1867 and 1899 by three teams of architects. The initial architect was Englishman Thomas Fuller, who also designed the Canadian Parliament at Parliament Hill in Ottawa. The capitol building was constructed at a cost of $25 million and was then the most expensive government building in the country.

New York State Capitol
New York State Capitol by iessi

The New York State Capitol was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and the following year declared a National Historic Landmark. The overall architecture of the State Capitol is in the Romanesque Classical style though the two floors above the ground floor are in the Renaissance Classical style. Underground tunnels connect the State Capitol with the Empire State Plaza and Alfred E. Smith Building. Free guided tours of the State Capitol are available from Monday to Friday, except holidays – check with the Office of General Services (Visitor Assistance) for tour times.

Empire State Plaza Art Collection

Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12242; 518-473-7521

The Empire State Plaza Art Collection is not an art gallery or museum but a collection of artworks located in the concourse, buildings, and outdoor areas of the Empire State Plaza It was the brainchild of Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, who recognized the importance of art and New York State as the home of many talented artists. The Empire Plaza Art Collection features works of modern art and the first artwork purchased was in 1966. Today there are 92 collections, purchased from the 1960s to the 1970s including paintings, statues, and tapestries by artists who lived in the state.

Empire State Plaza
Empire State Plaza by Jim Logan

During the 1960s and 1970s, the art collection was considered avant-garde but has now gained mainstream status. Being public property managed by the New York State Office of General Services, the collection is available for public viewing when the Empire State Plaza is open. Sculptures include “The Cathedral Evening” by Ronald Bladen at the West Plaza and “Construction in Space: Spheric Theme” by Naum Gabo at the Corning Tower Plaza Lobby. Paintings include the “Grand Spectra” by Richard Anuszkiewicz at the North Concourse and “Large Tondo” by Ilya Bolotowsky at the South Concourse. –

Albany City Hall

24 Eagle Street, Albany, NY 12207; 518-434-5075

Albany City Hall is the seat of Albany’s local government including the mayor’s office, city legislature, and other services such as the city and traffic courts. The building was completed in 1883 and designed by Henry Hobson Richardson at the high point of his career. The design of the three-story brownstone building is a fine example of Romanesque architecture. The building features a 202-foot (62 meters) Venetian-style tower situated on the southwestern corner. In September 1972, Albany City Hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Albany City Hall
Albany City Hall by Wknight94

The building is laid out in a rectangle and its main feature is its simple design but with small areas of intricate stonework. The tower is basically windowless and a round staircase leads to the southeast corner of the tower for access. The top of the tower houses a carillon comprising 49 bells of different weights and sizes, producing their own distinct sound. It is still in use, playing popular tunes adapted for the carillon and played by several resident and guest carillonneurs. The best places to hear the carillon are behind City Hall at nearby Corning Park and in front of Academy Park.

Albany City Hall Lobby
Albany City Hall lobby area by UpstateNYer

Schuyler Mansion

32 Catherine Street, Albany, NY 12202; 518-434-0834

The Schuyler Mansion is a historic house in Albany that was once the home of Philip Schuyler, a general in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, a member of the New York State Senate, a senator in the United States Congress, and an entrepreneur. Constructed from 1761 to 1762, Schuyler lived here from 1763 until his death in 1804. Notable figures who visited the mansion include George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. The brick mansion is now a museum and National Historic Landmark contributing to Albany’s South End–Groesbeckville Historic District.

Schuyler Mansion
Schuyler Mansion by Matt Wade

The mansion is Georgian in design and built on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River. The mansion was originally situated on 80 acres (32 ha) of land that once included an orchard, a formal garden, and a working farm. Upon Schuyler’s death, the land including the mansion was split into several lots and sold. The mansion passed through several ownerships and alterations made until acquired by the state in 1914. The Schuyler Mansion is open to walk-in visitors from mid-May to October (Wednesday-Sunday) and by appointment from November to mid-May (Monday to Friday).

Palace Theatre

19 Clinton Avenue, Albany, NY 12207; 518-465-3334

The 2,800-seat Palace Theatre is located in the Clinton Avenue Historic District of Downtown Albany, at the corner of Clinton Avenue and North Pearl Street. The theater opened in 1931 as an RKO movie theater and during the time was the largest cinema in Albany. Designed by John Eberson, the Palace Theatre is a brick and stone building with some features of atmospheric design. The interior is in the Austrian Baroque style with its decorated ceiling, red marble staircases, and murals decorating the walls. The theater is owned by the city and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Palace Theatre
Palace Theatre, Albany NY by UpstateNYer

Today the Palace Theater is a major entertainment venue in Albany, hosting more than 150 events each year. Performances include concerts, plays, musicals, live comedy, and screenings of movie classics. Famous personalities and music groups that have performed here include Bruce Springsteen, Jerry Seinfeld, Roy Orbison, Tony Bennett, Trailer Park Boys, and the Rolling Stones. The Palace Theater is also the home of the Albany Symphony Orchestra and is equipped with a full-sized orchestra pit that can be raised and lowered by an elevator.

Albany Symphony Orchestra

Palace Theatre, 19 Clinton Avenue, Albany, NY 12207; 518-465-4755 

The Albany Symphony Orchestra is the oldest professional symphony orchestra in Albany and the Capital District. The orchestra was founded in 1930 by Italian-born John Carabella, and was initially known as the People’s Orchestra of Albany. The orchestra is a full-sized orchestra based at Albany’s Palace Theatre but also performs at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in the nearby city of Troy. The orchestra is one of the most venerated music institutions in the western New York State region and has won numerous awards for its outstanding achievements.

Music directors and conductors of the Albany Symphony Orchestra have included John Carabella, Rudolf Thomas, Ole Windingstad, Edgar Curtis, Julius Hegyi, Geoffrey Simon, and David A. Miller since 1992. The orchestra performs and records works by emerging and established composers. Furthermore, it brings a new vision to classical music, attracting a wide spectrum of music lovers. The orchestra also performs with a number of guest artists and previous performers include violinist Joshua Bell, pianist Andre Watts, and percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie.

Albany Economy

Albany’s economy and the rest of the Capital District depend heavily on the government, education, and healthcare. As the state capital, a quarter of the employed residents are in government-related jobs. Thus, Albany is relatively immune from an economic recession that results in an unemployment rate that is usually lower than the state or even national average. Furthermore, the city has an emerging high-tech industry namely with the University at Albany’s College of Nanoscale Science and chipmaker GlobalFoundries with its production facility at nearby Malta.