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Albany, New York: 6 Reasons to Visit This National Historic Treasure

Overlook view of Albany, the capital of New York.

A lot of folks only think of the city of Albany as a stopping point on the road from Boston to Buffalo. However, we think you should consider this Hudson Valley hovel a destination in and of itself. More and more tourists from surrounding New England states like Massachusetts, Vermont, and Connecticut are making it a regular part of their New York State travel itinerary.

As one of the earliest American cities, Albany is teeming with rich historical sites. What’s more, it’s close to a lot of outdoor attractions like the often overlooked Adirondack Mountains. Whether you’re heading to Upstate New York from the Manhattan area, or flying straight into town by way of the Albany International Airport, we hope the following list helps guide your way.

What is the Capital of New York?

If you guessed New York City is the capital of New York State, you wouldn’t be the first. Since it’s the largest city in the state of New York, a lot of people figure it must be the capital. However, in the end, New York’s state capital is none other than the start of our article, Albany.

Fun fact: New York City was actually the capital of the entire United States at one point.

Although Albany is officially the capital of NY, New Yorkers think of the whole area as one metropolitan capital region. That region also includes the neighboring cities of Schenectady and Troy, even though they aren’t a part of Albany County.

Why is Albany the Capital of New York?

Great question! Before Albany was Albany, it was Fort Nassau, and several years later, Fort Orange. These Dutch settlements successively occupied the same spot on the North River. That river is now know as the Hudson River, which is named after the English explorer Henry Hudson.

It wasn’t until the 18th century that NY’s state capital was moved to Albany. Before then it jumped around quite a bit. What finally pinned it to Albany? The usual: politics, power, influence, money, etc. Even today there are still forces working to move the state capital to New York City.

Six Reasons to Visit Albany, New York

1. New York State Capitol Building

If you’re in the capital city, it only makes sense to visit the New York State Capitol Building. The current structure was built in the latter half of the 19th century and is on the National Historic Register. It is just one of several government buildings located in the Empire State Plaza at Albany’s core.

Although the capitol is the official meeting place for state government, it still offers tours Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The capitol building is an amazing sight to see, both inside and out.

2. New York State Museum

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The New York State Museum features a hodgepodge of exhibits that are sure to engage a range of audiences with different tastes. Ongoing exhibitions include everything from archaeological and paleontological finds, to a gallery dedicated to the World Trade Center attacks.

3. Albany Institute of History & Art

With a name like Institute of History & Art, you might expect to see a lot of 18th and 19th century oil paintings like portraits and landscapes. While that is definitely the case, what this institute has to offer doesn’t stop there. Here you’ll also find classically inspired sculptures, Egyptian artifacts, and other interesting installations you might not expect.

4. National Historic Landmarks

In addition to the capitol building, there are many other historic landmarks and sites to see in the Albany area. Mosey on over to the Hudson River and you can visit the USS Slater, which once hunted German U-boats during World War II. Meanwhile, in-town destinations like Albany City Hall and the Schuyler Mansion are must-see attractions for fans of bygone architecture and American history.

5. Enjoy the Outdoors

In and around the city are several nature preserves, including the Trivoli Lake Preserve, which is just a short drive from the downtown area. There are also a handful of state parks surrounding the city, like Mohawk River State Park. Depending on what you consider to be the “outdoors,” you could also visit the famous Erie Canal to the north.

6. Take in a Show

As a center of trade, commerce, and state governance, Albany is home to a lot of different venues where you can enjoy a variety of performances. Just check the websites of places like the Palace Theatre and Times Union Center to see what sort of nightly entertainment is available.

Know where to find a good time in the capital of New York? Let everyone know your secret on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!

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