Last Updated on April 17, 2023 by Editor
One of the more interesting American love stories began in Albany, New York. It’s so interesting, in fact, that it became the subject of one of the most popular Broadway shows of all time, Hamilton. The romance was that of American Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton, who married an Albany gal, Elizabeth Schuyler, in her parental home on the banks of the Hudson River.
Visiting Schuyler Mansion is just one of the incredible things to do in Albany NY, but stick around, we’ve got lots more.
As the second oldest chartered city in the country, you can expect a number of historical sites.
Perhaps more surprisingly, New York State’s Capital City features a veritable timeline of architecture, most of it exceedingly futuristic. A neo-classical Capital Building stands in juxtaposition to the lean, modern structures on the Empire State Plaza. While a gigantic concrete ovoid, appropriately named the “Egg,” punctuates the city skyline.
There are riverfront parks and lush green neighborhoods, excellent museums, a haunted pub, other terrific eateries, and one lovely upscale Inn close enough to walk downtown, yet far enough to experience peace and quiet. A romantic getaway in Albany NY is ideal for couples who appreciate cultural attractions, leisurely strolls, and the best Italian food outside of NYC’s Little Italy.
Best Things To Do in Albany NY
Beavers, Albany’s history begins with a slick little creature, whose pelts were coveted in the 1600s by the fashion plates of Europe, and were found in abundance in this Hudson River region.
So, traders came to the new Dutch settlement, followed by colonists who flourished and became Bold Faced Names of the American Revolution. One of these rebels was Alexander Hamilton, who married an Albany gal, Elizabeth Schuyler, in her parental home.
Start at the Albany Visitors Center In Quackenbush Square
Begin your Capital District visit where one of the city’s original buildings still stands, Quackenbush Square. That’s where you’ll find the Albany Visitor’s Center, as well as the Irish American Heritage Museum and two restaurants. One is the C.H. Evans Brewing Co. at the Albany Pump Station, a family-owned brewery that can trace its roots to 1786. And the other is the Old English Pub & Pantry, the former home of Pieter Quackenbush, a Dutch brickmaker in the 1600s.
Sighting The Architectural Timeline In New York’s Capital City
In 1754, Benjamin Franklin met with representatives of seven northern colonies to develop the “Albany Plan of Union” in defiance of the French during the French and Indian Wars. In 1825, the Erie Canal linked Albany to Buffalo and the Great Lakes, and in 1881, the city was wealthy enough to hire “starchitect” HH Richardson to design the Romanesque City Hall.
By the end of the 19th century, the grand neo-classical New York State House, costing more than the U.S. Capitol Building, was completed.
The NY Capitol now anchors one end of the uber-modern Wallace Harrison-designed Empire State Plaza that again put Albany on the architectural map in the 1960s and 70s. Pick up self-guided walking tour brochures and advice from Visitors Center staff, and head out to explore.
Visit Hamilton’s Mansion And Wedding Venue
On December 14, 1780, Alexander Hamilton married Elizabeth “Eliza” Schuyler at her home in Albany, New York. Eliza was one of fifteen children born to Philip and Catherine Schuyler, a prominent family who often hosted the crème de la crème in their mansion, a city landmark on a hill overlooking the Hudson River.
Thus began a long and fascinating relationship between one of America’s founding fathers and the City of Albany.
It’s no surprise that visitation to the Schuyler home has increased by up to 600% since the musical, Hamilton, became a Broadway hit. Elizabeth married the famous Founding Father right in the front parlor. A second parlor, fully decorated in a profusion of golden yellow, would make a cage full of canaries jealous.
There’s been much written about the home and its elements – wallpaper, paint colors, period furniture. It was, for the time, the height of luxury. The hand-painted Panini “Ruins of Rome” wallpaper in the entry foyer was meant to wow visitors. While the flock wallpaper from France, seen in several rooms, cost as much as one tenant farmer would pay in rent over the course of 13 years.
But what’s really exciting about this tour is hearing both the whitewashed version of Philip Schuyler (“major player in the military during the Revolutionary War”) and, shall we say, the “off-color” version (to grab land, he destroyed Iroquois villages, leading to the death of 5,000 – 15,000 Native Americans; he abused laudanum, an opioid solution, to assuage pain from gout; he drank gallons of Madeira Wine; and he was a fan of erotic books, the porn of the day. “15 kids – understandable,” quipped the guide.
Katherine, a Van Rensselaer and the “10th wealthiest American in history,” was but a teen when Philip courted her. She and Philip were married just five months before their first child, Angelica, was born. Only eight of their 15 kids survived beyond childhood, and only six outlived Katherine.
The hour-long tour covers slavery (the Schuylers owned 8 – 15 enslaved humans), Schuyler personalities, and the room in which Alexander Hamilton wrote three of his Federalist Papers.
Climb The Million Dollar Stairs
The neo-classical New York State House, designed by Isaac Perry and completed in 1899 at a cost of $25 million, is worth stopping into if only to see the Great Western Staircase. Better known as the “Million Dollar Staircase,” four flights of sandstone steps are festooned with ornate carvings and 77 stone faces of celebrities of the day, including Abe Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Lincoln, it’s said by some, still haunts the place.
Capped by a skylight that was covered over during WWII, and restored to its original stained glass beauty in 2002, this magnificent stairway needs no other art or embellishment.
On the 4th floor, you’ll find the State Assembly Visitor’s Gallery, with a bird’s eye view of the proceedings in a magnificent room. In the fall, sign up for the chilling Capital Hauntings tour, or, any time of year, follow the self-guided tour of the New York State Capitol.
Go Underground To See An Underrated Contemporary Art Collection
Walk the Empire State Plaza Concourse from the Capitol building to New York State Museum. Take the escalator from the lobby of the NY State Capitol Building to the lower level Concourse, a quarter-mile hall that extends beneath the entire Empire State Plaza and is lined with vendors, the Empire State Plaza Visitor’s Center, and a unique collection of Mid-Century Modern Art (including a Robert Motherwell carpet, of all things).
Visitors can stroll at their leisure to explore the labyrinthian underground city that leads to the New York State Museum.
Dive Into All Things New York At The State Museum
Climb into an old NYC Subway car. Go into the Adirondack wilderness without leaving Albany. Meet the loggers who wrestled with nature and the rugged individuals and native animals that make this mountain range their home.
Tuck into an Iroquois longhouse or come face-to-face with a woolly mammoth. Don’t miss a free ride on the Historic Carousel on the 4th floor that runs every 15 minutes.
The New York State Museum presents endless corridors devoted to the flora and fauna of the Empire State, as well as exhibits about New York’s human story – from the joys of Sesame Street to the tragedy of the World Trade Center’s Rescue, Recovery, and Response.
Get A Bird’s Eye View Of Albany NY And The Hudson River
If you got to the New York State Museum through the underground Concourse, you’ll want to go above ground to the Plaza heading back. The best overview of the Empire State Plaza is from the entrance of the State Museum – the vista is of a reflecting pool and ten graceful modern buildings that surround it.
“The Egg” – a six-story performance hall that looks more like a flying saucer – is the most iconic.
But tourists flock here for the swift elevator ride to the 42nd Floor Corning Tower Observation Deck and its unsurpassed views of the Hudson River, Albany, the Catskills and Adirondacks (NY), Green Mountains (VT), Berkshires (MA), and beyond.
In winter, ice skating on the plaza is one of the best date night things to do in the Capital Region. While in summer, Alive at Five, the Capital Concert Series, which includes a spectacular fireworks display on the 4th of July, draws huge crowds.
Visit One Of America’s Oldest Museums
Founded in 1791, the museum that eventually became the Albany Institute of History and Art (AIHA) is housed in a collection of buildings that includes a Beaux-Arts mansion designed by Robert Morris Hunt. It’s an eclectic collection, with artifacts from Ancient Egypt and early Dutch settlements in New York, plus exhibits that shift from a focus on shoes to the current fascination with outerwear.
The cornerstone of AIHA, however, is its 3rd-floor gallery, showcasing a large collection of paintings, 83 in all, from the Hudson River School of Art. You’ll find the full spectrum, from the flaming sunsets of Frederick Church to works by the “Father of the Hudson River School,” Thomas Cole, and even a rare landscape by Sarah Cole, Thomas’s sister, that she painted in the mid-1830s.
Works from William Hart and Homer Dodge Martin figure prominently. This ongoing exhibit is thrilling for all who appreciate mountain and river landscapes suffused with the poetic romanticism of the mid-1800s.
Visit One Of The Oldest Churches In America
Albany is the oldest chartered city in the United States, dating back to 1686, although evidence of European settlement can be seen in architecture dating back even further back.
The Schuyler family belonged to the First Church (designed by Philip Hooker in 1798), which is home to the Reformed Church in America. Established in 1642, this is the second oldest congregation in the United States.
The current church building was constructed in 1797 and is a beautiful example of Federal-style architecture. The church features a large white steeple, tall columns, and a prominent pediment. Inside, the church is decorated with ornate woodwork, Tiffany-stained glass windows, and a beautiful pipe organ.
The First Church has a rich history and has played an important role in the Albany community for over 370 years. It has been the site of many significant events, including the ordination of the first African American Presbyterian minister in the United States, the signing of the Albany Plan of Union in 1754, and the funeral of former Governor DeWitt Clinton in 1828.
Today, the First Church continues to be an active congregation and a vital part of the Albany community. It is open to visitors and offers regular worship services, as well as a variety of programs and activities for all ages.
Tour The USS Slater (Destroyer Escort Vessel) On The Hudson River
Those who appreciate naval ships from WWII won’t want to miss a tour on the USS Slater. Launched in Tampa Florida in 1944, it was named for 22-year-old Frank Slater, killed in action off Guadalcanal in 1942.
And since it’s docked by the Corning Preserve, you can make a day of it walking or biking for miles along the Hudson River.
The Corning Preserve is a large waterfront park located in Albany, New York. It was created in the 1970s as part of a major urban renewal project and is named after Erastus Corning, the former mayor of Albany who played a key role in the city’s development.
The Corning Preserve spans over 60 acres and features a variety of amenities for visitors to enjoy. The park offers scenic views of the Hudson River and the Albany skyline, as well as walking and biking paths, picnic areas, and a boat launch.
Cruise The Hudson River
Modeled on the Hudson River day liners of an earlier era that ferried passengers between Albany and New York City, Dutch Apple Cruises offers sightseeing tours of the Hudson River. Couples love the sunset tours; special events such as the Father’s Day BBQ or Golden Oldies tour sell out quickly.
Tour A Living History Shaker Settlement
Only two Shakers remain–at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Glouster, ME–of the visionary religious group that shaped American culture. But the very first Shaker Settlement–established in Albany, New York in 1776– persists as a living history museum at the Watervliet Shaker National Historic District, with educational workshops and a popular crafts fair. (Barn weddings here are especially beautiful.)
Stroll Through A Garden Of Green At Washington Park
If you can, time your visit to Albany Washington Park during the annual Tulip Festival. It’s quite a sight to see over 140,000 bulbs in bloom. But, any time of year, the Olmsted-inspired green space is one of Albany’s loveliest attractions.
Hike One Of The Rarest Ecosystems
One of the largest Pine Barrens in the world, Albany Pine Bush’s sandy soils host fields of wild lupines that feed the endangered Blue Karner Blue Butterfly. And that’s just one of many uniquely beautiful attractions at this preserve that makes it a great place to get fit while battling NDD (Nature Deficit Disorder).
Recreational pursuits at the Albany Pine Bush designated a National Natural Landmark in 2014, change with the season. This is Albany, after all, and we know how to revel in snow. Winter brings plenty of white stuff for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Come the warmer months, and choices expand to include hiking, biking, kayaking, and fishing – fly fishing is a cardio sport, right?
Hike Along The Footsteps Of America’s Earliest Inhabitants
Passing under Minelot Falls and along the fossil-rich ledges of the Helderberg Escarpment, the 1-mile Indian Ladder trail at Thatcher State Park is a relatively easy and scenic hike. Other attractions include the Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center and the new Wild Play Adventure Course.
Wander (And Shop) Along Lark Street
Bohemian artists, brownstone buildings, and trees line what Metroland, the Capital Region’s alternative newsweekly, describes as the “warm pulse within Albany’s black heart, the flower busting up through the concrete edifice of the Empire State.”
Purple prose perhaps, but Lark Street (between Madison and Washington Avenues, larkstreet.org) inspires passion from visitors and residents alike. Art on Lark is the second largest street festival in upstate New York, second only to LarkFEST, the largest one-day street festival in New York.
Attend A Broadway Performance Off Off Off Broadway
Once the third largest movie theater in the world, Albany’s Palace Theater was built as an RKO movie palace in 1931. And it’s still a grand place to take in classic movies like “Rebel Without a Cause” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
A number of touring musicals, comedy performances, and famous artists pass through each year. But as the home of the Albany Symphony Orchestra, it is the adventurous programs spearheaded by the Capital Region’s beloved Grammy Award-winning conductor, David Alan Miller, that capture the hearts of young audiences.
Discover Albany’s Curious Relationship With A Dog
Look up to the roof at 7 Tivoli Street in Downtown Albany to spot the world’s largest Nipper statue. Best known as the RCA Records mascot who was seen listening to a phonograph, the terrier mix adds a dash of whimsy to the Albany skyline. This playful puppy is HUGE, but he’s not the only canine statue in town.
There’s a whole litter of pups around town.
The Nipper statues were first introduced to Albany in the 1990s as part of a public art project called “Dogs Around Town.” Each Nipper statue is uniquely decorated by a local artist or sponsor, and they can be found in a variety of locations, including public parks, businesses, and private residences.
Since then, they have become a beloved part of the city’s landscape, with 10 little Nippers currently on display around town. (See the Albany Public Art Map to find the statues, murals, and open gallery displays.)
Best Restaurants in Albany NY
Decked out in vibrantly colored walls enhanced by equally vivid Toulouse Lautrec-ish art, Cafe Madison is consistently packed, often with lines out the door on weekends. Near St. Rose College in the Upper Madison section of Albany, Café Madison dishes out plenty of clever egg concoctions, but also yummy Rasberry Oatmeal Pancakes, French Toast Stacker, and a Grilled Cheese Beni, and other fantastic tweaks on the morning meal. Plus, there’s a great selection of AM cocktails ranging from the EVERYTHING Bloody Mary to a plethora of flavored mimosas.
Find Comfort In Lunch, Dinner, and Weekend Brunch
This Southern food joint just proves that you can succeed in the “College Ghetto” of Western Ave (near Frats and Sororities) if you’re good enough. And The Cuckoo’s Nest is. In spades.
Munch on small bites, like Fried Green Tomatoes with Pimento Cheese, Nashville Hot Deviled Eggs, Biscuits with Honey or Gravy, or “Soul Bowls” (one with “Hot Chicken.”) Or order my new favorite lunchtime temptation – the FGBLT (Fried Green Bacon Lettuce Tomato) Sandwich, which will put you off of the bland red tomato version forever.
Seems like chef/owners Devin Ziemann and fiancé Kaytrin Della Sala, who also owned the now-closed Crave, “best burgers in the Capital Region,” across the street, have another hit on their hands.
DRINK: Olde English Pub (next to the Albany Visitors Center in Quackenbush Square).
Built in the 1730s, this old drinking dive is one of the oldest pubs in America, and of course, haunted. Employees have seen loaves of bread fly off shelves, heard all the kitchen timers go off at once (and then stop abruptly), and sense a whispering presence at the foot of the stairs.
The ghosts, they say, are “not malicious,” just “here.” But of course, that’s not the only reason to patronize this historic spot. There are 16 beers on tap, and Pickle Back Shots are only $6.
EAT: Cafe Capriccio.
The renowned 4-course family-style feast at Café Capriccio’s Chef’s Table is as memorable for the authentic regional dishes as it is for cultural lessons shared by author and proprietor, Jim Rua. Staff and guests are encouraged to develop regional expertise on organized trips to Italy which offer first-hand research and partnership opportunities with farms and wineries such as Fattoria Lavacchio in Tuscany.
Dress up to dine in this intimate establishment popular with Albany elite. Despite a 30-year history as one of the Capital District’s best restaurants, this is not a polished restaurant. The atmosphere is low key and homey, with soft carpeting, knotty pine walls, old posters and opera music playing; it’s like eating at a friend’s house…if your friend is an award-winning chef who grows his own herbs and heirloom tomatoes.
EAT: Orchard Tavern & Restaurant.
A rotating display of photographs and memorabilia documents The Orchard Tavern’s rich history of service to generations of workers at the New York Central Railroad’s West Albany yards.
Open since 1903, longtime patrons worried that the neighborhood institution would change when Kris Monforte purchased it in 2018. However, the new owner promised only minor cosmetic changes and that the menu, with its beloved rectangular pizza, would remain the same.
EAT/DRINK: City Beer Hall.
It’s hard to say whether or not The City Beer Hall’s passionate following is a result of free pizza with beer. Who can resist free food? Not when it comes with a selection of 18 beers and ciders on tap, plus many more by the bottle.
Beer pairings and leisurely brunches are almost weekly events. For a gastronomical splurge, reserve tickets to “Wild Game Nights” when one brewery is matched to an assortment of exotic meats for an unforgettable 4-course meal.
Different thematic areas of the bar include a Main hall with communal tables, an outdoor beer garden, and a newly-renovated Rodeo Bar that hosts a dance floor on weekend late nights.
When the tulip festival makes its annual return to Washington Park, local fish fries all through the Capital Region open for the season to serve a fried culinary masterpiece found nowhere else. A long narrow piece of fish, about a foot long, fried to perfection, is served in a hot dog bun sometimes with condiments, sometimes not.
Available any day of the week, local custom is to take the whole family to the fish fry after softball games on Friday afternoons. Opinions vary greatly as to the best fish fry in the Capital Region. In Albany, folks swear by Ted’s Fish Fry, but the general consensus is that top honors go to Gene’s Fish Fry in East Greenbush.
SNACK: Cider Belly Donuts.
Historians tell us that the earliest doughnuts can be traced to the olykoek cakes that Dutch settlers introduced to America. Thus, you can’t fully appreciate New York’s Dutch heritage without sampling donuts, and you can’t do better than to taste the Original Cider Doughnut. Baked fresh daily, open Monday-Friday, 6:30-3pm, Sat-Sun, 8am-noon, or until they run out.
Best Hotels in Albany NY
Stay In A Historic Bed and Breakfast Next To Washington Park
Arrange to stay in one of the six lovely rooms in the Historic 1884 Mansion at what is considered the best B&B in downtown Albany: Morgan State House Inn. (There are 11 more modern rooms in Morgan State House’s condo at the end of the block).
These rooms – on three walk-up floors – are spacious and tastefully decorated in elegant traditional furnishings, some featuring bay windows overlooking the Frederick Law Olmsted inspired-Washington Park. Starched sheets and down comforters wrap guests in blissful luxury.
In the morning, converse with fellow travelers while enjoying a Continental Breakfast (complementary with room) around a large dining room table or outside on tranquil backyard garden patio.
Enjoy A Luxury Stay Next To The Empire State Plaza
The Renaissance Hotel is a luxurious and stylish hotel located in the heart of downtown Albany. The hotel is situated at 144 State Street, just a short distance away from many popular attractions and landmarks.
The hotel’s decor is modern and sophisticated, with elegant furnishings and contemporary design elements. The rooms are spacious and well-appointed, featuring plush bedding, upscale toiletries, and a host of modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs and complimentary Wi-Fi. Many of the rooms offer stunning views of the city skyline or the Hudson River.
Guests at the Renaissance Hotel can enjoy a range of on-site amenities and services, including a fitness center, private parking, room service, and a rooftop terrace with stunning views of the city. The hotel also boasts one of Albany’s top restaurants, Wellington’s Bar and Lounge, which serves a delicious menu of contemporary American cuisine and craft cocktails.
One of the standout features of the Renaissance Hotel is its commitment to art and culture. The hotel features a rotating art gallery, showcasing the work of local artists, as well as an extensive collection of art and artifacts throughout the property.
The Renaissance Hotel is a popular venue for weddings and events and is a top choice for couples.
Stay In Albany City Center
Completely overhauled in 2013, the Hilton Hotel on Lodge Street has been welcoming politicos for decades.
The hotel’s decor is classic and refined, with tasteful furnishings and traditional design elements. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, featuring plush bedding, large windows, and a range of modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs and complimentary Wi-Fi.
Guests at the Hilton Hotel can enjoy a range of on-site amenities and services, including a fitness center, an indoor pool, a convenient parking garage, and the all-day dining venue, Charter Restaurant. The restaurant serves a menu of delicious American cuisine, with a focus on locally-sourced ingredients and seasonal flavors.
Albany NY On The Map
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2 thoughts on “23 Kick-Ass Things to Do in Albany NY For Couples (By A Local)”
Just to clarify, the Albany Institute of History and Art was founded in 1791 as the Society for the Promotion of the Useful Arts. It went through several other names before eventual rebranding as the Albany Institute of History and Art. The 1907 date refers to the start of construction of the current building, which was finished in 1908.
Thanks for clarifying that, Colin!