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The Best Family Albany City Guide!

Albany, NY City Guide

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Nestled on the west bank of the iconic Hudson River, about 135 miles north of New York City, you'll find the gem that is Albany.

Over the past 400 years, Albany has grown from a charming, small Dutch settlement into New York State's Capital, and making it the perfect travel destination for any family. 

It's because of Albany's rich history, unique culture and experiences on offer that we're excited to share with you our Albany City Guide featuring our "Top 9 Family Attractions", which are must-haves on any itinerary!

So make sure check out our entire Albany City Guide that we've carefully put together for you, so you can be inspired on your visit to New York's amazing capital!

Main Image Credit: Discovery Albany

Image Credit: Discovery Albany

In this Albany City Guide, we share with you our top 9 things to do with kids, plus some really fun experiences perfect for family members of all ages!

We know budgets are a consideration when traveling as a family unit, so also in this Albany City Guide we share some FREE things to do with kids that won't break your bank account!

Won't have a car on your Albany getaway? Don't worry! Getting around the city without a car is easy, so we offer up some tips to help you navigate around the city, plus we also share some really fun facts about Albany that might surprise you! 

If you want to explore a bit further out for the day, our Albany City Guide shares one of our favorite day trips (and it's beautiful!), plus we let you know some famous faces who were born right in the New York capital. 

So whether this is your first trip saying "Yes, take me to Albany!" or maybe you have lived in the city all your life yet you still wonder "What is there is to do near me in Albany?", then keep reading because we have the top 9 things to do in Albany with kids...and so much more!

Image Credit: Discovery Albany

The Hudson River area where Albany stands today was originally inhabited by the Algonquian-speaking Mohican Native Americans.

Then, in 1614 the Dutch colonists settled in the area and built Fort Nassau for fur trading. In 1624 Fort Orange was built. Then, in 1664 the English took over from the Dutch, and the name was changed from "Beverwijck" to "Albany" after the Duke of Albany (who was actually the future King James II of England, and James VII of Scotland)

The city of Albany was then officially chartered under English rule in 1686. After the United States was formed, Albany then became the capital of New York State in 1797, and was one of original British thirteen colonies. Today, the city is one of the oldest surviving original settlements.

During the late 18th century and much of the 19th century, Albany was a hub for trade and transporation thanks to its location on the Hudson River. It was also home to some of the earliest railroads in the world!

Throughout the 21st century, Albany really expanded and thrived within the tech industries (including in nanotechnology), and today is a fascinating, historic and vibrant destination for any family!

Image Credit: Jon Monaghan

There is so much to love about Albany, and so many fun things to do. 

Love a challenge? Check out Mountain Ridge Adventure where canopy rope courses and zip lines await!

Love history? Albany has plenty of that, from the Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence (along with the historic Underground Railroad Education Center) to the Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site and the must-visit New York State Museum!

Love immersing yourself in the culture and history? Try the New York State Capitol tours or Albany Institute of History and Art.

Want a unique experience you won't find anywhere else? Head on over to the USS SLATER!

With so many fun things to do in Albany with the family, you'll soon have your itinerary filling up! So, which attraction will you visit first?

Image Credit: Discovery Albany

If you don't have a car in Albany (or just want a break from being behind the wheel), never fear! There are some really easy transportation options that will make getting around Albany super simple.

Did you know that the CDTA (Capital District Transporation Authority) makes traveling around Albany incredible hassle-free with their award-winning bus services, bike sharing AND a free trolley! 

If you want to just jump on the bus, the CDTA offers over 50 easy to ride public bus routes across the city, including 29 routes that connect to downtown Albany. Perfect!

Fares are $1.50 per ride or $4 for an all day pass (3-day visitors passes are available for $10). Tickets are also available for purchase on the bus, so they really have made it incredibly easy to use!

Then, you have the FREE Capital City Trolley service that runs every 20 minutes on Thursday, Friday & Saturday from 5pm - 12:30am. This service makes getting around even easier with stops offered along Lark Street, Madison Avenue, and throughout downtown. 

If you fancy getting some exercise on two wheels to explore the sites, just hop on a CDPHP Cycle! at one of the conveniently located stations. Then, just pedal your way across town to see the sights and then drop it off at a station when you are done. The price starts at only $5 per hour too!

So now all you have to do is worry about how many fun things you can fit into one day during your Albany experience!

Why travel all the way to the Netherlands to enjoy the beautiful colors of tulips, when you can visit Albany! The incredibly popular Tulip Festival is Albany's signature annual spring event, drawing from traditions rooted in the city's rich Dutch heritage.

Across the festival nearly 100 artisans will sell their handmade crafts, and you'll also be able to enjoy a fine arts show, mouthwatering food and plenty of world-class live entertainment. Don't miss the fun KidZone which is perfect for families!

Throughout the Tulip Festival you'll be able to see over 140,000 tulips in all different colors - in fact, there are over 150 different varieties! (Who knew there were so many types of tulip!?).

The Tulip Festival in Albany takes place in the historic Washington Park (the 81-acre "crown jewel" of the city) and is a sparkling showcase of local culture and business!

Image Credit: Discover Albany

Did you know that the Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was a stop on the Underground Railroad?

Today, a visit to this historic attraction takes you not only on a journey through the real story of the Black Abolitionist movement, but is where you can also visit the Underground Railroad Education Center that preserves the local and national history of the Underground Railroad movement, and celebrates the thousands of unsung heroes who worked to move the USA closer to true democracy.

Image Credit: Discover Albany

Challenge yourself at New York's premiere zipline park: Mountain Ridge Adventure! Here you can experience adventure and nature in a whole new way, with obstacle courses, zip lines and plenty of exhilarating fun for all ages!

What's great about Mountain Ridge Adventure is that you can choose your own level of difficulty, with three levels to choose from. Kids can start low off the ground in a relatively easy course, then get progressively higher as they conquer their personal best! Don't miss experiencing the thrill of flying on a 10 zipline canopy tour over a 500’ gorge either!

Image Credit: Discover Albany

Immerse yourselves in history at the Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site, where you can visit the property once owned by Revolutionary War general, US Senator, and business entrepreneur Philip J. Schuyler. Enjoy a guided tour of the impressive Georgian structure, and explore exhibits in the Visitor Center detailing the Schuyler's life.

Kids can hear all about the military goings on that happened in the house (including the wedding of Alexander Hamilton in 1780!), plus how the 80s acres started off as a working farm. Overlooking the Hudson River, the Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site makes for a great day out for the whole family!

Image Credit: Discover Albany

Did you know that Thacher State Park, situated along the Helderberg Escarpment, is actually one of the richest fossil-bearing formations in the world? And YOU can visit! It makes for an amazing outdoor adventure for the family, with limestone cliffs, woodlands, open fields, and over 25 additional miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and snow activities!

The Visitor Center is a great place to start, with geological and historical exhibits that showcase the Helderberg Escarpment and its' importance to the region. Plus you can find activities for children and adults alike!

Image Credit: Discover Albany

The Albany Institute of History and Art was founded back in 1791, and is actually one of the oldest museums in the entire country! A visit to this iconic museum will allow kids to learn all about the region's heritage through nationally significant collections (in fact, some of the best collections in the US!) all documenting the life and culture of the Upper Hudson Valley region from the late 17th century to the present day.

It's a fascinating collection for the kids to experience with fine arts, furnishings, personal objects, documents, manuscripts, and photographs that tell the stories of the Hudson Valley, as well as long-term exhibitions that cover topics from Ancient Egypt, to Nineteenth-Century American Sculpture and even Colonial Albany.

Image Credit: Discover Albany

Ready for some history in Albany? Did you know that the USS SLATER is the only Destroyer Escort battleship that still remains afloat in the USA, after a number were involved during WWII battles?

The USS SLATER is today moored on the Hudson River in Albany, and has undergone an extensive restoration that has returned this historic ship to her former glory. You can also visit the museum that offers one hour guided tours, plus other events such as overnight camping!

Image Credit: Discover Albany

There are so many opportunities to enjoy views of the Hudson River from Albany, but why not enjoy views of Albany from the Hudson? Cruising is such a great way to enjoy a city from a whole new perspective, and Dutch Apple Cruises offers some great cruises for the family!

The Albany Sightseeing Cruise is one of the most popular, and during the first 45 mins of the cruise you can enjoy an informative narration all about Albany and highlight key points of interest along the river. The last 45 minutes is where you can relax, listen to music and sit back and enjoy the sights! Don't forget to bring your binoculars, for possible bald eagle sightings!

Image Credit: Discover Albany

The Center for the Performing Arts located in the Empire State Plaza (and also known as "The Egg") is not just an impressive architectural sight, but also a destination to experience some amazing performances. 

Since opening its doors in 1978, The Egg has hosted many of the finest performing artists from New York, as well as the USA and right around the world. Spend your evening with some live music, or dance, or enjoying one of the many family performances. A wonderful cultural experience in Albany!

Image Credit: Discover Albany

Indoor play awaits at Billy Beez! With numerous locations across the US, in Albany you'll find this great fun for kids in Crossgates Mall and it's where kids can really...well, be kids!

Those active and playful little ones can enjoy hundreds of feet of slides, or play the day away in the ballistics area. Honeycomb village is the tot-sized town where kids can enjoy "real" world fun, or they might want to use up all of that energy on the trampolines! With an arcade and so much more, Billy Beez is indoor play perfect for any age!

Image Credit: Billy Beez

Famous Folk From Albany!

 Family Days Out: City Guide

Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton

Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton was and American socialite and philanthropist, as well as the wife of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton (yes, THAT Hamilton!).

Supporter of many charities, she was co-founder and deputy director of the NYC orphanage Graham Windham.

Image Credit: Public Domain

 Family Days Out: City Guide

Leslie Groves

Leslie Groves was an United States Army Corp of Engineer officer, most known for his work overseeing the construction of The Pentagon.

He also directed the top secret The Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb during World War II.

Image Credit: Public Domain

5 Fun Albany Facts

5 Fun Albany Facts

Impress your friends with your amazing Albany knowledge!

  • Albany was one of the first cities! It was one of the first city's in the world to have sewer lines, one of the first to have public water mains and even one of the first with electricity and gas lines!
  • Albany is (supposedly) also the birthplace of a number of day-to-day items, including dominos, the plastic compound for billiard balls and perforated toilet paper!
  • Love shopping? Great, because Albany is home to the largest Walmat Super Center in the entire USA! With nearly 260,000 sq ft of shopping space, it makes for a great day out!
  • Albany is over 400 years old, and is one of America's original 13 colonies.
  • Feeling festive? Albany is your place as it's the place of origin of Santa Claus in the USA!

Top 5 FREE Things To Do With Kids In Albany

Enjoy Washington Park

Enjoy Washington Park

Washington Park offers that classic park experience for the whole family in Albany! This popular 81-acre park was actually created during the 1870s-80s from a design by two men named Calvert Vaux and Fredrick Olmsted (who is famous for New York City's Central Park!). So you know you're in great park hands!

Washington Park not only offers plenty of green spaces to play, and trails to walk, but the park also offers ten tennis courts (yes, ten!), as well as basketball courts and a playground. It's the perfect way to spend an afternoon, so why not take some games, take a picnic and enjoy Washington Park!

Image Credit: Discover Albany

New York State Museum

New York State Museum

The New York State Museum is an absolutely incredible museum and a must visit for all families in Albany! The exhibits cover a range of topics, from wildlife and local birds, natural history, right through to Native American history, fashion, transporation, the World Trade Center and so much more!

The museum is free admission (although value donations), and also host a number of fun events across the year so make sure you check the schedule and mark them in your diaries!

Image Credit: Discover Albany

Tour the New York State Capital!

Tour the New York State Capital!

Sitting high atop Albany’s State Street hill, you'll find the impressive New York State Capitol which has served as the seat of government for New York state since the 1880s! The building itself is a marvel of late 19th century architectural, and you can now enjoy a free 45-minute tour to take in some of the highlights!

You can just register online for the tour, and hear all the history and see first hand the legislative chambers, as well as Hall of Governors, Governor’s Reception Room, and even the Hall of New York, plus historic staircases, and carvings!

Image Credit: Discover Albany

Enjoy the Farmers Market!

Enjoy the Farmers Market!

What we love about the Farmer's Market that takes places at the Empire State Plaza, is that it runs all year round! During summer, (May thru October) head on over on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, then in winter you can enjoy the market on Wednesdays!

The admission is free to wander around, and strolling through the stalls is half the fun! However there is a chance you might be so tempted by the local produce that you'll want to take something home with you. A market is always a great way to meet locals and really immerse yourself in a culture.

Image Credit: Discover Albany

Alive At Five!

Alive At Five!

Did you know that for over 30 years, "Alive at Five" has been a staple of summer in the Albany? Across select days each week you can enjoy the popular free outdoor concert series, where bands of various genres perform (all from the local, regional, and national scene!) and you can sit back and enjoy the fun as a family!

Alive at Five is not only about the music. Across these events the whole family can enjoy great food, drinks, and take in spectacular views of the river while kicking back in the summer sun! Sounds great to us!

Image Credit: Discover Albany

Where do you like to eat and drink? Albany locals tell all!

A Fun Day Trip From Albany!

Driving only two hours from Albany and you'll come across one of the most popular holiday hot spots in the country located within the Adirondacks - Lake Placid!

Lake Placid offers almost the perfect getaway, where you can be surrounded by stunning rolling hills, distant peaks, sparkling lakes, and a charming 19th century style town in the heart of it all. 

Lake Placid is an where the whole family can to enjoy that fresh, mountain air, and take in majestic views! Wake up with the sun shining across the mountains and spend the day enjoying all the outdoor adventure the area has to offer. For that perfect mountain-town evening, stroll the quaint Main Street! 

Image Credit: LakePlacid.com (ROOST)

When people hear about Lake Placid, they might think about either THAT movie, or the Olympics! But there is so much more to this charming small town, including a rich and vibrant history just waiting to be explored.

It was actually in 1800 that the site was settled, but soon abandoned after crop failures. In the 1840s the region was re-settled and promoted as a summer resort in 1850.

The popularity as a tourist destination of this Adirondacks region really soared in the late 1800s, as a result of the nation's wealthy and influential building their Adirondack Great Camps in the area. It was the social elite who would "vacate" the hot summer heat in the northeast cities for the beautiful, cool air you'll find at Lake Placid.

And yes, hence the name! The origin of the word, is where vacations began.

Over the years, Lake Placid has seen plenty of faces and buildings come and go however each one has left a special mark. The charming village of Lake Placid was even mentioned in a Cary Grant movie as a great place to fall in love! 

Today, the area continues to call visitors year-round, with that charming Main Street we've mentioned, to a host of performance arts, and some delicious local fare to enjoy!

Stroll around Mirror Lake, visit one of the museums, you'll find historic sites and treasures all around you. What are you waiting for? Let's explore!

Here’s our top 4 Lake Placid things to do:

We hope you found this content useful! Please share with your friends, and if you have any comments, or want to let us know what we can do to further help you find fun days out with the family, then just email our team at [email protected]!

Let's get the family adventure started!

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