I think it was in the fifth grade when I first heard about Albany, New York, as we were studying all the capitols of all of the US cities. It was a bit of a mystery this state capitol so far north of New York City, yet so important to the state’s history and in current affairs. I recently discovered Albany in a personal way with a weekend excursion.
Most striking about Albany is the site, inside and out, of this historic capitol building itself with took thirty years to complete. It stands on a hill and overlooks the city, and the nearby Empire State Plaza with its monolithic office buildings and the unusual egg shaped theater complex. The plaza complete with reflecting pool and with ice skating in the winter, is popular for public events. On one end is the State capitol building and on the opposite side the New York State History Museum (www.nysm.nysed.gov). . The extensive museum houses several sections, including homage to the Civil War ( with a life mask of Abraham Lincoln), and more recently artifacts from the World Trade Center disaster. Be sure and visit the observation deck of the 42 storied Corning Tower.
State Street which could be called Albany’s’ main street, runs down from the capitol, pointing toward the Hudson River. Near the base of the street stands, 74State Street Hotel (www.74State.com), which was my pleasant home base and my oasis for my discoveries. 74 State offers several breakfast menu items, and my guests and I enjoyed their Eggs Benedict more than once. This Ascent Hotel Collection provides wireless internet, room service in the morning and evenings and supplies free coffee in the lobby from 6 am to 10 am. The fitness center is open 24 hours. The property also has the Bistro/Bar venue on the second floor, with an expansive picture window overlooking busy STATE street. While the hotel is upscale iT features recycled New York State wood and granite.
Just down the hill a bit is the upscale Jacks Oyster House (www.jacksoysterhouse.com) where without a doubt I had the best meal of my visit. As a steak person I tested their expertise and they passed with high marks, as they did for the Martini. My other companions had a variety of entrées including oysters on the half shell and a Lobster tale prepared with gourmet expertise. The service was as exceptional as you would have expected at a fine old world restaurant, and it was a near shame we had to leave to catch a theatrical presentation in Schenectady, NY at the Proctor Theater, which was a treat.
Be sure your discovery of Albany includes a visit to Speak Easy 518 (www.Speakeasy518.com) where you will have unique cocktail tastes accentuated by a variety of herbs and vintage concoctions. You are admonished: “The bar is open to anyone, but not for everyone. In order to maintain our peaceful, secretive existence beneath the city we require the respect of the following house rules….(which included) Please dress sharply and speak easy. Mind your manners.” Live jazz may be there on your night, and while they offer a variety of wines and beers the experience is in tasting the Prohibition Era Cocktails or the New World Concoctions. You might try the Midnight in the Italian Alps, of Braulio Amaro, Cardamaro Amaro, JFB Sorrel Liqueur, with Flamed Orange Zest, or the Papa Doble made with ADC Quackenbush House Rum, Maraschino Liqueur, and Fresh Grapefruit Juice. Many of the flavors are earthy and perhaps so usual you may have to develop a taste over several visits. To keep the ambiance low, no photography is permitted.
Other recommend dining venues include: Albany Pump Station (www.evansale.com), A Better Bite Deli (www.abetterbitealbany.com), Jake Moon Café (www.jakemoon.net) and the popular New World Bistro Bar (www.newworldbistrobar.com). Albany has more to offer than space allows- but be sure to include the Albany Heritage Center (www.albany.org/visitors-center), the Albany Institute of History and Art (www.albanyinstitute.org), and weather permitting a visit to John Boyd Thacher State Park (www.nysparks.com/parks.com) , and Goolds Orchards and Brookview Station Winery (www.goold.com). If you are lucky you might get to view a replica of Henry Hudson’s “Half Moon” Ship, which is the symbol of Albany.