SUNY Albany is a micro-city. Unlike the multitude of small, private colleges that dot the Hudson Valley, the UAlbany campus dominates the upper Hudson, extending from the main campus uptown to the public affairs and criminal justice buildings downtown and across the river to the Health Sciences Campus in Rensselaer. With more than 13,000 undergraduate and 4,000 graduate students under its wing, the behemoth institution is a hub everyone who lives, works, and plays in the area.
The sheer number of Great Danes around town makes it no surprise that the Capital District is a mecca for students and recent graduates. Although happenings on campus are admittedly enough of an attraction (hello silent discos, art exhibits, and sporting events), off-campus destinations are just as appealing and often provide a welcome break from the monotonous class ⇒ dining hall ⇒ dorm cycle.
So throw on your finest purple and gold ensemble and get to exploring the area. With our guide in hand (read: on your phone), you’ll be an Albany expert before you know it.
One of the best parts of living in Albany, even if it’s only for four years, is that you’re smack in the center of one of the most exciting arts scenes north of New York City. At the heart of it all lies The Egg, which sounds like an odd name until you finally lay eyes on the venue. The performing arts space showcases a bit of everything, from comedy tours and acrobatics to concerts and ballet. Students have it good at The Egg, too. For select events, any student who shows a valid ID can score half price tickets one hour before showtime.
Empire State Plaza, Albany, 518.473.1845
If you’re in the mood for a big-ticket show (or just an excuse to get off campus), look no further than the Palace. The historic theater boasts an impressive schedule of top tier performers like Modest Mouse, Alice Cooper, Derek Hough, and more. For Halloween, check out the live screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s an unofficial required event for all college students, regardless of where you go to school.
19 Clinton Ave, Albany, 518.465.3335
Albany has such an abundant number of festivals and fairs throughout the year that it’s a challenge to keep track of them all. For Albany students, LarkFest, PearlPalooza, and the Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival in September and the Tulip Festival in May are just a few can’t-miss events in the region. Bring your friends and spend the day wandering though vendor stands, jamming out to local musicians, and taking in the sights and sounds of the picturesque upstate region.
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When you can’t take another minute inside University Library, pack up your backpack and bring a blanket to Washington Park. The outdoor haven is ideal for powering through required readings and group study sessions. If you need a break, kick back and spend some quality time people watching or strolling around the statues and monuments in the area. By the time you head back to your dorm, you’ll feel relaxed, refreshed, and even a little productive.
If you need something to do before Halloween or on a low-key weekend, round up a group of friends and hit up one of the escape rooms in town. The high intensity activities test problem-solving skills and force groups to find a way to the finish before the seconds disappear. Get started with Pursue the Clue on Central Avenue or 5 Wits Albany in the Crossgates Mall.
Crossgates Mall is the mall to visit for Albany students. Not only is it close to campus, but it also has everything that a Great Dane could need. Pick up a party outfit at one of the shops, have a blast at Dave & Busters, or bowl a strike at Lucky Strike Social. Keep an eye out for special events at the mall, too. Lucky Strike hosts trivia nights on Sundays, Regal Cinema often offers movie discounts, and Think Geek has game nights.
1 Crossgates Mall Rd, Albany
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Budget-minded students will love scouring the racks at Great Finds, the chic thrift boutique next to Washington Park. Although it stocks casual and internship-friendly clothes as well, the funky shop is a vintage lover’s dream. Keep an eye out for retro dresses and chic accessories that are just as perfect for costume parties as they are for making a statement on campus.
260 Washington Ave, Albany, 518.449.7715
When the midnight hour strikes at the same time your pizza craving does, make a beeline to The Fountain for a late-night fix. The low-key eatery, which is open until 2 a.m., keeps it simple with traditional or white cheese pizzas that can be loaded with meatballs, mushrooms, and pineapples, to name only a few of the savory toppings. Get a small if you’re on your own and feeling ambitious or split a large with friends. A small plain cheese will set you back $9.50, while a large rings in at $12.
283 New Scotland Ave, Albany, 518.482.9898
Open seven days a week until midnight or later, Capital City is the classic diner experience every college student needs. Slide into a blue booth for nachos and disco fries on Friday before you journey to the weekend’s festivities, or visit on Sunday for a lazy brunch followed by a long afternoon of studying. The Anastasia Pancakes, with Nutella and sliced bananas, are a go-to, as are the two-egg sandwiches, which can be dressed up with ham, sausage, or bacon.
1709 Western Ave, Albany, 518.250.4261
What would a college guide be without coffee? Find copious amounts of the good stuff at Uncommon Grounds, the hip café on Western Ave that dishes out freshly roasted java and homemade bagels. Bring a reusable mug for a discount – and a refill – of tea or coffee. All the beans are roasted onsite in small batches so you can be sure that your daily dose of caffeine is just as delicious as it is potent. Take a lunch break during a study session with a classic bagel and shmear. Mix and match bagels like sun dried tomato, banana nut, and pesto with peanut butter and jelly or bacon scallion cream cheese schmear. Uncommon is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and, yes, there is free WiFi.
1235 Western Ave 5, Albany, 518.453.5649
For the over-21 crowd, The Pearl St. Pub is a one-stop shop for food, drinks, and entertainment. Visit the downtown locale on Thursday for bingo or on Friday for Happy Hour Trivia. As for what to eat, comforting bar fare is the name of the game. Try the Smoke Stack Nachos, topped with house-made pulled pork, white chicken chili, cheddar cheese, olives, bacon, scallions, tomatoes, jalapenos, salsa, and sour cream. Otherwise, keep it classic with gooey mac and cheese balls and a side of chipotle honey BBQ wings.
59-61 N Pearl St, Albany, 518.694.3100