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What to Do in Albany: A 24-Hour Guide to the Capital Region

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As the capital of New York State, Albany shines as a cultural beacon in the Hudson Valley with great food and tons to do.

We’re often focused on finding hidden gems in small towns around the Hudson Valley, but there’s also plenty to do in our more metropolitan locales like Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Kingston (the former state capital), and Albany. New York’s capital is chock-full of history and culture you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.

Albany day trips are particularly varied. In the mornings, we typically tour the museums, galleries, and historical sites. As the day warms up, we venture out to scenic destinations like the nearby Cohoes Falls and dine downtown at one of the city’s many eateries.

Without further ado, here’s how we’d recommend spending your day in the Capital Region.

8:30 a.m. – Start with a breakfast at Madison Café

 

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We first discovered this Albany breakfast joint while searching for great plant-based options, so, right off the bat, you know it’s going to be a crowd-pleaser. For those who prefer to dine plant-based, opt for the French toast featuring house-made cinnamon swirl bread dipped in vegan batter, then slathered with Smart Balance butter and maple syrup. There are also plenty of choices for diners with fewer dietary restrictions; the “eggs & stuff” and “omelette” sections cover all the morning staples. For a unique treat, venture to try the chicken and corn-jalapeño waffles.

10 a.m. – Tour the New York State Capitol Building

 

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Since the late 19th century, Albany’s Capitol Building has stood as the “seat of government for New York.” Whether you’re a history buff, an appreciator of grand architecture, or you simply want to learn about our state’s history, this 45-minute tour is an essential activity in Albany. On weekdays, tours begin at 10 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m., but if you’re following along with our guide to a T, be sure to secure a spot with the morning tour. There’s a ton to do in the Capital Region, and we’re just getting started!

11 a.m. – View Hudson River School paintings at the Albany Institute of History and Art


Over 90 paintings and sketches from artists associated with the Hudson River School are on display at this Albany museum. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, the Hudson River School refers to an art movement constituted by landscape painters, typically depicting the Hudson Valley. There are even works by Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church, whose houses you can tour in Catskill and Hudson, respectively. Once you’ve had your fill of this collection, explore the rest of the museum, with exhibitions like 19th-Century American Sculpture, Traders and Culture, and Ancient Egypt.

Related: Where to Go to Grab a Gourmet Brunch in Albany

12:45 p.m. – Snag Southern comfort food at The Cuckoo’s Nest

 

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If you passed up the chicken and waffles for breakfast, you have a second chance to enjoy the dish at lunchtime. Foodies of the Capital District rave about the comfort food available at this restaurant, with full plates of fried chicken, street corn, and catfish available for the devouring. If you’re already tuckered out from walking around the Capitol Building and through the galleries, stick around for happy hour, which begins at 3 p.m.—it’s well worth the wait, with a local draft from Sloop Brewing Co. at $4 and cocktails at $8. Be forewarned, reservations are strongly recommended!

2 p.m. – Get your day trip selfie at Cohoes Falls

 

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Drive just 15 minutes outside of the state capital and behold one of the largest waterfalls in New York. There are multiple observation points and walkways from which you can soak in the views, and be sure to snap a photo to commemorate your Albany day trip.

3:30 p.m. – Go axe throwing at Far Shot Recreation

 

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If you aren’t excited about the idea of going axe throwing, it’s probably because you’ve never gone axe throwing. After an instructor demonstrates proper axe practices, compete with your friends to see who can nail the greatest number of bullseyes in your hour-long session. Far Shot also offers a brief menu of snacks, beer, and soft drinks.

4:30 p.m. – Say hello to the Hudson River at the Corning Preserve

 

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Did you know that Albany is right beside the Hudson River? Stop by the Corning Preserve and soak in views of the river and Rensselaer across the way. There’s a playground if you’ve brought little ones along and, in warmer months, live events are hosted at this riverside park in the 1,000-seat amphitheater.

6 p.m. – Head to Druther’s Brewing Company for brews and food


It’s high time we give this northern Hudson Valley brewery some love—it brews beautifully balanced beers, which are best enjoyed alongside grub from the all-day menu. Go for the “Ugly Burger”—a Goliath of a sandwich with crispy bacon, beer cheese, gorgonzola, onion rings, and fried egg—or the house macaroni and cheese or the pizzas. You really can’t go wrong. If you’re not a beer drinker, Druther’s offers a tantalizing list of milkshakes, including a nice, thick Reese’s peanut butter shake.

7:30 p.m. – Select a nightcap at Capital Wine


Voted Best Neighborhood Wine Store thrice by Metroland, Capital Wine carries a range of bottles for wine connoisseurs and casual sippers alike. The staff is super knowledgeable, so feel free to ask for an opinion on which bottle you should end the night with.

8 p.m. – Turn in early and enjoy your stay at The Morgan State House


The Morgan State House is the kind of stay you want to savor. So long as you’re satisfied with your day on the town, turn in and hang out in your room inside this 1884 New York-style mansion. The house is a synthesis of luxury and comfort; with fresh-cut flowers in vases and opulent furnishings, the Morgan is the perfect location to put a cap on your day in the capital. Uncork a bottle of New York State vino and say “Cheers!” to a day well spent in the Hudson Valley.

Related: An Inside Look at Albany’s Fire of 1793

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