Happy National Travel & Tourism Week! To celebrate the special 40th anniversary of this U.S. Travel Association tradition, we are showcasing 40 unique reasons to visit Albany County. From the county's various amazing attractions to 400 years of rich history, there's no limit to exciting things to discover for both visitors and locals alike! Click through this list and peruse some of the many reasons to make Albany your next travel destination.
The theme of National Travel & Tourism Week 2023 is #TravelForward.
- Unique Facts About Albany County
- Amazing Albany County Attractions
- Albany County's Rich & Fascinating History
- Explore Historical Sites
- Uncover the Stories of Historical People of Albany
1. Albany is the Oldest Continuous Settlement in the U.S.
Though Jamestown was settled in 1607, it was abandoned in 1699, and the Puritans didn’t arrive in Massachusetts until 1620. That makes Albany, first settled in 1614, the longest lasting settlement of the 13 English colonies. Which is why the city and surrounding county have such a long and rich history!
2. Albany's Icon: Standing at 28 Feet, Albany is Home to the World’s Largest Nipper Statue
The beloved RCA icon sits atop the former RCA building in Albany’s warehouse district and is the largest replica on the globe. Throughout Downtown Albany, keep your eyes open for smaller, three-foot-tall Nipper sculptures painted by various artists. These unique pieces were left for public view following Downtown Albany BID’S “Downtown is Pawsome” public art installation.
3. Albany Has Been Home to a Series of Famous Faces
From Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick (1851), who lived in Albany (in the pink house next to McGeary's!) as a child during the 1800s to talk show host Jimmy Fallon who studied at Saint Rose, Albany is no stranger to famous faces who have called the city their home.
And Albany is no stranger to some famous faces stopping through...
4. Filmmakers Love to Use Albany as Their Backdrop!
Albany streets and landmarks are often used to mimic areas of Washington D.C. and New York City. As the official Albany film commission, Film Albany, a division of Discover Albany, has worked with several companies and indie filmmakers to help make projects come to life. Recent projects include HBO'S Gilded Age and White House Plumbers, starring Woody Harrelson. Check out some projects shot in Albany you can watch now!
5. Toilet Paper, As We Know It, Was Invented in Albany
It was in 1891 when Seth Wheeler, who lived and died on Lark Street, patented perforated toilet paper (on a roll!). Before this ingenious invention, toilet paper was available as flat sheets dispensed from tissue-like boxes.
6. Origins of Santa in the States Can Be Traced Back to Albany
Imported from The Netherlands, the first celebration of the feast of St. Nicholas in the US most likely originated in Albany. Beyond that, one of the very first Christmas cards with Santa imagery was printed by Albany merchant Richard H. Pease.
7. Albany is One of the Few Places the Rare Karner Blue Butterfly Calls Home
The Karner Blue Butterfly (named after the hamlet of Karner in Colonie, NY) is an endangered, nickel-sized, butterfly. The Karner Blue exclusively feeds on the wild blue lupine which grows in habitats such as inland pine barrens. But many of these habitats have been lost due to development. The Albany Pine Bush Preserve provides protection and habitat to the Karner Blue. Visit the preserve for their annual Lupine Fest and celebrate Spring amongst fields of Lupine Flowers and fluttering Karner Blues.
8. Albany is Home to New York’s First Farm Cidery
New York is big on apples, and the first farm cidery is located right here in Albany! Nine Pin Ciderworks is located in downtown Albany’s Warehouse District. The cidery exclusively uses New York sourced apples and fruit to craft their drinks.
9. Visit One of New York’s Greatest Art Treasures: The Empire State Plaza Art Collection
One of the most unique and important State collections of art in the US, the Plaza art collection is considered “the greatest collection of modern American art in any single public site that is not a museum.” Envisioned by Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller in 1961, the collection showcases the works of 60's and 70's New York artists and embraces the idea that the arts are an essential and core piece of New York State.
10. One of the Richest Fossil-Bearing Formations in the World: John Boyd Thacher State Park
Millions of years ago, New York State was submerged by sea. Thacher Park, in Voorheesville, holds the evidence of a time from long ago. The park is known for its vast fossils of ancient sea creatures and breathtaking views of the Hudson-Mohawk Valleys and Adirondack and Green Mountains.
11. Albany is the Site of the Oldest Continuously Operating Pride Center in the Nation
First opened in 1970, the Pride Center of the Capital Region has been working to create a safe and welcoming community space for LGBTQ+ people for over 50 years. The Pride Center remains open and active, hosting the annual Capital Pride Parade and Festival along with events and group meetings every week.
12. Enjoy Staple Food & Drink from the Whole State at the Excelsior Pub
No matter where someone’s from in New York, they’re bound to take great pride in the regional food and drink their hometown has to offer. The Excelsior Pub takes all the famous foods created from around New York State and puts them on one menu. Whether visiting the Capital from just out of town, out of state, or even out of the country, let the Excelsior Pub treat you to NYS favorites.
13. The Altamont Fairgrounds Have Been Hosting Festivals Since 1893!
One of the largest fairgrounds in the state – spanning 138 acres – The Altamont Fairgrounds have been bringing fun to Albany County for 130 years. The fairgrounds are open all year round. Upcoming events include the Capital Strawberry and Wine Festival, the Old Songs Festival, and of course, The Altamont Fair
14. Go Chasing Waterfalls: Cohoes Falls is the Second Largest Waterfall in New York State
Cohoes Falls bears a crest of 950 feet across and a drop of 60 feet making it the second largest waterfall in the state. Falls View Park was recently renovated and offers a beautiful scenic view of the falls.
15. Discover Another Beautiful Waterfall in Rensselaerville, New York
Tucked away in Huyck Preserve is Rensselaerville Falls, this beautiful spot can be found in the southern portion of the preserve and is made up of three tiers. For directions on how to find the falls click here.
16. Take in a Show at the Cohoes Music Hall, One of the Oldest Music Halls in the United States
Built in 1874, the Cohoes Music Hall is the 4th oldest operational music hall in the nation. In the 150 years since the Hall’s opening, countless acts and performers have graced the stage. Before she was known as the “Queen of Vaudeville,” Eva Tanguay herself performed at this historic venue at age 12. It is believed that her ghost still haunts the Hall.
17. Visit and Learn About An Important Stop on the Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad Education Center, founded by Paul and Mary Liz Stewart, works to uncover the stories of the Underground Railroad that have been missing from the narrative. In Albany, visit the residence of Stephen Myers who turned his home into a refuge after he gained his freedom to help people escaping enslavement.
18. Fly Into Albany at the Oldest Municipal Airport
Albany International Airport, located in Colonie, was the very first municipal airport in the US. And it remains the oldest to this day!
19. Visit the Beautiful Washington Park with a Surprisingly Grim History
Washington Park was once the site of a massive cemetery hosting over 10,000 bodies. After a long decline, the park was deemed unacceptable for a cemetery and the thousands of bodies were relocated to the Albany Rural Cemetery.
20. View the Historic Albany Rural Cemetery
Notable people buried at this cemetery include 21st President Chester Arthur, suffragist Alice Morgan Wright, and multiple members of the Schuyler family including General Philip Schuyler and daughter Margaret “Peggy” Schuyler.
Photo Credit: Paula Lemire, Historian, Albany Rural Cemtery
21. Tour a Piece of Final Standing History Aboard the USS Slater
Of 563 destroyer escorts built during World War II, the USS Slater is the only one left afloat in the country. The Slater has been restored to its 1945 configuration and is recognized as a National Historic Landmark.
22. Travel Along the Hudson on a Dutch Apple Cruise
Located right next to the USS Slater, take a trip on the Hudson River aboard a Dutch Apple Cruise. Dutch Apple Cruises offer a perfect way to view the scenic and historic river on your visit to Albany.
23. Meet the Cohoes Mastodon Who Lived 13,000 Years Ago
On view in the New York State Museum, the remains of the Cohoes Mastodon reveal a story from the Ice Ages. The Cohoes Mastodon was discovered near Cohoes Falls in 1866 and was first mounted in the Museum in 1915. Through examination of the Mastodon’s skeleton, researchers have been able to uncover a detailed account of the extinct mammal’s life and death.
24. The Albany Institute of History and Art is One of the Oldest Museums in the Country
The Albany Institute of History and Art which features the art, history, and culture of the Upper Hudson Valley was founded in 1791. That predates The Met by almost 100 years!
25. Explore the History of the Erie Canal
The Erie Canal revolutionized the nation in the early 19th century. Today you can travel along the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, extending from Albany to Buffalo, and experience the amazing history of the nation’s most famous man-made waterway.
26. Discover Albany’s Unique #CapitalWalls Murals
Visiting Albany you can’t miss the amazing display of murals throughout the downtown area. Sponsored by Albany Center Gallery, Albany Barn and Albany Parking Authority, these eye-catching murals were made to help inspire, uplift and educate the community. Learn more and book a mural tour by visiting the Albany Center Gallery’s website.
27. Enjoy a Journey Throughout Multiple Locations in Albany County by Exploring the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail
The 9.8 mile trail begins in the South End of Albany and runs through Delmar and Singerlands before bringing you all the way to the village of Voorheesville
28. Albany is a spot on the Extensive Empire State Trail
The longest multi-use trail in the nation connects New York City to Canada and Albany to Buffalo. All three legs of the trail connect in Cohoes right here in Albany County.
29. Explore the New York State Capitol
Often touted as one of the most beautiful State Capitols in the country, a list of reasons to visit Albany County would be remiss without a mention of this elaborately carved stone building. Take a free guided or self-guided tour of the Capitol, Monday through Friday to discover the unique history of the building.
30. The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln Has Some Coincidental Connections to Albany
Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth may have crossed paths in Albany four years prior to the Lincoln assassination. Both stayed in the city at the same time in 1861. Lincoln, on his inaugural route to Washington D.C. and Booth, performing at Albany’s Gaiety Theatre.
Coincidentally, Clara Harris and Henry Rathbone who attended Lincoln’s final play at the Ford’s Theatre with him were both from the capital city. On your trip to Albany, stop by the Discover Albany Visitor’s Center and view a historic marker at Quackenbush Square marking Lincoln laying in state following the assassination.
31. The Tulip Festival Has Rooted Importance in Albany Since World War II
The Albany Tulip Festival is a well-known Mother’s Day tradition, but it may not be well-known that its importance in Albany’s history spans decades and connects us to our Dutch roots. Following the war, Albany adopted the Dutch city of Nijmegen and sent aid to help the city rebuild. In gratitude, Nijmegen sent thousands of tulip bulbs to Albany. The Albany mayor named tulips our official flower, and we’ve been celebrating the Tulip Festival ever since.
32. Albany Was Influential for Breweries in North America
One of the first ever breweries was located in the Capital city, and by the 1660’s, the area was booming with breweries started by the first Dutch settlers. With the opening of the Erie Canal in the 19th century, Albany beer producers were able to send their drinks out to the rest of the country making the area the largest brewing hub in the nation. Breweries in Albany County are still ever-present and popular today with businesses such as Druthers Brewing Company and Fort Orange Brewing
33. Albany Was a Spot on the Oldest Passenger Railroad in the US
The Mohawk and Hudson River railroad connected Albany to downtown Schenectady and was built to compete with the Erie Canal. Today, visitors to Albany County can book an Amtrak ticket and ride into the Rensselaer Rail Station from locations throughout the United States and Canada. Visitors to Albany Can Purchase an All-Inclusive New York by Rail Travel Package. These Amtrak packages out of New York City create a unique and themed itinerary for visitors. Some themes include Capital Brew and an Underground Railroad Tour.
34. Albany is Home to the Historic Schuyler Mansion
If visiting the Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site is one of the million things you haven’t done, make sure to put it at the top of your list when visiting Albany County. This mansion was home to Revolutionary War general and US Senator, Philip J. Schuyler. Here, he and his wife, Catherine Van Rensselaer, raised eight children including Elizabeth Schuyler. It was in this home that Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth were married.
35. One of the Most Historic Homes in New York: The Van Schaick Mansion
The Van Schaick Mansion served as military headquarters for both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. Plans for the Battle of Saratoga, the turning point of the revolution, were formulated in this Albany home.
36. Discover the History of the Shakers at the Shaker Heritage Society
The site of the nation’s first Shaker settlement can be found in Albany County. Immerse yourself in the history of this revolutionary community!
37. Crailo Historic Site: Keeper of Dutch History and Origin of a Well-Known Tune
The Crailo Historic Site is a home of longstanding history and stories. One interesting tale from the site is the origin of “Yankee Doodle,” which was first written there by British Army surgeon Richard Shuckburgh predating the Revolutionary War. Of course, the song was originally written to make fun of American soldiers, it is now a well-loved nursery rhyme throughout the country.
38. View the Kenmore Hotel, a Landmark Location With Rich History
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Kenmore Hotel, was owned and built by Adam Blake Jr in 1878. Blake was an extraordinary businessman, one of the most successful entrepreneurs of the 19th century. He was the son of Adam Blake Sr. who was freed from slavery in 1811.
Well into the 20th century, the Hotel was well-attended. It was the sight of famous 1940’s nightclub the Rain-Bo Room, said to be one of the last places visited by Jack “Legs” Diamond on the night of his death. Today, the Rain-Bo room has been renovated and restored into the Kenmore Ballroom – an elegant, historical venue for weddings and events.
39. Albany Was Home to World War I Hero, Sgt. Henry Johnson
Sgt. Henry Johnson served in the first African American unit of the United States Army during World War I in France. He lived in Albany during his early teenage years. While serving in the army, he showed significant acts of heroism and bravery, saving the life of a fellow soldier and successfully, single-handedly retaliated against an enemy raid while severely wounded.
In 2015, Johnson was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, presented by President Barack Obama. He also received the French Croix de Guerre in 1919, making him the first American to receive the award, the Purple Heart in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, and the Distinguished Service Cross in 2003.
40. Albany Was Home to Leader in the Suffragist Movement- Alice Morgan Wright
Leading suffragist, sculptor, and animal welfare activist Alice Morgan Wright leaves behind a very impressive legacy. She grew up in Albany and returned to the Capital in her later years. She co-founded the League of Women Voters which is still active today. While imprisoned for demonstrations, she went on hunger strike and created sculptures out of sugar cubes rather than letting the food go to waste. And along with her lifetime partner, Edith J. Goode, she founded a trust to support animal welfare organizations.