May 11, 2015

Visiting Albany, NY is a capital idea

If you haven’t been to Albany recently put it on your travel calendar. The city hosts many festivals, concerts, and special events throughout the year but the most popular is the Tulip Festival held each year in May, but anytime is a good time to visit. 

Albany’s history spans four centuries. Commissioned by the Dutch East India Company in 1609 to report on the new world, Henry Hudson sailed the Half Moon to the upper reaches of the Hudson River. He told of the magnificent river and the bountiful area. In 1621 the Dutch set up trading posts. In 1664 the English sent warships and took over control renaming Fort Orange in honor of the Duke of Albany. Dutch merchants retained control over Albany's lucrative fur trade and continued to farm the fertile land along the Hudson. The people of Albany became a valuable source of contact between the British, the French, and the Iroquois. The area prospered and more immigrants attracted to the rich farmland arrived from Europe. Albany’s strategic location made it a critical player during the colonial wars and, with the completion of the Erie Canal, a hub for Westward Movement. 

All visits to Albany should begin at the Albany Heritage Area
Visitors Center in historic Quackenbush Square. See exhibits detailing Albany's rich history and be transported back through time by watching the center's orientation show “Albany: A Cultural Crossroads.” There are plenty of brochures and information about the region along with a knowledgeable staff ready to help plan a visit. Plan to visit the Quackenbush House located directly next to the Visitors Center. Built in 1736, it is the oldest remaining Dutch building in the city and today serves as a restaurant. 

The Visitors Center is where tours start. Guided tours by trolley, on foot, and even by horse drawn-carriages take visitors through Albany's neighborhoods and historic sites or see the city from the water on the Aqua Duck. Pick up the free “Capital City! A Walking Tour.”  

The best place to learn about the history of both Albany and New
York is at the New York State Museum. Artifacts related to the early Dutch settlement, a colonial rum distillery, the expansion of the city, and the daily life of past residents. Name your interest and you will find it at the museum from a 30-foot skeleton of an Atlantic Right Whale to the
Adirondack Wilderness Area to the birds of New York.  The Fourth Floor is home to a restored 1914 Carousel, which entertains visitors of all ages. There are several historic homes offering tours including the Schuyler Mansion, home of Revolutionary War General Philip Schuyler and his family and Cherry Hill, the 1787 home the Van Rensselaers. Tours are available of the USS Slater, a World War II Destroyer Escort. Today, only one of these ships remains afloat in the United States, the USS Slater. 

Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller wanted to create "the most electrifying capital in the world" with the centerpiece the Empire State Plaza, a complex of 10 buildings that has become a cultural center.  Take a tour of the Capitol building. Begun in 1867, construction continued until 1897 when Governor Frank S. Black declared the building finished, ending one of the longest running public works projects in the state's history. Of special interest is the Million Dollar Staircase with more than 70 faces carved into the pillars.