With a relatively small population of 96,000, New York's state capital has cleverly branched out from its banks of the Hudson River to embrace five international sister cities including Quebec City in Canada. Other sisters are Verona: Italy, Tula: Russia, Nijmegen: Netherlands and Nassau: Bahamas.
Albany is the oldest surviving settlement from the original Thirteen Colonies, founded as Dutch trading posts and named Albany in 1664 in honour of the Duke of Albany, who became England's James II. In 1797, the state capital was moved here, and be sure to visit the Capitol Building inspired by Paris, France's City Hall. It features a spectacular "Million Dollar Staircase."
Close to Buffalo, New York, Boston and Montreal and favourably located as a center of transportation, in 1807, Robert Fulton initiated his steamboat line from New York to Albany (150 miles) and on October 26, 1825 the Erie Canal was completed, forming a continuous water route from the Great Lakes to New York City. Several railroad lines sprung up linking the Hudson Valley to wider and wider spheres.
Today, the Empire State Plaza dominates the city view. Finished in 1978 by Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, the complex embodies late American modern architecture and Erastus Corning Tower is the tallest building in the city. Albany's notable citizens have included U.S. presidents Martin Van Buren, Millard Fillmore and Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt as well as authors Herman Melville and Henry James.
For night life, last call at bars is 4:00 a.m. attributed to the historical high density of industrial facilities and the demand of second and third-shift patrons. Spring Tulip Fest is a celebration of Albanyâ€™s rich Dutch heritage, and draws local and regional attendance. Alive at Five is a free concert series downtown on Thursdays throughout the summer. Albany is an expanding cultural center with museums, theatres and historic buildings including the Palace Theatre, home of the Albany Symphony Orchestra, and Park Playhouse, one of the larger outdoor theatres on the East Coast. The Coming Preserve, a narrow strip of land several miles long, features nature trails popular for jogging, walking, bicycling and inline skating as well as
What to see/do:
· Albany Institute of History and Art: 125 Washington Ave. Phone (518) 463-4478.
· Court of Appeals Building, 20 Eagle St. opposite Academy Park. Phone (518) 455-7711.
· Dutch Apple Cruises: 141 Broadway at Madison Ave.; offers 2-hour narrated sightseeing cruises on the Hudson River. Phone (518) 463-0220.
· Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza, Phone (518) 474-2418 (general information) or (518) 473-7521 (arrange a tour of the art collection). The New York State Museum is in the Empire State Plaza. Phone (518) 474-5877.
· Historic Cherry Hill: between First and McCarty Avenues at 523 1/2 S. Pearl St. (1787 Georgian-style house). Phone (518) 434-4791.
· Cathedral of All Saints: 62 S. Swan St. Features stained glass, mosaics, stone carvings, 17th-century choir stalls carved in Belgium. Phone (518) 465-1342.
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception: 125 Eagle St. Phone (518) 463-4447.
· First Church in Albany (Reformed), 110 N. Pearl St., founded in 1642. Its pulpit and weather vane date from 1656. Phone (518) 463-4449.
· St. Peter's Episcopal Church: one block. E. of the Capitol at State and Lodge Sts.; entrance at 107 State St. The 1859 French Gothic church contains stained-glass windows, elaborate floor mosaics. Phone (518) 434-3502.
Besides the Plaza above, another must-see is the Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site, 32 Catherine St., once the residence of Philip Schuyler and Catherine Van Rensselaer. Schuyler, a Revolutionary War major-general, served in the Continental Congress and as a U.S. and State senator. The Schuylers were one of I8th-century Albany's wealthiest and most influential families. The mansion is a fine example of English Georgian architecture. Phone (518) 434-0834. And another interesting visit is the USS Slater off 1-787N exit 2, then on Broadway to Steamboat Square. This restored World War II destroyer escort provides a look at life for 216 men and includes the crew's quarters, radio room, galley and bridge with a combat information center. Phone (518) 431-1943.
Adam Southwood writes for Canadian, U.S. and European magazines and newspapers. He is a graduate of McMaster University in Hamilton and UWO in London with an interest in culture and history and has produced several educational programs for TV.
Courtesy of Albany Convention & Visitors Bureau
If you go
Albany County Convention and Visitors Bureau: 25 Quackenbush Sq., Albany, NY 12207; phone (518) 434-1217 or (800) 258-3582. Has self-guiding walking tour information.
Shopping areas: Colonie Center, Wolf Road and Central Avenue, has Macy's and Sears as its anchor stores, while Crossgates Mall, on Crossgates Mall Road, has JC Penney and Macy's among its more than 230 stores.
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