A travel journal
to Albany by Irishdancer
Quote: This city began as a Dutch fur trading settlement, "Fort Orange," in 1624. Over 300 years later, its legacy continues: capital of New York; historically preserved; welcoming to immigrants; and recreationally and commercially vital resulting from its location alongside the Hudson River.
Whenever people hear you are from New York, they always assume New York City. They are even more surprised to learn that Albany is the capital and 150 miles north of New York City. It still has a ways to go before being considered a "real" capital city but Governor Pataki and Mayor Jennings are feverishly working toward a total revitalization of the downtown area.
MUST SEES: The Empire State Plaza (the Egg)is easily recognized against the Albany skyline. It's a popular gathering place in the summer for free outdoor concerts. Take a free tour Mondays thru Fridays from 11am. Call 518/474-2418 for more info. The Albany Institute of History and Art is a good place to study the culture, history, and art of the upper Hudson River Valley. It's open daily with adult admission of , children (ages 6-12) .50, and free for children age 5 and younger. Contact 518/463-4778. Other options: The Pepsi Arena which houses big name shows as well as the NCAA hockey team, The River Rats(gotta love that name), as well as arena football; Shaker Heritage Society which was the first Shaker settlement; New York State Museum and Library with a permanent World Trade Center Exhibit Center; and our Governor's official homestead, The Executive Mansion, has tours by appointment only. Call them: 518/473-7521.
Public transportation is in need of improvement between downtown Albany and the suburbs. Walking is always a good option to experience the existence of real neighborhoods. I'd advise you to go to the Visitor Center, 25 Quackenbush Square, or call toll free: 800/258-3582, for information on Albany, free walking tour maps, trolley tours, etc. The pace is fairly slow here, so people don't mind if you stop them to ask directions. Driving: There are several parking garages and lots. The Empire State Plaza has underground parking for visitors. On-the-street parking is almost non-existent during the workweek hours.Taxis do exist, e.g., Capitaland Taxi 518/456-8294, and Blue & White Taxi 518/370-0300. They'll get you anywhere downtown as well as the Amtrak Train Station, Trailways Bus Station, and the Albany International Airport. If you have to get to the suburbs, however, some cabs don't welcome those trips.
FEATURES:Takeout, bar, patio seating in summer. It's rather dark inside with a long, narrow layout. The tables are close together, which creates a neighborly sort of ambience. They're kid-friendly, too.
SAMPLE MENU: You have to try one of the exceptionally good margaritas. They use just about any combination of fruit flavors, with or without salt, of course. If you prefer no liquor, try the "Virgin Pina Coladas." Now, on to the food . . .
APERITIVOS Appetizers include tortilla chips with salsa, nacho cheese, etc. "El Dip" includes all five of their dips--a whole lotta food! Sopas Soups are all homemade. My favorite is "Sopa de Frijole Negro"(black-bean soup). I can't pronounce it, but can easily consume it. Especiales Mexicanas House Specialties all include rice and beans and a choice of another side. Specialties feature the usual variety of burritos and chimichangas, but you can make special requests, too.
Loco Combos are Tex-Mex combinations served with a choice of blue cornbread, chile, gazpacho, etc.
Tostados Grandes are named an "Incredible, Edible Bowl" and are all that and more. You can orchestrate this HUGE taco salad any way you like. It includes sauteed turkey on pinto beans, shredded beef, a large helping of chili over brown rice, plus the usual lettuce, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, black olive, and cheese toppings. Full yet?
Desserts include bananachanga, flan, and Key lime pie. Can't critique them as we never have room for dessert. Overheard other diners, however, praise the bananachanga.
PRICES:Appetizers from $2.75 to $9.75 (El Dip). Entrees start at $8 and move on up to $13. Reasonable for the portion sizes.
HOURS: CLOSED MONDAYS. Open for lunch and dinner. Tues-Thurs 11:30am-10pm; Fri 11:30am-11pm; Sat noon-11pm; Sun 4:30-9pm.
PAYMENT: Cash or MasterCard, American Express, Visa, or travelers' checks.
RESERVATIONS:Recommended for large groups.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 31, 2002
El Loco Mexican Cafe
465 Madison Avenue
Albany, New York 12210
Restaurant | "THE PUMP STATION"
LOCATION: Downtown Albany, easy access from 787 to Broadway and on to Spencer Street.
PARKING: Has its own ample parking lot juxtaposed to the front entrance.
FULL-MENU HOURS:Open 7 days/week. Closed on Christmas only. Mon-Thurs 11:30am-10pm; Fri-Sat 11:30am-11pm; Sun noon-8pm. NOTE: Late-nite menu is available Mon-Sat for l hr past the full-menu hours.
FEATURES: Sunday family-style dining (all specials $12.95); kids' menu; souvenirs and beer-to-go (includes $14.95 T-shirts and baseball caps, $21 New Growlers [filled] and offered for most of their brews).
PAYMENT: All major credit cards accepted and, of course, CASH. Gift certificates available.
WEBSITE: Address is www.evansale.com. It's a state-of-the-art site, including features such as "What's On Tap," "Awards" (Kick-Ass Brown earned 2002 Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal for American Brown Ale), "Newsletter" (The Happy Fermentor), "Directions," etc.
MENU: Starters include Quackenbush Steamers steamed in their own blonde ale ($7.95) and Pale-Ale-Battered Red Onion Rings ($4.95). My favorite soup is Chef Tom's Montezuma Red Chili (don't order if you don't like spicy HOT food) at $3.95/bowl. Their Santa Fe Salad is a nice vegetarian choice. It's a large tortilla brimming with spicy ground beef, jalapenos, cheddar cheese, chili cream, and the usual lettuce, tomatoes, etc. If you're a burger kind of person, indulge in a Build Your Own Burger, with topping choices of gorgonzola, smoked mozzarella, green chilis, etc. Interesting entrees range from Sun-Dried Tomato Ravioli to Swamp Water Baby-Back Ribs (I've gotta try these on our next visit).
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 31, 2002
Albany Pump Station
19 Quackenbush Square
Albany, New York 12207
Attraction | "THE NEW YORK STATE MUSEUM"
HOURS:9:30am-5pm daily. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day only.
WEBSITE:Access NYS Education Dept.
INFO DESK:The people who greet you in the main lobby are welcoming and knowledgeable. They will immediately supply you with a detailed map of the museum and a current calendar of events. Our last visit to this museum was November 2002, and a permanent exhibition, The World Trade Center, had opened (see photos). It is a well done, tastefully exhibited portrayal of September 11th and the aftermath.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 1, 2003
New York State Museum
Empire State Plaza
Albany, New York 12202
LOCATION: Rt. 157 in Albany County and the Helderberg Mountains. It''s only 16 miles west of the city of Albany.
SUGGESTION: After a full day of sightseeing and exploring downtown Albany, take a ride into the country and see this picturesque park. Make sure to stop at any or all of the well-marked observation points along the rim of the Helderberg Escarpment. Enjoy a free, panoramic view of the NYS University campus and the Empire State Plaza from the Cliff Edge Overview. Take time to hike the rugged .5-mile long Indian Ladder Trail. The Trail is open May l through Labor Day from 8am-8pm and Labor Day through Nov. 15 from 8am-5pm. It''s closed the rest of the year (don''t forget we''re in the NORTHEAST).
John Boyd Thacher State Park
1 Hales Cave Rd
Albany, New York 12186
New York, United States