Albany to Ottawa and Back Again

Various detours taken while working in upstate New York

Albany to Ottawa and Back Again

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by rufusni on January 26, 2008

I got to spend most of a month living in the area while working, mainly based right in the north of the state of New York, about 30 minutes drive to the border with Canada. The area is full of small college towns - the town I mainly stayed in, even had two colleges. Its fun to wander around some of these small towns and all the gems in them. Such as Potsdam, were I was, the episocopal church had eight Tiffany stained glass windows which were incredibly beautiful.

Ottawa was the closest city to me, even of it is across the border, and I managed several trips up there. Its quite a strange capital city and wasn't quite what I expected but it is a pleasant city to visit. The National Gallery of Canada had such a range of artwork to wander around. I loved the great variety of restaurants and different types of food available.

The Adirondack mountains however were simply beautiful, I'm just sorry I couldn't stay for another couple of weeks as the trees were just turning colour and it is stunning. The mountains, rivers and lakes are a divine backdrop to whatever you're doing, whether hiking or lying back in an Adirondack chair enjoying the view.

Albany was just a brief stop on a Sunday afternoon - the Musuem of New York was a great place to visit, I really enjoyed seeing so many different aspects of life in New York state from wildlife to skyscrapers.

It was kind of nice to see another part of the US, one that is not normally on the tourist trail. I never would have visited this area except for contacts living there, and I did enjoy it. It may not have any major sights but gives time and space to relax and enjoy life.

${QuickSuggestions} There are lots of interesting towns stretched across the region from Albany to Ottawa, which are worth exploring, or at least a stop on the way through, and driving on the Interstate isn't the best route always, most of the gems are well away from streams of cars.
Make sure when you are crossing the border, if you are foreign that they properly stamp your passport - the first time I crossed over, they failed to stamp my passport which caused bother the next time I did.
${BestWay} The area is really only accessible if you have a car - there are buses and train routes but they are fairly inflexible. Only thing is in the mountains its definetely better to be a passenger than the driver as you can more fully enjoy the views. And of course you need to get out out and walk - whether that is hiking in the mountains, exploring some small town's charms or wandering around downtown Ottawa - there is no better way to really enjoy the place!

Amtrak run a service through Albany, which was a great way to reach New York, quick and taking you right into the centre of Manhatten. There is a limited bus service around the region, but if your only mode of transport, would diminish the experience of the area.

National Gallery of Canada

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by rufusni on February 23, 2008

I did want to drive up to Ottawa from the US and the excuse of an exhibition of Renoir's landscapes, which was running in the museum as a temporary display, was just too appealing to miss the opportunity to see so many of them together. Although I enjoyed seeing the development of Renoir's style, the exhibit was very crowded which somewhat diminished the enjoyment. However, the collection of the gallery itself more than made up for the crowded atmosphere of visiting Renoir's exhibit. It appears that the museum has a regularly changing menu of exhibitions of particualr artists, which supplement the permanent collection.

I have to say I really enjoyed this gallery - its in a modern building with a sense of light and space and well-laid out as well, the courtyard with pools in the centre of the Canadian art is great design element adding to the contemplative dimension of looking at art. I don't think it will ever rival the major art museums of the world but it is an enjoyable and worthwhile gallery to visit. The Canadian art selection was good with a great variety in pieces selected, and the rooms follow in a sequence of groupings. I loved the vividness of the Canadian Group of Seven paintings, but also some the the mosre contemporary pieces were compelling.
This gallery is definitely worth a visit if you are in Ottawa! Tickets to the permanent collection are about $10, with reductions for students and seniors, and children under 12 are free. Also Thursday nights after 5pm are free! But note that exhibitions require a separate and additional ticket. Details about the musuem can be found at its website
National Gallery of Canada
380 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 9N4
+1 613 990 1985

New York State Museum

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by rufusni on February 23, 2008

This is museum is kind of tucked away at the south end of the huge plaza, across the road and the entrance is under the bridge - it took us a while to find it - but it was worth finding it, especially as its free entry.

The museum is a mix of exhibits dealing with life in the state - from the wilderness exhibits of the Adirondacks to the skyscrapers of New York, with exhibits on the Native Peoples of the state and on fire engines - it is quite a wide range of topics to cover but gives a rich insight into the varying history of the state. Most of the exhibits are colourful and interesting, with many having interactive elements but equally with enough information given to stretch you a little. About the least appealing exhibit to me was the birds of NY, which reminded me a little to much of dry and dusty museums of childhood of looking, not touching. But it is well laid out with enough space around each exhibit that it doesn't feel crowded or overwhelming. Coming from the other side of the big pond, this was a reasonable interesting introduction to life in New York State.

The museum also has an exhibit entitled 'The World Trade Center: Rescue, Recovery, Response' which tells the history of the World Trade Center then 9/11 attacks, the rescue efforts, and the response to the attacks. It is quite a moving attempt to communicate something of the tragedy with it including items recovered from the site. It is an interesting attempt to document what happened and how it affected so many people, but it stirred up many feelings from my own background of growing up with terrorism and the results of it.

If you are in Albany, the museum is well worth a visit - helped especially as it is free! Time wise that is up to you - we had about an hour and that was a little too short but don't think of spending huge amounts of time here either.
New York State Museum
Empire State Plaza
Albany, New York, 12202
(518) 474-5877

The Wild Centre

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by rufusni on March 21, 2008

The Wild Center or the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks looks at the natural history of the region. Its a very hands on type of museum that is really designed to appeal to children. Inside the museum building are various displays, with fish, otters and other animals making up some of the animals that are kept each being part of a display to explain their significance in a part of the habitat of the mountain region. The displays consider marshes, deep lakes and mountain peaks and the habitats that each of these are. At regular points during the day there are scheduled interactive talks about some of the displays - we heard one about how the museum cares for the otters that they have in capitivity and how they try to keep their lives interesting with different feeding methods and playtoys. Part of the museum is more like a science lab with microscopes and so on to encourage kids to look at insects and things more closely.

There is also a cinema screen which shows short films about the region - we ended up watching two - one simply of photography of the region set to music,which was simply breathtaking and the other was a film of a duck mother and her ducklings which the kids I was with thought was terrible cute. Quite often they have special events and 'lectures' - they had a lady in talking about birds of prey when I was in, and she is involved in the rescue of injured birds of prey - but she brought with her several birds that were unable to be released back into the wild - the talk took about 30 minutes but it was quite interesting.

Outside are a series of walks, with that introduce you to some of the habitats and creatures that live in them - we did see lots of waterbirds and other little animals running around the place. There are also guided walks around the museums grounds which give further more detailed descriptions. The museum seems to be expanding the number of possiblities of exhibits to explore from woodlands and a slow river bend and a tree-top walk. The grounds aren't huge, though the walk down to the riverbend is quite steep in places and may be a struggle for some. To be honest, we didn't see much wildlife down at the river, apart from a solitary duck.

Its not really the sort of place I would have picked to go myself, and its probably only really enjoyable if you have children with you as its really designed with them in mind. We spent about 2 and 1/2 hours here, and that was more than enough time for me, and plenty of time to walk around the exhibits. We did have a quick look around the shop, but we decided that the cafe in the museum was a little pricy and headed into Tupper Lake to get some food.
The Wild Centre
Tupper Lake, NY
New York

Frederic Remington Art Museum

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by rufusni on June 5, 2008

Right on the border with Canada is the town of Ogdensburg in which the Frederic Remington Art Museum. Frederic Remington died in 1909, but the house where the musuem is, became the home his wife, Eva, from 1915 to 1918. The original collection derived from Eva's collection when the museum was founded in 1923, and included Frederic's sculptures, oil paintings, family possessions, personal art collection and studio contents.

The musuem has quite a collection of original Remington paintings, sketches and sculptures, not simply the more famed ones of 'The West' with cowboys, horses and Indians, but also quite a few landscapes of this region and into Canada. Remington made his name with illustrations for magazines like Harper's Weekly, mainly of a military or western subjects. There are examples of these blcak and white creations but much more distinctive are the larger paintings of similar themes. Late in his life he produced bronze sculptures, these captured the movement of certain scenes such as 'The Outlaw'. These are in the downstairs gallery, but there are quite a few of his personal effects and as well as correspondence that give further insight into Remington. There are also some of his studio materials and explanation of how he achieved his sculpture.

Remington was not necessarily trying to capture as a photographer but to create an image of the Wild West, and so some of his work is not precisely accurate. His work does capture something, and there is a vividness to it.

Tickets are about $8, with only a small reduction for students, children and so on. The musuem in winter is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but in the summer is open all week, 10am - 5pm except Sundays when the museum opens at 1pm. Details can be found on the musuem's website -

I did enjoy visiting the musuem, it is a very distinctive style and subjects of American art. However, unless you are a fan of Remington, or are close by, as I was, then this probably is not a major tourist attraction to make you drive miles out of your way.
Frederic Remington Art Museum
303 Washington Street
Ogdensburg, 13669
(315) 393-2425

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