Albany, New York, USA, Empire State Plaza
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Photo Credit: iStock / fotoguy22 | Empire State Plaza in Albany

Albany, New York

A trading post, a British colonial city, a transportation hub — Albany had a rich and storied past before it became the seat of New York state's government. The capital sits on the west bank of the Hudson River some 150 miles north of New York City. Its river junction makes a natural location for a port, with deepwater ships plying the Hudson and canal barges using the Erie and Champlain canals.

What We Love

New York State Museum: This institution offers a variety of collections that showcase the state's treasures. Exhibits run from the birds of New York and archaeology of Albany to Native American history and contemporary art by Calder, Pollock, and Rothko. The best part is that admission is free.

Architecture: The modern structures of the Empire State Plaza give way to an abundance of more traditional architectural gems around the city. Don't miss H.H. Richardson’s Romanesque City Hall, with gorgeous interiors; the Federal-style Ten Broeck Mansion, once the home of a prominent public affairs officer; and the administrative center of the State University (SUNY) at Albany, housed in an elaborate Gothic-style edifice that was formerly the Delaware & Hudson Railroad headquarters.

Best Known For

New York State Capitol: This distinctive landmark has served as New York's seat of government since the 1880s; behind the Romanesque Revival-style facade are sumptuous marble and stone halls, a portrait gallery of governors, and a flag room that displays military memorabilia. 

Empire State Plaza: Completed in 1976 under Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, this 98-acre complex with underground concourses and outdoor parks is lined with steel-and-concrete buildings intended for government employees. It sparked a controversy when it was constructed — and still does: People either love or hate the slab buildings. Go for a visit either way.

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Who It's Best For

History and Architecture Fans: Examples of Georgian, Dutch Colonial, and French Gothic Revival architecture are on gracious display here, and history aficionados will enjoy putting together all the pieces that make up the Empire State capital's puzzle.

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

It's a Functional City: Albany is primarily a political capital and a university town with a presence of manufacturing, banking, retail, and international trade companies. Despite some heritage homes and stately government buildings, it's not the most charming town on the Hudson River.

Theodore W. Scull

Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.

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