Thinking about moving to Albany? The capital of New York is full of opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, job seekers of any age, and patrons of the arts. With so much to offer, it’s no wonder Albany was ranked the best place to live in New York! Here are 22 things to know about living in Albany!
Live in Affordable Upstate New York
If you want to live in New York, but you don’t want the New York City price tag, living in Albany is a great option! In fact, Albany is considered one of the most affordable places to live in Upstate New York, thanks to its affordable real estate prices and cost of living. Albany real estate prices are 40% lower than the state average, and the city’s cost of living is 13% lower than the state average.
The Job Market Is Diverse
With employment opportunities across a wide range of industries and an unemployment rate lower than the rest of New York at 4.6%, jobs in Albany aren’t hard to find! Education is one of the largest industries in Albany, so teachers and academics can find employment at top universities like Bryant & Stratton College or with local school districts like South Colonie Central. And with Fortune 500 companies like IBM, Aetna, Northwestern Mutual, and more in the area, people in almost any occupation can find employment in Albany.
Join Tech Valley
Albany is located in the heart of Tech Valley, the Northeastern hub for technology careers and education that spans the entire Capital Region. Tech Valley was developed as a center for chip-making and research in nanotech after a decline in manufacturing jobs. Now, the area is nationally recognized in its higher education research. Schools like SUNY Polytechnic and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and programs like the Tech Valley Young Professionals Network (YPN) make Albany a competitive space for those looking to earn degrees or find jobs in biotech, nanotech, engineering, and climate change.
Home to Excellent Higher Education
Albany is home to a number of higher education institutions, both private and public. Attend the State University of New York (SUNY), the largest comprehensive system of universities, colleges, and community colleges in the country. Earn your degree in biology, psychology, or nanotech at University at Albany. Enroll at Albany College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, a small-scale private university with majors in pharmaceutical sciences and lab technician work. Pursue a degree at Siena College, a private Catholic university offering special programs with pre-med, pre-health, and the pioneering Albany Medical College Program. Or find your passion at Union College, the first liberal arts college in the U.S. to offer an engineering degree.
Travel Inside & Outside the City
Albany’s location in the Capital Region means you to have access to tons of vacation spots! Travel by train easily from the Albany-Rensselaer Amtrak station to popular stops like New York City, Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and even some cities in Canada. Hop on the Nature Bus to see local nature preserves for hiking and scenery. Pack the car for exciting day trips near Albany, where you can explore Lake George, Windham, and the Adirondack Mountains. Head to the Saratoga Race Course, where you can watch the Saratoga Derby Invitational, Travers Stakes, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and even an annual Victorian-themed hat competition. Ride the Capital District Transportation Authority bus system, which stops all over the Tri-City area and has eco-friendly electric buses. Or zoom around the city in style on an electric scooter from CDTA SCOOT.
Bike to Get Around
The city of Albany supports green travel and fun exercise, so be sure to check out all the accessible biking opportunities! Travel through the city for $5 an hour with CDPHP Cycle. Support the Albany Bicycle Coalition, an advocacy group for safe biking laws, and join them for a monthly ride. Ride through the city on the many accessible bike lanes and shared roads. Take in the scenery on the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail that follows the old Delaware & Hudson Railroad Line. Mountain bike at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve or John Boyd Thacher State Park. Or bike the 400 miles of the entire Erie Canal Bike Tour, which ends in Albany.
All About the Outdoors
The mild summer weather in Upstate New York is ideal for outdoor activities, and the people of Albany take full advantage of the local climate! Check out Washington Park‘s beautiful greenery, well-maintained paths, and incredible statues surrounding the lake. Get out of the city and visit the Discovery Center for a closer look at local plants and wildlife at Albany Pine Bush Preserve. Find excellent hiking paths in nearby Thacher State Park. Join Albany’s chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club to go kayaking, canoeing, and more. Or visit one of Albany and the Capital Region’s many farmers markets, orchards, and farms!
Get Out on the Water
Because it’s located near the junction of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers, Albany has tons of waterfront activities you can take advantage of! Spend a day on the Hudson River with Dutch Apple Cruises & Tours. Set out from the Corning Preserve Boat Launch, where you can rent a kayak or canoe from the Upstate Kayak Rentals hub. Try your hand at rowing or watch an official regatta at the Albany Rowing Center. View the Waterford Flight of Five Locks or paddle the water trail at the Erie Canalway. Take in the grandeur of the Cohoes Falls on the Mohawk River at the overlook in Falls View Park. Hit the beach or go boating while camping at the Thompson’s Lake Campground in Thacher State Park. Or head to Peebles Island State Park, where you can picnic on the water, go fishing, or get amazing views of rapids and waterfalls.
Make the Most of the Snow
Want to find fun ways to take advantage of Upstate New York’s snow? With an average annual snowfall of 59 inches, Albany is the perfect place to do it! Ski resorts like Willard Mountain, Maple Ski Ridge, and surrounding areas pull in visitors from the Tri-City Area and beyond. Before you go, shop for the right gear at the Northeast Ski & Craft Beer Showcase. Test out your ice skating skills at the Empire State Plaza ice rink, a free outdoor skate plaza that operates day and night, with skate rentals less than $5. Take on the winter chill with a less conventional winter sporting event, the annual Santa Speedo Sprint, an 800-meter race for charity with a very limited dress code. Or sit back as you drive through the light show in Washington Park during Capitol Holiday Lights!
Celebrate the Holidays at Christmas Land
If you love celebrating the holiday season with caroling, cookie-baking, and visits to Santa, you’ll love Albany’s holiday spirit! Inspired by the 2015 Hallmark movie and created as an all-ages attraction, Christmas Land is the epicenter of Albany’s Christmas spirit! Located on a large farm in the Tri-City Area, Christmas Land operates from late November to late December. Here, you can mail your Christmas list, listen to a Christmas story told by cheery elf employees, or take a picture with Santa. You can also browse products from local artisans in the Christmas Land store and contribute to Seeds of Endless Hope, a charity for children’s causes!
There’s a Great Local Sports Scene
When living in Albany, you can find almost any sport to root for! Watch a Rensselaer Puckman skate for victory during a men’s or women’s ice hockey game. Support the Union College Dutchmen as they compete in volleyball, tennis, football, and more. Take yourself out to the ballgame to see the Tri-City Valley Cats (MiLB) at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium. Buy tickets to see the Division I UAlbany Great Danes compete in football, soccer, and more. See the Albany Empire (NAL), Albany’s professional arena football team, at the Times Union Center. Or cheer on the Albany FireWolves (NLL), another pro team that calls the Times Union Center home!
Explore Downtown Albany
Despite the city’s nickname “Smallbany,” Albany’s downtown area has tons of attractions to explore. Walk through Empire State Plaza for views of the city’s stunning architecture and reflecting pool. Tour the New York State Capitol to learn more about Albany’s history. Enjoy outdoor yoga during the free State Street Yoga series or the Yogapalooza festival. Catch comedy shows and other live performances at the aptly-named Egg Theater. Trek your way to the observation deck of the Corning Tower, which provides a breathtaking panorama from the Hudson River Valley to the foothills of the Adirondacks. Play with your pup at the Olde English Downtown Dog Park. Bike, boat, or attend events at the Jennings Landing amphitheater in Corning Preserve. Or view art exhibits and take advantage of great deals during the monthly 1st Friday Albany event.
Spend a Day on Lark Street
Albany’s Lark Street, named the Greenwich Village of the Capital Region, is a hot spot for great food and shopping. Start your day with a coffee and locally sourced breakfast at Stacks Espresso Bar. Shop for unique jewelry at Elissa Halloran Designs or the Lark Street Mercantile. Head over to Lark St. Poke Bar or Healthy on Lark for a healthy lunch. Spend your afternoon searching for a new outfit at Great Finds Thrift Boutique, browse handcrafted art at Yamaguchie, or find your next favorite book at Dove & Hudson. Schedule a tasting at Capital Wine or end your night with a drink at cozy neighborhood bar Post on Lark. Or hang out at the Art on Lark festival in June to support local artists and small businesses in Albany.
Check Out the Incredible Museums
People with a passion for history and art will love Albany museums, many of which offer free admission! Tour the New York State Museum for exhibits on everything from history and paleontology to biology and Native American ethnography. Head to Morningside Gallery to view works in different styles by regional, national, and international artists. View contemporary local art at the Albany Center Gallery. Take a class on art mediums ranging from drawing and digital arts to pottery and writing at Arts Center of the Capital Region. Visit the U.S.S. Slater for a truly unique experience of the last World War II destroyer vessel floating today. Experience the history of Colonial America at the Schuyler Mansion. Or enjoy a mix of art and history at Albany Institute of History & Art.
There’s Fun for the Whole Family
You don’t have to worry about the kids being bored if you’re moving to Albany! Ride the Comet and take a swim in Hurricane Harbor at The Great Escape, a Six Flags amusement park. Take the kids to Huck Finn’s Playland for a day of rides at a park that’s been a local favorite for over 50 years. If you’re already headed to the New York State Museum, bring the kids to check out hands-on learning activities at Discovery Place. Get active and go for a climb at Albany’s Indoor Rock Gym. Inspire a passion for STEM at the Children’s Museum of Science & Technology. Enjoy all kinds of outdoor fun and games from mini golf and go-carts to bumper boats at nearby FunPlex Fun Park. Or test out your skating skills at Rollarama Skating Center in nearby Schenectady!
Albany Loves the Performing Arts
Theatre is a New York staple, but you don’t have to go all the way to Broadway to experience high-quality performing arts! Watch the Albany Symphony Orchestra, famous comedians and musicians, and Broadway productions at the Palace Theater. Catch live shows featuring local artists, lecturers, and more at The Linda WAMC’s Performing Arts Center. Audition with Capital Repertory Theatre, the only member of the LORT association in the Capital Region. Give the kids a chance to try out their performing skills at the Steamer No. 10 Theatre. Attend the only local short play festival, Confetti Fest, at Confetti Stage. Enjoy the nice summer weather with a free outdoor performance at Playhouse Stage Company. See concerts, ballet performances, and more at The Egg. Or, for a more modern concert experience, catch a live show at Empire Live.
Attend All the Amazing Festivals
In Albany, there’s always something to celebrate! Visit the famous Albany Tulip Festival, a city-wide celebration of Dutch culture that features thousands of tulips in Washington Park, ceremonial Dutch street scrubbing, and the Royal Tulip Ball to celebrate the newly crowned Tulip Queen. Enjoy live music, food trucks, and a classic car show while you show your dad some appreciation at Dad Fest in the summer. Join the Pride Center of the Capital Region for one of the largest celebrations of the LGBTQ+ community in the area—the Capital Pride Parade & Festival. Celebrate Scottish culture at the Capital District Scottish Games, an event featuring traditional sports tournaments, Highlands dancing, unique vendors, and plenty of bagpipes. Or sample food, wine, and art from various cultures at the annual Wine & Dine for the Arts festival.
Live Music Is a Summer Staple
With all of the performing arts and music festivals in the area, it’s no wonder that live music in Albany is an incredibly popular thing to do! Check out Albany’s free summer concert series, Alive at Five, which has featured local up-and-comers to Grammy winners since the festival’s first summer in 1990. Listen to more live music for free at the Riverfront Jazz Festival, a day-long celebration of jazz that ends with a fireworks show on the Hudson River. Enjoy PearlPalooza, a free day-long music festival that takes place on the streets of Downtown Albany. Or picnic at the Rockin’ on the River summer concert series with takeout in nearby Troy.
Live, Work, & Inspire with Albany Barn
Nippertown artists have a special place to call home at Albany Barn. The art collective was created to provide “a sustainable creative arts incubator and community arts center in Arbor Hill—a place for artists to live, work and inspire” in the redeveloped building that previously housed St. Joseph’s Academy. The Barn works to promote local artists while giving back to the community with initiatives like the Capital Walls murals and the Community Integrated Arts Program & Exhibition. Artists can both live and work in The Barn’s spacious apartments and studios available for rent. The Barn also has dynamic spaces available with stages, meeting space, professional lighting, and movable seats, and all performances are free of charge.
The Food Options Are Endless
Looking for good food in Albany? Make your way to Cafe Madison for brunch dishes like the Farmhouse Omelette, French Toast Stacker, and the Delaware Sandwich. Head to Ted’s Fish Fry, a family-owned and operated Capital Region favorite that serves great seafood options like Fried Scallops and Homemade New England Clam Chowder. Visit Jack’s Oyster House for upscale seafood options like Scallops & Caviar and Caribbean Swordfish. Enjoy breakfast fare like Elvis’ Memphis Scramble and Raspberry Brie French Toast on a garden patio at Iron Gate Cafe. Listen to live music at the Hollow Bar & Kitchen while eating elevated pub meals like The Hollow Burger and House Dry-Rubbed Brisket. Experience Ratatouille Stuffed Pepper, Spicy Local Pepper Ragu, and Steak Cacciatore in a cozy, rustic atmosphere at New World Bistro Bar. Or make a reservation at 677 Prime for fine-dining options like Prime Certified Angus Beef Cowboy, Faroe Island Salmon, and Veal Chop.
Follow the Capital District’s Beverage Trail
The Capital Craft Beverage Trail is a collection of local breweries, wineries, and distilleries throughout the entire Capital District—and features quite a few Albany favorites! Order a pint of your favorite brew at Druthers Brewing Company, which customizes glasses for each beer. Bring your dog along to Albany’s largest taproom, Fort Orange Brewing, and sample fare from local food trucks with your beer. Stop at the historic Albany Pump Station for a taste of the C.H. Evans Brewing Co., a local favorite that’s been passed down since the late 1700s. If cider is more your speed, try the selection at Nine Pin Cider Works made from only locally sourced fruits. Visit the Albany Distilling Company, where you can get great cocktails and can meet the adorable resident cats on staff. Or sample a modern take on an ancient beverage at the Royal Meadery.
Albany Comes Alive at Night
If you thought Smallbany would be a sleepy town at night, think again! Albany’s nightlife is exciting and diverse. Check out City Beer Hall for local craft beer, handcrafted cocktails, and a cozy fireplace. Watch a drag show, sing karaoke, or put your trivia to the test at LGBTQ-friendly bar Rocks. Visit Savoy Taproom on Lark Street for beer, cocktails, and a great scratch kitchen. Experience a bit of Irish, English, and Dutch culture at the Olde English Pub & Pantry, located in the historic Quackenbush House. Sign up for the annual pool, golf, and darts triathlon or competitive dart league at Lionheart Pub. Try out the rotating local drinks on tap at quaint neighborhood spot Pint Sized. Dig the atmosphere of a big-city club or quiet pub at the oldest gay bar in Albany Waterworks Pub. Or order a charcuterie board with some wine at 288 Wine & Tap.
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