Albany New York
We recently had the opportunity to visit Albany NY to participate in a "bucket list" activity...cheering on an NCAA Division 1 Hockey team in the playoffs. With two daughters who attend D 1 hockey schools and being an alum of another D1 hockey school, it seemed like we would be missing an opportunity to not go and cheer on one of those school's team and soak up the excitement of the experience live. It was even more exciting, when TWO of those schools were there to compete! We extended an invitation from Rochester Institute of Technology to pre game reception to stay in Albany, which made for a fun and spirited 24 hours in New York's Capitol city!
We found a last minute room at the Renaissance Albany Hotel, and because most of Albany's business is government, a weekend hotel rate is very reasonable compared to a weekday rate. (photos of suite, use arrows to scroll)
We were delightfully surprised by the Renaissance. Nick, the concierge, explained to us that the building contains many original features and elements. But we noticed the designers have also updated the hotel so that furnishings, lighting and artwork evoke a very contemporary feel.
It seemed like an ideal space for a wedding. Nick, opened up the ballroom for us to have a look, and with it's detailed original molding and uber modern Lucite chandeliers that mimic the old, the marriage of of old and new seems the perfect place to start a any marriage. Especially since the color scheme of white and dark grey (no, this one isn't a black and white photo) will match any color scheme.
All of the staff at the Renaissance delighted us with their passion for hospitality, from Nick going above and beyond to share the history of the hotel, to the doorman and valets who also had enthusiasm for sharing their home town with visitors. We did not get to eat at the restaurant, but Wellington's had a pretty good crowd, without being crowded.
Much of the art work in the hotel plays on New York's history as "New Amsterdam", with lots of Dutch influences, including a photo mural of wooden clogs in the bathroom of our suite. An unusual piece of art work graces each floor of the guest elevator lobby featuring a reproduction of Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" with the Albany skyline superimposed at ever higher levels as you ascend floors. Think of the fun a wedding photographer could have with a local wedding couple on the 11th floor, getting a shot of the couple kissing with " the Girl" peeking over the Albany skyline at them!
(I must admit that the Albany skyline lacks the drama of other cities and that I needed to see the artwork on several floors before I "got it"!)
The hotel and many of the buildings around it on State Street within the shadow of the Capitol Building, are old buildings which have or are being renovated. In my post A Photo Walk of Albany (click here to read) I said that with a population under 100,000, Albany feels like a small city with big architecture. This hotel is also within easy walking distance of the Times Union Center, where the hockey games we went to see would be played. We knew we would enjoy the games, but we were surprised at how much we enjoyed Albany! The Times Union Center with it's sports and concert opportunities in the heart of the city, makes this part of Albany a surprising place to enjoy a weekend. Pick a concert or sporting event that interests you and you can build a nice weekend getaway around it! In addition to the Renaissance, the Fairfield, Holiday Inn and Hilton are all within walking distance of the Times Union Center. (see a list of current shows and activities here) If you have more time...weekday tours of the Capitol Build and city are available. For information contact the Albany Visitors Center or Captiol Website
We had come to see a hockey game, so we made our way to the Times Union Center. Here we enjoyed a private pre game reception and enjoyed watching a very public "battle of the bands" between the competing team's pep bands. While making our way into the arena to find our seats we enjoyed the atmosphere.
Of course this competition was all in good fun, as evidenced by the "mixed marriage" pictured above! The actual game was more serious, but also entertaining!
After the game with all the cheering, beer and giant pretzels, there was a winner and loser, but those of us who had watched had been entertained!
We made our way back to our hotel where we asked for advice about dinner. Dining options in this area seem centered around places with a pub atmosphere, filled with folks attending those weekend Times Union events (and probably filled with legislators and lobbyists on the weekdays!) and traditional "old" political deal making steak house style restaurants, which were pretty quiet on the weekend nights. We chose to go see Jacks Oyster House, the oldest restaurant in Albany dating to 1913. We noticed several special occasions being marked by locals and enjoyed the experienced service in the beautifully maintained historic dining room.
Following dinner, the next day, we did a photo walk of Albany (linked here). What we discovered in our short trip was that it's easy make snap judgments about a place, based on reputation, or even lack of one. But I believe part of being a real traveler is making the effort to see the beauty in every place, to learn what makes the place interesting and seek out those experiences. We think we absorbed a bit of the place while sitting in Jack's imagining the political deals done there, admiring the century old architecture of State St or chatting with locals, including a very polite and sober veteran on the street who said he couldn't stand the VA hospital, and asked if we could spare a couple of dollars. (We did!) We felt that despite a short time, we were able to get a feel for Albany and came away feeling like there is more to do and see there!