Rowhouses on Lark Street, Albany
NYSOM Contributor and Capital Region native, Mark Adam, shows us his strong hometown roots:
A common nickname for Albany, the capital of the Empire State, is “Smallbany.” Though New York State is arguably the biggest and baddest in the country, Albany itself is relatively small with 97,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. What Albany may lack in size, glitz and glamour when compared to New York City (its big brother to the south), it makes up for in accessibility and intimacy, and holds its own in creating a good time. People from around here often promote Albany for its proximity to other major cities like New York City, Boston, and Montreal. If you reverse course and spend a weekend in Albany, you’ll find the many gems worth mining, showing the brilliance of the city's arts, culture and history.
Start with its literal access from other regions. Albany International Airport (ALB) is so easy to get in to and out of that I routinely show up a mere hour before my departing flight and coast through baggage and security lines; forget about parking off-premises and having to take a shuttle. With friends in the Washington, D.C.-area, I’ve found $60 flights into BWI because it’s a Southwest hub. Amtrak and Metro-North routes take you on rides to and from New York City along the Hudson River. Drives through the interstate highways take you north (to the Adirondacks), south (to New Jersey and Pennsylvania), east (to Massachusetts) and west (through Central New York, the Southern Tier, the Chautauqua-Allegany region and Western New York).
Once you’re in Albany, the sites are easy to find and even easier to get to. Venturing around Albany, one can see the good and bad like any other city. Sure, there are boarded up buildings in depressed neighborhoods, and there seems to be a constant battle between residents and business owners with the “Not in My Backyard” mentality, but drive a little farther and you will find the many bright spots.
One block away is Washington Park. Aside from being an oasis of green space and trees that is open to runners, cyclists and sunbathers, it’s home to some of Albany’s most beloved events. In May it’s the site of Albany’s Tulip Festival, which celebrates Albany’s Dutch history with blooming tulips, local and national musicians on two different stages and the crowning of Albany’s Tulip Queen. The city’s gardening staff planted 200,000 spring bulbs last year, said Jason Bonafide, public relations coordinator from Albany’s Office of Special Events. During the summer, the Park Playhouse produces two different plays that are performed for free outside at the Lakehouse in Washington Park. Come Halloween, the Lakehouse is filled with ghosts and goblins for a rocking Halloween party and for the holidays the park is turned into a glowing Christmas display. The Price Chopper Capital Holiday Lights in the Park (Nov. 20, 2014 - Jan. 3, 2015) has more than 138 light displays over a two-mile stretch throughout the park, said Lenny Ricchiuti of the Albany Police Athletic League.
While Smallbany might seem like an afterthought in a big state with even bigger things going on, and even though many residents struggle with their own complexes about where they live, it’s a place worth visiting, and better yet, living it up.