We started in Albany … and then went Dutch!
Albany, New York (then known as Fort Orange) was settled by the Dutch in the early 1600s after being discovered by Henry Hudson. Looking for a faster trade route in 1609, he explored the river (later named for him) northward from Manhattan. By 1664, nearly 10,000 Dutch were settled in Fort Orange when the English captured the fort and renamed it in honor of the Duke of Albany. Though technically part of Britain's crown until the Revolution, Dutch merchants continued to influence the city and under their guidance, Albany played an important role in maintaining communication between the French, the British and the Iroquois.
Today, Albany's annual Tulip Festival in historic Washington Park honors this Dutch heritage each spring on Mother's Day weekend. Thousands view nature's spectacular color show while enjoying the music, art and food of this popular event. Albany is the center of many festivals and events and features an art district, nightlife on Pearl & Lark streets, restaurants and so much more.
A pivotal Revolutionary War spot, Schoharie County has some of the best natural and man-made attractions in the state. With a rich history of farming, industry and life as it should be, the county is attracting interest from downstaters who want a slower and easier pace of life. Driving on I-88, you are surrounded by beautiful rolling farmlands on both sides. Get off the interstate and visit one of the many farm stands during the season. Visit Middleburgh and the Village of Schoharie, both feature a main street similar to that found in your favorite movie, complete with quaint stores, warm, friendly people, community pride and great places to eat.
The Village of Sharon Springs is currently undergoing a rebirth and is the home of the American Hotel, which is on the National Register. The architecture is beautiful and undergoing preservation. Sharon Springs is also recognized by both the National Historic Register as well as New York State's Register of Historic Places as a historic spa village. It was once a gathering place for the Hassidic Jewish faith who came here for the mineral baths during the 19th & early 20th centuries.
Rensselaer County is across the Hudson River east of Albany and is home to many of the area's residents. The center of the county is the City of Troy, an architectural gem in itself. From there, the county turns rural and is breathtaking to see. Farming is a very important part of life in Rensselaer County. Textile manufacturing, the making of detachable shirt collars and cuffs, began in the 1820s. By the end of the century, Troy was the "collar and cuff capital of the world". At its height, approximately 15,000 people were employed in Troy collar shops. To this day, Troy is still known as the "Collar City". When you visit Rensselaer County, you can drive beautiful country roads, visit farms and farm stands, antique shops and explore small rural, pristine towns. In Troy, visit Little Italy – a section where Italian immigrants lived, and which is still home to a very large Italian community. A new marketplace has been established. During the summer outdoor movies are shown and there is a marketplace once a week where you can buy Italian specialties and more. The Troy Music Hall is world-renowned and worth a visit. For more information visit www.rensco.com.
Situated along the Mohawk River, Schenectady is best known as the headquarters of General Electric (GE), which has had a profound impact on Schenectady throughout the years. At night, you can't miss the huge GE sign that illuminates the sky.
At one time, over 40,000 people worked at the GE plant complex – many living in housing on streets around the plant. However, that number dwindled to 5,000, but is on the rebound. Not long ago, there wasn't much of a reason to visit downtown Schenectady, unless you worked there. Today, the downtown area is alive with new restaurants, clubs, entertainment, galleries and more. No visit to Schenectady would be complete without a visit to Proctors theater, which was recently refurbished to its' era of opulence. Each season, Proctor's theatre presents world-class singers, side-splitting comedians, electrifying dance programs, wonderful classical productions, including opera and symphony orchestras and top-notch touring Broadway musicals. Visit www.proctors.org for more information.
Just mention Saratoga Springs to anyone in the region, and their memory will go back to their last visit to beautiful Broadway or "the track". Saratoga Springs is the home of Saratoga Race Course, the oldest race course in the county and scene of the annual six-week summer meet from late July through Labor Day. Known as "the track" to locals, it is a beehive of activities and social events, as you spend afternoons watching the world's finest thoroughbreds race. This is a must-see destination. Just across the street, the Saratoga Raceway & Casino is in full swing, featuring live harness racing and slots you can play to your heart's desire. The Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) operates in the warmer months and features top-line entertainment. The Beekman Street Arts district is a must-see as well, located just a few blocks off Broadway.
When the track is not in season, there are plenty of things to do and see in the region any time of year. Museums and galleries are abundant. A walk down Broadway in Saratoga is like a visit to the past, with the beautiful architecture, shops, restaurants and more. Savor the Saratoga experience.
Just 30-minutes outside of the bustling city of Albany sits Columbia County – a delightful day trip destination any time of the year. Steeped in history, the area offers numerous historic sites. A?drive along any road will lead you to the stunning architecture and mansions of long-ago sea captains and merchants. Even the very names of the quaint communities seem to capture a bygone time...Chatham Village, Malden Bridge and Hillsdale, to name a few. Columbia County is home to the Shaker Museum and Library which provides information and displays on the Shakers who were very important to the region. In Kinderhook, you can visit the retirement home of the 8th President of the United States, Martin Van Buren.
And what would an historic area be without antiques? In the center of Columbia County lies Hudson, an antique collector's paradise and, without a doubt, one of the premier antiquing centers in all of the United States. Over 65 shops are clustered on Warren Street, all within walking distance, or depending on how much you have to carry, motoring distance of each other. Venturing out from this notable town center, you can meander from the shores of the Hudson River to the foothills of the Berkshire Mountain, stopping at many antique havens along the way. The area is also home to numerous art galleries and art centers featuring the works of international and regional artists in a variety of mediums. You will also find NYC-quality dining right in Columbia County, most located right in Hudson. With many NYC dwellers calling this area their weekend home – and many relocating here – dining has taken on a new quality.