Hampton Daze Goes To Albany

Independent/Jessica Mackin-Cipro
Independent/Jessica Mackin-Cipro

Last week, part of our Indy team headed to Albany for the New York Press Association’s Better Newspaper conference. While Friday and Saturday were filled with conference activities — and winning first place for best coverage of the arts (*pats herself on back*) — our friends at Discover Albany set my husband Joe and I up with an itinerary to discover all that Albany has to offer.

We stayed at the Renaissance Albany, a hotel that mixes old-world charm with modern details. It’s central, it’s swanky, and the price tag is very reasonable compared to New York City/Hamptons rates. I seriously love this hotel. Wellington’s restaurant offers a nice dining option, the gym is state-of-the-art, and the rooms are equally delightful. The gorgeous lobby is lined with dark wood paneling and decorated with a scrabble board and coffee table fashion books that really give it that extra something.

At one point, we walked over to the New York State Capitol across the street and tried to have a “Rocky” moment on the steps, but it was closed. We had to settle for photos in front of the building, which, by the way, is a spectacular site.

On Saturday night, we attended “A Moveable Feast,” a benefit for the Historic Albany Foundation, and one of Albany’s most beloved events. The event began with a cocktail reception at Cornerstone at the Plaza and was followed by dinner. Upon arrival, guests received the location of their intimate dinner at a historic home.

We headed to the home of David Hinchen and Duane Barker, who live in a beautiful historic mansion. The two prepared dinner for the eight of us as we talked and made quick friends. Despite a slight food allergy mishap — have I mentioned that we’re the worst? — we had a lovely time. New friends, Jimmy and Keith, gave us a ride back to the event (we had taken an Uber) and gave us a quick driving tour of the city. We learned that Washington Park was designed in similar “Olmstedian” style to New York City’s Central Park and that the New York State Education Building, next to the capitol, has the longest colonnade of Corinthian columns in the United States.

The next day was basically a food and museum tour, and we covered a lot of ground. We started at Cider Belly Doughnuts, known as one of Albany’s secret weapons. The doughnuts come in many flavors with hilarious monikers. Le menu includes the Original Cinn — a traditional cider doughnut; the Sugar Daddy — an Original Cinn with cinnamon sugar, and the list goes on. The best part, aside from being one of the best doughnuts I’ve ever had, they were just $1 each. Joe and I ordered two doughnuts and a coffee for $3. Just let that sink in for a minute.

We chased our doughnuts with a brunch at the Olde English Pub and Pantry, a traditional English Pub with a red English phone booth out front. The charming restaurant is located in one of Albany’s oldest buildings in Quackenbush Square.

After brunch, it was off to the New York State Museum, a museum for everything New York (from Ice Age to current day). Upon entering, we stumbled upon a 1920s taxicab. Fun fact: my great-grandfather was an inventor who patented the on-duty/off-duty signaling device for a taxi. You’re welcome, New York! We also found an old subway car from the 1950s and I joked that the only time I step foot in the subway is at a museum. I like to think that my great-grandfather would appreciate me taking cabs everywhere even if my wallet does not.

The museum also hosts a chilling 9-11 exhibit, an early 1900s carousel, and so much more. We also caught a look at the ninth annual Capital Region CANstruction exhibit, which features colossal structures constructed from canned goods as a benefit for Food Pantries for the Capital District.

After the museum, it was off to visit the USS Slater, a World War II-era warship. We received a private tour of the last remaining destroyer escort afloat in America. The ship has been restored entirely by volunteers. We were brought deck to deck to learn about how the sailors lived and visit the captain’s chambers.

For lunch, we stopped at Wolff’s Biergarten, an authentic German Biergarten und wurst haus. It’s the place to go for soccer, bier, and peanuts (here you can shell peanuts like you’re at a baseball game). The menu is impressive too. The pretzel sticks with honey butter were the perfect complement to my peanuts and Carlsberg lager.

We finished our tour at the Albany Institute of History & Art, the second oldest museum in the country, founded in 1791. The “Bejeweled and Bedazzled: Jewelry and Personal Adornment” was lovely. The exhibit “Shapes & Shadows: The Sculpture of Larry Kagan” was also really special to view. The artist’s light and steel sculptures create mesmerizing wall displays.

For more info on our state’s fine capital, visit www.albany.org.

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