A few weeks ago, we went on a little afternoon trip to explore Albany. As Curtis was transitioning to a night schedule, we only had a few hours to enjoy a short weekend adventure, and the skies were grey and an ice/sleet storm was headed our way, but after spending too long being cooped up inside and busy with work, we were eager to have some fun. A huge bonus to this adventure was that everything we did was free! If you’re ever around Upstate NY and are looking for some indoor activities at a low cost, visiting the capitol city is well worth it.
We went straight downtown and parked in one of the parking garages around the Capitol Hill area. If you visit in the afternoon, the garages will reduce or waive parking fees. We grabbed a few letterboxes and stopped to see the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. We loved the few views of the city “skyline” that we were able to see — instead of sky scrapers and modern (boring) office buildings, this area featured more unique architecture. The most unique being the Egg, which hosts a theater on the inside.
We first went to tour the New York State Museum. It was free to visit and we easily spent 2 hours walking around. Some of the current exhibits are modern art by local NY artists, the Adirondacks region, ruins in the Catskills, the Ice Age, downtown NYC, and 9/11. The museum layout was a little confusing so I’m sure we missed some things but overall it was a great way to spend a few hours learning.
The public library is on the 7th floor of the museum building, so we went up there to check out the view and…maybe find a letterbox. Actually, I found the letterbox, funny story — right Curtis? 😉 It was one of those “fake book” boxes and Curtis picked it up, said “Oh this is a nice fake book!” and continued looking…15 minutes later, I picked it up and opened it right up. I don’t usually do the finding for our letterboxing hunts (because lately it feels like it’s either get poison ivy or freeze your hands off) but when I do I have to make sure we remember it forever. 😉
On the higher up floors of the museum/library, there is a balcony that goes all around the building and we were hoping to step out to check out the view, but sadly they were all closed with “Alarm Will Sound!” signs so we weren’t able to get a good view of Capitol Hill and the Capitol building. We thought, that’s alright, we’ll just admire the Capitol building when we walk across the mall between the capitol and the museum! Sadly, that idea failed as the mall was “closed for the season,” with gates blocking off the whole area. Instead we had no choice but to walk underground between the two buildings and never got to see the capitol building close up from the outside. It is seriously remarkable though, one of the most unique capitol buildings (and biggest, and most expensive to build…) click here to look at some pictures and see what I mean!
While we didn’t get to admire the building from the outside, we did enjoy taking a free hour-long tour of the inside of the building. (4 free guided tours are offered every weekday, and on Saturdays with reservations.) We hadn’t toured the inside of a capitol building together before because we’ve always had Charlotte with us, but this was well worth our time. The building took 33 years to build and cost $25 million — equivalent to $720 million today! The highlights for us were the grand staircases, the pillars and carvings that were each completely unique, the gold-plated wall in the Senate chambers, and a very detailed mural that highlighted a lot of New York history, wars, and people.
I must say, the pictures I have from this day are a little disappointing because they just can’t do this place justice. But that was our quick day trip — we were very thankful to make it home safely that night despite the roads being busy and slick!