48-Hour Itinerary - Enjoy a Full Weekend in Schenectady!
Editor's Note 03/11/19: Aperitivo Bistro is now closed.
In Schenectady for a weekend? If you're in town with friends or your significant other looking to have a weekend full of fun, we've got the itinerary for you. Make the most of this multifaceted city by hitting up the hotspots and lesser-known gems. Feel free to adjust the schedule based on your group's specific interests.
Friday Night: Dinner & A Show
Eat Delicious Italian Food at Aperitivo Bistro
Schenectady is known for its amazing food scene, particularly the Italian places, and Aperitivo Bistro is one of the best. Their award-winning Executive Chef Frank Tarido has created an incredible menu with various pasta and pizza dishes, as well as a number of mouthwatering entrees like the 7-Hour Braised Pork and Veal Sirloin. Pictured above is their homemade Cavatelli.
If you can, you should definitely catch a show or performance at Proctors while you're in town, and Aperitivo Bistro is a perfect dinner spot to hit up beforehand, as it's within walking distance of the performance venue.
Catch a Show at Proctors
Proctors is one of the top performing arts venues in the entire Capital Region, drawing upwards of 650,000 visitors each year for over 1,700 events. Major artists like Mariah Carey have graced the stage at Proctors, and they also show a lot of movies here, as they have one of the largest movie screens in the Northeast. Touring Broadway musicals make stops at Proctors as well, such as Phantom of the Opera and Kinky Boots.
Make sure you check out what their upcoming events are so you can try to catch a show, performance, or film while you're in town.
Saturday Morning: Breakfast & A Walk in the Park
Have a Hearty Breakfast at Union Cafe
Start your morning off right by visiting one of the popular cafes in Schenectady, such as Union Cafe, a Greek-style diner that serves breakfast all day long. They're known for their generous portions and friendly staff, and they also have a small patio out front where you can sit and people watch as you look out over Union Street.
Here you can check out lots of options for pancakes and French toast (including Belgian waffles), they have build-your-own omelettes, and you can choose from classic side orders like home fries, bacon, English muffins, etc. Basically, if you want a solid breakfast in a charming cafe/diner, this is the breakfast spot for you.
Check Out One of the Top Rose Gardens in the Country
Did you know that Schenectady has its own Central Park? Located just a 15-minute walk or three-minute drive from Union Cafe, the 250-acre park has hiking trails, a playground, a swimming pool, a live performance venue, and baseball and softball fields. But what you'll really want to check out is the rose garden.
If you hear "rose garden" and you're picturing a cluster of rose bushes in the midst of the park, think again! This rose garden consists of over 4,000 rose bushes, and it claimed the title of third-best municipal garden in the entire country in 2010. The garden was in disrepair for many years until the Rose Garden Restoration was formed in 1995, and it still takes a lot of volunteers and manpower to maintain the grounds.
Advancements and improvements are made all the time to the picturesque rose garden, including steps and a gateway in 2009, a fountain in 2011, and a pergola in 2016.
Saturday Afternoon: Lunch, a Drive, & Aquatic Animals
Sink Your Teeth Into an Out-of-This-World Steak Sandwich
When you're ready for lunch, head to Morrette's King Steak House, which is considered to be the "crown jewel" of Schenectady according to Chuck D'Imperio, author of the book A Taste of Upstate New York: A Guide to 40 Treasures. In fact, in 2017, this food writer declared Schenectady to be the best food city in all of Upstate New York.
Morrette's claim to fame is their incredible steak sandwich. A couple of Yelp reviews say of the gem: "It is enough for two people, so of course I ate the whole thing in 15 minutes." "Service was very good, and the sandwich was worth it."
You're also sure to enjoy the ambiance at the establishment, which has pictures on the wall depicting historical images of Schenectady, so you can see a glimpse into this area's past.
Meander Through the Historical Stockade District
Photo provided by the Schenectady County Historical Society
Speaking of Schenectady's past, you should definitely take a drive through the historic Stockade District, or walk if the weather is cooperating. This district was actually the very first historic district in the state, designated in 1962, and it contains the highest concentration of historic buildings in the entire country.
If you're up for a walk, the Schenectady County Historical Society has a self-guided cell phone walking tour where you can learn all about the architecture of these unique buildings and their fun backstories. If you'd prefer to drive, you'll be able to see historic buildings on Washington Avenue, Front Street, Church Street, and Union Street.
Explore the Capital Region's Only Aquarium
Photo credit: Alan Nudi
The Stockade District is located just about 10 minutes from the first and only aquarium in the Capital Region, Via Aquarium. Via Aquarium opened in late 2016 to the delight of locals who had been buzzing about the possibility of an aquarium in the area for many years.
Here you can explore 37 different exhibits containing over 2,000 aquatic creatures. There are interactive exhibits where you can touch stingrays and horseshoe crabs, tunnel tanks that allow you to see dozens of fish up close and overhead, and there multiple educational displays so you can view cool exhibits like a to-scale diagram of sharks.
Saturday Night: Dinner, Gambling & Comedy
Enjoy Magnificent Moroccan Food
Food-wise so far on this epic weekend in Schenectady you've sampled the incredible Italian fare and the to-die-for steak sandwich that the city is known for. For dinner on your second night in this eclectic area, why not switch it up and go for something really ethnic, and of course, delicious.
Tara Kitchen, which is situated less than 10 minutes from Via Aquarium, specializes in Moroccan cuisine. If you've never tried Moroccan food, you can expect a diverse array of colors and flavors; it's also touted for its slow cooked meats. Tara Kitchen is owned by husband and wife Muntasim and Aneesa Waheed, who met and fell in love in Morocco - with each other, and with the culture and food.
Try Your Hand at Slot Machines & Table Games
Rivers Casino, conveniently located just minutes from Tara Kitchen, opened in early 2017 as the first Las Vegas-style casino in the region. You can expect a 50,000-square-foot gaming floor, over 1,000 slot machines, 67 game tables, and more, including dynamic entertainment. If you're visiting in the summer you can even gamble outside, as they have 24 slot machines on their patio and are looking to add more.
You'll definitely want to check ahead to see if there's a performance happening while you're in town, as bands, comedians, and more have graced the stage at this lively casino. Comedian Wayne Brady from Whose Line Is It Anyway and country group Lonestar with the hit Amazed have performed here, just to name a few. They also show highly anticipated sporting events.
Laugh the Night Away at an Improv Comedy Show
Photo credit: Derek Walker
Speaking of entertainment, if gambling isn't your thing but you'd still like to get out on the town and see what Schenectady has to offer, MopCo is another great hotspot to hit up. General admission tickets are usually just $10 so it won't break the bank, and they're within walking distance of Tara Kitchen, if you go straight there from dinner.
MopCo is an exceptional improv theater - this is comedy at its best! Situated in an historic former firehouse, MopCo has shows going on all the time along with classes and various special events; you'll probably want to check out one of the shows. They have repeating special shows like Maestro, where improvisors compete to escape elimination and be crowned the Maestro, Ladies Nights, and more.
Sunday Morning: Brunch & Shopping
Get Your Brunch On at a Funky Bistro
Come Sunday morning you might be ready for an outstanding brunch before hitting the road home. Ambition Bistro is considered to be one of the best coffee shops in Schenectady. They have a distinct bohemian vibe with a relaxed atmosphere, and they happen to offer a diverse and delicious Sunday brunch.
You can build your own scrambled egg sandwich, choose from nearly half a dozen options for omelettes, or if you're in more of a lunch mood, they have some really scrumptious choices like a turkey avocado sandwich, a homemade black bean burger, or a classic Ambition sandwich with a grilled chicken breast, roasted red peppers, pesto, and fresh mozzarella.
Several celebrities have made an appearance at this popular coffee shop over the years, often those who are performing at Proctors. They've seen Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling, and Ted Neeley, to name a few. Maybe you'll get lucky while you're in town and you'll get to see a famous face!
Walk Down Jay Street & Pop in Boutique Shops
Before you leave this lively city, you must make it a point to walk down Jay Street, which is just a five-minute drive from Ambition. Jay Street is a charming pedestrian neighborhood with a cobblestone street that's filled with fun shops and seeping with art and culture. This is the place to find that one-of-a-kind gift to bring back home!
You'll want to either park in the Center City lot, which has a direct walkway to Jay Street, or in the Clinton Street public lot, which is just a short walk away.
A few must-stop shops to pop into: Crossroads Gallery for candles, crystals, stones, and items relating to health and wellness; Lennon's Irish Shop for gifts, clothing, and Irish teas and food; and Patricia's Room Antiques for vintage home furnishings, decor, and art pieces. Plus, a bonus - if you're a bookworm, Open Door Bookstore is located right on Jay Street, and they specialize in local and regional books as well as gifts, home goods, and more.
The above stores all open at 10am on Sundays, except Crossroads Gallery which opens at 11:30am.