Albany’s had its share of ups and downs when it comes to city rankings compiled by organizations that crunch numbers to create lists. We’ve seen all kinds of things surface over the years, but the most recent one spotted in the Albany Business Review, putting us near the bottom of WalletHub’s “Best & Worst Cities For Summer Travel”, gave us pause. There is so much to do, not only in the city, but in the broader Capital Region, we thought surely this must be a mistake. Especially when we saw the ranking was based on three main criteria: travel cost / hassle, number of attractions, and weather.
So what are we going to do about it? Stand up and defend our Albany pride, of course!
Maybe we’re all guilty of bashing our area at one time or another (cursing the cold, complaining about traffic, etc), but deep down inside, we really do love it here. It’s hard to capture the vibrancy and diversity of Albany and the Capital Region in a handful of numbers. So, let’s take a look at each of the categories in the ranking, from the perspective of a native!
A look at the ranking criteria and we are sure, the price of flights in and out of NYC impacted our ranking, as anyone in the know, knows not to fly from there! Driving to Albany from the middle of Times Square, barring traffic, takes 2.5 hours. Taking Amtrak out of Penn Station gets you here in 2 hours and 20 minutes There are numerous shuttle services available as well. For the rest of the country, budget-friendly Southwest Airlines offers numerous flights into and out of Albany, and
JetBlue will soon be joining them. Travel costs change with the wind, so let’s look more closely at the other two criteria WalletHub used to rank cities.
Albany offers diverse attractions, events and recreation year-round, and the summertime opens up even more possibilities. There is never a want for something to do, yet we were ranked 70 out of 80. Some cities that ranked better than us? Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Bakersfield, California; and El Paso, Texas. Crazy, you say? We agree!
Need some specific examples?
- Summer concerts – Not only does Albany bring in some big names for Alive at Five summer concert series and At The Plaza events, but they are all FREE! And let’s not forget the free concerts at Rockin’ on the River in Troy as well. These outdoor concerts offer a little something for everyone.
- Fireworks – The holiday highlight of the summer season is
Independence Day, and Albany has been drawing crowds of thousands for
years to join in the celebration and see the spectacular fireworks over Empire State Plaza.
- Altamont Fair – Another summer favorite, the Altamont Fair is just outside of Albany and showcases the agricultural lifestyle of the surrounding region with really fun country-themed entertainment as well as the typical amusement fair rides, carnival games and sinful foods we all love about local fairs.
- ValleyCats – Just across the river, we have the home of our very own Minor League Baseball team, the Tri-City ValleyCats. I’ve been to pro baseball games in a number of states, and the ValleyCats games are no less thrilling and entertaining than anywhere else. The main differences are a smaller stadium (read: better, cheaper seats) and less traffic. It’s always a great night with friends and family.
- Theaters and Event Centers – Between the historical Palace Theatre and Proctor’s Theatre (both with ornate atmospheres that will take your breath away), the modern offerings of the Times Union Center, and the offbeat performances at The Egg (which is an architectural marvel in its own right), there are ample opportunities for catching a show and enjoying a little cultural entertainment in and around Albany.
- New York State Museum – With free admission, ever-changing exhibitions, big chunks of local history and a resident carousel, what’s not to love about the New York State Museum at Empire State Plaza?
- Vibrant nightlife – Albany also has no shortage of unique nightlife venues to grab drinks, hang with friends, sing your karaoke heart out, and/or do a little dancing.
- Great local parks and rec – There’s just so much enjoy when it comes to outdoor rec options in Albany and surrounding the city. Start within the city at the enormous Washington Park and move onto the Pine Bush Preserve, Thacher Park and other local parks to plan the recreational adventure that appeals to you.
- Numerous festivals and events – From heritage celebrations to 5Ks to fundraisers to brewfests, I could sit here all day listing the individual annual
events Albany has to offer, and still not be done. In the interest of time and space, I’ll
just give you a link to our events calendar so you can explore for yourself. In fact, there’s so much to do, we’ve started publishing weekly event round-ups just to keep track of it all!
- World class day trips – Saratoga Springs, Lake George, Adirondacks, Hudson Valley – travelers to all these destinations can fly into Albany, and each makes an easy day trip if you’re booking a hotel in Albany (where you’ll often find rates are more affordable). Saratoga is famous for the Saratoga Race Course summer meet, top-notch summer dining, and its natural spring water. Lake George is popular in the summer for its pristine waters, island camping, steamboat cruises and more. The Adirondacks are the perfect escape for those who love the outdoors, with hiking and camping being some of the most popular draws.
- So much more – Tired of reading yet? I have only scratched the surface! There’s so much to do here, it’s ridiculous to conclude otherwise. Browse any local directory listing of things to do in Albany, as well as the surrounding Capital Region, to discover a wide span of diverse attractions, and you’ll soon realize even that won’t be an exhaustive list.
Ok, so now let’s talk about our weather. Sure, we have our humid days, and sometimes we’ll have a heat wave or a cold spell, but in reality, compared to the nation — We have GREAT summer weather!
WalletHub did score us a little higher there, and they should! Albany is a place where you can be outside and actually enjoy the summer sunshine without sweating profusely or burning to a crisp within minutes. You can get a softserve ice cream cone and enjoy it at an outdoor picnic table without it melting faster than you can eat it. The humidity rarely gets to an uncomfortable level, and you can usually breathe easy in the fresh air. I’ve summered elsewhere, and the heat and humidity down south is nothing to be trifled with. The Capital Region summer is soul warming and relaxing — comfortable — with the kind of temperatures you want to be outside in all day long.
But what about the rain? Sure, we have rainy days in the summer, but it’s not like we’re Seattle, and the recent downpours and flooding in drought-ridden Texas prove that no place is immune from the whims of Mother Nature. Besides, with so many museums, theaters and other indoor options for fun, there’s always an alternative on those rainy days.
What are some things you love most about Albany in the summertime? Share them in the comments below!