‘Staycation’ as a portmanteau gained popularity in the late Aughts when gas prices skyrocketed and people wanted to find cheaper ways to take a break. Now, with inflation and other economic woes causing people to tighten their belts once more, people are again seeking less expensive recreational options.
Usually, the words “summer” and “vacation” go together like peanut butter and jelly. But what if extended travel isn’t an option this year? Or maybe you have relatives visiting from out of town and aren’t sure where to entertain them? Whether you’re lacking the time, the extra funds or the fresh ideas, you can still get the rest and relaxation of a vacation with a Staycation in your own backyard. The Capital Region in particular has a plethora of entertainment options, which we’ve helpfully gathered into one place so you can take advantage of all that the area offers.
It’s a shame how often we neglect to avail ourselves of the tourist experience in our own home towns. (I lived in New York City, for instance, and never saw the Statue of Liberty. Sheesh.)
For your Capital Region Staycation, plan a weekend visiting some of the museums that you haven’t gotten around to seeing yet, or revisit some old favorites. Here are a few ideas:
Albany Institute of History and Art: Connecting people to the art, history, and culture of the Upper Hudson Valley, the AIHA is one of the oldest museums in the United States. Famous for its collection of Hudson River school paintings.
- New York State Museum: The NYSM is dedicated to exploring the human and natural history of the state. From paleontological displays to exhibits featuring wedding fashion through the decades, you’ll be sure to discover something new each time you visit.
- Ten Broeck Mansion: Run by the Albany County Historical Society, the Ten Broeck mansion and gardens are a gorgeous way to discover more about Albany and its rich history.
- Fenimore Art Museum: One of our personal favorites, the Fenimore is located in Cooperstown, and it’s worth the drive. They have awe-inspiring permanent collections as well as educational lectures, traveling exhibits, and theatrical performances.
- Historic Cherry Hill: As one of Albany’s most recognizable landmarks, Cherry Hill was built in 1787 for Philip and Maria Van Rensselaer. The museum collection includes more than 70,000 items that help tell the story of this family through the years up to 1963.
- Museum of Innovation and Science: Known affectionately as miSci, you can spend days in the 44,270-square-foot facility admiring exhibits or participating in hands-on activities.
- Olana State Historic Site: Olana is the home of famous Hudson River School painter Frederic Church, but it looks more like a castle on a hill. Visitors who tour the house can see paintings, sculpture, and furnishings that Church and his family acquired and which have been lovingly preserved for our enjoyment. The grounds are extensive so save time for some lovely walks.
- Slate Valley Museum: This unique establishment celebrates the history and culture of the quarrying community that was established along the NY-Vermont border in the 1800s.
- Schuyler Mansion Historic Site: The mansion was home to Philip Shuyler, whom you may recognize as the father of the Schuyler sisters who gained newfound notoriety from the musical Hamilton.
- Dutch Apple River Cruises: Ranked the #1 tour in Albany on Trip Advisor for the past 12 years, Dutch Apple tours are a great way to relax while learning more about the local interests.
Experience the Arts
No Staycation would be complete without seeing some kind of performance. As they say in the show Parks & Rec, “Treat yo’self!” Get all dressed up, enjoy an early dinner and turn it into a night on the town. This area has some great theaters that offer fantastic entertainment options, such as:
The Saratoga Performing Arts Center: Located in Saratoga Spa State Park, the Performing Arts Center is a gorgeous way to experience world class art, education, and live performances.
- The Palace: A beautiful Historical Landmark, the Palace Theatre is home to a broad array of entertainment options like concerts, stand-up comedy, plays, and community events.
- Capital Repertory Theater: Home to a thriving community of performers, the Rep (as it’s known amongst locals) is a hip place to see some more avant-garde performances. (You might also know it as the home theater for the Black Theatre Troupe, led by Jean Remy-Monnay.)
Enjoy the Great Outdoors
The Capital Region is absolutely gorgeous this time of year. For your Staycation, you could take day trips, go camping, or practice “glamping” (glamorous camping, or what my purist husband would call “cheating.”) You could rent kayaks and paddle, go fishing, or plan different walks for forest bathing opportunities. The area is home to so many state parks (you can find a comprehensive list here) but here are a few of our favorites:
Saratoga Spa State Park: In addition to a golf course, the Performing Arts Center, and an impressive pool complex, Saratoga Spa State Park is also home to the usual outdoor recreational offerings. Definitely worth checking out.
- Howe Caverns: We’ve toured a lot of caverns, but Howe Caverns are something special. Their tour includes an underground boat ride that is truly incredible.
- The Christman Sanctuary: This gorgeous 120-acre nature preserve in Duanesburg has tons of trails with scenic hikes. Be sure to pack a camera.
- Falls View Park: Located in the city of Cohoes, this park is dedicated to visitors wanting to see waterfalls that are second only to Niagara. You can fish, visit scenic overlooks, hike, or take in a performance at their outdoor amphitheater.
- Thacher State Park: Perfect for a nature-filled getaway or staycation day trip, Thompson’s Lake Campground has sandy beaches, campsites, fields, and various other methods of recreational fun.
- Grafton Lakes State Park: Home to six ponds and 25 miles of trails, Grafton Lakes is another great spot to play in the great outdoors.
Take a Culinary Tour
Many of us fall into a food rut now and then, only eating at the same few restaurants because we fear what we don’t know. For your Capital Region Staycation, why not plan a food and drink tour? You can enjoy a foodie experience and then sleep off your full stomach in the comfort of your own bed.
- Historic Downtown Albany Food Tour: This guided walking tour encourages you to sample unique food and drinks from six independent Albany restaurants over the course of a little over three hours.
- Saratoga Springs Culinary Tour: This food tour shines a spotlight on Saratoga Springs farmers’ market, and then offers a stroll down Broadway for a visit with some of the area’s chefs.
- Rhinebeck Food Tour: Not to be outshone, this three-hour tour will take you through the culinary scene of “the Hamptons of the Hudson Valley.”
In addition, the area is home to several brewing companies, wineries, and distilleries, each of which offer various comestibles in addition to their respective beverages. So if food isn’t what gets you going, a drinking tour might do the trick.
- Druthers Brewing Company: With four different locations offering their craft beer and delectable food pairings (Albany, Saratoga, Schenectady, and Clifton Park), you could have a whole Druthers Brewing-themed staycation.
- Brown’s Brewing Company: Operating for 30 years, Brown’s has an impressive selection of craft beer and beer-adjacent drinks, like their delicious “Fruit Refreshers.”
- Albany Distilling Company: Located in Albany’s historic downtown area, the distillery offers their own canned cocktails, whiskey, rum, and a coffee-infused vodka, as well as a bar with a tasty drinks menu.
- Saratoga Winery and Tasting Room: The tasting room serves handcrafted wines, local beers, wood-fired pizza and delicious cocktails in a gorgeous rustic environment. If the weather is cooperative, you can enjoy an outdoor seating area with lawn games and live music every Friday night.
- Adirondack Winery at Lake George: This family-owned winery is a true labor of love, having started as a back-room operation and expanded into a multiple-location enterprise. Their passion for local, well-crafted wine shines through everything they offer, from their tastings to the Adirondack Wine and Food Festival.
- Nine Pin Cider Works: Their tasting room in Albany features a rotating selection of nine premium and limited small batch ciders made from apples grown right in New York, as well as local beers and cocktails. You can pair these with delectable small plates or their gourmet sourdough personal pizzas.