Albany’s Best Attractions for Outdoorsy Families
Albany with kids By Michelle Rae Uy
Cohoes Falls in Cohoes, NY, is a great setting for outdoorsy families visiting Albany. (Flickr: Bill Morrow)
Albany, NY, may not be a popular as the Big Apple, but this beautiful destination is richly diverse when it comes for family-friendly attractions. The city, once home to New York State’s most important and opulent families, is imbued with excellent spots for history buffs, architecture fans and, of course, outdoorsy types.
Whether your family enjoys camping, hiking, walking through gardens or even exploring caves, there are all sorts of lovely spots waiting for you in and around Albany. Here are some of the best ones.
Less than 20 minutes from Downtown Albany, this Mohawk River falls is wider than Niagara’s American Falls section, and is just as picturesque, especially in the fall. The spectacular waterfalls is, however, less popular than Niagara, which means that you don’t have to deal with the crowds and you can enjoy the stunning views in peace. There are a couple of overlooks – one of which is at Falls View Park - that afford picture-perfect views as well as some picnic spots, so don’t forget to pack a picnic basket and your camera.
Albany Pine Bush
Butterflies (specifically the endangered Karner blue butterfly), wildflowers and rolling sand dunes abound in this preserve, known for being one of the twenty remaining inland pine barrens in the world. Commune with Mother Nature and get to know the more than 45 New York State-designated endangered flora and fauna that consider Albany Pine Bush their home. Or be adventurous and do some horseback riding. Hunting, fishing, canoeing and cross-country skiing are also popular activities.
Pine Hollow Arboretum
Visit Pine Hollow Arboretum for a quiet day in the gardens. (Courtesy Pine Hollow Arboretum)
This lush nature preserve, a mere 20-minute drive from Downtown Albany, is the place to be if you love gardens. Divided into smaller sections by geographic areas of the world, the arboretum boasts 12 ponds, a network of trails and bridges, and trees from different parts of the world. Best of all, it’s serene, making it a perfect place to unwind, read a book, meditate, and maybe learn about the different plants that live there. The property also hosts several environmental education programs annually, so be sure to ask before or during your visit.
Explore the Howe Caverns with the kids (Courtesy Howe Caverns)
It’s an hour away from Albany, but it’s definitely worth the trip. Adventurous families will love exploring this living, limestone cave nestled 156 feet below the surface. A regular 90-minute tour allows you to pass through its walkways and go on a surreal boat ride on an underground lake. There are special tours as well, including the two and a half hour Signature Rock Discovery Tour, which takes you to parts of the caverns that are newly open to the public. Above ground, there are adventure opportunities as well including wall climbing and zip lining.
Explore Albany's great outdoors at Thacher Park. (Flickr: Caitee Smith)
The Thacher State Park is perhaps Albany’s most popular nature park, it’s impressive cliffs, falls, caves, and hiking trails together make up a fantastic playground for families who love the outdoors. The onsite campground allows families to unplug and really immerse themselves in nature. Activities include hiking, mountain biking, hunting and horseback riding, as well as cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in the winter. There are also picnic areas and ball fields for day trips visits.
Washington Park in Albany (Flickr: lina smith)
Home to the city’s vibrant Tulip Fest, held annually in May, Washington Park is one of Albany’s recreation area. Tulip Fest brings thousands to the park, which gets jam-packed with food trucks, live entertainment, vendors, kid-friendly activities, and events, but the festival isn’t the park’s only draw. It’s also home to Park Playhouse, which holds two free musicals every summer, and features several open spaces, sport courts, monuments, a lake, and a historic district, so there’s plenty for families to do!
Michelle Rae Uy contributed this to MiniTime. She is a travel writer based in Los Angeles and MiniTime's Head of Content, who spends her free time on adventures and film photography.