You don’t need us to tell you that there’s more to college than textbooks, tests and cafeteria food that inexplicably makes you have to poop. (What’s the deal with that, anyway?) Lucky for you, you chose to get edumacated in the lovely Capital Region, where they dose the drinking water with liquid fun. The only catch is you’ve actually got to leave the dorm room to soak it all in. Between the orientation lectures on safe sex and graduation, you’ve only got four years (well, most of you, at least), so it’s time to get crackin’. Here are our suggestions for stuff to do before you leave.
See a show at Valentine’s Music Hall (17 New Scotland Ave., Albany)
We’ve said it before and we’re saying it again. This place doesn’t just make for a great experience, it is the experience. Gritty music venues like this are hard to find, and sometime in the near future, this one will close to make way for Albany Medical Center’s big revamp of the neighborhood. Don’t miss out.
Relive the good parts of your childhood at Hoffman’s Playland (Route 9, 608 Loudon Road, Latham)
These rides are old-school. There’s a Ferris wheel and a scrambler, but let’s be honest—it’s all about the cotton candy and the bumper cars. This is another Capital Region treasure that’s rumored to be on it’s way to extinction, so get at it while you still can.
Admire the Cohoes Falls (Falls View Park, 231-341 N. Mohawk St., Cohoes)
This natural formation is truly a sight to behold. You can check out the vista from the park, or hike down to the base of the massive falls. A freaking mastodon was discovered near here, for crying out loud. It’s epic. These days, you can see the mastodon at the New York State Museum (222 Madison Avenue, Albany), by the way.
Take a class at the Honest Weight Food Co-op (100 Watervliet Avenue, Albany)
We know you’re already addicted to their edibles, but did you know they offer classes—and most of them are free? Massage, knitting, cooking, yoga, canning . . . the list goes on and on. Best part? No exams.
Get to Peebles Island State Park (Waterford)
This is one of those hidden upstate gems. With almost 200 acres of nature perfect for hiking, biking, fishing, cross-country skiing or just relaxing, you’ve got to check this place out. Bonus: It’s so close to area campuses—no need to skip class.
Eat at Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive-In (5 Schonowee Ave., Scotia)
There’s a burger option for everyone here—yes, vegetarians, even you. And you can get all of them with grilled onions and a side of onion rings just like nature intended. Jumpin’ Jacks is the kind of dreamy throwback to a time when curly fries were an art form, and eating fish fry out of a paper container made men out of boys. Clincher: You eat outside in front of the Mohawk River. Oh, and there’s ice cream too. You won’t find these kind of treasures in your dining halls.
Check out all of the area art nights (Troy Night Out, Albany’s First Friday, Art Night Schenectady, First Night Saratoga)
Local art, interesting people, free entertainment, and the occasional glass of gallery wine. Taking the time out for these events is a no-brainer.
Get your draw on at Pasties, Pencils & Pints (51 3rd St., Troy)
“A drink-n-draw meets open figure drawing session with a sassy alt-model and a load of good times,” is how the event’s Facebook page describes this happening. It’s also a great excuse to check out 51 Third St., one of the coolest performance spaces in the Capital Region.
Eat Stewart’s ice cream (Stewart’s Shops)
You’re working hard, right? Treat yourself to one of Stewart’s regionally-inspired flavors. We’re partial to Crumbs Along the Mohawk.
Get thee to Montreal
You didn’t come this far north (or west, east, south) to not go visit one of the coolest cities in the Western world. You should have a passport but if you don’t you can cross the border with an enhanced license from the DMV. Je vous en prie.
Do good and get your freak on at Albany’s Santa Speedo Sprint
Taco! Burrito! What’s coming out of your speedo? It’s a philanthropist of course. This fun winter event is a great way to show off your glamour muscles while raising money for worthwhile charities. (Insert YOLO reference here.)
Gobble down some mini hot dogs at Famous Lunch (111 Congress St., Troy)
We’re not exactly sure where they came from or why they’re so small, but little hot dogs are a thing in upstate New York, and Famous Lunch is the place to try out this regional fare.
Roll deep at Guptill’s Arena (Route 9, Latham)
No matter if you’ve never strapped on a pair of roller skates before, Guptill’s will hook you up like it’s 1979 and let you loose on the world’s largest rollerskating rink. You read that right. Don’t stop till you get enough.
Celebrate your birthday at a Baumgartner establishment: Bombers Burrito Bar (Albany, Schenectady, Troy); Wolff’s Biergarten (895 Broadway, Albany); the Olde English Pub and Pantry (686 Broadway, Albany)
These are all excellent places to celebrate. Oh yeah, and there’s the whole giant free birthday drink thing.
Watch a movie at the Spectrum 8 Theatres (290 Delaware Ave., Albany)
This is what movie houses used to look like, and thankfully some still do. The Spectrum also gets really great titles, and the snack bar is worth a trip on its own.
Eat your veggies at the Troy Waterfront Farmers market (River and 3rd streets, Troy)
And your cheese, and your wine, and your fruits, and your delicious ready-to-eat local foods. It’s definitely a Saturday thing, but they also do a Twilight Market event that coincides with Troy Night Out on the last Friday of every month. The big market moves indoors to the Troy Atrium in the winter, so there’s no way you’re going to get scurvy this year. Hooray!
Scavenger hunt all of the movie locations from Place Beyond the Pines (Schenectady)
Scour the city and see if you can spot the places where Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, and Eva Mendes once stood. Cheat: Head to Bow Tie Cinemas (400 State St.) for a movie and the knowledge that Cooper sat in the same building as you. Then go home and light a candle in your shrine.
Ice skate on the Empire State Plaza
Romantic, right? The rink hasn’t been open every winter as of late, but if they do open up this year, make sure to make it a priority.
Read your Metroland
And to all of you that already do: submit some story ideas, intern with us, and send us creepy fan mail.
Tour the New York State Capitol building (State Street, Albany)
This is where all of the big decisions for the Empire State are fought over and made. It’s a part of history, and history is created here on a regular basis. It’s also a work of art—have you ever seen the sculpture inside? It was good enough for Eliot Spitzer, and he wouldn’t steer you wrong, right?
Pull plastic at the Edge Halfmoon indoor rock climbing gym (Route 9, Halfmoon)
It’s the biggest climbing gym upstate, perfect for a gumby beginner or a seasoned hardbody.
Lobby for the creation of the Albany Museum of Political Corruption
Get behind College of Saint Rose professor Bruce Roter to—seriously—bring a tourist attraction to the capital that highlights New York government’s history of political scandals. Sky’s the limit here, folks. We’re thinking a wax sculpture of Anthony Weiner, as long as it, uh, really captures his likeness.
Take a spin on the Troy Ferris wheel (Troy waterfront)
Oh, you’re disappointed that it doesn’t exist? You think it’s silly that the Ferris wheel inventor, George Ferris came up with the design while at school in Troy, but there is no giant wheel of fun here to honor him? You should totally try to change that.
Get nostalgic for an era before you were born at Fuze Box ’80s Night (12 Central Ave., Albany)
These were the dance anthems your parents were getting freaky to every Saturday night. What, is that weird to think about? Hey, if Prince was good enough for Ma Dukes, he’s good enough for you too.
Skate the monument (Washington Park, Albany)
It’s been an Albany skateboarding proving ground for generations. If you need directions, drop by Seasons skate shop on Lark Street.
The Catskills/Hudson Valley are closer than you think, and there’s plenty to do to the south. Make a day trip to Hudson for a show at Club Helsinki or Basilica Hudson. Chances are, you’ll run into someone famous.
Explore the Berkshires
The art museums are phenomenal, with the Clark Art Institute and MASS MoCA at the top of the list and several others close behind. If art’s not your thing (shame on you!), will still recommend the hour’s drive if only for the eye candy of beautiful landscapes. And we think clmbing Monument Mountain and then chilling for a couple of hours in Great Barrington adds up to a fine day indeed.
Ride the carousel at the New York State Museum (Madison Avenue, Albany)
It’s old and awesome, and when you’re done you can go Instagram a selfie in front of one of those big, weird living diaramas of neanderthals hunting seals.
Sled the hill at Lincoln Park
It’s a triple decker, so you better bring a pretty girl/guy to impress with your daredevil feats. A bottle of courage wouldn’t hurt either.