Best Public Advocate
If you were afraid that Calsolaro was going to fade into the background after he retired from the Albany Common Council, rest easy. He’s as active as ever, and a leading advocate for city residents on the issue of Bakken crude oil trains snaking through the city. Keep on doin’ what you’re doin’, Dominick.
Best Political Free-for All
It’s a municipal version of the hunger games as cities and towns vie to get the right to host a casino. (In this scenario, Andrew Cuomo is Donald Sutherland.) Amsterdam had a parade! Howes Cave promises to build animatronic dinosaurs! Everyone who’s anyone in Schenectady is actually playing nice! Rensselaer is promising a Hard Rock Café! Who will win? We don’t know, but a lot of people are sure to lose.
Best New Pothead
Gov. Andrew Cuomo
No, he didn’t inhale. But Gov. Cuomo did put vape pen to a conservative medical marijuana legalization bill, allowing a limited number of doctors to prescribe a limited amount of marijuana to patients with a limited range of medical conditions—and they won’t be allowed to smoke it. But still, we commend him for taking this preliminary step on an issue he’s a few historical paces behind on. Here’s hoping that brownie kicks in soon and he loosens up that necktie.
Best Stoner Chef
Let’s face it: First-lady Sandra Lee has basically built her career on stoner cuisine. So, we can’t help but assume Lee was secretly behind Cuomo’s 420 renaissance. We suspect it’s only a matter of time until she comes out with her next weed-butter based cook book.
Best New Ribbon-Cutter
Albany Mayor KathySheehan
Same as the old ribbon-cutter! . . . When it comes to photo-ops, that is—she apparently loves them just as much as Jerry did. We don’t expect her to be all that similar in other ways. And she hasn’t, thank god, turned orange yet.
Best Town for the Hipster Paparazzi
The cat is out of the bag—and all over the Fashion and Style section of The New York Times. All kinds of famous artist types are quietly moving to Hudson. Just try and be cool when you’re in line behind one at the Warren Street food trucks.
Best Fake Streetscape
Who are you fooling, RPI? You can’t just bring Troy up the hill toward your palace on the hill. Rather than building a faux downtown, you could just encourage your students to patronize the perfectly good one right under your nose—you know, like a real college town would.
Best Parking Nightmare
The parking situation first became really competitive when the mall added Regal Cinemas, but the addition of Whole Foods has amped up the crazy. Yet, while the Wolf Road side of the mall is packed, the Central Avenue side often has available parking. The fear of walking in the suburban mall environment is strong.
Best Construction Nightmare
Lark Street and Madison Avenue, Albany
They’ve finally got the basement in where Tandoor Palace (and Emperor Palce, annd Ozzie’s) used to be, but it took so long—and so many construction crews—to get this far that we can only speculate if there are any bodies down there in the muck.
403 River St.,Troy
When it comes to bars Ryan’s Wake is the jewel of the capital district. A classic looking bar right out of the roaring 20’s. Owner Chris Ryan has developed a Cheers type atmosphere and classy pub that endears everyone who graces the premises. College students, lawyers, politicos, working class folks and hipsters, all mingling to create the best vibe a bar can have. Want an amazing view of the Hudson River? Grab your cold one and chill out on the beautiful deck.
Best Cocktail Bar
Howard and Lodge Streets, Albany
You better look sharp and you better put that iPhone on airplane mode. A trip to the Speakeasy is a trip back in time. Located underneath the City Beer Hall and lit by a solitary red bulb, the place is cozy as they come and they’re list of original and traditional cocktails is unrivaled. After two of these bad boys, you probably won’t be able to text intelligibly anyway.
Best Pub (Non-traditional Traditional)
Peint O Gwrw
36 Main St., Chatham
Fifteen or so years ago when Peint O Gwrw opened in Chatham, it was the only game in town; now the village is becoming a destination with many options for the discerning beer drinker. But ”The Pub” still sets the standard with its always-changing selection of interesting brews, quirky menu, unique decor and welcoming atmosphere.
Best Dive Bar
164 Jefferson St., Albany
We mean this as a compliment. The Palais can be cozy or raucous, charming or edgy—and it’s fun either way. We are also told that it’s kind of a hook-up spot, too. Still, walk among the treasured artifacts of its previous incarnation, and you’ll feel the spirit of the late Rocky Nigro. (So watch your language.)
Best Bar (For People in Their 20s)
8 Delaware Ave., Albany
With great style and Miller High Life bottles you can find a happenin’ seen at susies, often pouring out the front door, next door to the ever popular eatery, Café 217.
Best Bar (Albany Uptown)
1094 Madison Ave., Albany
Great food, great happy hour, great patio; the everlasting juniors has been a mainstay for most Albany-ites, an anchor of the expanding BMT empire.
Best Bar (Albany Midtown)
Capital City Gastropub
261 New Scotland Ave., Albany
Great place to take a date, or sit on the patio and watch the runners go by. Situated in the delightful mid-New Scotland neighborhood, the Gastropub offers a wide and changing selection of beer, wine, liquor, specialty cocktails and seasonal menu items. Oh, and poutine.
Best Bar (Albany Downtown)
City Beer Hall
The City Beer Hall’s expansive space and free pizza are just some of what make up its charm. With a large beer and food menu, and an outdoor patio that rivals most in the area it offers a lot at the corner of Howard and Lodge with free parking around the corner. Just remember to use this door, not that one, and check out the red light.
Best Bar (Over the River)
104 3rd St., Troy
If you don’t live in Troy, the Ruck is worth a drive. Their wings you know, their new chef you might, but if you haven’t been to the Ruck in a while it’s worth a visit to your old friend with a new face and vigor for all things hoppy.
Best Bar (Through the Woods)
381 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
Take someone here and they’ll love you forever. Some of the best food and beer combinations you can find in the Capital Region.
Best Happy Hour
448 Madison Ave., Albany
The Lionheart Pub is an area favorite with a good space, beer selection and $3 backline pints from 3-7 PM every day—except Sunday, when it’s all day.
Best Gay Nightlife
Waterworks Pub and Rocks
76 and 77 Central Ave., Albany
Waterworks, the city’s original gay bar, has a friendly, games-filled pub on the first floor and a laser-lit dance club on the second floor. Across the avenue is Rocks, a flamboyant nightclub and entertainment venue (that also has a nice outdoor deck). One side of the street or the other, there is something for everyone.
Bonobo Café and Gallery
174 Madison Ave., Albany
It’s unofficial name is Dunnville and it’s growing by the day. The patio behind Bonobo Café is more than a place to sip espresso; it’s an ever-evolving art installation spearheaded by artist Greg Dunn and other local artist/patrons. Make it a part of your 1st Friday loop.
Best Place to Be a Waiter
The Ginger Man
Many restaurants in the Capital Region could compete for this category on a regular basis but when a customer tipped a waiter $1000 recently, this Albany mainstay became the premiere place to sling drinks and cuisine.
Best World Cup Phenomenon
This top-ranked World Cup venue throws a monthlong block party whenever the good ol’ U.S. of A. plays. Owner Matt Baumgartner was on the World Cup tip before all y’all and you know it. GOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLL!!!!!
Best Cheap Night Out
Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, HVCC, Troy
Great baseball, a beautiful stadium, great sunsets, delicious inexpensive food and drink (including a Browns Brewery beer stand). A night out at the Joe Bruno Stadium is a summer dream.
Best College Campus
This historic campus aids in the scholarly pursuits of its students and provides beautiful spots, like the Nott Memorial and Jackson’s Garden, for local residents to smoke pot undisturbed. What more could you want?
Best Historic Site
U.S.S. Slater Destroyer Escort Museum
Broadway and Quay St., Albany
The only original destroyer escort left from World War II, the Slater continued its 15-year restoration from rusting hulk to National Historic Landmark (and one of the area’s most popular attractions) earlier this summer when it underwent a 90-day, out-of-water, million-dollar overhaul in Staten Island (entirely funded by private donations), including a new paint job that colorized its navy gray to snazzy ocean camouflage
Holy Innocents Church and Chapel
North Pearl Street, Albany
At the end of a struggling residential street stands a decaying yet picturesque example of early Gothic Revival architecture, and from the right angle, approaching abandoned Holy Innocents church and chapel is like suddenly stepping into a forgotten parish in the English countryside. Perched on a steep drop-off, the chapel and its cross-topped tower pierce the skyline in defiance of the elements, while the church seems strangely protected by its green onion dome, a remnant of a long-ago conversion to Russian Orthodoxy.
Watervliet Shaker Cemetery
Watervliet Shaker National Historic District, Colonie
Within this humble landscape, at the first Shaker settlement in America, are 445 graves marked by simple tablet headstones. Among them is the grave of an important figure in world religions: Shaker founder Mother Ann Lee, who died here in 1784. With the same aesthetic that made Shaker baskets and chairs enduring classics of utility, this austere final resting place achieves tranquility, even beauty, in its symmetry.
Best Animal Advocates
Peaceful Acres Horses
3740 Rynex Corners Rd., Pattersonville
A sanctuary for people and horses, this nonprofit healing community rescues horses that have been neglected, abused, or bound for slaughter, including aging racehorses, and unwanted donkeys. The equines receive compassionate lifetime care at PAH’s spacious pastures, and participate in equine-guided therapeutic and experiential-learning programs for women, veterans, and teens, with a concentration on grief, loss and trauma issues. If you’d like to visit, PAH holds regular events for the public.
Eagle, Elk, and Hawk Streets, Albany
This semi-hidden gem of the city’s parks offers tree-framed views of the Capital building, City Hall, and the original Albany Academy. A place for reflection and relaxation, the two-acre site is filled with grand old elms and exotic trees and shrubs, and its walking path leads to a stone-carved fountain and an especially fine statue of electromagnetism pioneer Joseph Henry, who taught at the academy. On summer Sunday afternoons, this leafy oasis is accompanied by orchestral bell concerts from City Hall’s carillon.
Best Park (Recreational)
Forget Washington; Lincoln Park is the real outdoor gem of Albany’s downtown. It’s huge, features placid benches with lovely vistas of the plaza. It’s got playing fields, tennis and basketball courts, one of the area’s coolest pools and hands-down one of the region’s longest sledding hills.
Best Park (Suburban)
580 Albany Shaker Road, Colonie
In the concrete jungle of Colonie, there is an oasis called the Crossings, a beautifully manicured park that is perfect for running, biking, rollerblading or just walking the dog. With a great farmers market on Saturday, and lots of events through out the spring, summer and fall, the Crossings is the perfect destination for outdoor exercise or relaxation. Many picnic tables, one of the best kids’ playgrounds around; and you can even see cows grazing in the farm that borders the park and reminds us that agriculture, not chain restaurants and hotels, used to rule this neck of the woods.
Best Easy Hike
Five Rivers Environmental Education Center
56 Game Farm Road, Delmar
For the perfect easy hike minutes from Albany, Five Rivers is as gorgeous as it can get. Miles of trails, many through woods; you could hike around this preserve for a whole day. Perfect for kids and adults alike. Plan on seeing lots of wildlife. Streams, ponds, great bird viewing areas and a terrific educational center.
Best Bike Ride
Saratoga National Historical Park
648 Route 32, Stillwater
If history, spectacular views and a vigorous ride are what you’re looking for, the Saratoga National Historical Park is the best bike ride in the region. Stop first at the museum and see the movie memorializing the turning-point battle of the American Revolution. Explore the museum and gift shop. Speak with the park rangers about the park and its history. Then embark on the 11-mike ride that dissects the park. You’ll experience great biking conditions, beautiful scenery and views of the Hudson River valley and deer all over the park; and if you’re lucky maybe that day they’ll have a Revolutionary War reenactment or encampment.
Best Indoor Rock Climbing
The Edge Halfmoon
1544 Route 9, Halfmoon
Rock climbing is one of the nation’s largest-growing sports, and the Edge is upstate’s climber hub. With more sport climbing and bouldering than you can handle in a day, this place will show you the ropes, get you strong, and get you psyched to take your skills outside.
The Legend Rayford Faulkner
Dude has worn a bag on his head, for years. He makes music, of a sort. Seldom has one of the many Capital Region eccentrics bridged the technology gap so . . . effortlessly? Yeah, let’s go with that. With his own YouTube channel and public-access TV show, how could he not win?