Albany, the capital of New York, offers plenty of diversions for history and politics buffs; a superb overview of the state can be found at the New York State Museum, while centuries of politics and art collide at the Empire State Plaza. These tasteful, historic hotels and B&Bs are the best places to stay while exploring these twin pillars of heritage and culture.
Housed in an attractive red-brick building, the Desmond combines a traditional Albany look with a convenient location near the airport. Rooms are tasteful and have a classic feel, while the pub-style Tavern is a cozy spot to relax with a pint and some classic English fare – the bread pudding here is so famous they’ve had to publish the recipe, to save writing it down for so many impressed customers.
Overlooking the manicured lawns of East Capitol Park, you can’t get much closer to Albany’s political heart than the Renaissance. The grand exterior and common areas fit in well with the rarefied surroundings, while the rooms are a little more modern and relaxed. The chic dining room, Wellington’s, is justifiably popular with locals, while landmarks such as the State Capitol and New York State Museum are a short stroll away.
This style-conscious boutique describes itself as “the ultimate urban inn,” and when you’re relaxing on the garden patio, surrounded by greenery with a glass of wine in hand, you’ll be hard-pressed to disagree. Each room is different – they span kitchenette studios, deluxe kings with views over Washington Park and even a skylit studio once occupied by the famous sculptor Alice Morgan Wright – but all share an elegant Old World esthetic.
With a history as long and varied as that of neighboring Albany, the city of Schenectady is lower-key than the state capital, but still harbors much of interest. Happily, at this downtown boutique, you’re close to many attractions: the vaudevillian arts center Proctors Theatre is right across the street, and the English and Dutch colonial architecture of the Stockade district is just a few minutes’ walk away. After a day’s exploration, Malcolm’s Restaurant is a stylish spot to pass the evening.
Though not actually a castle – it was originally built in 1895 as an armory – this turreted Victorian property lives up to its name. The interior is certainly palatial, with polished wood floors, soaring ceilings and suits of armor, and while the rooms are lower-key, they share in the elegance of the common areas and restaurant. The other-worldly Howe Caverns, a short journey away by car, are well worth a visit for their bizarre calcite formations.
Even by the standards of Schenectady, Glen Sanders Mansion is old; having stood for more than 300 years, it retains much of its historical charm, and it’s easy to see why it’s a popular wedding venue. From the chandelier-lit lobby, a sweeping staircase leads up to elegantly traditional rooms, some of which have beautiful views over the nearby lake and the Mohawk River.
Set in a mansion a stone’s throw from the Mohawk River, the Stockade Inn has oodles of heritage character, extending to the richly decorated guest rooms, and is perfectly placed for exploring Schenectady’s attractions. Directly opposite is the Schenectady County Historical Society, the Historic Stockade Apartments sit just around the corner, and the Museum of Innovation and Science is full of fun and educational exhibits on space, design and chemistry.
Welcoming you in through its grand Greek revival pillars, Oakcliff impresses from the get-go – and it doesn’t let up once you get inside, with maximalist rooms adorned with rich, dark furniture and plush Persian rugs. Relax with a whiskey in the homey parlor to the soundtrack of a vintage self-playing Steinway, and you’ll understand why no fewer than four former presidents have chosen to retreat here over the decades.