Mini holidays from New York City often send travelers to familiar destinations like Philadelphia, Boston, or Woodstock. But an easy train trip up the Hudson River leads directly to one of the Northeast’s top unsung destinations. Albany, the New York state capital, is a revelation of LGBTQ history and culture. Better still, it pairs perfectly with queer-friendly Troy, a quick drive away.
Both Albany and Troy are about 2.5 hours from NYC via Amtrak; slightly longer by car or bus. They’re across the river from each other, and make a perfect combo trip that mixes dining and nightlife with shopping, culture, and outdoor activity. Here’s the hot list to make the most of an upper Hudson Valley getaway.
Oh Hello, gay Albany
Pride flags adorning seemingly every other stoop is your first hint that Albany’s Center Square (also called Hudson Park or the “Village”) is a busy LGBTQ neighborhood. Its anchor is its Pride Center, the country’s oldest continuously operating LGBTQ center, founded in 1970. From its Hudson Street townhouse, community members can find weekly social events, training, counseling, and more.
Around the corner, Lark Street is lined with cafés, restaurants, and shops, plus the bubbly OH Bar, with its big patio and drink specials. Stroll over to Central Avenue if you’re ready to dance at the two-story Waterworks Pub, or duck into Rocks to check out Albany’s bear scene.
Albany is home to In Our Own Voices, an active local organization that works to support and strengthen the region’s queer BIPOC communities — check out its calendar for fun live events that double as fundraisers. Sometimes those shows are held at The Linda, a former Art Deco–style bank that’s now one of the city’s most diverse performing-arts venues.
History Runs Deep Here
Dutch explorer Henry Hudson claimed the land that is now the City of Albany back in 1609, and nearly two centuries later, it became New York’s capital in 1797. You can see some of the city’s best-preserved 19th-century brownstones, rowhouses, churches, and other architectural beauties on a walk through the Washington Park neighborhood, a nationally landmarked historic district.
Shifting to a more mid-century look is Empire State Plaza, the 98-acre complex that’s home to most of New York’s state government. It stands out for its huge central plaza surrounded by several towers, including Corning Tower, with a free-entry observation deck on its 42nd floor. Also on the plaza is the flying saucer-shaped venue called The Egg, hosting live music, films, comedy shows, and other performances.
At the south end of the plaza, don’t miss a visit to the marvelous New York State Museum, with in-depth exhibits on everything from first-nation civilizations and World Trade Center history, to the Harlem Renaissance and Stonewall riots. Be sure to check out the vintage subway car, and the giant Cohoes Mastodon skeleton.
Head to the north end of the plaza for a free tour of the New York State Capitol, a spectacular edifice that’s even more stunning inside. Because the hulking building took 32 years to build, it features three different architectural styles, all of them adding up to a visual marvel that seems more like a European mansion than a functional statehouse.
Wind your way down to the historic district that is Downtown Albany, and grab lunch at LGBTQ-friendly Skinny Pancake, serving local, organic crepes, salads, and more. In Arbor Hill, Nine Pin Cider Works is great for lunch and group drinks, serving a daily-changing menu of about a dozen different ciders made from New York apples.
An especially delightful Albany surprise is Tanpopo Ramen and Sake Bar, a low-key Japanese restaurant housed in a historic railcar diner. They don’t take reservations, but it’s worth any wait to get a bowl of Tanpopo’s luscious noodles. Feeling upscale? Drift back to Center Square for dinner or brunch at Belt Line 3, a romantic Italian eatery that also serves a tasty happy-hour cocktail and appetizer menu.
Troy – ‘The Gilded Age’ City
Step back in time in Troy, where you’ll find “one of the most perfectly preserved 19th-century downtowns in the United States,” according to the New York Times. Fans of HBO’s The Gilded Age and Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence will love seeing each production’s locations IRL.
Those same architectural sights are the backdrop to the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market, one of the region’s best year-round Saturday gatherings. Browse food, drinks, and crafts by more than 100 local vendors, catch live music, and explore more of the neighborhood’s sometimes-eclectic boutiques (e.g. Hippies Witches & Gypsies).
Favorite Gay Troy
One of the best 2022 additions to downtown Troy is Cafe Euphoria, a lunch spot that’s proudly transgender and gender non-conforming worker-owned. It’s a casual eatery serving freshly made juices, seasonally inspired salads, baked treats, and coffee—plus you can buy original artworks adorning the café walls, or browse a small section of vintage clothing. Around the corner, hop into lesbian-owned Plumb Oyster Bar for craft cocktails and refined seafood dishes.
Tie together your lovely Capital getaway with a stay at Gardner Farm Inn. The 19th-century farmhouse was converted into a five-room bed and breakfast in 2015 by owner John Hughes, who serves both immense hospitality and some of the city’s best breakfasts. Guests can lodge in rooms named for Oscar Wilde, Josephine Baker, John Waters, and other icons, each uniquely decorated with the owner’s fantastic art and antique collections.
In a way, the inn is much like Troy and Albany overall: A deeply historic place, with a splashy rainbow of LGBTQ pride within.