There is a misconception that when you tell someone that you live in the New York, they immediately think of New York City. New York is actually a geographic and culturally diverse state. I don’t live in New York City. I live in what we call Upstate New York or more specifically, the Capital District. We are called the Capital District because our State’s Capital, Albany, is located here.
When Mohamad asked me if I would write about New York for his Around the World Series, I let him know that I am not from New York City and I do not feel qualified to write about New York City. The City (as well call it) is amazing and I could not give such an amazing city justice. I am sure someone out in the blogosphere could write an amazing post about New York City. I asked Mohamad if it was okay if I write about Upstate New York and Mohamad kindly agreed. Thank you Mohamad for giving me the opportunity to write about my home. I hope I can do it justice.
I am not native of the Capital District. I spent my early years outside of Boston and moved to Maine when I was young. (Linda does a great job at describing Maine here). I started dating the man who would later become my husband in 2008 and he lived in the Albany area. We had a long distance relationship for a year and 364 days later, I moved to the Capital District. We married in 2012 and bought a house in early 2014 and our daughter was born later that year. The Capital District is very different from Maine and it took me several years to adjust. I have now lived here for eight years and I consider this area to be my home.
One of the things I like best about the Capital District is the geographic location. When you live here, you are not far from many U.S. and Canadian cities. You have a lot of options if you like weekend trips. Hop in your car and you can be in New York City in under 3 hours, Boston in 3 hours, Montreal in 3.5 hours, Buffalo and Philadelphia in 4 hours, Ottawa in 5 hours and Toronto and Washington D.C. in 6 hours. (Of course, if you are driving to Canada, it may take longer depending on the lines at Customs.)
Located in the Northeast part of the United States, we experience four distinct seasons. We experience hot summers and cold, snowy winters and everything in between. The weather can change dramatically, even within the same day. The pictures below were taken two months apart. The first in March and the second in May.
There are so many things to do in Albany. If you like to eat, you can get taste of many different cuisines whether you like Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Mediterranean, Peruvian, Vietnamese, Dominican, Sushi or good ol’ American cuisines like BBQ and Pub Grub. Mexican is my favorite but it has been a goal of mine to try the cuisines I have not had before. I tried Thai food for the first time last week. Dominican, Vietnamese and Afghan are next on my list.
There is always something going on in the area on the weekends whether it’s a concert at The Egg (a concert hall shaped like an egg) or the much larger Times Union Center. When the warmer weather comes, there is usually some sort of festival going on. Many are cultural festivals like Greek Fest, Polish Fest and Irish Fest. Some celebrate good food like the Street Truck Festival, Bacon Festival. Many of the counties surrounding Albany have good, old-fashioned county fairs. Some festivals are seasonal like the Tulip Festival (tulips grow well here) in the Spring and the Apple Festival in the Fall.
There is a large running community and several running clubs. I enjoy running in many local road races. Hiking is pretty popular here too. The Adirondack Moutains are not too far from here and there is a group called the Adirondack 46ers which means that those hikers have climbed all 46 peaks in the Adirondacks.
The Albany area doesn’t have any professional teams except the minor league baseball team, the Tri-City Valley Cats. But there are a lot of competitive college sports especially Siena College (my husband’s alma mater) Basketball or RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) hockey. Every year there is a big basketball game between Siena College and SUNY Albany. (SUNY stands for State University of New York and there are 64 schools in the system statewide) Rugby is also gaining popularity here too. There is a tournament every spring called the Watkins Rugby Tournament or Watty for short, and local rugby clubs compete to be the champion.
Sports rivalries are big here. I think this is because there are no professional teams located here and there are so many nearby teams to choose from. I think the majority of people root for the New York City teams (Giants, Jets, Yankees, Mets, Rangers, Knicks) but there is a good amount of the population that roots for the Boston teams (Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, Celtics). However, there are a lot of people who roots for the Buffalo Bills and the Buffalo Sabres. Being from the Boston area, I root for the Boston teams. My husband was a native of this area but had family from Buffalo and he rooted for the Bills (football) and the Sabres (hockey) though he also rooted for the Boston Red Sox (baseball). He was such a Buffalo Bills fan that he actually created a group called the Buffalo Bills Backers that met at McGeary’s Irish Pub (a local favorite) to watch the games together.
If you prefer cultural music, you don’t have to travel far. You can see concerts at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) in Saratoga which is about a 45 minute drive north. My friends and I usually spend at least one evening each summer having a picnic on the lawn of SPAC and watching ballet. In the summer, there is usually at least one visiting ballet company. Over the years we have the seen the New York City Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada and the National Ballet of China. In addition to SPAC, you can drive about one hour east to Tanglewood in Lenox, Massachusetts. Tanglewood is the summer location of the Boston Pops and they offer many summer concerts. You can sit in seats or you can picnic on the lawn. My husband and I took our daughter twice when she was infant. It was a lot of fun.
If you are history buff, you are close to a lot of American History. The most famous historic site in the area is the Saratoga National Historical Park where the famous Battle of Saratoga was fought. Go a little further north and you can tour Fort William Henry in Lake George and Fort Ticonderoga in Ticonderoga, NY. You can also venture east to Bennington, VT to see the Bennington Battlefield and Monument and Bennington Museum. Horse racing fans enjoy the Saratoga Race Course which is the oldest horse racing track in the United States. Even if gambling is not your vice, it can be a lot of fun to dress up and soak up the excitement.
I have given you a good overview on the culture and geography of the Capital District. This is definitely not an exhaustive account. But I have one more thing to discuss. To me, the most special thing to be in the Capital District are the people. Even though the Albany Metro area has over one million people living here, everyone seems connected whether it is through work, school, politics or just who you know. There is a small town feeling here and we all jokingly call the city “Smallbany” because when you meet someone, you will quickly find out that you are connected somehow. The people here take care of each other. I learned that firsthand when my husband got sick last year and passed away. It was the people here that got me through the crisis and are currently helping me put my life back together and move forward. Complete strangers even came forward to help me and my daughter. Even though I am not from here and my biological family is in Maine, Boston and Florida, I have another family- my Albany family. This is community that I am proud to be a part of and I am proud to call Albany my home.
Thank you Mohamad for letting me take part in your Around the World Series. It is an honor.
My name Kerry and you can read more about my adventures in Albany at http://kerrymckim.com