A return visit to the New Your capital: Albany offers fun food, good shopping and historic sites

By Mike Cohen

The New York Capital in Albany.

ALBANY, NEW YORK – The last time I was in the United States for a getaway was just a few months before the pandemic shut down the world. We had gone for a change of scenery to the New York capital of Albany, where you can count on good shopping and fun restaurants.

Four years later, while I was on holiday from my day job for March Break, I figured that a few days in Albany (https://www.albany.org/)   would be a good idea and I was right. Between the two large malls,  meals at some of my favorite restaurants and a terrific hotel I did indeed come back feeling refreshed.

Albany is a 400-year-old city on the banks of the Hudson River. Discovered in 1609 by Henry Hudson, this city is the oldest continuously chartered city in the country — that means it’s older than New York City or Boston! Albany is a great city to explore because it’s full of so many engaging attractions and must-see sites! But Albany is also a city of storytellers, who want very much to welcome visitors and acquaint them with our fun and quirky history. Let us tell you about this quintessentially American city! 

From museums and historic sites in downtown Albany to scenic views and outdoor adventures in the Helderberg Hilltowns, Albany County boasts a variety of must-see attractions. Tour top landmarks, explore the rich landscape, or visit one of the world-class museums for a trip that is beyond conventional.

Albany lies at the foot of the Adirondacks and Catskill Mountains and is at the tip of the historic Hudson Valley Region

Be sure to check out the Million Dollar Staircase, the awe-inspiring “Egg” at the Empire State Plaza and many diverse examples of historic house sites and public spaces such as the Pruyn House and the first Shaker Meeting House. You can visit the magnificent Gothic structure, now the Administrative Center of the State University of New York, the Delaware and Hudson, and the Albany Evening Journal Buildings, located at the base of State Street.

There is an abundance of professional theatre, music, dance, sports, and a backyard full of recreational splendors. As the crossroads of the northeast, Albany is easily accessible by car, train, and plane and is located less than three hours from New York and Boston. 

The master bedroom is in the one-bedroom queen suite.

WHERE TO STAY: On my previous trip here I noticed that a dual-brand Homewood Suites  & Tru by Hilton had just opened. Wow, one of my favorite hotel brands is literally in the parking lot of Crossgates Mall. I jotted that all down for future reference and we were most fortunate to get a beautiful one-bedroom suite on the Homewood side. A big shoutout to front office manager Bonnie Bevilacqua. We arrived late due to traffic and some other circumstances and she came to our room to set us up and resolve a few minor issues. Throughout the next three days, she worked the lobby, checking to see if any guests needed anything.

This 192-room extended stay facility was the first dual-branded Homewood Suites and Tru by Hilton in the USA when it debuted in 2018. It features two separate areas designed for each brand, unique public spaces designed to promote social connectivity, a 24-hour fitness center, an indoor pool, outdoor grills, sports courts and an airport shuttle. The hotel offers a meeting room and a business centre. The different lobby and dining spaces are extremely large and offer all of the comforts of home and more. There is 24-hour complimentary coffee and tea in the Tru by Hilton lobby.

Our room had a kitchen, stovetop, fridge, dishwasher,  microwave, coffee maker and all of the necessary dishes and cutlery. There were two televisions, two queen-sized beds in the master and a safe (always a must for us) as well as  a pull-out couch in the spacious large living room area

I was beyond impressed with the complimentary hot and cold morning breakfast, from the neat pancake machine to the array of bagels, English muffins, cereals, yogurts and hot and cold drinks. Next to the front desk, there is a small market to purchase refreshments and light bites.

The breakfast area at Homewood Suites Crossgates.

The hotel is conveniently located at the intersection of Interstates 87 and 90, offering guests access to numerous dining, retail and entertainment options within walking distance. It is a six-minute drive from Albany International Airport and a 30-minute drive from Saratoga Springs leisure attractions. In addition, the property is proximate to renowned universities and research centers such as the University of Albany, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), Siena College, Union College, and SUNY Polytechnic College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.

A view of the dual-brand hotel property.

For more information or to make a reservation, visit Homewood Suites By Hilton Albany Crossgates Mall or Tru by Hilton Albany Crossgates Mall or call +1 (518) 704-4040 or +1 (518) 704-4010.

Log on to www.albanycrossgatesmall.homewoodsuitesbyhilton.com

or www.albanycrossgatesmall.trubyhilton.com

GREAT SHOPPING:  Over the last few years the team at Crossgates has been sending me press releases about the property. Let me say that this mall has always been one of the draws for me when visiting Albany. The vast majority of entrances are ADA accessible with ample parking distributed throughout the site. You can rent wheelchairs.

Dave & Buster’s at Crossgates.

Crossgates (https://www.shopcrossgates.com/)  is the largest shopping, dining, and entertainment destination in New York’s Capital Region. The center is anchored by Macy’s, JC  Penney, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Primark and Best Buy, while offering more than 180 retail shops, including Apple.  Crossgates offers 10 entertainment venues and over 20 on-site eateries, such as Dave & Buster’s, Get Air, Billy Beez, Apex Entertainment, The Standard Restaurant & Lounge, Maggie McFly’s and Regal Cinemas with IMAX. You can also relax at their award-winning day spa, Spa Mirbeau.   Dave & Buster’s, with its fun food and endless array of games, is always a draw for people of all ages. I spent a good hour there until my power card ran out. You collect points for every game you experience. At the end, the power cards are tabulated at the gift shop and you can pick a prize. I also could not resist a visit to Antie Ann’s Pretzels, a big American chain that has been around since 1988. A homemade pretzel and an original pretzel dog certainly hit the spot.

Dave & Buster’s at Crossgates.

 See this nostalgic 1984 video of the Mall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Nm9WHBp3Lg 

“Crossgates has a lot going on, and we are so grateful for it,” said Marketing Director Jen Smith. “We have over 240 apartments and townhouses being built adjacent to our property, and we are in the final stages of the approval processes to build a Costco on the land, just west of the hotel. Last year we opened the international retailer Primark in the center and this year we will be welcoming the very sought-after REI, amongst many other tenants. Big things are  happening!” 

Colonie Center (https://shopatcoloniecenter.com/), a 1.3 million square-foot enclosed two-level, regional shopping center with over 100 specialty stores, is at the heart of New York’s Capital Region. The center is anchored by a three-level Macy’s. The center boasts the only Cheesecake Factory Restaurant and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro in the Capital Region and a state-of-the-art all-digital Regal Cinema with a newly renovated RPX theater. Additional sit-down eateries include Five Guys Burgers & Fries and Moe’s Southwest Grill as well as the second-level food court. The center sits at the intersection of Wolf Road and Central Avenue, is just five minutes from the Albany International Airport and major hotel chains and is accessible from Interstates 87 and 90.

We also came across a unique shoe store called Fleet Feet at 155 Wolf Road. It carries comfortable, high-quality performance footwear and gear for running and walking. When we arrived two young sales persons took care of us,  T.J. and Jessica. You are first asked to step onto their 3D Foot Scanning Technology. Their state-of-the-art fit I.D. scanner captures 12 precise data points to construct a 3D image of your foot. Measurements like foot length, width volume, and arch height help them select the best shoes for one’s unique feet.  Log on to www.fleetfeetalbany.com

The author at Red Lobster.

RED LOBSTER: As people who read my articles regularly are aware, I have been a big fan of the Red Lobster restaurant chain for many years. Unfortunately, it disappeared from the Quebec dining landscape in the late 1990s.  There are two locations in Ottawa, but when we visited Albany, New York we made a bee-line for the Red Lobster at 170 Wolf Road.

Red Lobster is the world’s largest and most-loved seafood restaurant company, focused on serving the highest quality, freshly prepared seafood that is traceable, sustainable, and responsibly sourced.

I was greeted by the manager on duty, Daniel Rogers. Upon learning that I was from Montreal, he began speaking French to me. He’s from Atlanta but picked up the language in school. In addition, he comes to Montreal often

It was nice to connect with  General Manager Crystal Franchi and   Beverage and Hospitality Manager Dean Stringfellow. This location can seat about 230 people in a very large dining room, separated by a bar in the middle. They also have a seasonal patio for about 20 people. The parking lot is quite large, a good thing since it tends to fill up before dinnertime. 

We ordered the Lobster Lover’s Dream and the Lobster Lover’s Duo with two sides and their trademark cheddar biscuits.  Both meals include  Roasted Caribbean rock and Maine lobster tails. The Dream is also paired with lobster-and-shrimp linguini. For sides, we chose the orzo rice and the creamy lobster mashed potatoes.  I could not resist a bowl of New England clam chowder,  piping hot. We were too full to take advantage of any dessert choices.

My greatest wish remains that Red Lobster returns to Montreal one day. I’d eat there once a week for sure. There is no place like it here right now. Montrealers travel to Albany frequently, either for a long weekend like us or on the way to or from New York City, Washington, or Florida. So indeed this is a must-stop. And given the fact Daniel already speaks French, here we have an experienced Red Lobster official who could get the first franchise up and running.

The very first Red Lobster opened in Lakeland, Florida in 1968.  

This Red Lobster is located at 170 Wolf Road. It opens at 11 am each day. You can call 518-459-1040. To learn more about Red Lobster go to www.redlobster.com

CHEESECAKE FACTORY:  The  Cheesecake Factory also ranks as one of my must-stops in cities like Albany. Of course, Quebec does not have one of these franchises either. The Albany location opened on August 29, 2006, at the Colonie Centre. This 10,800-square-foot locale seats 300 diners and you can always expect a lineup at the door. You will be handed a beeper and an estimated wait time. 

In Albany, Senior General Manager David Albert runs a well-oiled machine.  He has been at the helm of this busy location for 18 years and has an uncanny memory for customers. I had not been there for four years, yet I did not have to reintroduce myself to him or his assistant GM Richard Harris.

The service here is always impeccable and the food is superb.

Cheesecake Factory manager Richard Harris.

The Cheesecake Factory (www.thecheesecakefactory.com) is known for its extensive menu, generous portions and legendary desserts. In fact, there are more than 250 menu selections and this includes more than 50 lower calorie “SkinnyLicious®” selections- all handmade, in-house with fresh ingredients – and more than 50 signature cheesecakes and desserts. Favorite choices include appetizers, pizza, seafood, steaks, chicken, burgers, pasta, specialty items, salads, sandwiches, omelets and desserts.

I know many people who stop here on purpose just to enjoy the experience.  Toronto has one too now yet  Montreal continues to be left out in the cold. Perhaps there is a fear that the language police here would insist it be called La Fabrique de Gâteau au fromage.

We began our meal by sharing a crab wonton meal as a starter, along with a cheese flatbread pizza. For the main courses, the SkinnyLicious offerings, notably the grilled turkey burgers which we can report are out of this world, always top our list. For us, the latter came with a side salad. In addition, our order included a filet mignon medium rare with rice and magnificent mashed potatoes with gravy on the side.

There are multiple fish, pasta and beef options, meal-sized salads and a whole lot more. Give the menu a look online.

As for dessert, well this place is called  The Cheesecake Factory. The window display of pies kind of knocks your socks off when you enter the premises. After dinner, you can review the menu one more time, which includes a calorie count. Favorites include the Godiva chocolate cheesecake, the Oreo Dream Extreme cheesecake, the ultimate red velvet cheesecake and the Reese’s peanut butter cheesecake. This is one dessert menu where I don’t even think about the calorie count.

This Cheesecake Factory remains a real winner in our books and I highly recommend you stop by. You can call them directly at 518-453-2500. There is a large Barnes & Noble bookstore in the mall, a great pre or post-dining stop and the movie theatres.

Yes, Albany remains one of my favorite stops!

The New York Capital of Albany represents a quick and easy getaway for Montrealers

By Alexandra Cohen

ALBANY- I have been to the city of Albany, New York (https://www.albany.org/) many times. In January 2020, I made my last visit there just prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, which put a pause on travel. Returning again more recently, I was reminded of why I like the state capital so much. In particular, I was fortunate to have a great place to stay.

WHERE TO STAY: One of the bonuses of a visit to Albany is the ability to visit some American stores not available to us here in Canada. Therefore, it was convenient that the Residence Inn Albany Washington Avenue Extension was just adjacent to the Crossgates Mall. The Residence Inn is an extended-stay hotel that is also just minutes from the Albany International Airport, the Empire State Plaza, and more. It is also under 30 minutes by car from the Saratoga Racetrack and the Global Foundries.

Staying at the Residence Inn feels like being at home, while still enjoying some excellent hotel services. You can choose between studios, one-bedroom suites, and two-bedroom suites, with the suites providing enough space for a full kitchen and separate areas where one can relax, work, and sleep. My family and I enjoyed the two-bedroom and two-bathroom suite, which was incredibly spacious.

Hotel amenities include free WiFi, daily hot breakfast, coffee, and tea. There is also an indoor pool and hot tub, a fitness center, a small convenience shop, and a laundry room. The lobby is quite nice with a large amount of seating, including a nice outdoor space to relax when the weather is appropriate.

The hotel is completely accessible, with elevators, a self-operating lift, and a sloped entry into the swimming pool. Service animals are always welcome. Accessibility features available to guests upon request include adjustable height hand-held shower wands, alarm clock telephone ringers, bathtub grab rails, a bathtub seat, closed caption TV, flashing door knockers, hearing accessible rooms, and lowered electrical outlets and deadbolts. Some of the bathrooms also contain non-slip grab rails and roll-in showers.

The hotel is located at 124 Washington Avenue Extension. For more information, you can call 518-218-7240 or log onto the hotel website: http://www.marriott.com/albwa.

ATTRACTIONS: Albany truly is a great place to shop, with a wide array of stores for all to enjoy. While we stayed close to the Crossgates Mall, it was also a quick and easy drive to the nearby Colonie Center as well. The majority of entrances at both malls are ADA accessible with ample parking distributed throughout. Wheelchair rentals are also available.

Crossgates Mall (https://www.shopcrossgates.com/) has been labeled as the largest shopping, dining and entertainment destination in New York’s Capital Region. It offers over 10 different entertainment experiences, providing something for every age group. Younger children and families don’t have to shop – they can bowl their hearts out, play the newest video arcade games, see an IMAX movie, or go down some colourful indoor slides. Crossgates offers dining options to suit any taste, including 12 sit-down restaurants, 11 food court options, two fast-casual eateries, and 16 snack spots.

Colonie Center (https://shopatcoloniecenter.com/), a 1.3 million square-foot enclosed two-level, regional shopping center with over 100 specialty stores, is at the heart of New York’s Capital Region. The center is anchored by a three-level Macy’s, Boscov’s and Sears. Colonie Center features popular retailers such as The Gap, New York & Company, Bath and Body Works, Kay Jewelers, American Eagle, Victoria’s Secret, Sephora, and Barnes & Noble. The center boasts the only Cheesecake Factory Restaurant and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro in the capital region and a state-of-the-art all-digital Regal Cinema with a newly renovated RPX theater. Additional sit-down eateries include Five Guys Burgers & Fries and Moe’s Southwest Grill, as well as the second-level food court. The center sits at the intersection of Wolf Road and Central Avenue, is just 5 minutes from the Albany International Airport, and is accessible from Interstates 87 and 90.

Albany lies at the foot of the Adirondacks and the Catskill Mountains and is at the tip of the historic Hudson Valley Region. Within a short ride are the neighboring towns of Cooperstown and Saratoga Springs. Albany is home to several museums, historic homes, and outdoor activities such as boating, skiing, biking, and snowshoeing. Sights to consider exploring include the Million Dollar Staircase, the “Egg” at the Empire State Plaza, and more. Albany is also less than three hours from New York and Boston, if you’re looking to add more stops to your trip.

Your Albany, New York checklist: The Staybridge Suites, Cheesecake Factory and Dave & Buster’s

My family and I have always considered Albany (http://www.albanyny.org/Visitors.aspx) a great place to stay for a few days, be it a getaway on its own or a place to stop en route to or upon return from New York City. We recently spent three nights in the state capital and having discovered an outstanding place to stay, our trip could not have been more enjoyable and relaxing.

WHERE TO STAY: When seeking a place to stay our search stopped at what appeared to be the top-ranked hotel in town: the Staybridge Suites Albany New York, Wolf Road Colonie Center.  Opened in 2014, this spot still looks spanking new and I would strongly recommend it. Not only is it exceptionally affordable, but it really does have all of the comforts of home.

My family and I have always considered Albany a great place to stay for a few days, be it a getaway on its own or a place to stop en route to or upon return from New York City. We recently spent three nights in the state capital and having discovered an outstanding place to stay, our trip could not have been more enjoyable and relaxing.

I sought out General Manager David Heckman to find out more about this extended-stay hotel, located near the crossroads of Interstate 87 and Interstate 90, at Exit 2 of I-87, the Adirondack Northway. It was built just at the rear of the Colonie Center Mall, which is extremely convenient. Heckman told me that some visitors come to stay there just to be close to Macy’s. In fact, with that in mind, the Staybridge Suites recently completed a special promotion whereby for $20 more on your booking guests received a $25 gift card to Macy’s, two free movie passes and a snack pack. Heckman plans to make this an annual October 1 to January 1 special. From January 1 to June 1, for $10 more you will receive two movie passes (valued at $27) and a snack pack.

Only 1.5 miles from Albany International Airport, four miles from Downtown Albany and indeed within walking distance to the Mall and popular Trader Joe’s, this location offers free parking and a complimentary shuttle service. The Mall is also home to two of my favorite restaurants: The Cheesecake Factory and PF Changs.

My family and I have always considered Albany a great place to stay for a few days, be it a getaway on its own or a place to stop en route to or upon return from New York City. We recently spent three nights in the state capital and having discovered an outstanding place to stay, our trip could not have been more enjoyable and relaxing.

This is an all-suite hotel, featuring 112 rooms over six floors. Each suite includes a full kitchen with all the supporting utensils to prepare food, complimentary high-speed internet, in-room safes, flat-screen televisions with a variety of programming options and daily housekeeping. There is a stove, microwave oven, toaster, full refrigerator, dishwasher, pots and pans, serving dishes, plates and glassware, silverware and a dining table. I appreciated the flexible workspace: a work desk with a lamp, a desk-level electrical outlet and a spare electrical outlet on the desk. We had a spacious suite, featuring a king bed and a very comfortable sitting chair in the main bedroom with a door that closes towards the pullout couch and kitchen. It could not have worked out better for our family. If I could find a place like this in every city I visit I would be very happy!

My family and I have always considered Albany a great place to stay for a few days, be it a getaway on its own or a place to stop en route to or upon return from New York City. We recently spent three nights in the state capital and having discovered an outstanding place to stay, our trip could not have been more enjoyable and relaxing.

The on-site business center is open 24/7. There is also a laundry room and a fitness facility with three treadmills, 2 two ellipticals and one stationary bike. All of the equipment is equipped with personal viewing screens.   Free weights, stretch equipment and floor mats are also included. I loved the indoor pool, open from 7 am to 10 pm and spent some time each day of my stay in the whirlpool.  There are handicapped lifts on-site. In the summer, the doors open up to a beautiful patio featuring picnic tables, barbeque grills and comfortable places to sit.

My family and I have always considered Albany a great place to stay for a few days, be it a getaway on its own or a place to stop en route to or upon return from New York City. We recently spent three nights in the state capital and having discovered an outstanding place to stay, our trip could not have been more enjoyable and relaxing.

I took advantage of the complimentary hot and cold breakfast every morning, including, a selection of both traditional breakfast foods, as well as a variety of fresh fruits, yogurts and healthy cereals. There are complimentary dinner receptions as well on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings (5 pm to 7:30 pm), including several choices of wines.

The hotel is located at 39 Wolf Road. You can call directly at   1-518-438-3300 or log on to https://www.ihg.com/staybridge/hotels/us/en/albany/albee/hoteldetail. There is now a special Canadian government rate, so if you qualify please ask about it.

CHEESECAKE FACTORY:  When the Cheesecake Factory is literally across the parking lot of your hotel, it is pretty tempting to dine there on more than one occasion. Such was precisely the case for us. The Albany location opened on August 29, 2006, at the Colonie Centre. This 10,800-square-foot locale seats 300 diners and you can always expect a lineup at the door. You will be handed a beeper and an estimated wait time.

My family and I have always considered Albany a great place to stay for a few days, be it a getaway on its own or a place to stop en route to or upon return from New York City. We recently spent three nights in the state capital and having discovered an outstanding place to stay, our trip could not have been more enjoyable and relaxing.

In Albany, General Manager David Albert runs a well-oiled machine. The service here is always impeccable and the food is superb.

The Cheesecake Factory (www.thecheesecakefactory.com) is known for its extensive menu, generous portions and legendary desserts. In fact, there are more than 250 menu selections and this includes more than 50 lower calories of “SkinnyLicious®” selections- all handmade, in-house with fresh ingredients – and more than 50 signature cheesecakes and desserts. Favorite choices include appetizers, pizza, seafood, steaks, chicken, burgers, pasta, specialty items, salads, sandwiches, omelets and desserts.

This is the closest Cheesecake Factory to Montreal and I know many people who stop here on purpose just to enjoy the experience.  Toronto has one too now and while we keep hearing rumours that Montreal might not be too far behind, I can get no confirmation of that.

We had lunch and supper at this spot on the same day. Frankly, I could eat here several times a week as the menu has so much variety. For the lunch stop, there was not a long wait for our table and we ate light, enjoying some breakfast items.  At supper, we started off with some quenching red raspberry cocktails. I ordered a small Caesar salad, which was more than enough for the two of us to share.

While the Southern Fried Chicken Sliders are listed as an “appetizer,” they more than serve as a hearty meal.  This is actually my absolute favorite on the entire menu. For only $11.50 you get four sliders with toppings and some vegetables. I love the mashed potatoes at Cheesecake, my preferred side. Then there are the  SkinnyLicious offerings, notably the turkey burgers which we can report are out of this world. There are multiple fish, pasta and beef options, meal-sized salads and a whole lot more. Give the menu a look online.

As for dessert, well this place is called The Cheesecake Factory. The windows display of pies kind of knocks your socks off when you enter the premises. After dinner, you can review the menu one more time, which includes a calorie count. We settled on the Italian Tiramisu Cheesecake split three ways and it was beyond decadent.

This Cheesecake Factory remains a real winner in our books and I highly recommend you stop by. You can call them directly at 518-453-2500. There is a large Barnes & Noble bookstore in the mall, a great pre or post-dining stop and movie theatres.

FUN AND GAMES: Besides some great shopping opportunities at Colonie and the Crossgates Mall,   Dave & Buster’s (www.daveandbusters.com) remains a must-stop for us. Recognized as America’s leading venue, combining dining and entertainment, the 33,000 square-foot restaurants and the game room opened on August 24, 2013, at the Crossgates Mall and it has served as a magnet for visitors ever since. My family has also enjoyed visiting the Toronto locale

My family and I have always considered Albany a great place to stay for a few days, be it a getaway on its own or a place to stop en route to or upon return from New York City. We recently spent three nights in the state capital and having discovered an outstanding place to stay, our trip could not have been more enjoyable and relaxing.

The company itself was founded in 1982 to provide a high-quality, high-energy venue where families and adults can “Eat Drink Play®” all in one location. Currently, Dave & Buster’s is the largest national chain offering a full casual dining menu and a wide selection of non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages together with an extensive assortment of entertainment attractions, including skill- and sports-oriented games, video games, interactive simulators and other traditional games.

The restaurant, game and special event areas are open seven days a week Sunday to Thursday: 11 a.m. to midnight and Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

We did not dine there on this night, but it is good to know that there is a special eat-and-play option. When choosing selected items you can add $10 or $20 power cards to your order, which represents an immediate saving when you hit the games area.  

Guests can play to win tickets in the arcade for a variety of prizes, including iPods, Nintendo games, grills, sports items, stuffed animals and even an electric guitar. Traditional games like bowling, shuffleboard, skeet ball, air hockey and billiards are combined with others such as zombie snatcher, Dance Revolution and Big Bass Wheel. We favor Deal or No Deal, the basketball and football tosses and the different slot machine-like games which give you a bit of a Las Vegas feeling.  I was impressed with the gigantic Rock ‘Em Sock ‘EM robots. We spent over two hours there and enjoyed every second of it. The power card is rechargeable and keeps track of the number of points you have earned instead of the old format of printed tickets.

More than two dozen large-screen, high-definition televisions provide the perfect backdrop for everyone’s favorite college sporting events and professional games. The Albany location is also available for private parties, birthdays and corporate functions. Structured team-building activities, company challenges and the ultimate quest are popular programs to help build corporate camaraderie. We had a great time. The locale is fully wheelchair accessible. You can call them directly at 518-313-4500 or log on to https://www.daveandbusters.com/locations/albany.

ATTRACTIONS: While we appreciated being within close walking distance to the Colonie Center,  we took the easy 10-minute drive to the much larger Crossgates Mall. The vast majority of entrances are ADA accessible with ample parking distributed throughout the site. You can rent a wheelchair at the information desk near Macy’s entrance.

Albany has attracted visitors for 400 years with historic sites, fabulous attractions, family-friendly amenities, and entertaining events. World-class museums, unique galleries, stunning architecture, those enticing restaurants, and welcoming accommodations can indeed keep you busy for days. Enjoy everything from boating to skiing and biking to snowshoeing. Albany lies at the foot of the Adirondacks and the Catskill Mountains and is at the tip of the historic Hudson Valley Region. Within a short ride are neighboring Cooperstown and Saratoga Springs.

Be sure to check out the Million Dollar Staircase, the awe-inspiring “Egg” at the Empire State Plaza and many diverse examples of historic house sites and public spaces such as the Pruyn House and the first Shaker Meeting House. You can visit the magnificent Gothic structure, now the Administrative Center of the State University of New York, the Delaware and Hudson, and the Albany Evening Journal Buildings, located at the base of State Street.

There is an abundance of professional theatre, music, dance, sports, and a backyard full of recreational splendors. As the crossroads of the northeast, Albany is easily accessible by car, train, and plane and is located less than three hours from New York and Boston.

Albany: NY D&B

For us, fabulous shopping at the Crossgates Mall and the Colonie Center always served as incentives to spend some time in the New York Capital City of Albany (http://www.albanyny.org/Visitors.aspx). Now we can add the closest Dave & Busters and Cheesecake Factory locations to our home to the list.

Dave & Buster’s (www.daveandbusters.com) is recognized as America’s leading venue that combines dining and entertainment. The 33,000 square foot restaurant and game room location in Albany opened on August 24, 2013 at the Crossgates Mall and it has served as a magnet for visitors ever since. My family has enjoyed visiting the Toronto locale, but when we heard the franchise had set up shop in Albany it did indeed serve as an incentive for us to stay over on our way back from New York City.

The company itself was founded in 1982 to provide a high-quality, high-energy venue where families and adults can “Eat Drink Play®” all in one location. Currently, Dave & Buster’s is the largest national chain offering a full casual dining menu and a wide selection of non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages together with an extensive assortment of entertainment attractions, including skill- and sports-oriented games, video games, interactive simulators and other traditional games.

The restaurant, game and special event areas are open seven days a week Sunday to Thursday: 11 a.m. to midnight and Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Dave & Buster’s chef-crafted menus combine fun and flavor as well. Popular items include Black Jack Burgers, Baked Chicken and Shrimp Alfredo, Bacon Wrapped Beef Medallions & Grilled Shrimp and the very popular adult signature cocktails including Snow cones, Walk the Plank and Million Dollar Margarita. The restaurant has special menus for children and people with allergies. There is a special eat and play option. When choosing selected items you can add $10 or $20 power cards to your order, which represents an immediate saving when you hit the games area. The legendary goldfingers, crispy chicken strips served with fries, work well with the eat and play option. Our party also shared the tasty pretzel dogs (meaty all-beef franks wrapped in sweet pretzel dough, fresh baked and served with spicy habanero dipping sauce) and my personal favorite, the four bar burgers (sliders) and wings platter. We switched the fries for the superb mashed potatoes.

Popular new games at D&B include Temple Run, Cut the Rope, Dark Escape, Dream Raiders, Harpoon Lagoon, Dizzy Chicken and Milk Jug Toss. Guests can play to win tickets in the arcade for a variety of prizes, including iPods, Nintendo games, grills, sports items, stuffed animals and even an electric guitar. Traditional games like bowling, shuffleboard and billiards are combined with newer games such as Derby Owners Club-World Edition, Fruit Ninja, Guitar Hero, Dance Revolution and Big Bass Wheel. We favor Deal or No Deal, skee ball, air hockey, floppy tickets and the different slot machine-like games which give you a bit of a Las Vegas feeling.

D&B spin

More than two dozen large-screen, high-definition televisions provide the perfect backdrop for everyone’s favorite college sporting events and professional games. The Albany location is also available for private parties, birthdays and corporate functions. Structured team building activities, company challenges and the ultimate quest are popular programs to help build corporate camaraderie. We had a great time and consider the arrival of a D&B here enough for us to stay an additional evening next time we visit. The locale is fully wheelchair accessible, with access from inside the mall and curbside.

D&Bwinners

You can call them directly at 518-313-4500.

CHEESECAKE FACTORY: There is no question that Cheesecake Factory ranks as one of my favorite restaurants in the USA. The Albany location opened on August 29, 2006 at the Colonie Centre. This 10,800 square foot locale seats 300 diners. “Albany was the 113th location to open,” General Manager David Albert told me. “We have 184 locations now and this year The Cheesecake Factory made the Forbes 100 best places to work also.”

CheesecakeDisplay

The Cheesecake Factory (www.thecheesecakefactory.com) is known for its extensive menu, generous portions and legendary desserts. In fact, there are more than 250 menu selections and this includes more than 50 lower calorie “SkinnyLicious®” selections- all handmade, in-house with fresh ingredients – and more than 50 signature cheesecakes and desserts. Favorite choices include appetizers, pizza, seafood, steaks, chicken, burgers, pasta, specialty items, salads, sandwiches, omelets and the desserts.

We have always appreciated the excellent service at the Albany location. This is the closest Cheesecake Factory to Montreal and I know many people who stop here on purpose just to enjoy the experience. If you do not study the menu online before you arrive, then you will need some time to look it over before ordering. It is so well balanced that if you are here for more than a few nights you can come back for several days and have something completely different. We started off by sharing the Thai Lettuce Wraps while one member of our party also had Caesar Salad. While the Southern Fried Chicken Sliders are listed as an “appetizer,” they more than serve as a hearty meal. We appreciate the SkinnyLicious offerings, especially the turkey burgers. I tried something new, the Herb Crusted Filet of Salmon, with mashed potatoes. It was truly out of this world.

This Cheesecake Factory is a real winner and I highly recommend you stop by. You can call them directly at 518-453-2500. There is a large Barnes & Noble bookstore in the mall, a great pre or post dining stop.

SHOPPING AND OTHER ATTRACTIONS: Shopping in Albany, the capital of the State of New York, has always been a joy for my family. Crossgates Mall and the smaller, but equally impressive Colonie Center, can keep you busy for a couple of days.

Albany has attracted visitors for 400 years with historic sites, fabulous attractions, family-friendly amenities, and entertaining events. World-class museums, unique galleries, stunning architecture, those enticing restaurants, and welcoming accommodations can indeed keep you busy for days. Enjoy everything from boating to skiing and biking to snow-shoeing. Albany lies at the foot of the Adirondacks and Catskill Mountains and is at the tip of the historic Hudson Valley Region. Within a short ride are neighboring Cooperstown and Saratoga Springs.

Be sure to check out the Million Dollar Staircase, the awe inspiring “Egg” at the Empire State Plaza and many diverse examples of historic house sites and public spaces such as the Pruyn House and the first Shaker Meeting House. You can visit the magnificent Gothic structure, now the Administrative Center of the State University of New York, the Delaware and Hudson, and the Albany Evening Journal Buildings, located at the base of State Street.

There is an abundance of professional theatre, music, dance, sports, and a backyard full of recreational splendors. As the crossroads of the northeast, Albany is easily accessible by car, train, and plane and is located less than three hours from New York and Boston. I have also heard very good things about the Albany Aqua Ducks & Trolleys (www.albanyaquaducks.com), an amphibious tour and trolley tour company featuring historic tours of Albany. The Ducks offer unique, educational and fun-filled tours. You can see the historic sites and then Splash into the Hudson River for a mariner’s view of the city’s skyline and others who call the Hudson “home” including the USS Slater and Dutch Apple Cruises. The Trolleys operate a seasonal Trolley loop tour and are available year round for charters and events. The Ducks and Trolleys are available for parades, festivals, family reunions, bar/bat mitzvahs, corporate events or any special occasion that needs to be “Just Ducky!”

The Crossgates Mall is home to 250 stores, restaurants and kiosks, including big box tenants Macys, Sears, Dick’s Sporting Goods, JC Penney and now Lord & Taylor.

The vast majority of entrances are ADA accessible with ample parking distributed throughout the site. You can rent a wheelchair at the information desk near the Macys entrance.

ACCOMMODATIONS: When in Albany we enjoy staying at the Cresthill Suites (www.cresthillsuites.com), an extended stay hotel located at 1415 Washington Avenue. It turned out to be most convenient for us. There are large Hannaford’s and Price Chopper grocery stores nearby, as well as plenty of restaurants, the Crossgates Mall, the Colonie Center and two movie theatre complexes. Cresthill is in fact part of a small chain, with other locales in Syracuse, NY and Wichita, Kansas. It recently came under the auspices of a new management company, which is already sprucing the place up. There is new lighting in the main lobby and dining area, rooms have been freshly painted and new flooring installed in the kitchens and bathrooms. There is no smoking permitted in any rooms and pets are no longer permitted. Sofa beds in each room have been upgraded.

TravelAlbany Hotelcorrected2bed

I would strongly recommend this place for families. Our spacious two bedroom suite had all of the comforts of home, including a fully equipped kitchen with a fridge and appliances and free wireless internet. We had a comfortable living room, with a couch, chair, table and chairs, three flat screen TVs and plenty of cupboard space. Whether you’re staying for a night or a month in any one of these suites, the hotel offers an array of services to accommodate your travel needs. In the morning, you can enjoy a complimentary breakfast, and in the evening, a light fare reception and social hour is available every Monday through Thursday. The quality of food has been enhanced as well, with a variety of homemade meal choices such as grilled chicken, chicken Parmesan and different Italian specialties.

There is daily housekeeping, same-day valet service, a grocery shopping service, free guest laundry, a fully equipped fitness center and a seasonal courtyard with a pool, patio and grills. The property has a regular clientele who stay there for long periods of time, be it people working on big projects in town and in construction, those relocating, fire victims and of course vacationers who want to enjoy all of the comforts of home. The hotel has a number of handicapped accessible rooms and handicapped parking spots at the front door. There is elevator access to each floor and level crossings in the hallways.

I found the staff at the front desk exceptionally helpful. While the room was very comfy, I also enjoyed spending time in the large lobby area and sinking into the big sofa in front of a TV. A self service coffee, tea and hot chocolate is available 24 hours a day. For more information call 1.888.723.1655 or email info@cresthillsuites.com. You can also register online.

AT THE MOVIES: The Albany area has some wonderful movie theatre complexes, each operated by the Regal Entertainment Group (www.regmovies.com). We have a particular fondness towards the Regal Colonie Center Stadium 13. This six year old movie complex encompasses around 64,000 square feet, with more than 2,800 seats in a total of 13 auditoriums. It is right next to two of my favorite restaurants, PF Chang`s China Bistro and the Cheesecake Factory and a huge Barnes &Noble. The seats at this theatre are very comfortable as they swivel. We actually stopped by the evening before our show to pick up tickets in advance. You can also purchase them online at fandango.com.

Once in the theatre we were entertained by a feature called First Look, which included previews of upcoming film releases, a special Disney feature of homemade short movies and a series of very amusing commercials. You can also log on to www.fandango.com and purchase your tickets online.

Hearing impaired devices are available upon request and the complex is very wheelchair friendly, with elevators at every level, ramps in each theatre and handicapped seating.

Albany, New York

Shopping in Albany, the capital of the State of New York, has always been a joy for my family. Crossgates Mall and the smaller, but equally impressive Colonie Center, can keep you busy for a couple of days.

We recently spent four days in Albany. With a great place to stay, excellent restaurants to choose from and, of course, the endless shopping experience, it proved to be the perfect getaway.

Albany Skyline Rejuvenate

Albany has attracted visitors for 400 years with historic sites, fabulous attractions, family-friendly amenities, and entertaining events. World-class museums, unique galleries, stunning architecture, those enticing restaurants, and welcoming accommodations can indeed keep you busy for days.  Enjoy everything from boating to skiing and biking to snow-shoeing. Albany lies at the foot of the Adirondacks and Catskill Mountains and is at the tip of the historic Hudson Valley Region. Within a short ride are neighboring Cooperstown and Saratoga Springs.

Be sure to check out the Million Dollar Staircase, the awe inspiring “Egg” at the Empire State Plaza and many diverse examples of historic house sites and public spaces such as the Pruyn House and the first Shaker Meeting House. You can visit the magnificent Gothic structure, now the Administrative Center of the State University of New York, the Delaware and Hudson, and the Albany Evening Journal Buildings, located at the base of State Street.

There is an abundance of professional theatre, music, dance, sports, and a backyard full of recreational splendors. As the crossroads of the northeast, Albany is easily accessible by car, train, and plane and is located less than three hours from New York and  Boston. I have also heard very good things about the Albany Aqua Ducks & Trolleys (www.albanyaquaducks.com), an amphibious tour and trolley tour company featuring historic tours of Albany. The Ducks offer unique, educational and fun-filled tours. You can see the historic sites and then Splash into the Hudson River for a mariner’s view of the city’s skyline and others who call the Hudson “home” including the USS Slater and Dutch Apple Cruises. The Trolleys operate a seasonal Trolley loop tour and are available year round for charters and events. The Ducks and Trolleys are available for parades, festivals, family reunions, bar/bat mitzvahs, corporate events or any special occasion that needs to be “Just Ducky!” Info: Bob Wolfgang at 518-858-9690

The Crossgates Mall is home to 250 stores, restaurants and kiosks, including big box tenants Macys, Sears, Dick’s Sporting Goods and JC Penny (now called JCP).

The vast majority of entrances are ADA accessible with ample parking distributed throughout the site.  You can rent a wheelchair at the information desk near the Macys entrance.

The Dave and  Buster’s restaurant and games and arcade chain will open its first Albany location at the Mall soon. We spent nearly seven straight hours there on a first day and went back for another three the following afternoon.

ACCOMMODATIONS: When in Albany we enjoy staying at the Cresthill Suites (www.cresthillsuites.com), an extended stay hotel located at 1415 Washington Avenue. It turned out to be most convenient for us. There were large Hannaford’s and Price Chopper grocery stores nearby, as well as plenty of restaurants, the Crossgates Mall, the Colonie Center and two movie theatre complexes. Cresthill is in fact part of a small chain, with other locales in Syracuse, NY and Wichita, Kansas.

albany sandbox world

I would strongly recommend this place for families. Our spacious two bedroom suite had all of the comforts of home, including a fully equipped kitchen with a fridge and appliances and free wireless internet. We had a comfortable living room, with a couch, chair, table and chairs, three flat screen TVs and plenty of cupboard space.  Whether you’re staying for a night or a month in any one of these suites, the hotel offers an array of services to accommodate your travel needs. In the morning, you can enjoy a complimentary breakfast, and in the evening, a light fare reception and social hour is available every Monday through Thursday.  There is daily housekeeping, same-day valet service, a grocery shopping service, free guest laundry, a fully equipped fitness center and a seasonal courtyard with a pool, patio and grills. General Manager Lisa Druckreier notes that the 10 year old property has a regular clientele who stay there for long periods of time,  be it people working on big projects in town and in construction, those relocating, fire victims and of course vacationers who want to enjoy all of the comforts of home.  The hotel has a number of handicapped accessible rooms and handicapped parking spots at the front door. There is elevator access to each floor and level crossings in the hallways.

The hotel is currently replacing sofas, chairs, ottomans and carpets in all rooms.

I found the staff at the front desk exceptionally helpful. While the room was very comfy, I also enjoyed spending time in the large lobby area and sinking into the big sofa in front of a TV.  A self service coffee, tea and hot chocolate is available 24 hours a day. For more information call 1.888.723.1655 or email info@cresthillsuites.com. You can also register online.

WHERE TO DINE:  We had a marvelous meal at Simpson’s Grille, where five chefs have shared 83 years of experience to create menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner to tantalize even the most discriminating taste buds.  This is the type of place where sole Françoise and grilled Atlantic salmon meet New York sirloin and filet mignon. The restaurant is located at The Desmond Hotel & Conference Center, a magnificent facility at 660 Albany Shaker Road.  The Desmond is also home to the AAA four diamond-rated Scrimshaw Restaurant and The Tavern, an English style pub. There is free parking.

sandbox world albany

I started off with a warm bowl of New England clam chowder. For the main course, we selected three different items:  the seafood penne alfredo, a combination of Alaskan crabmeat, jumbo gulf shrimp and Georges Bank sea scallops tossed in a garlic cream sauce; pesto herb sea scallops, coated with basil pesto and fresh herbs, broiled and finished with tomato vinaigrette; and a char grilled ribeye, 14 ounces, well marbled and full of flavor.  All main courses come with a signature house or Caesar salad, choice of potato or rice pilaf and the chef’s fresh vegetable of the day.

The menu also includes chicken, different fish entrees, prime rib of beef, filet mignon and veal piccata.

The hotel entrance is perfectly wheelchair accessible and so is the entire restaurant, located right by the front desk. This is a pretty venue, featuring booths and tables, and popular with tourists and locales.

After dinner I took the opportunity to explore the property. One section of rooms are located in an area that was once outdoors and makes for a pretty interesting view.

Not only can you log on to the restaurant’s website (http://www.desmondhotelsalbany.com/wine-and-dine/simpsons-restaurant.html) to download the menu, but you can also book your table here, which is very convenient. Simpson’s Grille is open Monday to Fridays from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.to 10 p.m.  On weekends they are open from 6:30 a.m.  straight through 10 p.m.

Take the time to walk around the facility before or after dinner.  It includes 323 guest rooms   and suites, complimentary Wi-Fi internet access, free parking and airport shuttle service, a newly renovated fitness center, indoor pool with Jacuzzi, 24 hour business center and two beautifully landscaped all-season atria. The conference center offers 22 unique meeting spaces and over 24,000-square-feet of flexible function space and an amphitheatre.

The Tavern is cozy, warm, inviting and considered “a place to relax and unwind.” Here folks tend to   sink into one of the leather sofas by the fireplace or root for their favorite team while watching the big screen televisions.  Cocktails, cordials and an endless line of beer taps accompany a lite fare menu of appetizers, salads, sandwiches and burgers.

Scrimshaw at The Desmond is the only AAA Four Diamond Award winning restaurant for three consecutive years in the Capital Region. It recently introduced a newly renovated fine dining room and exquisite new menu. New Chef de Cuisine Stephen Fratianni and Director of Restaurants Frank Rivera have teamed up to combine classic favorites with unique new menu offerings, including market fresh seafood options which change monthly and select table-side preparation to create a truly memorable and one of a kind fine dining experience.

The P.F Chang’s  at Colonie  Center  in Albany is top notch. We strongly recommend it to anyone passing through.

Each dish on the P.F. Chang’s  (www.pfchangs.com) menu is prepared to order using the freshest and highest quality ingredients. The environment at each location combines  influences of Chinese and American cultures. A panoramic, hand-painted mural depicting 12th century China, is visible from the main dining room and commands attention as the restaurant’s centerpiece, while several terra-cotta warriors stand guard. The majestic 11 foot  tall horses grace the entrance to many of the restaurants. This horse symbolizes the original Forbidden City in China, which was built for China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huangdi.

The Albany location has been  in operation for five years.  This was our second time there and we remembered the excellent and quick service. The menu is tantalizing and features a much appreciated calorie count next to each item. So what can Montrealers look forward to? Well, first of all the prices are very reasonable and it is highly recommended you share a few dishes. On this night my two dinner partners and I started off with some won ton and egg drop soups. The former includes pork wontons, mushrooms, fresh spinach, water chestnuts, chicken and shrimp in a savory chicken broth; the latter is the P.F. Chang’s version of the traditional soup, with egg, julienne carrots and green onion.

You really must start off with the P.F. Chang’s signature chicken lettuce wraps: wok seared minced chicken, mushrooms, green onions and water chestnuts served over crispy rice sticks with cool, crisp lettuce cups.

Select your sharing dishes wisely. My recommendation is the Mongolian beef (tender flank steak wok-cooked then quickly tossed with scallions and garlic), crispy honey shrimp (lightly battered and tossed in a sweet and tangy honey sauce with green onions), double pan-fried noodles (crisp egg noodles stir-fried with mushrooms, bok choy, carrots, celery and onions and comes with a choice of beef, pork, chicken, shrimp or vegetable) and a bowl of steamed rice.

You can check the full menu out online, including a full selection of gluten free items, lunch specials and kids choices. There is also a delicious array of signature desserts.

The sidewalk leading to the restaurant, the entrance and the entire restaurant is handicapped accessible.

AT THE MOVIES: The Albany area has some wonderful movie theatre complexes, each operated by the Regal Entertainment Group (www.regmovies.com). We have a particular fondness towards the Regal Colonie Center Stadium 13. This four year old movie complex encompasses around 64,000 square feet, with more than 2,800 seats in a total of 13 auditoriums. It is right next to two of my favorite restaurants, PF Chang`s China Bistro and the Cheesecake Factory and a huge Barnes &  Noble, great to know when you are planning an outing. The seats at this theatre are very comfortable as they swivel. We actually stopped by the evening before our show to pick up tickets in advance. You can also purchase them online at fandango.com.

Once in the theatre we were entertained by a feature called First Look, which included previews of upcoming film and DVD releases and a series of very amusing commercials. You can also log on to www.fandango.com and purchase your tickets online.

Hearing impaired devices are available upon request and the complex is very wheelchair friendly, with elevators at every level, ramps in each theatre and handicapped seating.