A Short Guide to Living in Albany, New York

Albany may not be the largest city in New York, but it’s certainly one of the most affordable, thanks to its low housing prices. Homeowners pay $145,000 less than they would almost anywhere else in the state and $347,000 less than they would living in the Big Apple. Even rents are cheaper. Apartments here go for seventy percent less than they would in New York City. But the low cost of living isn’t the only reason why people love living in Albany. Its strong economy and bustling downtown have made it one of the most attractive cities in the country. For anyone interested in making the move, here is a short guide to living, working, and thriving in Albany, New York.

Popular Neighborhoods

Albany’s communities have a lot of personality and variety. From parks to warehouses to suburban homes and converted lofts, it’s a city where anyone can find the perfect neighborhood to call home.

  • Center Square. A thriving commercial and historical district close to downtown and the Hudson River. Full of nightclubs, tattoo parlors, bookshops, restaurants, and elegant brownstones. Within walking distance of Albany’s most iconic hangouts.
  • Helderberg. Expensive, safe, and densely populated. One of the few truly walkable areas of the city, with schools, banks, cafes, parks, and hospitals located only a short distance from your front door.
  • Pine Hill. Located in close proximity to the city’s universities. One of the largest neighborhoods in Albany, with a diverse mix of families, single homeowners, and students. Quaint, quiet, and clean, but with a lively mix of bars, restaurants, and entertainment.
  • Washington Park. Built around a massive, eighty-nine acre park, this neighborhood has more greenspace than anywhere else in the city and one of its highest concentrations of apartments as well.
  • North Albany. An old industrial district slowly being converted into a retail and cultural center, with theaters, art galleries, concert halls, and breweries. A great place for anyone looking for a townhouse, apartment, or loft.
  • New Scotland. A pleasant mix of urban and suburban living, with a large number of young families and professionals. Few homeowners but lots of houses for rent. Packed with bars, cafes, parks, and boutiques.
  • Park South. Great schools and parks make this a popular place for families. Located in the heart of the city, it provides access to a wide range of shops and restaurants.

Finding Work

Government and education have traditionally been the backbone of Albany’s economy. Roughly a quarter of the city’s workforce is employed by the state, local, or federal government, while another eleven percent work at the universities in and around town. However, the city’s business sector has started growing rapidly as well, fueled by ten years of sustained economic development.

Civic initiatives have helped draw over $9 billion in private investments, while the city’s educated workforce and close proximity to major markets like New York and Boston have attracted several Fortune 500 companies as well. 3M, IBM, Aetna, Northwestern Mutual, Activision Blizzard, Applied Materials, and Robert Half all operate out of the area.

The booming economy has turned Albany into the heart of “Tech Valley,” the Northeastern hub for IT research, software engineering, and microchip manufacturing. The city’s healthcare facilities have also expanded, making it one of the largest medical providers in upstate New York.

Schools and Universities

The Albany area is home to more than fifteen colleges and universities, including some of the top ranked schools in the nation, such as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY), Skidmore College (Saratoga Springs, NY), Union College (Schenectady, NY), and the University of Albany, part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system. Over forty thousand students attend classes every year, studying a wide range of academic programs, including engineering, biotechnology, psychology, business management, history, literature, and physics.

The city’s elementary and high schools are equally strong, with high graduation rates and outstanding test scores. Students have a chance to study college curricula and enroll in advanced placement courses, in order to lay the foundation for successful university careers.

Fun and Recreation

Living in Albany affords many opportunities to get out and play. Residents can head down to the Egg Theater, Palace Theater, or MVP Arena to hear live music and experience major touring acts like Bruce Springsteen, Blake Shelton, Justin Timberlake, the Jonas Brothers, and Ariana Grande, not to mention popular comedians, such as Ilana Glazer and Bert Kreischer.

The nearby Saratoga Performing Arts Center hosts concerts by artists such as TLC, Shaggy, Counting Crows, the Grateful Dead, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. For more classical fare, residents can head over to Lennox, Massachusetts for the Boston Pops summer concerts or listen to a diverse range of local musicians at the Albany Symphony in town.

The city is also a magnet for Broadway shows and experimental theater. Watch classic productions like the Secret Garden or Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Playhouse Stage Company, or visit theRep for groundbreaking musicals exploring forgotten corners of American culture. Film lovers spend their evenings at Madison Theater, the only dine-in movie theater in upstate New York, where you can enjoy a sandwich, burger, or craft beer while taking in the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

And while Albany may not have any major league franchises, it follows its minor league teams with a passion. Hockey fans pack MVP arena every winter to watch the Albany Devils, then drive over to Joseph L. Bruno Baseball Stadium to cheer on the Tri-City Valleycats during the summer.

Street Festivals

Albany’s civic calendar is packed with street parties and festivals that bring its communities together to celebrate all aspects of city life. These events cover a huge range of interests and draw thousands of people from all over the Hudson River Valley. You won’t want to miss:

  • Larkfest. The largest one-day street fair in Upstate New York, full of food trucks, drink stands, and artisanal craftsmen selling one-of-a-kind items from their stalls. After you’re done shopping, head to one of the live stages to rock out to an exciting lineup of big-name musicians and local bands.
  • Albany Book Festival. Take part in readings, panel discussions, book signings, and writing workshops with over one hundred writers and poets. Visitors can also peruse works by local authors, as well as some of the country’s best up-and-coming novelists.
  • Food & Wine Festival. Albany’s chefs and restaurants compete to outdo one another in this three-day feast. Savor daring and innovative recipes at the event’s signature five-course dinner, then slide over to the Battle of the Bartenders for some tasty cocktails.
  • Tulip Festival. Celebrate Mother’s Day by taking a trip through one of the largest flower shows in the world, as over 100,000 tulips turn Washington Park into a colorful tapestry. Food vendors, artisans, musicians, and a fine arts show help make this one of the largest and most memorable events in the Northeastern United States.
  • PearlPalooza. A massive, all-ages music festival showcasing some of the most exciting bands and DJs from across the state and around the globe. Experience thrilling beats from independent rock artists in the heart of downtown, just a few minutes from some of the city’s biggest bars and restaurants.

Wild Adventures

Everyone needs to get away once in a while and Albany offers plenty of opportunities. Residents can canoe, kayak, tube, or fish on the nearby Hudson River, just east of downtown. Enjoy the rush of water, explore the city’s hidden canals, or paddle down to Henry Hudson Park and Coeymans Landing to experience the trees, hills, and wildlife along the river valley.

They can also hike through the Albany Pine Bush Preserve further west, one of the largest remaining pine-scrub oak barrens in the world, with rolling sand dunes, miles of trails, and large, open fields full of shrubs, flowers, and animal life. The city is also within driving distance of the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains, where visitors can hike, camp, bicycle, ski, and snowboard through lush woodlands, rolling rivers, crystal lakes, and towering cliffs.

Grabbing a Drink

Breweries are big in Albany. There are already twenty operating within city limits and dozens more in the surrounding communities. Made from the finest hops and barley, the brews here are strong, smooth, and satisfying. While every neighborhood has its local hotspot, the best rated beers can be found at:

  • Albany Pump Station. Owned and operated by the Evans family for three generations, this industrial brewery and restaurant serves pilsner malts, sun garden DIPAs, light-bodied American ales, and rich, Vienna lagers, among others ‒ with notes of fruit, citrus, pine, and smoke mixed into every batch.
  • Frog Valley Brewing Company. Named after the old Frog Valley baseball team (once arrested for drinking on a Sunday), this six-room taproom is one of the cornerstones of the local craft brew culture. Signature drinks include wheat beers, German pilsners, double IPAs, New England IPAs, American brown ales, and New York Lagers.
  • Indian Ladder Farms. Specializes in beers and ciders brewed from ingredients harvested from their very own orchard and hop yard. Known for their hopped ciders, smoked beers, and malted ales, as well as their biergarten, set amid sprawling fields of apple trees.

Grab a Bite

Like its breweries, Albany’s restaurants are growing rapidly. With food from almost every culture and more being added year after year, residents don’t have to look hard for quality meals. Some of the best can be found at:

  • Kismet Mediterranean Grill. The place for hummus, gyros, and shish kabobs. For a real treat, try their moussaka (made from seasoned beef and eggplant) or kavourma (chicken, shrimp, or salmon sautéed on a hot pan with garlic and vegetables).
  • Toro Cantina. Sizzling tacos and steak served with a spicy blend of herbs and sauces. Their giant lobster quesadilla and plancha-fried fajitas are particularly well liked ‒ a modern take on traditional Mexican recipes.
  • Josie's Table. Casual, upscale dining with a menu made from seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients. Specialty cocktails and a wide selection of organic wines perfectly compliment your meal, with plenty of meat and vegetarian options.
  • 677 Prime. A high-end American steakhouse featuring Omaha porterhouse, Wagyu filet, and New York Strip. Anyone in the mood for something different should try the veal wellington tenderloin or their innovative seafood, before finishing up with one of their rich, indulgent desserts.
  • War Room Tavern. A Japanese-American restaurant specializing in steak and sushi. Visitors can order a filet mignon, Hudson Valley tomahawk, or hand-crafted sushi from award-winning chef Yasuo Saso.

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