Synonymous with legislative dysfunction as much as legislative power, Albany (or 'Smallbany' to jaded locals) remains a tourism backwater. It became New York State's capital in 1797 because of its geographic centrality to local colonies and its strategic importance in the fur trade. Several blocks from the city center and the ostentatiously modern government buildings in the 98-acre Empire State Plaza, stately brownstones give way to derelict and neglected streets and a general feeling of malaise. Lark St, north and uphill of downtown, has several restaurants and bars popular with university students when school is in session.
East of the plaza is the Albany Institute of History & Art which houses decorative arts and works by Hudson River School painters.
There are a handful of chain hotels downtown, however 74 State, a high-end boutique hotel in the heart of downtown is a better choice.
A number of restaurants are located along Pearl St and Lark St and a strip of bars and clubs on North Pearl St downtown gets hopping when workers spill out of the nearby government buildings. To experience Albany in all its elegant and back-room-dealing clubby glory try Jack's Oyster House, serving porterhouse steaks and seafood with a French twist; its lunchtime menu has burgers and sandwiches ($10). Albany Pump Station has its own microbrewery and large varied menu while Justin's has live jazz every night of the week, dinner and drinks.