City Hopping on a Friday: Schenectady & Utica

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By ArianDavidPhotography

Last Friday I once again did a little “city hopping” as I traveled from Rochester to Schenectady to Utica and back home in a single day, all without a car.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again, you don’t have to travel far, spend a lot of time or drain your wallet to feel like you got away for a weekend, even if it’s for a day.

It’s been just over a year since I began my blog in Utica and Schenectady (1st and second stops respectively) and very soon I will be spending weekends in both cities as a sort of follow up, seeing what’s new, looking at progress and talking to citizens and community contributors.

But Friday was all about fun and pictures for me.  As has become a habit, I decided to leave my professional photography equipment at home and shoot with my iPhone.  This allows me the chance to get around with a bit less cargo, and frees me up to enjoy my surroundings rather than take that perfect shot.  My blog has become as much about the places I visit and the components of a strong community as a blog featuring photography!

When I first blogged in Schenectady, there was a thick blanket of snow on the ground, not to mention getting caught in a blizzard while there.  On Friday, while anything but warm the weather was a little more inviting as I stepped off my Amtrak train.

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The weather wasn’t all that was inviting… a quick walk out of the station and down State Street made me feel once again like I was in a big bustling city.  That’s the big difference between Schenectady and the other small cities I’ve visited.  Walking down State really makes you feel like you’re in a larger downtown.  People walking, talking, biking… there is a lot of movement.

The colors, the historical facades blend with newer architecture, adding to the big city feel.  And to be honest, it was just nice to see the city without a foot of snow!

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I made a left on Jay Street, popped into a couple shops before heading for Ambition.  The pedestrian-only street was just as colorful as I remembered it!

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I finally made my way into Ambition, where I once again order what I believe is the most delicious Bloody Mary around!

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I then headed back on State Street where a quick stop into one of the most wonderfully unique bakeries in the state, Puzzles.  If you are not familiar, Puzzles not only makes great food, they provide meaningful employment for individuals with special needs.  A truly wonderful story!

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The last time I visited Veterans Park in off of State Street, it was, like I said, buried in a sea of white.  Friday, I could actually walk around and appreciate this downtown park and the monuments inside.  Places like this are not just refreshing green spaces in our otherwise busy downtowns, they help us all remember those in our community who keep our country safe.

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After leaving the park I made my way over to one of my favorite residential areas on my small cities tour, Schenectady’s historic Stockade neighborhood.  Hints of Brooklyn, rows of unique and colorful homes, slate sidewalks and glorious churches.  You just can’t take a bad picture.  And as close as these homes are to everything I could hear a pin drop as I walked through the streets.

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And then there was Riverside Park along the Mohawk, which invited me for a beautiful walk along the water.  Even with barren trees and a landscape still recovering from winter, I could have spent all day here.

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Finally I ventured over to Erie Blvd. where signs of revival were very much alive to the keen eye.  Minor traffic modifications, sidewalk buffering and pedestrian friendly crosswalks hinted at Schenectady’s continuing commitment to walkability, especially with with the soon-to-be-built casino, which is due open in early 2017.

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It was almost time to head back to Utica, but I had to make one more stop at the relatively new Firestone 151 to meet Visitors Association Tourism & Convention Manager Talia Cass (not pictured, but trust me, she was there!).  Firestone 151  by the way is just a gorgeous place with the friendliest staff… everyone was welcoming and fun.  And how cool does this place look?

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Alas it was time for me to jump on the train headed for my next destination.  Schenectady continues to be one of my favorite places I’ve explored, and I can’t wait to get back this year for a followup visit.  Stay tuned!

When I arrived in Utica, the weather had turned for the worse, and by worse I mean snowing.  In mid April.

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For those who haven’t followed my blog until now, I am addicted to portable, “last mile” transportation.  This is a Micro Pedalflow, a 15-pound seatless bike that folds down to fit on any form of mass transit, or in the back of a car.  This picture was taken by the new and nifty bike Bagg’s Square bike racks next to Utica Coffee.

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I didn’t have much time to shoot, and the weather wasn’t exactly stunning, but I wanted to capture a couple clicks as I walked downtown.  There are some truly unique structures in Utica that stand out even when the weather dampens the landscape.

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I hadn’t visited The Tramontane Cafe in a while, so I rode my bike over that way to pay it a visit and enjoy a soda.  The Tram has been a big supporter of my blog, and it’s a calm, eclectic place that I love to get to when I visit Utica.  It reminds me a lot of some of my favorite Rochester coffee destinations.

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I passed by the Matt Brewing Co., home of Saranac and of course, Utica club, which leads me to my next photo…

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I snapped a picture of the Utica Club Ale icon, which is coming down as we speak to make way for an updated sign.  It’s sad to see the old sign go as it was one of the first things I ever saw in Utica, but it’s great to see progress and a desire to create a new iconic tradition.


I didn’t have a lot of time before I had to catch my train home, but I was able to meet with a few of my favorite CNY people, Jeremy, Mark, Melissa and Ann at Ocean Blue, an amazing rooftop restaurant featuring fresh seafood and other delicious items.  Oh, and they have a pretty good bar selection too. 😉

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I had a great time once again, hopping around New York State, visiting some of the places and people I have come to love.  I can’t say enough about how fun it can be to get on a train or a bus and have an adventure in a day or two right in our backyard.  Cheers to Schenectady, Utica and New York State… we have so much to celebrate each and every day!

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