I was all geared up to celebrate a friend’s birthday in Utica to distract my mind from the political perils of recent days. But when her amazing husband messaged me at 6:30am to let me know his wife was not feeling well and would have to cancel, I had to think fast about what to do with my standing Amtrak reservation that had me departing in 2 hours. Having visited Utica multiple times recently, I felt like changing it up, so I hopped on the Amtrak app and re-routed my destination to Schenectady, New York, a place I have visited dozens of times in my travels.
Armed with my brand new iPhone 13 Pro Max and its insanely powerful camera, I boarded the train and headed for “The City of Light and Power.” This wasn’t going to be a blog trip, but rather a chance to spend a few hours in another city and have a little unscripted fun. But I’m going to blog about it anyway, because that’s what I do.
After hopping off the train, I roamed the famously-inviting pedestrian paradise that is downtown Schenectady. The incessantly-driving rain and all-encompassing gloom of the day didn’t detract from the hustle and bustle of one of Upstate New York’s best kept secrets.
With my empty stomach groaning from lack of attention, I made my way to The Nest, a restaurant the blends a classy-but-funky interior with elevated comfort food, including a wealth of fried chicken sandwich options to dazzle the senses.
From there I padded my daily step goal with a walk around downtown, capturing images from grand to minute in the hopes of visually expressing Schenectady’s unique appeal.
As with every trip to this mini-metropolis, I took a leisurely stroll down Jay Street, a Euro-Style pedestrian only thoroughfare lined with small shops and cafes. Jay Street’s commitment to a walkable small business sanctuary makes it one of the most unique spaces in Upstate NY.
And I could not make a visit to Upstate NY’s most walkable downtown without visiting the Schenectady Trading Company for a few gifts of course.
In my bipedal endeavor, it was good to see so much new development! New apartments, co-work space and offices seemed to be growing like weeds.
In stark contrast to the other Capital Region hubs of Albany and Troy, Schenectady’s growth feels very “new” and manufactured. This is not a negative connotation, but rather a product of a local priority that is centered around development and economic investment.
Albany has re-imagined its industrial past, and Troy has rediscovered its Brooklyn-style, “street-forward” architecture as a haven for artists and progressives. Schenectady, with help from its Metroplex Development Authority, feels like the “big footprint in a small city” vibe, maximizing its worth by projecting a bigger city image in an intimate downtown environment.
I finished my short stint in Schenectady with a visit to Frog Alley Brewing, which is a ground-floor beer-Mecca and event space with apartments on top.
Indeed, Schenectady is one of my favorite destinations in New York State, and if you’re traveling by train, its appeal is even more pronounced. With a downtown station and a plethora of restaurants and shops that keep you coming back, Schenectady is one of the best day trips north of New York City!