More Than a Picnic: Exploring 7 of the Capital Region’s Amazing Parks

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Did you know that there are over three dozen parks in the Capital Region? With so many to explore, it would take almost a year to visit one park each week!

Are you into biking, boating, or snowmobiling? Maybe concerts and picnics are your thing? Or perhaps you consider yourself more of a nature-loving sort? Whatever your preferred activity, these area parks have something for adventurers of all ages.

While summertime may be the most popular season for outdoor recreation many of these parks offer activities year-round.

Below we break out some of our favorite parks and activities in the region.

Thacher State Park
1 Hailes Cave Road, Voorheesville, NY 12186

This family favorite is positioned along the expansive Helderberg Escarpment. The picturesque landscape features two breathtaking waterfalls and boasts being “one of the richest fossil-bearing formations in the world.” While the impressive views are more than enough to occupy a day, there are numerous other features that make this such a popular destination.

Volleyball courts, ball fields, playgrounds, picnic areas, and 80-foot zip-lines offer hours of family fun.
There are numerous hiking opportunities on the Indian Ladder Trail or any of the additional 25 miles of trails. During the winter, these trails can be used to cross-country ski, snowshoe and snowmobile.
Thompson’s Lake Campground features 140 campsites and lake access for boating, fishing and swimming.
Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center offers attractions including a live honeybee observation hive, a bird observation center and hands-on collections of fossils and furs.
The new Pear Orchard playground, with ample climbing-opportunities and slides, is sure to be a hit with the kids.

FUN FACT: The caves in Thacher house one of eight hibernating sites for Indiana bats in New York!

Learn more here!

Washington Park
Madison Ave, Albany NY 12203

At the heart of downtown Albany and always bustling with life, Washington Park is an oasis in the city. Created in the late 1800s, this historic 84-acre park really does have it all.

  • Tennis and handball courts, bocce ball, volleyball, basketball courts, bicycling, ice skating, jogging, etc.
  • Home to numerous festivals, including the Tulip Fest, Latin Festival, Italian Festival, and the Columbus Day Parade.
  • Live concerts and musical theater at the Lakehouse amphitheater.
  • A designated playground for kids with an assortment of fun equipment spaced throughout the park.
  • A sparkling pond stocked with various fish.
  • Over 100 species of trees means great bird-watching opportunities.
  • Plentiful spots for picnicking.
  • A host of historic monuments.
  • FUN FACT: The footbridge over Washington Park Lake is the last remaining original structure.

    Learn more here!

    Saratoga Spa State Park
    19 Roosevelt Drive, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

    A national landmark recognized by its classic architecture, this vast park is a cultural haven in the Capital Region. The park encompasses the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the Spa Little Theater, the National Museum of Dance, the Saratoga Auto Museum, the Gideon Putnam Resort, Roosevelt Baths and Spa and a number of recreational activities.

  • SPAC (Saratoga Performing Arts Center)—voted the best outdoor music venue in the country by USA Today readers—hosts the New York City Ballet and The Philadelphia
  • Orchestra, as well as a slew of jazz, opera, pop and rock concerts, chamber music, and the Saratoga Wine and Food Festival.
  • The National Museum of Dance—the only museum in the United States dedicated solely to the art of dance.
  • A Bird Conservation Area (BCA), 170 bird species have been identified within the park, such as the scarlet tanager, Great Blue Heron, and yellow warbler.
  • Biking, tennis, disc golf, hiking, golf, ice skating, snow shoeing, skiing
  • A public swimming pool.
  • Gift shop
  • Picnic tables and pavilions
  • FUN FACT: There are 68 acres of protected habitat for the endangered locally indigenous Karner blue butterfly.

    BONUS FUN FACT: Originally, the key purpose of the park was for people to experience the healing benefits of the mineral springs.

    Learn more here!

    Peebles Island State Park
    1 Delaware Ave, Waterford, NY 12188

    Situated where the Mohawk and Hudson rivers converge, this gem of a park offers 191 acres of protected wilderness. This is a must-visit park for nature enthusiasts.

  • Easy hiking trails, about two hours roundtrip, through a lush wooded landscape.
  • Outstanding views of the river and rapids.
  • Opportunities for picnics, hiking, cross-country skiing, and fishing (with permit).
  • Winter recreation includes snowshoeing, hiking and cross-country skiing.
  • The headquarters of the Bureau of Historic Sites and Bureau of Historic Preservation Field Services.
  • Be on the lookout for white-tail deer, beaver, hawks, owls, water fowl and several varieties of birds.
  • FUN FACT: Peebles Island State Park was “the site of a Revolutionary War battle.”

    Learn more here!

    Grafton Lakes State Park
    100 Grafton Lakes State Park Way, Cropseyville, NY 12052

    This park is spans nearly 2,500 acres and is located between the Taconic and Hudson Valleys. With plenty of activities on both land and water, Grafton Lakes is sure to keep outdoor enthusiasts busy all year.

  • Take advantage of the 25 miles of park trails, perfect for horseback riding, hiking, biking. Or enjoy a leisurely stroll through the nature trails. Look up and you might just spot a broad-winged hawk soaring overhead.
  • Ponds are abundant with pickerel, perch, bass, and trout.
  • The large sandy beach at Long Pond is a popular summer swimming spot.
  • All ponds feature launch facilities for canoes, rowboats, sailboats, and electric boats.
  • Winter activities include snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice skating, and ice fishing.
  • FUN FACT: There are educators available on staff to provide information on resident fauna, animal tracking, amphibian protection and numerous other topics.

    Learn more here!

    Mine Kill State Park
    161 Mine Kill State Park, North Blenheim 12122

    Mine Kill State Park can be found within the scenic Schoharie Valley. This site really is a water-lovers dream but there is plenty to do for landlubbers too:

  • The park has an Olympic-sized swimming pool, wading pool, and diving pool. Swim lessons are available on-site during the summer.
  • The reservoir is stocked with several varieties of fish including trout and bass.
  • An ideal spot for kayaking, motor boating, and water skiing.
  • Touts eight miles of trails for mountain biking and hiking.
  • A magnificent 80-foot terraced waterfall and bluebird trail.
  • During the winter months, enjoy snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and ice skating.
  • FUN FACT: This Park houses one of the largest nesting bald eagle populations in New York State!

    BONUS FUN FACT: The oldest tree fossils in the world can be seen at this park.

    Learn more here!

    Central Park
    500 Iroquois Way, Schenectady, NY 12309

    Central Park is a true jewel that is nestled in the city of Schenectady with features that will appeal to the whole family.

    Take the time to stop and smell the roses! The tranquil Rose Garden is arguably the city’s best-kept secret. Enjoy the serenity and splendor of this lush garden when in bloom.

  • Swimming lessons available Monday through Friday
  • Disc golf course, Frisbee golf, paddleboats, basketball courts
  • Home of the World Team Tennis Team. Not only does this park feature a tennis complex that seats 2,400, it has sixteen additional tennis courts.
  • Iroquois Lake, an excellent spot for fishing.
  • Summer concerts on Music Haven Stage
  • Public swimming pools
  • Dog park

  • Fun Fact! The Rose Garden is one of Schenectady’s most popular backdrops for Wedding Photos.

    Learn more here!

    Sources for more information:–Schenectady/1445/