by Andrea Doyle | June 21, 2018
Albany, the capital of the state of New York, is a 400-year old city on the verge of a Renaissance. Last year, the city debuted the Albany Capital Center, which welcomed a host of new events and visitors. This year alone, the city welcomed three new tour companies, murals sprouting up all over the city on parking garages, and the region's growing bikeshare program is strengthening the city's connection to the waterfront. Successful Meetings spoke to Jill Delaney, the new president and CEO of Discover Albany, about some of the changes taking place there that make it even more attractive for meetings.

What's new in the city for groups?

Albany has many wonderful venues for groups, and just last year we welcomed the Albany Capital Center, which offers 9,200 square feet of meeting space with a 5,000-person capacity. This - combined with Empire State Plaza Convention Center, The Egg Performing Arts Center, and the Times Union Center - became Albany's Capital Complex. The Capital Complex offers 159,000 square feet of meeting and event space, making it the largest meeting space in Upstate New York, and it allowed us to welcome larger, and more robust events. Our new state-of-the-art facilities make it more convenient than ever for groups to come here, and we know that these new amenities, right in the center of a very dense downtown, are very appealing to event planners. As a result, this year, we were able to secure the NYSUT Conference, GovBuy, the GymRat Challenge, along with a number of other large-scale events, that will attract thousands of new visitors to Albany.

What's a venue or activity that's a "hidden gem" for visiting groups?

I'd encourage visitors to rent a bicycle from CDTA's new bikeshare program, and head on over to Corning Preserve, Albany's riverfront park. There you'll find a bike trail, amphitheater, playground, kayak rentals, and more, all on the beautiful, scenic Hudson River.

What's a good outing for a group looking to get a sense of the city's culture or history?

Albany has so many unique American stories to tell. We are one of the oldest cities in America, and we have beautifully preserved homes and estates that bring to life stories from nearly every major historical movement in America, so taking a tour at one of our heritage sites is a good place to start. I would also recommend taking one of our new Historic Downtown Albany Food Tours. Tours begin at the Discover Albany Visitors Center, and highlight tastes from five different local restaurants, some history of Albany, some architectural accents and culture, all on a 3.5-hour guided walking tour. And taking a cruise on the Hudson River aboard Dutch Apple Cruises is an absolute must. This is our river liner, and there's nothing quite like being out on the river, with the breeze in your face.

Where should a group go to get a truly local culinary experience?

We have a growing craft beverage scene in Albany although I think many cities would say that. But the difference is that we've been brewing beer in Albany for almost 400 years. In fact, the first brewery in North America was located right here in Albany. Today, our Capital Craft Beverage Trail brings together spirit producers, cider makers, and brewers, and all right here in downtown Albany. We just helped launch the new Capital City Cycle Tour, which is a unique 14-person-bike tour of some of the beverage trail partners.

What else makes your city a great destination for groups?

We make bringing meetings here really easy. Our sales and services team goes above and beyond to find solutions for organizations and continues to find new ways for meetings to set themselves apart. When we had a grass-fed beef conference come here, one of our hotels hired a professional bar-be-que master to cook sides of beef on the lawn. When we hosted Transfinder, which is a very civic-minded company, we helped arrange for the Rock and Wrap It Up to help collect prepared but uneaten food and deliver it to local populations in need. When we hosted the Kyle Petty Charity Ride, we helped our partners host a fan fest to help greet the motorcade. We really like to make our clients smile, and we're always looking for new ways to do that.