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Best Park

Central Park
Schenectady

Winter, spring, summer or fall this park is gorgeous throughout the changing seasons of the Northeast, and yeah we know what you’re thinking—it’s in Schenectady—but get over it; it’s worth the pain it takes to get there. Huge playground, clean facilities, large pavilions, grills and enough open fields for Frisbee play. Be sure to check out the rose garden; it is spectacular.

Best Park (Sports Enthusiast)

Lincoln Park
Albany

It seems as though there’s always something going on in Lincoln Park that has fans lining the crateresque lower fields with lawn chairs. Whether it’s cricket, rugby, flag football, or plain old soccer and baseball, there’s always a match of some sort—and there’s always a crowd of spectators to join. And with the many slopes to choose from, you can privately enjoy the events upon a grassy knoll.

Best Park (Key Necessary)

Washington Park
Troy

What can we tell you about Washington Park in Troy? Well, it’s got a great perimeter. You need a key to get in it, à la Grammercy Park in NYC, but who needs to do that? It’s just as enjoyable to enjoy a post-prandial stroll along the sidewalk that abuts this lush jewel. And if you hang out around this park enough, we’re sure you can make friends with someone who can gain you entrance.

Best Hike (Back Pack)

Mount Marcy
Adirondack High Peaks Region, Keene

Mount Marcy is just one of the nine peaks that comprise the High Peaks, and it’s the highest. This is a hike not for the faint of heart. But if you are in reasonably good shape, you can take it on. Different trails will test your mettle, but one thing is for sure: When you get to the summit on a clear day you can see forever, almost. The best way to do it is plan an overnight stay, grab a lean-to and enjoy the night sky; you’ll never feel closer to the stars.

Best Hike (Picnic Pack)

Prospect Mountain
Lake George Village

Prospect Mountain, just outside of Lake George Village, is a nice family hike. It’s challenging, as the trail is pretty much straight up the mountain, but it doesn’t take a whole afternoon—and the big payoff of a beautiful vista and place to rest at the top is never that far off. And if there’s someone among your party that just won’t do the walk, they can drive to the top and meet you.

Best Hike (Pack a Day)

John Boyd Thacher State Park
New Scotland

So you want to get some of that great outdoors everyone’s squawking about, but don’t think you have the lung capacity to take on a colossal uphill climb? Well, we’ve got one for you hackers. John Boyd Thacher State Park is covered with footpaths of varying degrees. Yes, there’s the Indian Ladder Trail, but across the street there are also many routes, including an interpretive nature trail, for easygoing meandering. Head to the top of the easy-sloped hill and you’ll hit Beaver Dam Road—across which wait many more miles of woodsy walks.

Best Golf Course(Public)

Capital Hills
O’neil Ave., Albany

After years and years of renovations, this course is really showing it’s worth. This is a good track for beginners and will also challenge the low cappers. Over the years many holes have been lengthened and bunkers added (this year they added real beach sand to the traps), and the greens—one word—fast! Albany residents get a big discount and tee-time priorities, but even the non-Albanians have to get a run at this course; you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Best Golf Course (Private)

Mohawk Country Club
1849 Union St., Schenectady

We’ve voted this course the best for so many years you’d think they would give us an honorary membership, but no, we still have to test it out by bribing the kid in the pro shop. Just kidding—we actually get out there with a legit member and we love it. If you ever wondered what it’s like to play a course like the pros play, this is the best this area has to offer. Even professional John Daly, on his recent visit to Capital Region, had a hard time with greens and managing this tough track. So what are you waiting for? Go bribe that kid in the pro shop.

Best Golf Course (When the Boss Is Paying)

Saratoga National Golf Course
458 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs

Our boss is very generous, and we love him very much, but yup—you guessed it—he doesn’t pick up the greens fees. Regardless, this $100-plus round of golf (prices vary based on day) is well worth the cost. Get out and play it now, because after next week this track will be packed, and you’ll have to wait till September. Wetlands and water hazards are in play on all 18 holes, and there are enough sand traps to start a public beach, and the greens? Well, let’s just say we spend a little extra time testing the greens. This course is a must-play for any avid golfer.

Best Miniature Golf

Pirate’s Cove
Route 9, Lake George

Truly Lake George’s best mini-golf scene, Pirate’s Cove takes golfers on a fantasy tour of pirate life, complete with ghoulish staged vignettes between holes, while affording them a challenging, well-maintained course.

Best Tennis Courts

Central Park
Schenectady

It’s where the pros play when they come to town—’nuff said. Tons of green-covered macadam, and rarely a wait, all in a setting that is just beautiful. Make sure you check out the Buzz, Schenectady’s own professional tennis team.

Best Place to Mountain Bike

Grafton State Park
Route 2, Grafton, New York

The multi-use trails at Grafton have long been the site for many a mountain-bike epic, but thanks to the continued advocacy and trail work of the Mohawk Hudson Cycling Club, this killer network has been expanded and linked to other trail systems (including Pittstown State Forest). From the craggy, technical switchbacks of Bonnie & Clyde to the more vanilla Spruce Bog, there’s something here for everyone—and hey, it’s actually all legal! The park is also the site of a great Mountain Bike Festival every September.

Best Scenic Drive (West)

I-88

Yes, it’s a superhighway—but that’s why it has such terrific views. The hills and valleys of Leatherstocking country are gorgeous in any season (though snow squalls can get in the way on this route), but never more than in the fall, when they simply dazzle. Those winds out of the west bring the leaves into color earlier, making a nice alternative to the ever-more-crowded Berkshires/Vermont region in early leaf-peeping season.

Best Scenic Drive (South)

Route 144 to Selkirk

Do this sometime: Leave Albany through the South End (from which you can get a cool view of the city) and travel through Glenmont, Selkirk and Coeymans along Route 144. The scenery of the woods, fields and river, mingled with the beautiful houses along the route, makes this drive one of our favorites.

Best Scenic Drive (East)

Almost any road into Berkshire County

Try Route 2 over Petersburgh Pass and absorb the breathtaking view as you come down the mountain into Williamstown. Or take bucolic Route 43 through a break in the mountains and enjoy the pastoral vistas of Berkshire farmland. Or follow 22 to 71 into Great Barrington, weaving in and out of splendid woods as you go, and seeing some fine country homes in the process. Any way, you’ll get a feast of nature’s eye candy.

Best Scenic Drive (North)

Route 9N, North Shore of Lake George

Heading North with no particular place to go? Try cruising up around the north shore of Lake George. Once you get up to Diamond Point, you will forget that you are just 15 minutes from the hustle and bustle of touristy Lake George Village. With its rolling hills that spill into beautiful Lake George, you almost feel as if you’re driving down the coast of Highway 1 in California—well, maybe only for a brief second—but even still, this is one of the most beautiful drives the North Country has to offer.

Best Walkable Downtown

Troy

We’re not talking retail shopping to compete with the likes of Saratoga Springs, but when it comes to being truly walkable, Troy’s got it going on. For instance, you can stroll from the funky antique and gift stores on River Street, to City Hall, to the Arts Center of the Capital Region, to Riverfront Park—all without even crossing the street. And if you do need to cross the street, there won’t be a lot of traffic to get in your way.

Buddha nature: the Grafton Peace Pagoda.. Photo by Shannon DeCelle

Best Peace Pagoda

The Grafton Peace Pagoda
Just off Route 2, Grafton

OK, so it’s the only peace pagoda, but even if there were others around, we’re sure this one would still be the best. With a woodsy approach trail (but alternative access for vehicles carrying the less-physically able), a sweet view of the Berkshires to the east and the life of the Buddha in monochromatic tiles encircling it, this monument rewards all seekers with its stately, meditative presence. Nearby gardens and the equally impressive Buddhist temple next door complete the picture of tranquility that can and will soothe the troubled soul that comes to Grafton.

Best View of Albany

From the Hudson River

Even with the new walkway, you can’t really appreciate the Hudson from Albany, but then again, maybe that’s because the city has spent decades forgetting it even has a riverfront. The best place to soak in the sights and feel the awesome majesty of this great river is, well, on the river. Rent a boat or hitch a ride with a nautically minded friend, cruise to a desired location, set anchor, and just . . . enjoy. Albany never looked better.

Best View of Troy

West Hall
RPI Campus, Troy

It’s a nice close view of the Collar City from West Hall, the huge old building that houses the art department of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The onetime hospital (and what a creepy hospital it must have been—High Anxiety anyone?) sits atop a hill, and when you’re sitting on the steps of the grand structure, you may enjoy the neighborhoods that are spread out before you (close enough to make out the details, which is nice) in relative solitude—as passers by rarely think to look up from the sidewalk.

Best View of Schenectady

Mayor Al’s bus tour

You have to get up pretty early to get the best view of Schenectady and—oh, yeah—it helps to be from Guyana. But if you shuffle up the steps of City Hall on a Saturday morning and hop on Mayor Al’s bus tour, you’re sure to see all the highlights that the city has to offer. Mayor Al started these weekly bus tours two years ago as a way to woo Guyanese immigrants to his city. He takes them through Schenectady’s Central Park and shows off everything from Richmond Hill to the GE plot. The bus tour usually ends at his in-laws home, where the guests are treated to homemade vino.

Best View of the Hudson River

Olana
Hudson

And if you stick a cement plant in the way, you think anybody will ever paint this view again?

Best View of the Guilderland Industrial Park

Thacher Park Overlook
New Scotland

It’s uncanny how when you bring a potential paramour to the overlook at Thacher Park, you can’t help noticing that sprawling complex of the Guilderland Industrial Park smack dab in the middle of the view. Oh, and you can see the State Campus from there, too.

Best Ski Area

Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort
Hancock, Mass.

Jiminy Peak is the winner among skiers and snowboarders alike. It’s right in our backyard—go to Averill Park, and keep going a snitch, and you’re there—and it’s a challenging and beautiful mountain. Snowboarders really dig the snowboard park, and one rarely has to hoof it along the flats—the mountain almost always points down. Another big plus is the large amount of lit trails for nighttime activity.

Seeing trails: Five Rivers Environmental Education Center. Photo by Teri Currie

Best Nature Trail

Five Rivers Environmental Education Center
Game Farm Road, Delmar

Just past the hustle and bustle of the big city sit 400 acres of beautiful nature trails known as the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center. It’s at the edge of Delmar, south of Albany, and we can’t get enough of the center’s woods, fields and wetlands—all covered with interpretive trails aplenty. You can take a leisurely stroll in the warmer months or a snowshoe or ski trek in the winter, and you won’t leave without a wildlife siting. There’s even a covered pavilion to rest your weary bones.

Best Beach

Crystal Cove
Averill Park

A perennial winner. There’s a big patch of grass for sunning, a really big sandbox for the kids, and water that lives up to its name. If anyone tells you to go jump in a lake, this is the place to do it.

Best Swimming Pool

Victoria Pool
Saratoga Spa State Park

Still the crown jewel of area pools, even if recent slippages in upkeep have caused a save-the-pool uproar. Graceful, elegant, and laid-back. With drinks. The word “lolling” was invented here.

Best Swimming Hole

Waconah Falls
Dalton, Mass.

The stunning surroundings of the swimming hole at Waconah Falls makes it the most serene, peaceful swim you’ll ever experience (granted, of course, you’re smart and go there during the week when it’s pretty void of other people). The rushing waterfalls provide the expected meditative hum to serve as a backdrop for your refreshing swim; after you dry off, go for a hike in the surrounding foothills of the Berkshires.

Best Indoor Rock Gym

Electric City Rock Gym
433 State St., Schenectady

Are you sick of climbing the walls at work? Try an alternative way of exercising your body and mind. Electric City has great 30-foot walls, and more routes to climb than you can shake a stick at. And for all you bouldering folks, there’s a big new room for you, too.

Best Ice Skating/Ice Hockey Facility

The B.I.G. Arena
900 Delaware Ave., Delmar

Two rinks, a store, birthday parties, public skating sandwiched in-between lessons and leagues, an upstairs bar and viewing area—even special events geared toward local teens. What more do you want? Karaoke?

Best Street Name

Blurry Avenue
Colonie

Probably not the place you want to try your hand at driving drunk. Then again, if you got caught, it might make a handy excuse.

Crockett and Tubbs: Albany’s N. Pearl Street. Photo by Joe Putrock

Best Street Masquerading as an airport runway

North Pearl Street from Clinton Avenue to State Street

What’s with those new lights along North Pearl Street? It’s also the best place to do your deer-caught-in-the-headlights impersonation, as it’s virtually impossible to do anything else.

Best Town Name Juxtaposition

Climax and Surprise
Greene County

It’s a short drive from Climax to Surprise. Boy, who hasn’t had that feeling? Am I right? Anyone?

Best Street Name (Ego Division)

MASS MoCA WAY
North Adams, Mass.

Look, we like MASS MoCA quite a bit, but was there anything fundamentally wrong, anything inherently anti- artistic, with the name “Marshall Street”?

Best Place to Steal Gas in the Capital Region

City of Rensselaer

Just ask the mayor. In May, Rensselaer Police Chief Rick Fusco charged Mayor Mark Pratt with 32 misdemeanors for allegedly stealing $456.93 worth of gas on a city credit card, despite the mayor’s claims that he submitted receipts for reimbursement. Is this just another chapter in an ongoing melodrama among Rensselaer’s public officials, or did the mayor really try to get over on the public’s dime? Judicial proceedings are ongoing, but we know one thing for sure: Rensselaer civil servants beware: They’re keeping a close eye on the office pens.

Best Impersonation of a Monkey Wrench

Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings

We can’t help but wonder what the hell Mayor Jennings was thinking when he decided it would’ve been better to scrap a voter-approved school facilities plan in favor of his own, oh-so-vague plan when the district was having difficulty finding a home for its third middle school. If memory serves, at issue was time—as in not having enough. Jennings thought it would have been better to begin the facilities plan anew—with all the accompanying citing, zoning and environmental review headaches—rather than help the city school district find a new place to cite its third middle school. Huh? Uh, Jerry, you’re a retired education administrator. Stick to public works projects—they seem to be right up your alley.

Best Candidates for a Coup in the Capital Region

Troy City School District Administration

Years of poor financial decision making came to a head this year for the Troy City School District when Gov. Pataki issued a barebones budget rife with cuts to public-school funding. The school board offered Troy taxpayers a 37-percent tax increase, which was resoundingly defeated by 86 percent of voters, and the board relied on Uncle Joe Bruno for a bailout—again!

Best Local Politician

Albany Alderman Dominick Calsolaro (Ward 1)

Dominick Calsolaro, who represents Albany’s South End, is an old-school politician who takes his public service seriously and wears his heart on his sleeve. Calsolaro puts the interests of his constituents before his politics, even when doing so means losing control of whatever it is he’s trying to accomplish—like the gun violence task force and the resolution opposing the Patriot Act. Both ideas were co-opted by others before coming to light in the Common Council, but we remember with whom they started.

Best Community Activist

Erin O’Brien, Women Against War, The Women’s Building

Erin O’Brien has been very busy this year—organizing the protests at Crossgates Mall after the T-shirt arrests, participating in the Fast for Peace, maintaining the Women’s Building, attending the international peace and justice conference in Chicago and planning for a local event. Whew. There are surely a number of other things we’ve missed, but we’re sure she’s on top on them.

Best Way to Make John Ashcroft’s Shit List

Hang Out at 98 Grand St. in Albany

This is the home of the Ironweed Collective, Albany’s autonomous community of resistance working to end empire by practicing self-reliance and grassroots activism. The Collective hosts activities ranging from self- sustainability workshops and discussions on the practicality of anarchism to Mumia potlucks and stitch & bitch sessions. If the FBI, INS, CIA and DOJ haven’t placed taps on their place yet, it won’t be too much longer.

Best Pale Imitation of South Miami Beach

North Pearl Street, Albany

Fake tans, fake boobs, fake attitude, and tricked-out cars cruising real slow. . . . In Albany’s version of Guys’n’Girls Gone Wild, bar-fortified Pearl Street at night crawls with would-be players strutting their stuff (whether they got the stuff or not). Our only question is, how can you walk in those things after four cosmopolitans?

Best Hook-Up Bar

Mad River
86 N. Pearl St., Albany

Itching to get your freak on? Head down to Mad River, where you’ll find mini-skirts, leather and barely-there tops, and where patrons can get pretty nasty on the dance floor. At Mad River the bartenders not only get in on the action, they are a main attraction as they dance, flirt and entertain their guests while keeping everyone in the booze. Ready to take the party upstairs? This multilevel club has an additional dance floor and bar surrounded by cushy velvet couches—perfect for PDA’s that are entirely acceptable in this hot nightspot. If you can’t hook-up here, the problem isn’t the club!

Best Dive bar

Hughes Tavern
Yates Street, Albany

Dim lighting and dark furniture? Check. Ridiculously cheap drinks? Check. Bartenders happy to ease your transition from sober to staggering? Check. Whether you’re one of the regulars or a first-time visitor, the drinks are always strong, and the next round is there before you realize you need it. Simplicity is the key, so if you’re in the mood to distance yourself from the trendy masses, just pull up a seat at the bar. There’s a jukebox filled with songs you’ll recognize, and fried food that you won’t. It’s not a dance club, a martini lounge, or a wine bar—it’s a dive bar, and it’s a damn good one.

Best Gay Bar

Oh Bar
304 Lark St., Albany

Whether you’re being subjected to the latest from Britney Spears or a heartwrenching ballad from Les Miserables, “fairaoke” at Oh Bar can’t be beat on any given Thursday. Almost as colorful as the drinks is the array of clientele: You’ll see gay men, women, cross-dressers, heteros and metrosexuals all joining together to enjoy the laid-back ambience.

Best Place to get Hammered Without Ordering a Single Drink

Lionheart
448 Madison Ave., Albany

If you’re a regular and Susie knows you, all you have to do is walk in to the Lionheart and stand by the bar and voilá! Your beer of choice is in front of you in 5.2 seconds (OK, so we didn’t really time it, but you get the idea). Susie has the memory of an elephant, and if you order the same drink from her a couple times, she’s got it down. It always makes us feel special when all we have to do is catch her eye and she just knows.

Best Strip Club

DiCarlo’s
1165 Central Ave., Colonie

Yeah we know, your friends dragged you there, they have very good lunches, you were entertaining an out-of-town client—we’ve heard them all. But the reality is Sal DiCarlo has assembled an incredible cast of strippers, er, exotic entertainers, and we all like going there. The place is clean, the sound system is killer and the atmosphere is pleasant. So go get yourself some singles and stop making excuses. I wonder when that client is coming back to town?


Readers Poll Results:

Best Bar

1. Troy Pub & Brewery

2. Bayou Café Downtown

Best Gay Bar

1. Oh Bar

2. Ferry St. Pub

Best Bartender

1. Tim White - Ferry St. Pub

2. Chris Ryan - Troy Pub & Brewery

Best Overall Waitstaff

1. Olive Garden

2. Jack's Oyster House

Best Server

1. Becky Weller - Olive Garden

2. Katie Lurie - Larkin

Frank Silvaggio - Plum Blossom (tie)

best Day Trip

1. NYC

2. Lake George

Best Park

1. Washington Park

2. Thacher Park

Best Playground

1. Central Park

2. Voorheesville Elementary

Washington Park (tie)

Best Place to have a cigarette

1. A Bar

2. Outside

Best Local celebrity (got out)

1. Chris (Kapostasy) Jansen

2. David Hyde Pierce

Best Local celebrity (still here)

1. William Kennedy

2. Melanie Krahmer (Sirsy)

Joe Mele (tie)

Best Public Official

1. Jerry Jennings

2. Jack McEneny

Best Citizen Advocate

1. Alice Green

2. Alan Chartok

Henry Malbey (tie)

Best Animal Advocate

1. Steve Caporizzo

2. Whiskers

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