With a population hovering around 50,000 Oregonians, Albany is one of the twenty most populous cities in the state. Named in honor of Albany, New York, the Oregon counterpart has the largest variety of historical buildings in the state. A river-town with slow-paced hometown charm, Albany has managed to incorporate all of the “big-city” amenities without losing its identity.
If you’re visiting Albany for the first time, a great place to get a feel for the city is the downtown district located between 9th Avenue and the Willamette River. And if you visit between June 13 and August 31, make sure and swing by the Albany Visitor’s Association (110 3rd Avenue SE) for a copy of the Kids Summer Passport Program. This year’s theme is Journey to the Center of Albany and is intended to get kids out of the house and into the community.
I spent an afternoon in Albany recently, and here are a few ideas to get you planning your own Albany itinerary:
A popular fourth-grade school field trip destination, the Monteith House was built in 1849 by Walter and Thomas Monteith, brothers and original founders of the city of Albany. Many consider the Monteith the most-authentically restored Pioneer Era home in Oregon.
In the summer months, the general public can tour the home between the hours of noon and 4PM, Wednesday through Sunday. Volunteer docents offer tours and answer questions about the people who came to the Willamette Valley on the Oregon trail.
Originally running a general store out of the home’s first floor, many of the items are available to touch and feel (including the toys pioneer children used when they were not busy doing chores). The parlor and upstairs bedrooms contain many artifacts donated by the Monteith family.
Not your average burger joint, First Burger sources its ingredients locally. The burgers are hand-formed using USDA choice Oregon-raised beef that is ground daily at the restaurant. The fries are hand-cut from potatoes and never frozen. Old-fashioned shakes and malts range from traditional chocolate and vanilla to strawberry, peach, and tripleberry. If you don’t like beef, try the buffalo or vegetarian options.
A venue your kids will be sure to love, kids menu prices are $4.50 for a little burger, chicken fingers, or grilled cheese (all kids meals are served with apple slices, fries, and a choice between applesauce and milk).
Historic Carousel & Museum
A smallish museum containing carousel artifacts donated by the Dentzel family, the Historic Carousel & Museum building is more of a workspace for the construction of the future Albany Carousel. Using funds raised by the community, volunteers are hand-carving and meticulously paining the animals and chariots to be installed permanently on a carousel housed in a state-of-the-art building located at the same address. Read more about the Albany Carousel project in this story.
Albany’s one-screen independent movie theater, The Pix should be near the top of your Albany bucket list. To begin, the theater makes fresh-popped popcorn using gourmet mammoth mushroom kernels. All concessions are affordable and include fun additions like frozen bananas dipped in chocolate and topped with rainbow sprinkles. Mom and dad can order local beer and wine and on special occasions the theatre partners with nearby Sybaris Bistro to bring in themed meals.
Unless reserved, moviegoers are welcome to sit in the comfy couch and chairs located at the back of the theatre (first-come-first-serve). Just for fun, a disco ball spins at the end of each children’s movie as guests make their way back out to the lobby.
Albany Regional Museum
A free (donations appreciated) museum located in the heart of the historic downtown, the Albany Regional Museum operates with a mission to preserve, exhibit, and encourage knowledge of the history and culture of the Albany, Oregon area. As a way to engage kids and adults in exploring the various exhibits, museum staff has created “I Spy” and “History Detective” games; both are available at the front desk.
COOL! Pool at Swanson Park
Now open for the summer season the COOL! Pool is Albany’s community swimming pool. Featuring a zero-depth entry for the toddler crowd, older kids will love the 36-foot tall water slide and lazy river. Swanson park also has a small playground next to a large grassy lawn.
Just eight blocks from downtown, the Albany Amtrak Station is the second (or second-to-last) stop on the Cascades line. Oftentimes, Amtrak runs special deals and promotions, making the cost of a train ticket cheaper than the price of gasoline (and what kid wouldn’t both love and remember their first train ride to Albany).