Touring the Byway
5 Days / 4 Nights | Gateway City: Albany, NY
Since you are starting this journey on the train, you’ll be arriving at the Rensselaer Train Station across the Hudson River from Albany. The Enterprise Car Rental office is right in the station. After you pick up your car, you’ll be headed for Albany, where you can spend a day exploring the major attractions: the New York State Capitol, Empire Plaza Art Collection, New York State Museum and the Albany Institute of History and Art. A second day, we’ve selected sites that enable you to explore locations that are more than 200 years old, to get you into the “period” mindset of the Mohawk Towpath and introduce you to that time in American history. After a Walking Tour of Historic Albany, explore the Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site, Ten Broeck Mansion, constructed in 1797, and Historic Chery Hill, another property of one of the area’s most prominent families, that tells the story of five generations who lived in the house.
On Day Three, you’ll be on your way to Cohoes and the Riverspark Cohoes Visitor Center, where you can begin with the 20 minute video, “A Day in the Life of Cohoes: 1882,” and learn about the Erie Canal lock system. From there, it’s on to Waterford, settled in 1633. Learn the history of this quaint little town at the Waterford Historical Museum and Cultural Center and right next door, visit Champlain Canal Lock 4, before taking the walking tour of Waterford with 29 stops featuring many original structures still standing from the Canal era.
View the Detailed Itinerary below to see the full route, which is complete with dining, shopping, and lodging recommendations!
General Philip J. Schuyler and his wife Catharine Van Rensselaer were descended from the original affluent powerful Dutch families who settled the region. Their home, which the family occupied from 1763-1804, originally situated on an 80-acre tract of land, was the site of military strategizing, political hobnobbing, elegant social affairs, and an active family life. The wedding of daughter Elizabeth Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton took place here in 1780. Tour the mansion and explore the exhibit in the Visitor Center.
Housed on the first floor of the historic Cohoes Music Hall, the visitor center features the “A Day in the Life of Cohoes: 1882”, complemented by exhibits including Cohoes Falls – A Short Story which recaps Cohoes Falls’ history from 20,000 BCE to the present, the Harmony Mill Power System, which shows how the Boydon turbines that supplied power to the machinery worked, Mill Work Audio Stories, 4-5 minute interviews with actual mill workers recorded in the 1970s, Lock 38, which shows how a canal boat moved through a lock, and the Canal Lock Experience, a hands on demonstration with four lock chambers.
When the beautiful 1830 Federal residence that now houses historic exhibits was scheduled for demolition, the Historical Society had it moved and transformed into a museum that parallels the history of the town with the story of the original owner. Hugh White, who owned a sawmill, flour mill, and cement works, served as Bank of Waterford President, a church trustee, and even three terms in the US Congress.
A short drive from downtown takes you to the beautiful park that surrounds the Waterford Flight Locks E-2 through E-6 which lift vessels 169 feet from the Hudson River to the Mohawk River to bypass Cohoes Falls. These five large locks replaced the original 16 locks it took to get through Cohoes on the original canal system. The panoramic views from the park are impressive.
This unique neighborhood is home to more than 40 pre-Revolutionary houses in architectural styles that include Dutch Colonial, Georgian, and Federal. It was New York’s first local historic district recognized 300 years after its founding, described by the the National Park Service as “the highest concentration of historic period homes in the country.” A walking tour of the district is offered by the Schenectady Historical Society.