Do you want quiet seclusion? Bustling city life and high energy? A little of both?
While the most commonly known cities and towns—Albany, Schenectady, Troy, or Saratoga Springs—are often top of mind, there are smaller neighborhoods and towns sprinkled throughout the region with historic charm and a tangible energy brewing for what’s to come.
Neighborhoods and Towns With Fresh Energy
In CapNY, there are multiple options among these up-and-coming neighborhoods and towns to create the lifestyle you’re looking for. These places are appealing for easy access to the urban centers in the Capital Region, as well as trains and planes. They offer a range of housing options, walkability, river views and mountain highs.
CapNY has no shortage of cities along the Hudson River, and Watervliet is first on our list. This city is known for The Watervliet Arsenal, the oldest continuously active arsenal in the United States. Amy Zawistowski is a marketing professional who moved back to the region after working in the city. Wanting to be closer to family, she found the Arsenal City is a great place to settle down. “It’s laid out in an urban way. Where I live, Walgreens is close by, Price Chopper is walkable. I can walk to the liquor store. I lived in New York City, so I walk whenever I can,” she said.
Zawistowski first lived in other CapNY locations when she moved back to the region. Now she says the convenience of Watervliet is unmatched. “It’s very centrally located,” she said. “With the highway right here, both alternate 7 and 787, I don’t have to go out of my way to get anything.”
The cost of living is reasonable and there are many newer apartment complexes available. More apartments are underway, like The Tilley Lofts and Fenimore Trace apartments. Plus, there are plenty of multi-family homes regularly available throughout the city. Rents are typically under or just over $1,000.
It’s All About Food
If you love food, there’s no better reason to consider this small city. “Schuyler Bakery is amazing. They have the best glazed donuts on the planet,” she said. For more square meals, there are some great options. Enjoy breakfast any time of day (or night!) at Bob’s Diner, wings and beer at the Black Bear Inn, pizza at the Purple Pub, or seafood and pasta at Deacon Blues. To work up an appetite, take a bike ride along the Mohawk Hudson trail. Watervliet has a great parking area to access the trail. Smaller pocket parks are tucked throughout the city.
Cohoes, nicknamed “The Spindle City” for its history as a textile mill town, is in the midst of a renaissance. In the past few years, state grant money has fueled citywide infrastructure improvements. As a result, a host of new businesses have set up along the main drag, Remsen Street, and elsewhere throughout the city. Downtown has everything you need, from great food at Cafe Monocle, sweets at Cake Street Sweets, pub food at Table 41 Brewing, and unique libations at Bye I Brewing. There’s shopping at the Remsen Street Flea Market, unique gifts and pharmacy items at Marra’s Pharmacy, and close proximity to Route 9 and the Northway for travel and other needs. Young residents find the small city–population 16,000–to be friendly, lively, and affordable with rents ranging from about $800 to $1,500 for a more luxe space.
“From my neighborhood, downtown is very walkable. It was especially great pre-Covid, when they did concerts downtown. I find Cohoes to be affordable and we are growing in the business department. We have a few really good restaurants and new ones coming. As a community I find something happens the whole city seems to rally around each other. We are small enough to do that,” said resident Erin Roditi, an insurance writer. “My favorite thing to do was walk downtown on a Friday for drinks. Cafe Monocle has great cocktails and they do brunch. Table 41 is really good too. They are a brewery and have decent beer and food. That’s probably my new favorite place. I really like just walking around. There is also a short bike path that is especially nice in the spring and summer.”
Scotia is just across the river from Schenectady, and this little village has all you need. The main street, Mohawk Avenue, has a family owned grocery store, a locally owned movie theater, a coffee shop (Storied Coffee), a taproom, and more. “We have a lot of great little shops and things that make us unique. We have great restaurants. It’s a nice little walk going down Mohawk Avenue,” said Cathy Gatta, a Scotia resident who frequently works with the downtown business improvement district.
The village has been noticed for its charm by some key players, too. Gabriel’s Supermarket was recently used as a filming location for Amazon Prime’s Modern Love series. Locally owned businesses with great selections are a big draw of the village, she said. “You hardly need to leave Mohawk Avenue to get everything you need,” she said. “It’s walkable, you go to dinner, a movie, get a coffee. It’s a nice night.”
The Scotia Cinema is known for its affordable prices and old-time feel. You can see a movie there for just a few bucks (yes, really). “I can take my family to the movies for about $25, that includes soda and popcorn!” Gatta said. Scotia is home to Collins Park and Jumpin’ Jacks’ Drive In, which offers great food and free concerts, fireworks, and other entertainment in the summer months. There are many options for living spaces as well. There’s luxury apartments, like Scotia Manor, with accessibility to all businesses on Mohawk Avenue and the neighborhoods offer a fantastic community feel too.
The village of Round Lake is a step back in time. The Victorian-style homes are often referred to as “gingerbread houses” for their quirky design elements. The homes are close together and many families have lived there for generations. Younger folks are also moving in, especially those interested in an older home in a unique setting. The village has a library, post office, restaurants, and other businesses, and no big box retail or commercial development. “I liken Round Lake to a tiny city. The houses are close together. There are no high rises, no one is tucked away,” said Kim Sheridan, resident and owner of The Quiet Woods jewelry. “The village of Round Lake has a quality that I haven’t seen or experienced before in my lifetime.”
A Patchwork Community
Sheridan left New York City in search of a slower pace of life. It’s been a great place to grow closer to her family, enjoy a balanced life creating her crafts, and slowing down overall. “I really believe the proximity of the houses is integral to the way the residents interact. I sort of liken the village to a giant quilt with many pieces stitched together. Many families go back generations,” she said. “New families come in and they become part of the quilt. We’re supporting each other, we’re very tight knit in that way.”
The lake itself is a popular place for recreation in the winter and summer. The Zim Smith trail has an entrance right in the village. “It’s a thoroughfare now. I see bikers, snowmobilers, it’s just out my window. Having proximity to nature is really nice,” said Sheridan. “People are out there all winter playing hockey. There are ice huts. And a lot of kayaks in the summer.” Bikers and runners are drawn to the 8.9 mile trail. Visitors often stop at Leah’s Cakery, a bakery that’s also something of a community hub. Rents are often between $900 and $1,200. Round Lake, and much of Saratoga County has a real estate market with reasonably priced homes that you can make your own. Here’s one of those fantastic Victorians!
If you’re looking to live near nature, the arts, and great eats, Glens Falls is the place. It’s about 40 minutes from Albany and only 20 from Saratoga Springs, and there’s plenty to do in the bustling downtown. This northern city sits on the edge of the Adirondack Park, making it easy to take day trips to complete your list of climbing all 46 High Peaks. Glens Falls is just a few miles from Lake George, Lake Luzerne, and other bodies of water for summer fun.
Downtown has plenty of cool restaurants and shops. A few years back, two brothers-in-law launched Mean Max Brew Works after several years of home brewing. The brewery and taproom has a massive emphasis on community. Though Mean Max doesn’t have a kitchen, they do encourage people to take out from any of the nearby restaurants then grab a drink and a seat.
“Glens Falls is a great community. People are supportive of local, small businesses and value independent shops, restaurants, and taprooms! We love being close to the Adirondacks and all the outdoor adventures they offer,” said Jill Walls of Mean Max. “Importantly, it’s a small city but it has museums, theaters and other cultural opportunities that make it a perfect fit for us. In the era of COVID, we have been blessed by the support of our customers and partnering with local restaurants to create unique partnerships to help each other keep the doors open.”
Big-City Cultural Draws
The arts scene in Glens Falls is a draw. There are great spaces like the Hyde Collection which features work from, Rembrandt, Rubens, Degas, Renoir, Picasso, and Homer. Glens Falls is home to the Adirondack Theatre Festival.
With state money invested into the city, the best is yet to come. The city was the recipient of a $10 million grant through the NY State Downtown Revitalization Initiative which will focus on rehabbing buildings for housing, supporting the arts, and improving connections to trails. The website Budget Travel ranked Glens Falls as one of the top 10 “Coolest Small Towns in America.” Without question, cost of living is reasonable in this north country city. Apartments range from $600-$1,000, making it more within reach to live on your own or incredibly affordable for roommates.
Written by: Lauren Mineau
Lauren Mineau is a marketing and communications professional with a passion for highlighting the places, spaces, and people that make upstate New York a great place to be. Her experience in local news, B2B marketing, and higher education, ignited her passion for telling stories of things people are curious about. In her spare time, you can find her searching for the perfect iced coffee, juggling five craft projects at a time, or cracking the perfect pun.