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By Land and By Sea: A Tour with Albany Aqua Ducks

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Albany Aqua Ducks Tour, Review

Albany Aqua Ducks TourFor a long time I wondered why in the world Albany, a place almost nobody comes to vacation, had an “Aqua Duck” Tour. It seems fitting in a place like Boston, where people actually go to visit for fun–the tour bus dips into the Charles River and travels around the historic city and everybody leaves happy. A similar tour in Albany, well, that sounded kind of like a half-baked idea. There isn’t much to see here. . .or is there?

I went on the Albany Aqua Ducks tour out of curiosity more than anything else. But as soon as the amphibious vehicle took off, it became clear that this tour would actually be pretty darn cool. I strapped my complimentary duck quacker around my neck and prepared for a great time.

For starters, the staff is top notch. Captain Rick, affectionately known as Captain Splash (more on that later), is a veteran of the coast guard, boasting early on how he’s been taking boats out on his own since he was 10. The comic interplay between him and the tour guide, Steve, is well worth the price of admission on its own. Thankfully, they struck the right balance between a lot of fun and nauseating when it came to duck puns.

Once the crew introduced themselves, we were off, pulling out of in front of the Albany Visitors Center and quickly turning into the first attraction of the tour, the Ten Broek Mansion and Millionaire’s Row, where wealthy aristocrats once lived in Albany. Right off the bat the tour guide’s knowledge of the history of the area both surprised and delighted me. Fortunately, it would be a sign of things to come.

From there, the tour took us down Pearl St., the main street in downtown Albany, and up State St., leading to the Capitol Building. After getting a good gist of downtown for out-of-towners and locals alike, we shimmied over to Lark St., the cultural hub of the area, and through to Washington Park. It was a beautiful day, and the tour route, which must have been meticulously planned, provided almost no downtime in between points of interest.

The tour then took us past the Governor’s Mansion, and eventually down to the Hudson. As the Captain and tour guide led on, the highlight of the tour was about to occur.

Once we got down to where the vehicle goes amphibious, we inched closer to the water. Captain Rick asked us, “are you ready to go in from here?” and I wasn’t quite sure what he was suggesting. Then he triumphantly asked us, “Are we chickens or are we ducks?” Met with a chorus of duck quacking children, he put the vehicle in the reverse to maximize the splashdown into the water. Captain Rick plowed the vehicle into the Hudson and took a little bow, “They don’t call me Captain Splash for nothing.”

The tour is split into halves, 45 minutes on land, 45 minutes in the water. While the portion of the trip on land is very interesting for locals and tourists alike, the marine part of the trip is kind of a snooze. At no fault of their own, the Aqua Duck staff could not make 45 minutes on the industrial Hudson an interesting experience. Apart from the splashdown, the ride on the water seemed more like just going through the motions than anything else. There was not much in the way of attractions, besides an old Destroyer Escort, the USS Slater.

All in all, though, it was a great time. The tour of downtown Albany is laden with rich, and importantly, interesting history and is a fun ride for kids and adults alike. The tour I was on was about 75% adults, which goes to show that cruising around town making duck noises is obviously suitable for all ages. In a stressful adult world, we could all benefit from a little light hearted fun on the Albany Aqua Ducks tour. As advertised, it was spec-quack-ular!

For more info on their tours, visit www.albanyaquaducks.com.

–Dan Long is an Assistant Editor for The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our new City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

Short URL: http://thefreegeorge.com/thefreegeorge/?p=13432

1 Comment for “By Land and By Sea: A Tour with Albany Aqua Ducks”

  1. I think the Aqua Ducks tour is a pretty cool idea. That said, I live in a neighborhood that they pass through and I constantly hear errors from the tour guides. For example, I heard them refer to my street as “the student ghetto” when the actual neighborhood made infamous by the Kegs & Eggs Riot in March is a half a mile west. And identifying the Washington Avenue Armory as the work of architect Phillip Hooker is a pretty big mistake since Hooker died about fifty years before the Armory was built! Those aren’t the only mistakes I’ve caught, just the first two that came to mind. So, while I love the idea of the Duck tours, I’m very leery of recommending them to out-of-town friends!

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