The Top 10 Coolest Shops in the Capital Region
Fun Shops and Shopping in Albany & the Capital Region
Capital Region’s Coolest Stores: Quirky Stuff, Clothes, Books, Games and Computers
In Upstate New York, we have chain retail stores coming out our ears, restaurants of varying quality, and the same old, same old everything right in front of our faces. But search a little more, and we’ve got some really neat, unique options for shopping. Stores for hobbies, gifts, and clothes can be more than big business. The vintage, the underground, the indie—these are the top ten coolest shops in Albany & the Capital Region.
Located in the Clifton Park Center, this is by far one of the quirkiest shops I’ve ever been in. Yet I’ve never been anywhere that while looking at each shelf, I thought I could find presents for all the members of my family. We’re a weird bunch, so the medley of odd books and gag gifts is perfect. Places like ta da! are hard to come by, so if you like zombies, bacon, witty comedy, or mind puzzles, this is the place to head. I don’t know how well the word “cool” describes this shop, but it is certainly not your dime-a-dozen gift shop. 22 Clifton Country Road, Clifton Park
Plato’s is a chain of stores that sells gently used name brand clothing and accessories for both men and women. In the Capital Region, there are two locations, one in Schenectady and one in Albany. I think it’s really neat to get stylish clothes at a reduced cost, especially if what you’re looking for isn’t found at your local Salvation Army or other thrift shop. Crosstown Plaza in Schenectady or Central Ave in Albany
Whether you’re a professional artist of just dabbling, Arlene’s is the go-to place for supplies. Paints, frames, brushes, pens, film, canvas–this place has it all, and it’s huge (spanning 10,000 sq ft). The store has been in its current location since 1974 and is still as inviting as it used to be. They also have a gift shop section that sells specialty journals, prints, and art novelties for those of us who love art but admittedly lack artistic skills. 57 Fuller Rd, Albany
Hobbies come in all shapes and sizes, so here’s one for the gaming lovers. Figurines for war-gaming, trading cards, and role-playing materials are all available here. And the cool part? After hours, the owner holds games and events for diehards to meet other players and practice their skills. If tournaments of Magic, Warhammer, Legend of the Five Rings (L5R), or Yu-Gi-Oh! sound appealing, this is the place to investigate. 4 South Western Ave., Queensbury
Used bookstores are hidden gems wherever they are, and different individuals enjoy different kinds. Some people like big, quiet places with obscure, dusty tomes, while others might like the well-lit family places. Dove & Hudson is a quaint place run by friendly and intelligent people. The books are higher-end than a lot of used stores while still being reasonable. They also buy books. 296 Hudson Ave, Albany
VanCurler’s is a sheet music and music novelty shop located on the bottom floor of the Proctor’s building. It carries everything from classical to classic rock and top forty. You can even find the music from your favorite soundtrack! What makes it cool is its environment; it is surrounded by the Proctor’s gift shops and theatrical atmosphere. It’s one thing to find sheet music, but it’s another to be immersed in the music. 432 State Street, Schenectady (in Proctor’s Theatre)
7. La Moda Lisa
This consignment shop is full of little surprises. It’s a combination boutique, antique shop, and formalwear store. It carries a unique hodgepodge of items in which you might find what you’re looking for, or you might find something completely different. This is an absolute must-visit for you vintage lovers. 160 Saratoga Rd/Route 50, Glenville
For kids, customizing a favorite stuffed animal sounds like a dream. Heck, it sounds like a dream to me! Build-A-Bear is known for the way you can stuff and dress your own animal (not just bears) and tuck a small cloth heart inside. And while there is more than one Build-A-Bear Workshop, the closest one in the Capital Region is at Crossgates Mall. 1 Crossgates Mall Rd, Albany
This venue lets you purchase and then craft! Stuyvesant Plaza is full of neat stores; The Pottery Place is just one among many. It’s a standout because it’s a hands-on opportunity, where you can decorate your pottery with provided paints in their studio. The owner hosts school groups, programs, and parties. And now they do more than pottery painting—they do silver jewelry making. 1475 Western Ave, Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany
10. Wit’s End
My mother always drags me here for the holidays to get decorations. It’s a classy and one-of-a-kind gift shop with trinkets and novelties. With candles, linens, and fancy crystal, it’s not a Christmas Tree Shop. Their seasonal collection is vast, which is why I’m normally there, but there are also collectables and toys for kids. Wit’s End was also mentioned in a jewelry ad in Harper’s Bazaar magazine. 1762 Route 9, Parkwood Plaza, Clifton Park
Nothing says “cool” like sleek new technology, and Apple has a steady supply of that. Products are certainly not limited to the Capital Region, but if you’re looking for hands-on access and tutorials with Mac “geniuses,” Albany holds the closest store. Unless you want to travel to Connecticut or Massachusetts, Apple’s Crossgates Mall location is the place to be. It’s frequently swarming, if only just because everyone wants the opportunity to test out the newest gadgets. Visitors can test and buy products, ask questions, or get repairs from this store. Crossgates Mall in Albany
–Kate Smith 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 City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.
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