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Top 10 Things to Do for the Holidays in Albany & the Capital Region

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Top 10 Things to Do for the Holidays in Albany & the Capital Region 2011

Holiday Events: Holiday Season Gets Underway in Albany, Troy & Schenectady

Albany and the Capital Region are gearing up for the holidays. Even before the first slice of turkey, the streets are adorned with Christmas lights and wreaths, stockings are hung by the chimney with care, and plenty of parties will get underway. Among the events to look forward to are several craft fairs, live music, a benefit for rescue animals, a plethora of chocolate and the lighting of the Albany Christmas Tree. Here are the Top 10 Things to do for the Holidays in Albany.

Albany Christmas Tree. Courtesy NY.Gov1. Empire State Plaza Holiday Tree Lighting and Fireworks Festival

It isn’t officially Christmas until the tree is lit. On Sunday December 4th, Empire State Plaza will ring in the season with the Holiday Tree Lighting and Fireworks Festival. From 1pm-6pm, the Plaza will become a winter wonderland featuring a variety of activities, including live music by the Troy Children’s Chorus, holiday card making workshops, a marketplace featuring many gifts, an appearance by Santa all to be topped off with an elaborate fireworks display. Admission is free. Call 518-474-0460 for more information.

2. St. Petersburg Men’s Ensemble

Traditional choral music is synonymous with the holidays. Since 2003, the St. Petersburg Men’s Ensemble has a vast repertoire ranging from ancient Russian chants and chorals of Western Europe, with a particular emphasis on Russian music, including folk songs and religious compositions. They’ve toured throughout the world to rave reviews, and they’ll be coming to the Russian Orthodox Community Center in Albany on Sunday, December 4th at 1:30pm. There is a suggested donation of $10. Call 518-869-3932 for further details.

3. Gift Fair and Family Festival at AIHA

From Friday, November 25th through Sunday, the 27th the Albany Institute of History & Art will be decked in holiday splendor as the Gift Fair and Family Festival will get underway. The work of more than 50 local jewelers, craftspeople and artists, including Addie’s Trinkets, Brunhilde Miller, Grace and Carolyn Designs, Primary Silk Creations, and the Tamohara Collection will be on display throughout the museum, giving visitors an early start in getting their Christmas gifts.  The Family Festival will feature a Lego Building Challenge where individuals, partners, and teams of all ages can create their own interpretation of Albany’s Architecture.  There will also be book signings by children’s author Linda Elovitz Marshall, novelist Jan Marin Tramontano and historian Robert M. Toole during the festival. Admission is free. Visit for more details.

A Charlie Brown Christmas4. It’s a Jazzy Christmas!

Remember that cool, jazzy music from A Charlie Brown Christmas? Well, we have Vince Guaraldi to thank for it. A highly respected Grammy Award winning jazz pianist and composer, Guaraldi recorded numerous albums from the 1950s until his death in 1976, yet his score for that legendary 1965 TV special remains his most popular recording. The Peanuts Gallery Jazz Trio will be performing selections from Guaraldi’s entire catalog, including A Charlie Brown Christmas at the Massry Center for the Arts on Friday, December 2nd at 7pm. One of the most beloved Christmas specials, this concert will be a fun way to celebrate the holidays for children of all ages. Tickets are $20, $10 for Students and free for children under 6. Visit for more information.

5. The Animal Support Project Holiday Happening Vendor Fair & Silent Auction

A local all-volunteer animal rescue organization, The Animal Support Project, has assisted companion animals and their owners through many natural disasters, including Hurricane Katrina. The ASP is hosting their second annual Holiday Happening, which will include a vendor fair and silent auction featuring local craftspeople, a wine tasting and a book signing by local author and illustrator team, Jimmy Badavino and Christie Colangione-B, authors of The Santa Clock and That’s Why They’re Called Punkins. The fun takes place on Saturday, November 26th, 1pm-5pm at The Carousel Ballrooms at Sterup Square in Troy. Call 518-663-8199 for more information.

A Detail from the AIDS Quilt. Courtesy KUNC6. World AIDS Day 2011

World AIDS Day is December 1st. In honor of the millions who have been affected by AIDS, including more than 191,000 New Yorkers who have been diagnosed with AIDS and more than 127,000 individuals are currently living with HIV/AIDS in New York State alone, a display of panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center from Tuesday, November 29th through Thursday December 1st. Weighing an approximate 54 tons, the AIDS Memorial Quilt was created as a memorial to those who have died of AIDS-related causes; it is the largest piece of community folk art in the world. Events include an Opening Ceremony, followed by a symbolic unfolding of the Quilt Display at the Convention Center on Tuesday, November 29th at 9am. The Quilt will continue to be on display through December 1st. All events are free. Call 518-473-8459 for more information.

7. The Addams Family at Proctors

Based on Charles Addams’ cartoon sketches which first appeared in The New Yorker in 1938 and eventually evolving into the beloved 1960s TV show and movies, Gomez, Morticia and Uncle Fester are coming to the stage as the touring company of The Addams Family makes a stop at Proctors in Schenectady for a limited run from November 29th-December 4th. Goofy, ghoulish and macabre and retaining much of the spirit of Addams’ original cartoons, the musical opened on Broadway in April 2010, starring Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth, both of whom were replaced during the run by Roger Rees and Brooke Shields. Tickets range in price. Visit for more information.

Alice Cooper8. Alice Cooper at the Palace Theatre

Here’s a different twist on Christmas (or would it be a twisted Christmas)–yes we know, it’s not necessarily holiday fare, but it is worth seeing all the same. Since the late 60s, the highly engaging and personable Alice Cooper, known for such classics as “I’m Eighteen,” “Schools Out,” and “Welcome to My Nightmare,” has incorporated comical elements of carnage into his elaborate stage shows, that owe a great debt to classic horror films. Heavily influenced by the British Invasion, Cooper has drawn accolades from a diverse group of artists such as Groucho Marx, Mae West, Salvador Dali, The Flaming Lips, They Might Be Giants, Liza Minnelli and Bob Dylan. Recently inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Alice will be bringing his No More Mr. Nice Guy tour to the Palace Theatre just in time for the holidays on Wednesday, November 30 at 8pm. Tickets range from $24.50 -$54.50. Visit for more information.

9. 6th Annual NYSM Chocolate Expo & Holiday Gift Market

Nothing says ‘holiday’ more than chocolate, and the New York State Museum is starting the holiday season with an abundance of it. On Sunday December 4th, you can enjoy the finest chocolates, desserts, specialty foods, and holiday gifts the region has to offer at the Chocolate Expo & Holiday Gift Market. Items such as handmade bath products, jewelry and art will be on sale, but the real highlight is the We Do Fondue chocolate dipping fountains, which will be hard to drag yourself away from. The Expo runs from 11am-4:30pm. Tickets are $3; children 12 & under get in for free. Visit for more information.

10. Cohoes Holiday Craft Fairs

Get a head start on your holiday gift shopping with two craft fairs in Cohoes, featuring unique handmade gifts by a variety of skilled artisans, both taking place on November 26th from 10am-4pm. The first is at the old Woolworth’s at 130 Remsen Street, with the second taking place at the Cohoes-Waterford Elks Lodge at 45 North Mohawk Street. Call 518-376-1432 for more details.

Dave Bower is Co-Publisher of 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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