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Top 10 Best, Not to Be Missed Things to Do in Albany: Labor Day Weekend Edition

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Top 10 Things to Do in Albany Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day Weekend Events in Albany (2011)

Come Labor Day there are a few absolutes: the holiday always falls on the first Monday in September; the fashion savvy will allow white bottoms to be worn one last time, and it’s an end of summer free-for-all featuring BBQing, beer and burgers. According to AAA, fewer Americans will travel over the Labor Day weekend than last year due to fuel prices and the weak economy. There’s no need to go much farther than your own backyard anyway because this Labor Day Weekend the Capital Region is buzzing with end of summer excitement. Here’s our picks for the Top 10 Best, Not to Be Missed Things to Do in Albany for Labor Day Weekend.

1. Holiday Monday at The Albany Institute of History and Art

Another absolute of Labor Day – aside from car dealerships, mattress stores and other necessities, everything else is usually closed in observance. However, you should visit the Albany Institute of History and Art on Labor Day just because you can. This really is a special occasion, because the AIHA is never even open on Mondays. Take your sweet time, enjoying your day off from work checking out the Institute’s various exhibits including A Gather of Glass, Why a Parker F. Dunn Memorial Bridge?, the recently opened First in the Hearts of His Countrymen: George Washington and Medical Matters: Albany and the Civil War. Admission is $10 and holiday hours are from 10am to 5pm. Visit for exhibit info and more.

2. Capital District Scottish Games

Scottish GamesThe Capital District Scottish Games are an annual Labor Day weekend tradition. Held at the Altamont Fairgrounds, the Games are two days of purely Scot-fun featuring Highland dancing and sports (such as Caber Tossing), Scottie-dog, sheep and horse exhibitions, a beer tent with plenty of authentic food and Massed Bands featuring 500 pipers and 200 drummers. There will also be demonstrations and talks on various aspects of Scottish culture and a genealogy tent for those interested. The Games run September 3 and 4; tickets are $18 for Saturday and $10 for Sunday. Check out the full event info and schedule of events at

3. Chris Tucker at The Palace Theater

Chris Tucker is one of those actors who have well made their rounds through Hollywood. I guess you could say he’s best known for partnering up with Jackie Chan in the Rush Hour movies, or would you say Smokey in the first Friday movie? Either way, by industry standards he’s had quite a career. Tucker first appeared on screen in House Party 3 (who could forget that one?), was a frequent performer on Def Comedy Jam and co-starred with Charlie Sheen in Money Talks and appeared alongside Bruce Willis in The Fifth Element. Consistently funny, Tucker has returned to his comedic roots and will be performing an evening of stand up at The Palace Theater on Saturday night, September 3 at 7:30pm; ticket prices vary. Visit for more info.

4. Labor Day Weekend BBQ at the Track

The Labor Day Weekend BBQ is beginning to become its own end of summer tradition. Held at Saratoga Race Course for the past few years, the celebration doesn’t get more all-American than this. For $24 ($14 for kids 3-12), fans can enjoy one last hoorah at the track with hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, salad, dessert and more at the track’s At the Rail tent. The weekend’s festivities will also include a Family Fun Celebration in addition to the Labor Day Festivities. Gates open at 11am on Sunday and Monday (September 4-5), and yes, the barbeque runs two days. Visit for more info or call 584-6200.

5. Bennington Garlic Fest

Bennington Garlic Festival. Photo by Carbon NYCBennington, VT may not be a part of the Capital Region, but a trip to the Green Mountains is closer than you think. If you’re looking to get away this Labor Day Weekend head to Bennington’s Camelot Village, which is only an hour east of Albany. The antiques/crafts/shopping center will be hosting their 16th annual Southern Vermont Garlic & Herb Festival. There have been many festivals this summer, but I’ve got to say, I’m most excited about this one. Garlic is by far my favorite herb; it tastes amazing in everything and has powerful healing properties to boot. I can’t think of anything I wouldn’t put garlic in, except I’m a little weary of the garlic ice cream that will be at the festival. The festival runs from 10am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday (September 3-4) and will feature more than 145 garlic and herb vendors, weed walks, herbal products, garlic food galore, demonstrations of garlic crafts and cooking and of course, live music. Visit for full festival info.

6. Carnival of Madness 2011

It’s going to be a hard rock and roll circus Wednesday night, August 31 at the Times Union Center. Carnival of Madness has been a headbanger’s dream come true with its affordable pricing and solid lineup. After last year’s wildly popular inaugural run, the highly anticipated tour returns to Albany. There have been a lot of concerts and music festivals I wanted to go to this summer but couldn’t because they were just too damn expensive. The Carnival’s creator, Bill McGathy, acknowledged the state of the economy (and ticket prices) at the beginning of the tour and wanted to make sure that all who wanted to attend could.  For $13 ($10+ charges) you can see this year’s headliners Theory of a Deadman with Alter Bridge, Black Stone Cherry, Adelitas Way and Emphatic. Looks like a great lineup for a great price. Get this one last summer concert in, which starts at 8pm. Visit for tickets and more info.

7. BoardedUP

The idea for BoardedUP was simple – utilize the boarded-up windows on the long-abandoned St. Anthony’s Church for a public art exhibition. A part of 1st Friday, the community and area artists will get together for a night including an auction of the paintings with free food, live music and a cash bar. All proceeds will benefit rehabilitating the Grand Street Community Arts Building. The fun starts at 5pm at Grand Street Community Arts (corner of Madison and Grand in Albany). For more information on the art work and the event, visit or call 518-463-2222.

8, 9, 10. County Fairs

County FairA big bittersweet sigh for these county fairs because just like Labor Day, they always seem to signify the end of summer. With the Altamont and Washington County Fairs under our belt, the Schaghticoke, Columbia County and Fonda fairs are here just in time for Labor Day Weekend festivities.

All three fairs run through Labor Day. The Schaghticoke Fair will celebrate its 192nd year of being a showcase for the best that Rensselaer County residents and agriculture have to offer including produce, animals, antiques, baked goods and homemade crafts, at the 3rd Oldest Fair in New York. The fairgrounds are located at 69 Stillwater Bridge Road (Rtes. 67 & 40) and the fair runs from August 31st-September 5th. Opening day admission is $5, with a $10 general admission rest of the fair or you can get a (6-day) Season Pass for $30. For fair hours and further info visit

The Columbia County Fair in Chatham encourages attendees to be a kid again during these last days of summer. Always jam packed with live music and entertainment, you can get down and dirty in the Demolition Derbies, Monster Tractor Pulls and the Painted Pony Rodeo. The music lineup is looking good with country band Gloriana, the Beatles tribute band “1964-The Tribute”, The Reverberators, the Pittsfield Four Barbershop Quartet and Columbia County’s very own talent show Columbia’s Got Talent. The fair runs from August 31st-September 5th. Admission is $10 at the fair gate (except on Sunday when tickets are $12). For hours and further info visit

The Fonda Fair presents its main attraction on Saturday night September 3rd with a performance by Kellie Pickler, who gained fame during Season 5 of “American Idol” and has since become a popular country singer and TV personality. Running from August 30 to September 5th, the Fonda Fair will feature 4H Exhibits, a horse show, plenty of events for kids and cars, motorcycles, cars and more cars. General Admission is $10. For fair hours and further info visit

Have a fun and safe Labor Day! See you next week!

–Aubree Cutkomp 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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