Albany, New York, is an interesting city. It’s got a lot of history linked to major advances in technology and transportation like the telegraph, the first long-distance plane ride, and the first passenger rail road.
And of course there are all of the historic ties to the American Revolutionary War.
So when we visited, we wanted to get a taste of that history and chose the Renaissance Albany Hotel which sits at the site of the historic DeWitt Clinton Hotel and was reopened to the public in 2015 after a $48 million project.
In this review article, I’ll cover everything you need to know about the Renaissance Albany Hotel and give you a feel for what our experience was like.
Heading from DC to the White Mountains in New Hampshire, we wanted to break up the drive and to check out a new city in the process so Albany, New York, seemed like the perfect destination.
We chose the Renaissance Albany Hotel because we’ve had some memorable experiences in Renaissance hotels like the St. Pancras and this one looked like it would be an interesting way to spend some time in Albany.
We booked one night and utilized a Marriott suite night certificate to increase our upgrade odds. We got confirmation about five days prior to the stay that we had a confirmed upgrade and looked forward even more to the stay.
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Location overview: Downtown Albany
The Renaissance Albany Hotel is located right in the heart of Downtown Albany.
It’s within walking distance to the New York State Capitol which is one of the most beautiful and iconic capitol buildings I think I’ve ever seen.
You also have nearby attractions/sites like The Egg, Empire State Plaza, and the New York State Museum which I highly recommend. The hotel building is also connected to the Albany Capital Center so be sure to check if any events are taking place you’d be interested in.
If you’re a fan of history/Hamilton the Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site is not far away and it’s a really cool historic site to check out. You can actually tour the mansion but you need to book in advance by calling and making reservations.
We were only in town for one night so we didn’t have the chance to explore a lot of the city but overall Albany did seem like a city with a lot to offer in terms of architecture, museums, dining, shopping, and even surrounding nature/parks. I’d love to go back and see more.
It was fun exploring downtown for a day but we did run into a couple of people who were clearly drugged out of their mind. We never felt unsafe but it was pretty much the typical encounter with the homeless you might experience in a downtown area. So just be aware of what to expect.
Experiencing the history at check-in
We arrived around 1pm and were able to get early check-in no problem. The staff issued us a room key card that we would also use for in-and-out parking privileges from the parking garage attached to the rear of the building, making it easy to get around.
Upon entering the lobby, I was immediately impressed by the historic feel of the space, which dates back to 1927 when the hotel opened as the DeWitt Clinton Hotel.
With its close proximity to the capitol this hotel became known as the “Democrat’s Hotel” while the nearby Ten Eyck Hotel on North Pearl Street was known as the “Republican’s Hotel.” It’s reported that a lot of the legislative deals were made in this hotel.
The DeWitt hotel was converted in the 1970s into an assisted senior living facility and in the 1980s it was once again converted to a subsidized housing facility. But later in 2014 the property was purchased by Columbia Development and efforts began to restore the hotel to its original look.
Two interesting facts about the hotel:
- The architect of the original hotel, Kenneth Franzheim, has ties to my hometown of Houston which I didn’t expect.
- The first overnight guest was a feral black and white cat nicknamed DeWitt Clinton jr.
Sometimes it’s nice to have a departure from the usual look and feel of a modern hotel and to experience a hotel that feels a bit more connected to your destination. In this case, the hotel had been around since the 1920s and had a stately appearance but with a touch of glitz — a very different experience from your typical chain hotel.
The corner room
The corner room we were upgraded to on the 11th floor was a pretty impressive room that was extremely spacious — it’s essentially a junior suite just without any real partition. I never saw the room listed on the hotel’s website so I wonder if this is sort of a special room that is not explicitly advertised?
The rooms here definitely have a unique vibe with the decorative mineral green carpet, friar gray walls, and sparkly accents. When I first walked in, I honestly wasn’t a huge fan of the look but after spending some time in the room, it grew on me (the views certainly helped).
As soon as you enter the room there is an entry way with mood lighting where you’ll find a counter with a coffee maker, cups, and ice tray.
You also have a nice little mini-fridge underneath.
The bed was really comfy and all the bedding felt fresh. The padded headboard is pretty equipped with lamps on both sides along with some vertical mirrors and reading lights.
Behind the lamps you’ll find two power outlets along with USB ports for easy and convenient charging. Make sure you read our guide on using USB ports in hotels before you plug in your device!
Under the nightstand you can pull out a Bible or Book of Mormon, common materials to find in a Marriott hotel.
The layout is a little bit odd with the workstation in the middle of the room.
It’s still pretty nice (and good for dining) but I found it’s just a different vibe when you’re working in the middle of the room like that.
I really liked the modern touch lamp and contrasting carrot orange chair, even if it wasn’t the most comfortable chair.
I thought it was pretty cool to have a TV that can face the bed or swivel out to the opposite direction where the sofa is.
The sofa is actually a cool place to sit down and check out the view, which was nice to do around sunset.
There is a little cove that wraps around the room where you can find a full-length mirror and the room’s closet. It also has a nice view out the window.
Sliding doors open up to a modern and relatively spacious bathroom which was nice even though the counter space on the sink is pretty limited.
Bathroom amenities were issued by Aveda, which I did not have a lot of experience with but thought they were pretty high-quality.
The hotel’s hallways had some cool mood lighting that I thought was a nice modern twist on a historic building.
Our room had a camera right outside of it, which was a little interesting and kept us on our best behavior.
They also had some cool Johannes Vermeer wall decoration in the hallways, which was a nice surprise since we’d just explored some of his work in DC.
The hotel has a really nice gym. There were no views down in the gym but there were some interesting decorative walls that sort of reminded me of a Centurion Lounge (at least from afar).
For a hotel with just over 200 rooms I thought the gym was very well equipped with both cardio and machines.
Because of coronavirus, the full breakfast experience was not available. Instead, we had credits to order breakfast via room service.
Honestly, having breakfast delivered to the room was awesome. Almost every time we have ordered room service it’s been for dinner or dessert so I appreciated the early morning convenience of just waking up and eating.
I thought the waffle and eggs Benedict were pretty tasty but I felt like the breakfast should have been delivered on a plate and not a friggin to-go box, which made it awkward to eat.
We did not have the chance to try Wellington’s but it has some pretty solid reviews on its GMB profile so it’s probably worth checking out.
Overall, I thought this was a great hotel stay. The location is fantastic if you want to explore what Downtown Albany has to offer and the property felt unique and historic which added a bit of charm to the hotel stay. I would definitely recommend them.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.