The city of Rensselaer, New York, may be best known for sharing its name with an engineering school, but the city has its own traits to boast about. Located in Rensselaer County, directly across the Hudson River from Albany, the capital of New York, the city of Rensselaer still retains a small-town feel while nearby to the action of the Capital District.
Rensselaer offers options for anyone working in Albany who still wants a residential neighborhood to call home with easy access to parks and destinations, such as New York City, fewer than 3 hours away.
Restaurants & Nightlife
With cities such as Albany so close by, Rensselaer residents have a wide variety of choices when it comes to restaurants, bars and nightlife. However, you don't have to leave town to find some of the region's favorite places to eat and drink.
Check out SriSiam Thai Restaurant for a little exotic fare in town. The restaurant takes pride in buying local, using regionally sourced products whenever available and always cooking meals from scratch with an impressive staff of Thai chefs. Locals claim SriSiam serves up the best authentic Thai cuisine in the area; just try their classic Thai sticky rice and drunken noodles.
For a taste of the ocean, head to Offshore Pier Restaurant & Fish Market. Part fish market with takeaway seafood and part restaurant serving fresh fish, Offshore Pier offers a casual, family dining experience without the usual high prices for seafood dishes. Still run by the family that first opened the restaurant, this spot takes pride in remembering customer orders and serving the best fresh food with their catch of the day.
For a fun evening out, try Derailed Bar & Grill on East Street. With typical bar fare, such as mozzarella sticks and wings, and a rotating menu of specialty drinks, this hot spot offers locals a great place to hang out with old friends and meet new ones.
History & Culture
While some may be familiar with the name of this city from hearing about Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute, locals know that RPI, actually located in nearby Troy, isn’t the real attraction that draws you into this burgeoning city.
Rensselaer has a rich history, as evidenced by its name, which comes from its past as a New Netherlands settlement. Named for its original owner, Killiaen van Rensselaer, the city was originally a railroad hub in the 19th century. Today, it still has a railroad station that serves many Amtrak trains daily. The community itself has been going through a new wave of development, beginning in the early 2000s.
The city of Rensselaer also has a lively schedule of fun events. Check out the high school’s craft fairs throughout the year, or bring a picnic for Music in the Park during the summer, and enjoy the free entertainment and potluck options.
Although most residents of Rensselaer choose to get around by car, you have several public transportation options for longer trips around the area or out of state. Amtrak’s Empire Service runs around the state and connects through the Albany-Rensselaer station, located in downtown Rensselaer. You can take the train west toward Chicago or just two hours south to New York City.
Given its close proximity to Albany, you can also get around the area with one of the local cab companies. The tech-savvy crowd can use Uber, a phone app, to hail a cab and get to many destinations quickly and safely.
The town has some sidewalks and wide roads, so biking is an option in most of Rensselaer, although residents tend to bike for exercise rather than as a form of transportation.
Rensselaer has a slightly higher cost of living than the state average, likely attributed to its proximity to Albany and its location in the center of the Capital District. The average rent paid each month is less than the state average, with landlords only asking for $672 per month on average.
While Rensselaer isn’t the place for high-end boutique shopping, it does have some of the better-known chain stores. It also has some unique local spots that can provide you with everything from cigars to supplies for home-brewing beer.
Check out Good Buy Books for used and new books, and make sure to stop by the bin on the front porch for a decent selection of $3 DVDs. Also, stop by one of the monthly book clubs for new reading suggestions.
For more thrifty shopping, head to A New Beginning Consignment/Re-Sale Shop. This local favorite offers gently used or new-with-tags designer clothing, resold at lower prices. You can grab some great finds for much less than designer prices. Also make sure to browse the wide selection of jewelry, purses and home goods, all available for purchase.
The city of Rensselaer also takes part in the Capital District Community Gardens program, which promotes fresh, local food and urban farming in the region’s more densely-populated towns and cities, such as Rensselaer. Track down the Veggie Mobile, a roaming farmers market on wheels, or set up a community garden in your area with help from the experts, and participate in one of the region’s farmer's markets.
The city of Rensselaer, a part of the Capital District, offers proximity to many of the region’s most beautiful parks, forests and bodies of water. Driving just a few miles in either direction, you find preserved outdoor space perfect for hiking, sightseeing and kayaking.
Grafton Lakes State Park is the region’s most popular outdoor space. Offering a beach, boat launch, hunting sites, fishing, hiking and playground, just to name a few options, this park draws residents from all over Rensselaer County. The beach at Grafton Lakes has even been named as the best beach in the Albany area. For an educational outdoor experience, you can check out the Shaver Pond Nature Center, located on the park grounds, which offers tours and recreation programs.