If you're at all like me, you may find the idea of taking a destination vacation somewhere between baffling and irritating. The idea of spending a bunch of money and travel time to go somewhere where you can spend some more money doing things that are very similar or exactly the same as things you could do nearer to home for a lot less money just seems like a bad idea to me.
Enter the concept of the staycation, defined by Marriam-Webster's as "a vacation spent at home or nearby."
How's the city of Amsterdam for nearby? It's approximately 25 minutes from Schenectady, 40 minutes from Saratoga Springs, and its right next door from Johnstown or Gloversville.
Are you interested in architecture? What about some New York state history? How about a multi-year, multi-million-dollar passion project to remodel the interior of the former Amsterdam Armory, a 60,000-square-foot-building designed by Isaac Perry in 1894 – that's the same guy who designed New York state's capitol building. You'll get all of those elements staying at the Amsterdam Castle, a 21-unit hotel that recently opened on Amsterdam's southside, which makes a quick, less-than-5-minute drive from Exit 30 of the Thruway.
The Amsterdam Castle is the creation of entrepreneur couple Nigel Ghotbi and Leslie Ashley who spent the last several years remodeling the interior of the building, Ghotbi using his knowledge of Victorian architecture to build 21 modern hotel rooms into the structure of the building and Ashley her artistic sensibility to meticulously choose the art work and furniture in the place. The hotel accommodations are similar to what you'd find at a Marriott or Holiday Inn, but structured inside a truly unique building, done up to be a modernized medieval castle, with suits of armor and replicas of historic paintings. The castle has a lot of truly historic aspects to it as well, when it was an armory it was the place that thousands of Americans were signed up to serve in World War II, and the room where that happened has been preserved and guests can tour it, as well as the "Kennedy Room," which features Kennedy family memorabilia and honors President John F. Kennedy's trip to Amsterdam in 1960.
If you haven't seen the pictures of the Amsterdam Castle, I recommend you check them out. The hotel rooms are listed on websites like expedia.com in a range from $136 per night to $219.
If you stay at the castle, it's a short trip from there to Amsterdam's $17.5 million Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook Pedestrian Bridge. The bridge, which has drawn a steady stream of tourists since it opened in 2016, is 511 feet long with a 600-foot-radius double reverse curvature, and features cultural information carved into the decking and historic plaques.
The Audiostars perform at the first concert of the summer season at Riverlink Park in Amsterdam Saturday, July 6, 2013. (Peter R. Barber/Gazette Photographer)
The bridge is a unique structure, and if you haven't walked on it yet, you should. You could walk from the southside over to Riverlink Park, which has a Mohawk River dock, located between locks 10 and 11 on the New York state Canal System, as well as a playground, concert venue and the River's Edge Restaurant.
During the summer the park also has the Riverlink Summer Concert Series presented Saturday evenings in July and August. A full list of the acts in the concert series is available at riverlinkconcerts.com.
Now, if you're looking to do something more athletic, another nearby option would be renting a kayak from Down by the River Kayak rentals, operating out of the Port Jackson Boat Launch. Down by the River Kayak rentals offers guided tours of the Mohawk River, which will give you the chance to view the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook Pedestrian Bridge from the water. More information about that company is available at its website downbytheriverkayakrentals.com.
So, you can stay at a castle, rent a kayak and tour the Mohawk River, walk on bridge that doubles as piece of artwork, have dinner and watch a concert, all without spending a lot of money or wasting a ton of time traveling. Sign me up.