Capital Region Living Magazine
 




Best Of People, Places & More


By Ciara Hassenpflug, Beth Kreuger, Christina DeMears, Vikki Moran & Mary Beth Galarneau

Best Of People, Places & More

Local People And Media

Best Local TV Newscast
WNYT Newschannel 13
WNYT led the voting this year with their evening newscast team of Jim Kambrich, Benita Zahn, Roger Wyland and Bob Kovachick.  Keeping the Capital Region up-to-date with all the news of the day and delivering the issues to their viewers in a professional manner, but with a bit of humor, too. A great win for a great team.

Best Local Meteorologist
Steve Caporizzo, WTEN News 10
Although there hasn't been much snow to forecast this winter, meteorologists were the ones to watch when Hurricane Irene ravaged parts of the Capital Region last August. Our readers flipped to News 10 to watch Steve Caporizzo on the storm’s progress and its aftermath. When Caporizzo isn't on the weather set you will often find him helping homeless animals. In 1990, he started a segment called Pet Connection, which airs in half-hour specials throughout the year.

Best Local Morning Anchor
Phil Bayly, WNYT News Channel 13
With over 25 years of experience on WNYT News Channel 13, it’s no wonder Capital Region viewers have named Paul the mainstay of the local reporting scene as their favorite Morning Anchor. Readers rely on him to deliver the latest in local and national news as they start their day. Bayly’s signature professionalism is only enhanced by a sincerity that surpasses many in the business. It’s this genuine quality which transcends the airwaves that cements Bayly as a trusted source. Missed Bayley’s morning forecast? If it’s winter, the next best place to catch Bayly in on the slopes!

Best Local Anchor
John Gray, WXXA Fox23 News
Perhaps we’re a bit biased since he writes our “Last Page” column, but apparently so are our readers, who voted John Gray Best Local Anchor. He also won for Print Journalist and tied for Evening Anchor, landing him three wins this year in our survey. When asked what he thought of these honors, he said, "Growing up in Troy I delivered newspapers as a little boy, dreaming one day I might be the person writing the stories. Thanks so much for your support of me. It means the world to me.”

Best Local Afternoon Anchor
Liz Bishop , WRGB Channel 6
Boasting a loyal following, this award-winning and ground-breaking reporter makes our list year after year. Not only does Liz Bishop deliver the news with the utmost competency and skill, she possesses the kind of solid news background that makes her all the more credible and trustworthy. Her past assignments have included Presidential inaugurations and primaries, Papal visits, Congressional transitions, National Political Conventions, and the Olympics, just to name a few. With a resume like that, it’s no wonder local audiences faithfully tune in, year after year. 

Best Local Evening Anchor (tie)
John Gray, WXXA Fox23 News
Benita Zahn, WNYT News Channel 13
With so many contenders for the Best Evening Anchor, it’s no wonder that in we have a tie: John Gray of Fox23 News and Benita Zahn of News Channel 13.  John Gray, originally from Troy, has been bringing the news to our area for over 23 years. He had his start in television news back in 1988, and for the past nine years he’s been the news anchor at Fox23. With his local ties and strong commitment to area charities, coupled with his undeniable likability, Gray is a no-brainer as co-winner here.

Benita Zahn captured the attention of Capital Region viewers both as co-anchor of the evening news and the health reporter on News Channel 13. Zahn, who originally hails from Long Island, made her way north via a variety of acting and television news stints. She is now known for her dedication to all things health-related. She’s not only the area’s go-to source for health, nutrition and fitness information, but she’s also involved with organizations and causes such as Ronald McDonald House, St. Peter’s Hospital and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Run. We feel better just knowing she’s there to greet us every evening.

Best Local Sportcaster
Roger Wyland, WNYT Newschannel 13
Roger joined WNYT in 1986 and has been the area’s voice for sports ever since.  Now serving as Sports Director, Wyland anchors on the 6pm & 11pm weeknight  broadcasts.  He is knowledgeable, committed and driven to give us all the stories that feed our never-ending thirst for sports news.  Sports enthusiasts and coach athletes alike agree that Roger is the best.

Best Local News Radio Personality

Paul Vandenburgh, Talk 1300
Never afraid to speak his mind on The Paul Vandenburgh Show, which can be heard on TALK 1300 AM weekdays from 4pm-5pm, Paul leads the pack in this category. A native of the Lansingburgh section of Troy, he never forgets where he came from.  He lives, loves and reports on the Capital Region with gusto and strong opinions. If all news is truly local as once said, then Paul is on top of the world!

Best Local Music Radio Personality
Sean & Ritchie, WGNA
The team of Sean & Ritchie from the Sean & Ritchie Morning show on WGNA have landed on top along with the station itself, which is a testament to the popularity of country music and these two dynamic on-air personalities. They have been waking up the Capital Region for the past 10 years and we have a feeling that this is just the beginning of a “best” dynasty. Catch them weekdays from 5:30am-10am.

Best Local Music Radio Station
107.7 WGNA
Country Music is the fastest growing music genre in the US and apparently in our own Capital Region. The country music stars are the hottest, the music is the most purchased and it is now as varied as any music type can be. WGNA is powering the rise for us and our readers certainly appreciate it. 

Best Local Print Journalist
John Gray, WXXA Fox23 News
A multiple winner this year, John Gray is clearly doing something right, or is it “write”?  Gray pens an opinion column for The Troy Record, The Saratogian and writes the "Last Page" column in our personal favorite publication, Capital Region Living Magazine.  With the writing style featuring the familiar tone of a good friend, Gray engages his readership with content that is serious, amusing, and sometimes downright hysterical.

Best Local Blog All Over Albany

Blogs offer a great place to find little known tidbits about food, fashion, fun, crime and politics in the Capital Region. Time and time again, our readers have logged on to All Over Albany to find some of these facts they can't get anywhere else. All Over Albany is touted as a place to start your day with connections and conversations about what's happening in the Capital Region.

Best Local Author
Mike Engle
A meal at a diner was the inspiration for a book for local author Mike Engle. He was hooked. Specifically. Now, 400-plus diners later, the rest is, as they say, history. Engle is the author of Diner of New York and Diners of the Capital Region, which profiles some 50 area establishments currently serving customers or memorable spots that no longer exist.  What captured him on that first visit to the Miss Johnstown Diner and caused him to climb onto hundreds of stools or slide into booths at others?  The entire experience, he said. Fascinating and fun architecture; you-know-what-to-expect food; the hard-working people behind the counter; and, of course, the customers from all walks of life – the “regulars” and newcomers all become part of the action.  When not writing or at a counter enjoying the daily special and conversation, Mike can be found teaching math at Hudson Valley Community College.

Best Local Artist

Alicia Gribbin
Maybe it’s the depth of the eyes or the tilt of the head. Local artist Alicia Gribbin draws out the essence of her subjects. A German shepherd. A greyhound. A pug.  Alicia’s pet portrait business is Adonai’s Beauties.  She begins by creating a paper sketch, working from a photograph. Her blank canvas is a clay-coated Masonite board that’s covered in black India ink. The characteristics of the pet emerge as she uses special metal tools to scratch out the details and adds colored ink. A Guilderland High School graduate, Alicia went on to graduate from the Munson Proctor Williams Institute in fine arts and the famed Ringling College of Art and Design in illustration.

Places

Best Bed & Breakfast
(within 3 hours of the Capital Region)
Amsterdam Castle, 49 Florida Avenue, Amsterdam
Ever wanted to stay in a castle? How about a fort? Well, how about a former National Guard Armory, perched high on a hill? Purchased by Susan Phemister and her husband from an eBay listing in 2005, the Amsterdam Castle, as it is now known, has new life as a bed & breakfast and event facility. Built in1894 and decommissioned in 1995, it consists of 36,000 square-feet, has 18-inch walls, and 50 rooms, including a 10,000-square-foot gymnasium, billiard room, fallout shelter and more. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and HGTV’s “Rezoned” program has profiled the B&B and filmmakers have shot scenes on site.  
2. Friends Lake Inn, 963 Friends Lake Road, Chestertown
3. The American Hotel, 192 Main Street, Sharon Springs

Best Bike Trail
Colonie Bike Trail
A repeat winner, the Town of Colonie supplies us all the opportunity to ride on safe and lovely trails. Bring the kids, bring mom and dad, bring granny and gramp and get out and ride.  You will end up healthier and happier and our readers know it.

Best Day Trip (within 3 hours)
Lake George
The Capital Region offers a wonderful variety of day trips and weekend getaway destinations within an hour or two, but our readers like Lake George the best. And how lucky are we to live so close to such a beautiful tourist destination in the heart of the Adirondacks? About an hour from Albany, Lake George offers visitors the beauty of the shimmering lake with a view of the surrounding mountainous terrain. In the summer months, there are countless attractions and activities for visitors of all ages, the fall provides breathtaking views of the foliage and every weekend in February you can enjoy the Winter Carnival.

Best Golf Course (Public)
Capital Hills, 65 O'Neil Road, Albany
Dust off your clubs and shine your golf shoes; it's time to hit the links again!  If you're looking to practice your swing on a public course, Capital Hills in Albany is the winner this year. The course is named after the rolling hilly challenges it offers and borders the Norman's Kill creek on 6 holes and the front 9 includes water on two holes. If you don't think your game is up to par, there's no need to worry at Capital Hills, because the professional staff is on hand to provide individual lessons.

Best Golf Course (Private)
Albany Country Club, 300 Wormer Road, Voorheesville
Known for many years as a top course in our area.  It is challenging and that keeps its’ members very happy.  With a view unmatched for a country club of the Albany skyline, this course will dazzle your senses and sharpen your game.

Best Hiking Trail
Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, 56 Game Farm Road, Delmar
Nature’s Accessible Backyard Trail.  Woodlot. Beaver Tree. Wild Turkey. Those are just a few of the names of trails at the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center designed for visitors to discover flora and fauna.  A deer, an Eastern meadowlark, a painted turtle.  The Center, which provides interpretative information, hopes that hikers discover something more as they wind their way through woods and grasslands and along ponds and streams – a lasting interest in nature that brings them back to the Center and to other natural areas.  The hiking area includes a wheelchair-accessible binocular station for pond viewing and other Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant trail locations.

Best Capital Region Hotel
The Desmond Inn and Conference Center, 660 Albany Shaker Road, Albany
George Washington didn’t sleep here, but most likely he would feel at home if he could come back for a night. The Desmond Inn and Conference Center is just down the road from the Albany airport and the Northway and minutes from downtown, but step inside and you’re back in Colonial times. The 18th century brick street design and restaurants and meeting areas provide charm with the contemporary comfort of modern facilities. The hotel’s restaurants fit a range of needs – the AAA Four Diamond-rated Scrimshaw, The Tavern, an English pub designed for lighter meals, and Simpson’s restaurant for casual dining.  The Desmond is the site for numerous weddings, conventions, as well as local conferences and individual meetings.
2. The Gideon Putnam, 24 Gideon Putnam Road, Saratoga

Best Ice Skating
Empire State Plaza, Albany NY
There’s just something about open-air ice skating that draws people in year after year. After a three-winter hiatus, the ice skating rink at the Empire State Plaza re-opened this past year. Maybe it's that nostalgic feeling skaters get when they're skating or the view of the Capital that makes it so appealing, but whatever the reason, our readers say it’s the best!
2. The Conway Ice Rink, Hudson Valley Community College, 80 Vandenburgh Avenue, Troy
3. Swinburne Skating Rink, Clinton Avenue, Albany

Best Kids Camp
Camp Chingachgook , 1872 Pilot Knob Road, Kattskill Bay
Try saying that name three times fast. This outstanding and lovely camp in the Adirondack Mountains sits on beautiful Lake George. They offer the lucky campers Sailing, Hiking, Climbing, Arts and Crafts, Guitar Lessons, Photography, Sports and much more.  Summer camps are always fun, but this one is off-the-charts-fun and operated by the YMCA.  
2. Summer Academy for Youth, The College of Saint Rose, 432 Western Avenue, Albany
3. HVCC Kids on Campus, Hudson Valley Community College, 80 Vandenburgh Avenue, Troy

Best Local Wine/Winery
Hudson-Chatham Winery, 1900 Route 66, Ghent
Carlo and Dominique DeVito, publishing professionals, realized a dream to create this first-of-its kind winery in Columbia County. Their award-winning wines are crafted in small, handmade batches. Grapes for a Seyval Blanc, for example, were grown in the Hudson Valley, some from Hudson-Chatham’s vines.  Then there are the cheeses and desserts that accompany the reds and whites. The restored 1780 farmhouse and grounds are an attractive setting for the vineyard tours of the winery, located between Hudson and Chatham. Passion is a key element in its best-of selection.  The wines also can be found in area restaurants and liquor stores.
2. Altamont Vineyard Winery, 3001 Furbeck Road, Altamont
3. Brookview Station Winery, 1297 Brookview Station Road, Castleton

Best Place to Entertain Kids on a Summer Day
The Crossings of Colonie, 580 Albany Shaker Road, Loudonville
No matter what your favorite family outdoor activities, you’re likely to find The Crossings the perfect place to head for an afternoon of fun. Take the kids on a hike; there are over six miles of trails for walking, running and biking waiting to be explored. Or how about some fishing in the three-acre pond? The same pond doubles as an ice skating rink in the winter. Best of all, all open areas of The Crossings are available for public use. So what are you waiting for? Go fly a kite – with the kids - at The Crossings!
2. John Boyd Thacher State Park, 1 Hailes Cave Road, Voorheesville
3. Congress Park, 315 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

Best Park
John Boyd Thacher State Park, 1 Hailes Cave Road, Voorheesville
The top of the world is just 15 miles from Albany – or at least a visit to Thacher State Park seems like it.  Popular with families, friends, groups, photographers, and hikers, this perennial favorite on our best of list won the top spots for park and picnic this year.  Thacher hugs six miles of the Helderberg Escarpment, with limestone cliffs containing some of the richest fossil formations in the world.  The park features ooh-and-aah views of the mountains and valleys with interpretative signs, plus miles of paths that wind through the woods and down along the cliffs, including the historic Indian Ladder Trail. Hikers pass by caves, waterfalls and an array of wildflowers and trees. The area is home to more 170 species of birds.
2. The Crossings of Colonie, 580 Albany-Shaker Road, Loudonville
3. Congress Park, 315 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

Best Picnic Spot

John Boyd Thacher State Park, 1 Hailes Cave Road, Voorheesville
The perfect spot for a picnic is how hikers, bikers, families and friends describe Thacher Park. The various picnic areas are located along the top of the six miles of cliffs of the Helderberg Escarpment.  Some are under trees, others in grassy areas, enabling visitors to pick out their favorite spot without feeling crowded even on a day buzzing with picnickers.  Thacher also features recreation areas with volleyball and ball fields and nine pavilions that can be reserved, a popular choice for organizations and other groups. There’s more than good food, fun and conversation to enjoy together.  Share the spectacular views of the Adirondacks, Green Mountains in Vermont, the Mohawk and Hudson valleys, and on one of those perfect sky-blue days, Mount Equinox some 70 miles in the distance.
2. The Crossings of Colonie, 580 Albany-Shaker Road, Loudonville
3. Saratoga State Park, 19 Roosevelt Drive, Saratoga Springs

Best Place to go for a Nature Walk
Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, 56 Game Farm Road, Delmar
The 400-acre Five Rivers is one of two fully-staffed Department of Environmental Conservation education centers that focus on environmental awareness by providing classes, hands-on programs for students and teachers, exhibits, and interpretive trails for guided and self-guided walks, and special events. The popular family fun activities are designed to enable parents/caregivers and children to discover nature together and how-to programs teach participants how to go green or make snowshoes or other activities.  The center has been designated a New York State Watchable Wildlife site, with public programs to identify local wildlife. So why the name?  It reflects the five rivers in the watershed within the center land–the Hudson, Mohawk, Hoosic and Sacandaga rivers and the Schoharie Creek.
2. John Boyd Thacher State Park, 1 Hailes Cave Road, Voorheesville
3. Peebles Island State Park, Delaware Avenue and Ontario Street, Waterford

Best Place to Spend a Rainy Day

Spectrum 8 Theatres, 290 Delaware Avenue, Albany
A visit to the Spectrum will not only shelter you from raindrops, but will  also transport you to a different space and mindset. This locally owned Art Deco-style theatre dedicates itself to “keeping alive the idea of cinema as a vital art form,” and features independent, foreign and Hollywood films that are provocative, entertaining and thought-provoking. The audience, on a recent visit, broke out in spontaneous applause as the credits rolled. Conversation with independent filmmakers, local artist showings, and other events further this mission. So does the atmosphere, with baked goods, coffee and tea offered at the refreshment area. 
2. New York State Museum, Empire State Plaza, 222 Madison Avenue, Albany
3. Albany Institute of History and Art, 125 Washington Avenue, Albany

Best Place for Sledding/Tubing
West Mountain, 59 W Mountain Road, Queensbury
Is there a better way to spend a snowy day? Snow tubing at West Mountain's Tubing Park is the ultimate in playing in the snow. With specially designed snow tubes, you can slide effortlessly down the slopes.  Don’t worry about walking back up the hill, they have designated lifts to carry you back up.  Sweet!
2. Frear Park, 2701 Lavin Court, Troy
3. Capital Hills Golf Course, 65 O'Neil Road, Albany

Best Reception Hall (tie)

Hall of Springs, 108 Avenue of the Pines Saratoga Springs
Glen Sanders Mansion, 1 Glen Avenue Scotia
If you're getting married and want a fairy tail wedding, turn to the Hall of Springs in Saratoga Springs or Glen Sanders Mansion in Scotia. Angelo Mazzone owns and operates Glen Sanders Mansion and runs the catering at the Hall of Springs, so you know you can’t go wrong at either place. The Hall of Springs is located on the grounds of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Ceremonies can be held outside or inside where you'll find marble floors and columns, Belgian crystal chandeliers and a vaulted ceiling. The Glen Sanders Mansion welcomes brides and grooms as if they're royalty as they celebrate the start of their new lives in class. There’s also the coziness of the Inn, which offers a variety of luxurious suites. With Mazzone at the helm, all of your dreams will come true.
2. The Century House, 997 New Loudon Road, Latham
3. Franklin Plaza, 4 4th Street, Troy

Best Romantic Getaway
Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa, 77 Mirror Lake Drive, Lake Placid
What better place to spend a weekend tucked away than at the Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid? It's been described as a heavenly getaway for couples looking to either kick back and relax or explore the village, lake and mountains of the region. The lakefront hotel features a world-class spa and the finest cuisine with awe-inspiring views from the View restaurant.
2. Mohonk Mountain House, 1000 Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz
3. The Red Lion Inn, 30 Main Street, Stockbridge, MA

Best Ski Area
Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, 37 Corey Road, Hancock, MA
Located in the heart of the Berkshires, Jiminy Peak is the largest ski and snowboard resort in southern New England. With 45 trails on over 170 acres, and nine lifts, including a six-person, high-speed chairlift, you can bring all of your ski buddies for a day of snow-filled fun. Jiminy also features 96% snowmaking coverage for those times when Mother Nature does not cooperate (like this past winter!).  With a strong interest in preserving the Earth for future generations, Jiminy is also the first mountain resort in North America to generate its own energy using alternative wind power. Just think, it’s only 7 or 8 more months until the first snowfall of the season – we’re counting down, are you?
2. Gore Mountain, 793 Peaceful Valley Road, North Creek
3. Whiteface Mountain, 5021 Route 86, Wilmington

Best Saratoga Inn/Hotel
Gideon Putnam Spa Resort, 24 Gideon Putnam Road, Saratoga Springs
The scent of the towering pines, the columned veranda, the historic murals, and mineral baths all say Gideon Putnam Hotel and Resort. The hotel is part of the more than 2,000-acre Saratoga State Park grounds, a National Historic Landmark District that also houses the Roosevelt Baths, automobile and dance museums, a theater, two golf courses, the Hall of Springs, and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. A member of the Historic Hotels of America, the Georgian-style Gideon Putnam opened its door in 1935.  The Gideon has merged its Georgian Room fine dining and the Saratoga Grille casual atmosphere to create a new restaurant and new look, named Putnam’s. Outside dining also is available on the patio overlooking the pines at the back of the hotel. The long-time Sunday brunch continues.  
2. The Inn at Saratoga, 231 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

Best Hudson Valley Inn
The Beekman Arms Inn, 6387 Mill Street, Rhinebeck
If you've ever been to Rhinebeck, then you'll know why the Beekman Arms Inn was selected as the Best Hudson Valley Inn. The Hudson Valley is one of the most beautiful parts of the state and Rhinebeck is one of the most charming villages. Situated in the heart of Rhinebeck is the Beekman Arms Inn, America's oldest continuously operated inn, serving guests since 1766. The inn, which has maintained its colonial charm and character, is a perfect home-base to explore the other historic sights in and around the region.
2. Mohonk Mountain House, 1000 Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz

Best Adirondack Inn
Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa, 77 Mirror Lake Inn Drive, Lake Placid
It’s not surprising at all that Mirror Lake Inn, the 2011 Best Adirondack Inn, is a repeat this year. Envision yourself sitting in an Adirondack chair, a glass of wine in hand, the sun setting over the silken lake.  Established in 1924, this lakeside inn offers the sense of calm, beauty and amenities designed to soothe. Guest rooms include classic, signature and family rooms and suites and ultimate suites. There are three restaurants: The View, which has an AAA four-Diamond rating; Taste Bistro & Bar for casual dining; and The Cottage Pub, across the street from the Inn, on the lake. Fresh herbs from the Inn’s garden and the legendary Adirondack flapjacks drizzled with hot maple syrup are a couple of the added touches. Of course, there’s a spa to further the relaxation. 
2. Friends Lake Inn, 963 Friends Lake Road, Chestertown
3. High Peaks Resort, 2384 Saranac Avenue, Lake Placid

Best Vermont Inn

The Inn at Shelburne Farms, 1611 Harbor Road, Shelburne, VT
On the shores of Lake Champlain sits the Inn at Shelburne Farms. It was originally the 19th century home of Dr. William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb. In 1972 the property was turned into an educational non-profit. Visitors can explore the 1,400 acre working farm, walking trails and Inn. The Inn has 24 guest rooms and a restaurant which offers seasonably-based menus featuring fresh ingredients grown in the property's Market Garden and on local Vermont Farms.
2. Woodstock Inn & Resort, 14 The Green Woodstock
3. Swift House Inn, 25 Stewart Lane, Middlebury

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