written by Sophia McDonald | photos by Kjersten Hellis

By the time the train rolled into town, our 3-year-old twins needed to burn off their toddler energy. We went to the Albany Bounce House & G2 Fun Zone. Oversized, inflated bouncy castles attracted or repealed kids of all ages. Some kids did better in the tinker toy quadrant of the play station. The glow-in-the-dark miniature golf course occupied older kids. Such fun can only last so long, so we needed a change of scenery.
Window shopping and lunch came next. We peeked inside the Sandbox Rebel, an edgy, upcycled children’s clothing store, before heading to the highly recommended Sybaris Bistro, a fine dining yet kid-friendly restaurant. Chef Matt Bennett uses local and seasonal foods on an ever-changing menu. Asparagus, a seasonal local vegetable, had been fashioned into vegetable soup, sautéed side as well as incorporated into a German-style potato salad.

The next day, post breakfast and swim at the Phoenix Inn, we pushed the kids in the stroller and took the walking tour of the historic district. Albany has 700 buildings constructed between the 1840s and 1920s. The Albany Visitors Association’s website has several maps to supplement the town’s history. This small enclave was once home to one of Oregon’s most famous women and suffragists, Abigail Scott Duniway.
For lunch, we found delicious, customizable burgers at First Burger. The menu includes thirteen configurations—from The Hottie (with pickled jalapeños) to The Whole Farm (with ham, bacon and a fried egg). True to Americana, we made haste for Hasty Freez, an old ice cream stand.

Many of the shops downtown had handcrafted carousel animals in their storefronts. These pieces were part of the communal project for inclusion in 2017 at the Albany Historic Carousel & Museum. We visited the studio to watch woodworkers carve and paint new animals for the fifty-two animal carousel. For dinner, we hit the buffet at Novak’s Hungarian Restaurant. Think chicken paprika, kolbász sausage and stuffed cabbage rolls.

Sunday morning we shared breakfast plates of eggs Benedict, with lox and dill hollandaise and another with carnitas and chipotle hollandaise at the Brick & Mortar Café. With full bellies, we snagged a rental car and headed 14 miles away to tour Thompson’s Mills State Heritage Site.

We made it back to Albany in the afternoon for an early lunch at Frankie’s. Head chef Cody Utzman returned to Albany after leaving Brooklyn, New York, where he had opened a series of restaurants. Frankie’s is another culinary surprise, with Willapa Bay oysters, steamed mussels and house-made salad dressings.

Unexpected stops and culinary finds made the weekend relaxing. Albany offered plenty of pleasant surprises for the whole family.