ALBANY, NEW YORK- For my family, fabulous shopping at the Crossgates Mall and the Colonie Center always served as incentives to spend some time in the New York Capital City of Albany (www.albanyny.org/Visitors.aspx). Now we can add the closest Dave & Busters and Cheesecake Factory locations to Montreal to the list.

Dave & Buster’s (www.daveandbusters.com) is recognized as America’s leading venue that combines dining and entertainment. The 33,000 square foot restaurant and game room location in Albany opened on August 24, 2013 at the Crossgates Mall and it has served as a magnet for visitors ever since. My family has enjoyed visiting the Toronto locale, but when we heard the franchise had set up shop in Albany it did indeed serve as an incentive for us to stay over on our way back from New York City.

Recognized as a high-energy venue where families and adults can “Eat Drink Play®” all in one location, Dave & Buster’s is the largest national chain offering a full casual dining menu and a wide selection of non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages together with an extensive assortment of entertainment attractions, including skill-and sports-oriented games, video games, interactive simulators and other traditional games. The restaurant, game and special event areas are open seven days a week Sunday to Thursday: 11 am to midnight and Friday and Saturday: 11 am to 2 am.

Albany

The Winner’s Circle at Dave & Buster’s in Albany is where you collect your prizes (Mike Cohen photo).

Dave & Buster’s chef-crafted menus combine fun and flavor as well. There is a special eat and play option. When choosing selected items you can add $10 or $20 power cards to your order, which represents an immediate saving when you hit the games area. We had a great time and consider the arrival of a D&B here enough for us to stay an additional evening next time we visit.

There is no question that Cheesecake Factory ranks as one of my favorite restaurants in the USA. The Albany location opened on August 29, 2006 at the Colonie Centre. This 10,800 square foot locale seats 300 diners.

The Cheesecake Factory (www.thecheesecakefactory.com) is known for its extensive menu, generous portions and legendary desserts. In fact, there are more than 250 menu selections and this includes more than 50 lower calorie “SkinnyLicious®” selections- all handmade, in-house with fresh ingredients – and more than 50 signature cheesecakes and desserts. Favorite choices include appetizers, pizza, seafood, steaks, chicken, burgers, pasta, specialty items, salads, sandwiches, omelets and the desserts. We started off by sharing the Thai Lettuce Wraps while one member of our party also had Caesar Salad. While the Southern Fried Chicken Sliders are listed as an “appetizer,” they more than serve as a hearty meal. I tried something new, the Herb Crusted Filet of Salmon, with mashed potatoes. It was truly out of this world.

When in Albany we enjoy staying at the Cresthill Suites (www.cresthillsuites.com), an extended stay hotel located at 1415 Washington Avenue. It recently came under the auspices of a new management company, which is already sprucing the place up. There is new lighting in the main lobby and dining area, rooms have been freshly painted and new flooring installed in the kitchens and bathrooms. There is no smoking permitted in any rooms and pets are no longer permitted. Sofa beds in each room have been upgraded.

I would strongly recommend this place for families. Our spacious two bedroom suite had all of the comforts of home, including a fully equipped kitchen with a fridge and appliances and free wireless internet. We had a comfortable living room, with a couch, chair, table and chairs, three flat screen TVs and plenty of cupboard space. Whether you’re staying for a night or a month in any one of these suites, the hotel offers an array of services to accommodate your travel needs. In the morning, you can enjoy a complimentary breakfast, and in the evening, a light fare reception and social hour is available every Monday through Thursday. The quality of food has been enhanced as well, with a variety of homemade meal choices such as grilled chicken, chicken parmesan and different Italian specialties.

There is daily housekeeping, same-day valet service, a grocery shopping service, free guest laundry, a fully equipped fitness center and a seasonal courtyard with a pool, patio and grills. A self service coffee, tea and hot chocolate is available 24 hours a day. For more information call 1-888-723-1655 or email info@cresthillsuites.com. You can also register online.

The Albany area has some wonderful movie theatre complexes, each operated by the Regal Entertainment Group (www.regmovies.com). We have a particular fondness towards the Regal Colonie Center Stadium 13. This six year old movie complex encompasses around 64,000 square feet, with more than 2,800 seats in a total of 13 auditoriums. We actually stopped by the evening before our show to pick up tickets in advance. You can also purchase them online at fandango.com. Once in the theatre we were entertained by a feature called First Look, which included previews of upcoming film releases, a special Disney feature of homemade short movies and a series of very amusing commercials. You can also log on to www.fandango.com and purchase your tickets online.

Mike Cohen’s email address is info@mikecohen.ca. Follow his travels on Twitter @mikecohencsl and at www.sandboxworld.com/travel.

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