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Albany, NY (Population: 96,000)

Albany, with a population of 96,000 (2005), is the fourth oldest continually-inhabited city in the United States. It is the capital of the State of New York and the seat of Albany County. The original Mohawk settlement in the area was called Penpotawotnot. In 1609, Englishman Henry Hudson came through the area while exploring for the Dutch East India Company, who in 1614 established Fort Nassau, the first fur trading post in the area. After years of conflict with French traders and the Mohawks the Dutch and English struck a bargain and the town became Albany under English rule. Albany's strategic location along the Mohawk and Hudson rivers made it a hub of education, economic and political rule, which it remains today. With the city's close proximity and economic ties to Schenectady, Amsterdam, and Glen Falls the area contains the third largest metropolitan area in the state.

Points of interest in Albany include the controversial Empire State Plaza, constructed between 1965 and 1978, by then Governor Nelson Rockefeller. The construction of this building caused the destruction of several historic neighborhoods and required the forced removal of residents. The Erastus Corning Tower, also located downtown, is the tallest building in New York State outside of NYC. Rounding out the city's skyline is the Legislative Office Building, the Cultural Education Center and the Justice Building.

By virtue of Albany's geographic location, almost equally distanced between Montreal, NYC, Syracuse and Boston, it's an easy stop for touring performers. Venues like The Palace Theatre, The Egg and The Times Union Center host a variety of artistic and musical performances. For art and history fans, The New York State Museum houses fine arts, natural history and social history exhibits.

Shopping and dining have been revitalized in neighborhoods surrounding Broadway, Lark and Pearl Streets. Over the last decade, Lark Street has become a "Greenwich Village" type of community that offers eclectic and "off-beat" shops, music venues, and restaurants. Summer concerts are sponsored by the city and local businesses at the Corning Preserve, Riverfront Park, Washington Park, Tricentennial Square and the Empire State Plaza.