Washington Park: Albany NY’s Most Beloved Park And The Annual Tulip Festival

Washington Park in Albany, NY is a beautiful and historic park that offers visitors a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. The park spans 84 acres and is located in the heart of Albany’s historic district, making it a popular destination for locals and visitors alike.

The park hosts a number of fun events throughout the year, but none is as special as the annual Tulip Festival. A celebration of the city’s Dutch heritage and the arrival of spring, Albany’s 75th Tulip Festival is one of the largest events in the capital city of New York State.

Pink and Yellow tulips at the Albany Tulip Festival

How Many Tulips Are Planted In Washington Park, Albany NY?

The City of Albany goes all out for Mother’s Day. And on the weekend of May 13-14, 2023, more than 140,000 tulips will brighten Washington Park before, and during, the Tulip Festival.

Beginning with the ceremonial scrubbing of State Street, and continuing with the Tulip Queen Coronation, Royal Tulip Ball, and Annual Mother of the Year Award, the Albany NY Tulip Festival is a colorful celebration of Dutch heritage and imaginative communal space.

The street scrubbing ceremony is a reenactment of the Dutch custom of cleaning the streets before the arrival of royalty. And one of the highlights of the festival is the Tulip Queen coronation ceremony. This ceremony celebrates the young women who have been chosen as finalists for the Tulip Queen competition. The Tulip Queen is chosen based on her community involvement, leadership skills, and dedication to the city of Albany.

During the weekend-long festival, there will be a slew of food vendors and arts and crafts vendors. Local and national acts will provide live music and entertainment. Plus, there’s lots of family-friendly fun, including a rock wall, pony rides, and a variety of children’s activities.

And in the weeks before that, Discover Albany is offering a giveaway to encourage visitors and residents to go on self-guided tours of the tulips and city parks, and historic sites.

Who Designed Washington Park Albany NY?

Washington Park was first conceived in 1869 by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux when Albany was at the height of prosperity. Located at the north end of the Hudson River and the original eastern terminus of the Erie Canal, the capital city was a center of transportation and home to some of the earliest railroad systems in the world.

In the 1860s, Albany, New York was one of the top 10 most densely populated cities in America and one of its wealthiest. But it still retained the open space–previously used for burial sites, military parade grounds, and even a drain tile factory–that was available to develop Washington Park.

Olmsted envisioned a series of parks and boulevards in Albany, with Washington Park as the crowning jewel. That dream was never realized. However, his idea to dam Beaver Kill to form a lake resulted in the picturesque 5.2-acre Washington Park Lake that now anchors one end of the park.

John Bogart, an Albany native, and John Cuyler ended up drawing up plans for the 81-acre park in 1870, and much of the landscape took shape shortly thereafter under the guidance of Superintendent William S. Egerton during his 38-year tenure.

Washington Park ruins
Remains of Victorian-era water fountain shelter laid out next to open space once used for croquet.

Although park statues fared well in the following century, time was not so kind to other structures.

By the 1920s, several buildings showed wear and tear and were slated for renovations. The Old Lake House was torn down, and replaced by J. Russell Wright’s elaborate Spanish Revival building in 1929–opening just days before the stock market crash.

How Did The Albany Tulip Festival Get Started?

It was decades before Washington Park saw a revival. In the spring of 1940, the City of Albany planted 90,000 bulbs and was rewarded by increased attendance prompted by curiosity about the spectacle.

In 1948, Mayor Corning named the tulip as Albany’s official flower and put in a request for Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands to designate a particular variety, resulting in the Orange Wonder being the Tulip of Albany. And so the Tulip Festival was born in 1949.

What Is There To See At Albany Washington Park?

Originally designed in the late 1800s, the park features a mix of formal and informal landscapes, including winding paths, open fields, and wooded areas. One of the park’s most popular features is its beautiful lake, which is home to ducks, geese, and other wildlife. Visitors can circle the lake on walkways or simply relax and enjoy the view from one of the many benches situated along the water’s edge.

King Memorial Fountain at Albany Washington Park

In addition to its natural beauty, Washington Park is also home to a variety of historic landmarks and monuments. One of the most notable is the King Memorial Fountain, sculpted by J. Massey Rhind in 1893, and depicting Moses smiting a rock. Its four figures represent infancy, youth, adulthood, and old age.

John Burns Statue

Among the oldest monuments, is a bronze of the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns, sculpted by Charles Calverley. Each of the four panels around the base features one of Burns’ poems.

What Is There To Do At Washington Park In Albany?

Throughout the year, Washington Park is home to a variety of events and activities, in addition to the Tulip Festival.

During the summer months, the park hosts a variety of concerts and outdoor movie screenings, as well as yoga classes and other fitness activities. In the fall, visitors can enjoy the stunning foliage as the leaves change colors, while in the winter, the park is transformed into a winter wonderland with holiday lights and decorations.

Overall, Washington Park is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Albany, NY. Its natural beauty, historic landmarks, and year-round events make it a beloved destination for locals and visitors alike.