A few weeks ago, while visiting Jennifer’s parents for Christmas, we decided to pay a visit to the Strong Museum in Rochester, NY. Since her parents live an hour outside Rochester it was doable, and because it was about 20 degrees outside we needed some indoor activities for the boys.
Officially known as the Strong National Museum of Play, it is located in downtown Rochester. From the New York State Thruway it was very easy to find. Had we visited in the summer I would have been up for exploring the surrounding area as well. Jennifer agreed and confessed that she has not spent much time in Rochester. (It has always surprised me that Jennifer grew up near both Syracuse and Rochester, but spent very little time in either city, save for visits to the Carrier Dome to watch her beloved SU basketball team. She chalks it up to being a small town girl. I on the other hand much prefer cities.).
Upon arriving at the museum I was pleased to find there was ample free parking in the museum’s parking lot. I was even more pleased that admission was reasonable ($13.50 per person, children 2 and under are free). The museum is quite large, boasting over 150,000 square feet. There are many hands-on exhibits, which the boys loved. We practically had to drag them out of the construction zone where they and several other children were busy erecting an elaborate structure with plastic snap-into-place pieces.
Other themed areas included the Bernstein Bears, Sesame Street and a story book land, filled with large play areas with Humpty Dumpty, Peter Rabbit, the Three Bears and many others.
My favorite part of the museum was the National Toy Hall of Fame. Basically this is the Cooperstown for toys. Strolling through this exhibit brought back many memories of toys that I played with (or wanted to own as a kid but never did), and provided a cool retrospective on how far the toy industry has come and the evolving complexity of toys, which mirrors changes in society. All of your favorites are here: Lincoln Logs, GI Joes, View Master, Barbie dolls, Lionel Trains, Jack-in-the-Box, Slinkys, Mr. Potato Head and on and on. Recent inductees include Star Wars action figures, Hot Wheels cars and rubber duckies. I am not sure what criteria is used to determine which toys get into the Hall of Fame, but they may be similar to Major League baseball as they seem to take it quite seriously.
Jennifer’s favorite exhibit was the Wegmans Super Kids Market. Imagine a miniature supermarket, where children both shop and work behind the counters and registers. Wegmans is headquartered in Rochester and has a bit of a cult following. The exhibit is a cute replica of the regular grocery stores, complete with a sushi section, pizza station, and deli counter. The boys liked taking turns as shoppers and store employees.
When shopping, each child is allowed to pick out five items from the store to put in their shopping cart. They can then unload their items onto the working belt and check themselves out. There is even a working register that produces a real receipt!
Declan’s favorite exhibit was the Post Office where kids can write a postcard and drop it into the nearby mailbox. He would have happily filled up the entire mailbox with his scribbled on post cards if we let him stay there all afternoon.
There was also a butterfly house, which was the highlight for Finnegan. There is an extra fee to go into the butterfly house so I stayed behind while Jennifer went in with the kids. After their 15 minute tour, they came out raving about getting to hold the butterflies and telling me all about the turtles and birds that also live in the house with the butterflies.
Another favorite for Finnegan was the super hero section of the museum. There are large statues of the super heroes and a great version of whac-a-mole where the kids help Batman by whacking his enemies on the head.
Our only regret was that we did not arrive earlier in the day as we ran out of time because the museum was closing. We hope to visit again and we would suggest setting aside most of the day to spend there as you will certainly have plenty to see and do during your visit. Out of all of the children’s museums that we have visited so far, this was probably our favorite. Even during Christmas break, it wasn’t crowded and our kids were the perfect age for most of the exhibits.
Do you have a favorite children’s museum?