The Strong Museum of Play is an amazing Children’s museum in Rochester, New York that offers interactive exhibits, a butterfly garden, and the Toy Hall of Fame. It boast the largest collection of toys in the world. We have lived in Rochester for six years now and one of our favorite things to do is spend Friday nights at the Strong Museum of Play. Here is my list of Must Do’s when visiting with your family.
The Strong Museum of Play was voted as a Top Children’s Museum by Family Fun Magazine and it is a gem of the city of Rochester. We visited before we lived here and have been members since 2010. I have to let you in on a secret. Friday nights at the Strong Museum of Play are the best time to visit!
Friday nights are a great time to visit the museum because it has low crowds and starts your weekend off with a fun family activity. When we have something planned on a Friday it always seems to make the weekend feel a little longer! Last Friday we visited to celebrate the first week of school and enjoy some quality family time. There are so many amazing exhibits here and every visit we discover something new. Here are our favorite things we do when we visit.
Best of the Strong Museum of Play
1. Discovery Garden
Our first stop is the Discovery Garden. It is an outdoor garden and is seasonally open. It is to the left of the entrance before you enter the museum. We always stop there first and sometimes at the end of our visit. There are a few paths and bells the kids can play with. There is also a collection of fairy houses and a spot where you can create your own. I love visiting here first because it is peaceful(except for the bells, which my kids like to loudly bang!) and second because it is beautiful. The flowers are gorgeous and the fairy houses are so intricately done. I could spend an hour looking at all the attention to details on the houses.
2. Wegmans Super Kids Market and WKID TV
Wegmans Super Kids Market and WKIDTV is a full grocery store complete with a coffee shop, cheese store, and cash registers. The kids can go shopping and then scan and pay for their “food”. There is a 5 item limit on what you can put in your shopping cart and at the end you must put everything back in its place. Near the cash registers there is a smaller play area that has pretend carrots and apples to pick and count. On a recent visit we discovered the TV station in the back of the exhibit. Honestly every time we visit we find something new!! Here the kids could report the news and local weather. They had such a fun time in this part.
3. American Comic Book Heroes
My kids love super heroes, especially my youngest. This has huge statues of Superman, Hulk, Batman and other super hero characters. The walls in this area are lined with movie posters, comic books, and super hero memorabilia. It is great for any adults and kids. There is a strength exhibit that you get “zapped”(a green light) with gamma ray and become strong like Hulk. There is a dress up area, a few arcade games and make your own superhero. You take your picture and then email yourself the picture. There is also a photo op where it looks like you are climbing a building like spiderman. This is a must do if you have a super hero fan in your house. When my daughter was little she was a little frightened by the size of the superhero statues, especially Hulk. If you think this may be your child, you can avoid this area and walk through Reading Adventureland.
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4. Reading Adventureland
There is so much in this area I do not even know where to start!! A favorite of my kids is directly to the right when you enter, it is a Mystery House. In it there are different puzzles/riddles to solve. I have to be honest we didn’t discover this area until a year ago!! There is just so much to do here. There is a climbing bean stalk area for kids, a fairy tale cottage with beds/kitchen stuff, a garden, Cinderella’s pumpkin, a pirate ship, and a giant puppet the kids can move and make talk. All through this area there are quotes from authors, book displays, and craft areas. It is really an amazing place to discover. I love checking out all the little hallways and areas. This is also a place where kids can get lost quick!! There is so just so much and kids are always so excited!!
5. The Berenstain Bears
This exhibit is an oldie but a goodie. I have to admit my kids have not actually read too many Berenstain Bears books but as a kid I did!! (Might have to stop at library and pick some up today!) They always had great lessons and they still apply today. So even though they are less familiar with the characters they still love the hands-on activities. There is a diner, a farm area, a dentist, a small slide for the little ones, crafting stations, music station, quilting area and the jump rope spot. On Friday we spent our time quilting and jump roping. The quilt station has a little store to sell Mama Bears quilts but the best part is making your own patterns. All three of my kids enjoyed making different colored patterns. I played too!! The jump rope spot is my daughters favorite. It is not actually a jump rope but a game with a light. Every time it lights up at the bottom you jump. Her highest score is 46!! Whenever we go she tries to beat it! This can be a challenge to play on a busy day and is best when the crowds are low.
6. Caterpillar Atrium/Toy Halls of Fame
The Caterpillar Atrium is at the before you enter Reading Adventureland and American Comic Book Heroes. At times they use this area for special events. There are bathrooms, a nursing/family room, and elevators to upstairs. The windows in this room are so pretty and if you time it right the sun setting can be great! I always try to stop and appreciate it before we make our way upstairs.
Recently the upstairs part of the museum has been making a lot of changes. Our favorites are in the Toy Halls of Fame area. When walking up the stairs from the atrium they have moving pictures that interact with each other. Barbie, Lego Mini-figures, G.I. Joe and a teddy bear come to life! It is full of surprises!! This is a must see if you haven’t visited recently!! At the top we discovered this crayon music maker. When you move your hand over it up and down it makes the sound change. A very helpful employee taught us that!!
7. Video Games/Pinball Games
My kids enjoy playing video games, and I do too…but not all the time. There are a lot of new ways technology is being incorporated in the museum. At the entrance of Berenstain Bears there is a newly designed Pinball Area. Some of the games are old and are really neat to look at. Most of them cost a quarter. There are token machines to exchange your money.
Upstairs they have video games that require tokens and video games that are free. My kids like the dodgeball floor game the best. There is no charge for this. I have to be honest there are times when we avoid the games all together, times when each kid gets a dollar, and times when we play a lot.
Usually when we go I want to get away from the electronics in my own house and spend unplugged time with the kids, but there are times when we are all playing the games together and that can be well spent family time too. They do have some vintage games that take me back to my own childhood and the kids laugh at how much the technology has really changed.
First Time Visit Must See/Tips:
There really is so many more exhibits and it is worth visiting the Strong Museum of Play website to see what is on your families Must See list. Here are a few exhibits that first time visitors should see:
- Short-Term Exhibits(First Floor)
- Sesame Street(First Floor)
- Play Pals(Second Floor)
- Build, Drive, Go(Second Floor)
- Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden (First floor, Separate admission needed.)
The Strong Museum of Play also has a food court with Pizza Hut, Subway, and a Taco Bell. There is a diner too. You are allowed to bring food in but no food or drink are allowed inside the exhibits. We also discovered that they have healthy vending machines. If packing a lunch is not an option you can find healthy food. We bought hummus and pretzels, small bags of apples, and carrots. Who knew eating at a vending machine could be healthy!
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