By Jennifer Weber
Just a short drive up the I-90 to Rochester is a magical place for kids just waiting to be discovered during February break—The Strong Museum of Play.
One of the top kid-friendly museums in the country, the Strong Museum of Play boasts over 100,000 square feet of interactive exhibit space, including more than 400,000 items related to play, like toys, dolls, games and video games, books, photographs, documents, and other historical materials related to play. The museum also houses the National Toy Hall of Fame, World Video Game Hall of Fame and the International Center for the History of Electronic Games.
Kids young and old will find ways to spend hours at the museum. Toddlers and preschoolers can hang out with Sesame Street characters at the Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street? Exhibit, along with having fun at Build, Drive, Go, Play Pals, Field of Play, Reading Adventureland and Berenstain Bears: Down a Sunny Dirt Road.
Older children (yes, that includes the adults!) can enjoy current exhibits such as American Comic Book Heroes: The Battle of Good vs. Evil, eGameRevolution, Pinball Playfields and Game Time!
There are lots of hands-on, interactive opportunities for high-energy kids, but on the flipside there are also craft tables, book nooks, aquariums, and an outdoor Discovery Garden for those who might need a little less stimulation.
One of the most popular exhibits at the museum is the National Toy Hall of Fame. Created back in 1998, the National Toy Hall of Fame recognizes toys that have “inspired creative play and enjoyed popularity over a sustained period.” Each year, the hall inducts new honorees and displays both new and historic versions of classic toys. In 2016 The Swing, Dungeons & Dragons, and Fisher Price “Little People” were added to the collection, which is now at 62 toys loved by kids of all generations.
The Strong Museum of Play’s Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden is Upstate New York’s only year-round indoor butterfly garden. The garden features 1,000 free flying tropical and native butterflies. Tickets for the 20-minute timed-visit are in addition to the general museum admission. Advance purchase of butterfly tickets is highly recommended for high visitation times such as school-break weeks.
The World Video Game Hall of Fame “recognizes individual electronic games of all types—arcade, console, computer, handheld, and mobile—that have enjoyed popularity over a sustained period and have exerted influence on the video game industry or on popular culture and society in general.” Inductees include DOOM, Grand Theft Auto III, The Legend of Zelda, The Oregon Trail, Pac-Man, Pong, The Sims, Sonic the Hedgehog, Space Invaders, Super Mario Bros., Tetris, and World of Warcraft and can be found on permanent display in the eGameRevolution exhibit.
One of the museum’s most popular exhibits, Wegmans Super Kids Market is a dream come true for children aspiring to be like mommy and daddy. Grab a child-size cart and grab milk, eggs, bread and meat from the aisles in the store or act as a worker in the bakery, checkout line or butcher department. Kids also have a chance to produce a commercial or cooking show through the WKID-TV station located in the exhibit.
Rev Up School-Break Week is a special exhibit going on from Saturday, Feb. 18 – Sunday, Feb. 26. The museum’s web site describes it as, “Design and draw a customized motorcycle. Peddle your way to victory on a special preschooler tricycle course from noon to 4 p.m. Test your movie-motorcycle knowledge by matching pictures of cinematic motorcycles and riders to the correct movies. View a display of vintage and modern motorcycles courtesy of Cycle Stop. Then discover how engineers ensure motorcycles have a smooth and fast ride as you explore the Hands-On Harley-DavidsonTM exhibit.”
In addition to the numerous fun exhibits to check out, there’s also the Everything for Play! shop where you can buy dress-up clothing, Melissa & Doug merchandise, puppets, books featuring Sesame Street, Nick Jr., Curious George, the Berenstain Bears, puzzles, crafts, educational games and a special selections of toys featured in the National Toy Hall of Fame.
And there’s no need to leave the museum to grab a bite to eat— there’s a food court where you can check out kids’ favorites such as Pizza Hut, Subway, Taco Bell and Louie’s Sweet Shoppe. Or grab a burger at Bill Gray’s Restaurant in the vintage Skyliner Diner located in the museum’s atrium.
Text PLAY to 43506 to receive mobile alerts from the museum with event notifications, special offers and exhibits sneak peeks!
Museum hours are Monday–Thursday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday & Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday 12 to 5 p.m. Admission tickets for ages 2 and older are $14.50, children under the age of 2 are free.
For more information visit www.museumofplay.org.