Being married to an upstate New Yorker and living here in Charlotte, I’ve come to realize just how many New York State “transplants” there are living in this area. Buffalo Bills fans come popping out of the woodwork on a regular basis, don’t they?
My guess is many of you are traveling home to that area to visit family over the holiday season or maybe you’re planning a trip to Niagara Falls or New England. Either way, if you’re going in that direction and you have young kids, a GREAT stop-off is to the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y.
Think Discovery Place Kids in Huntersville times about 10, just for the sheer expanse of it. The Strong Museum is more than 200,000 square feet (including the National Toy Hall of Fame on the second level) of interactive games, toys, displays and fun. And believe it or not they’re working on a 90,000 square foot expansion to open in 2023!
Just when I am about to get envious of the people living in Rochester for having such an amazing kids’ museum at their fingertips, I remember what it must be like to live in Rochester in the winter and concede they should have it – and we should just keep visiting!
My husband and I took our three sons last year while making our annual summer trek to visit relatives in western New York and our boys LOVED it. We just had to bookmark a day for another visit when we went back to New York in July.
You’d think spending five hours there last year might take the luster off a trip back, but you’d be wrong! We had to drag our boys, now 6 and 4-year-old twins, out after another five-hour stay. Going from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. seems to be our sweet spot. We can eat lunch in the cafeteria there, play more afterward and still leave with plenty of time to drive an hour south and get to our hotel for dinner and bedtime.
It was obvious to me this time how much the Strong Museum meets kids at different developmental stages. This year the boys loved playing school in the old timey classroom and sorting mail in the post office. They served us meals from the hotdog stand, a food truck and at the “EZmeal” café at Wegmen’s. They rode a carousel and of course the little miniature train.
On top of that, we had so much new to see because of all the temporary exhibits the museum features. We just happened to time it where we got to see the traveling Paw Patrol exhibit, which my boys loved. And they could have spent hours in the “Got It” exhibit, which demonstrated the benefits of curious play. My boys loved dipping their hands in the table of kinetic sand, trying out the tube and pulley system where they could toss in balls that got carried around the room, and we all got a little dizzy walking through a slanted room.
We had to revisit some of our favorites too, like the butterfly garden, the superheroes hall, the Sesame Street steps, story time, a space ship flight deck and of course all three boys had to “shop” at the mini-Wegman’s grocery store.
It’s impossible to get it all done, so we don’t even try. After all, we know we’ll be back next year!