The Best Kids' Museum You Never Heard Of

by  Paul Eisenberg | Feb 2, 2010
Museum of Play
Museum of Play / Photo courtesy of the museum

Rochester has long wanted your respect as an all-season Finger Lakes getaway, but its reputation as one of our most livable cities has perhaps too often cemented in our minds that yeah, it’s a great place to live, but I wouldn’t want to visit there.

The city’s visitor association exists, as most visitor associations do, to reverse that kind of conclusion. And if your family’s predisposed to outdoor sports and festivals, Rochester belongs on your list of possible destinations. But the Strong National Museum of Play is another, lesser-known reason to go. Its activities and exhibits raise the bar for kids’ play spaces and packs appeal for parents, too.

Even if the charming carousel and indoor butterfly garden seem like old hat, you’ll be collectively pleased at how much liberty you have to run around this place. An ample and well-stocked “super kids market” has moving check-out conveyer belts and shopping carts waiting to be pushed too quickly. Children seven and under will enjoy visiting a recreation of the Berenstain Bears’ town, and even if your older ones have long left the Sesame Street fold, a vast, interactive play area, created in cooperation with Sesame Workshop, will bring them back.

Less hands on but still conducive to dashing and touching is the museum's National Toy Hall of Fame, whose 44 inducted toys include Big Wheel and GameBoy. And speaking of beeping gizmos, the offering most likely to get dads on board with this outing is the museum’s National Center for the History of Electronic Games. You’ll only be able to glimpse or handle a fraction of collection’s almost 20,000 items, but gamers take heart: A permanent electronic games exhibit’s on tap for 2012, and games not available to the public are “accessible to scholars for research,” which ought to inspire at least some kids to pursue higher education for the chance to touch all these toys.

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