Pros: Great for Kids, interactive learning exhibits, Super Kids Market!
Cons: 2nd floor museum collections boring for some.
As a stay-at-home parent in the Rochester NY area, I'm always looking for fun family oriented destinations, day trips and sights to see - especially those that cause little to no blow on the wallet!
Located in the downtown area of Rochester New York, the Strong Museum is one of our favorite places to go. Admission to the Strong Museum is very reasonable, at $6 for adults, children between the ages of 2 and 17 are $5, kids under 2 are free. Museum membership can be purchased reasonably [$50 (for individuals) and $70 (for families)] and entitle you to free admission, guest passes and more. In fact, we liked it so much that after visiting it once we decided to plop down for an annual family membership.
Visting the Strong Museum is best enjoyed if you have children, or are a kid at heart. Don't let the word "museum" jade your thinking at all when it comes to stopping here. This is not a traditional museum by any means. In fact, just the opposite. The majority of the exhibits are intended for hands-on-learning aka playing, and more!
The Strong Museum opens most days at 10 a.m. (except for on Sundays when it opens at noon) and closes at 5pm (except for Fridays when its open til 8pm). I recommend if you are going there, to make a day of it. If you want to take advantage of Free Parking in their adjoining lot you'll want to arrive shortly after the museum opens. Otherwise you can pay for parking across the street at the Washington Square Garage or in one of the neighboring city lots.
Weekdays at the museum are quieter, with weekends being much more busy and at times a bit chaotic. All bets are off during vacation time, when the museum is "hopping" most of the time. So, pack your diaper bags and your strollers, it's off to the Strong Museum we go!
A DAY AT THE STRONG MUSEUM
As you enter the museum you are greeted by the Elaine Wilson Carousel, which is a restored antique carousel that dates back to 1918. Rides on the carousel are only 50 cents for both children and adults.
Once you've paid your admission and gotten past all the various eateries and spenderies of the museum its time to get down and have some fun. The Strong Museum is divided amongst two levels. The lower level is geared to kids of all ages, with a focus on the younger children. And the second level contains galleries for kids and adults as well as some learning activities for older children (I'd say from ages 10 and up).
The Strong Museum has both regular exhibits and traveling exhibits that are always changing. This means that there's always something new to see or do when you go there. A full listing of current exhibits is listed on the Strong Museum Website, but I'll touch on several of our favorites below.
Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Streetis the first exhibit that you'll see as you are greeted by a facade that looks just like the set of Sesame Street from the Children's Television Workshop. This exhibit is huge and to be honest my son could probably play here happily the whole time. The exhibit includes The Hands-On/Minds-On Playground, Elmo's Taxi Cab station- a small bright yellow cab that kids can climb in and "drive", or fix the engine on using the provided tools, A viewing theatre showing Sesame street, Big Bird's "Same & Different" Nest - a giant nest big enough to fit several kids and MORE. This area is best for kids aged 1 and up.
Super Kids Market is our other favorite and is worth the price of admission alone for kids who like to shop. The Super Kids market looks just like a Wegmans grocery store but everything is sized for children. As you enter kids can pick out one of 2 different sized grocery carts (Toddler or Preschooler sized), or a basket. They are then instructed to go pick out any groceries (depending on if the museum is busy there will be a limit on how many - usually its 5 items). The market includes full produce sections, meat and dairy sections, frozen foods, dry good, health and beauty, you name it. All of the items are fake - made of a plastic or rubber material or empty containers that are just like the "real thing". My son has a blast here. He just loves the fake veggies and fruits and also the dairy section. Once you are done shopping you get to check out. Even the cash registers and checkout aisles have been sized down for kids. Even better, it all works. Each item will scan and you are given a receipt that looks just like a real Wegman's receipt for your shopping. When finished, its your job to put back all the food you picked out on the shelves. Then you can either start all over again (been there, done that) or visit the rest of the museum.
Adjacent to the market there is also a TV station attached where you can make a commercial (and tape it!) or pretend to film a cooking channel infomercial. Kids need to be able to crawl or walk to enjoy the market.
Some other top exhibits include:
Kid To Kid makes up the bulk of the ground floor. Included here is a giant airplane, and a ship as well as a post office, theatrical stage and costumes, a sandbox (filled with packing material), and more. There are more than 20 different "play" areas with activities set up at them, focused around learning. Some areas are set up specifically for crawlers and younger children.
One History Place is an enclosed area which includes an old-fashioned kitchen, attic, parlor, and train station. Trunks are available with dress-up clothes and the focus is on "role-play". Because One History Place has several small items, it is only for children over the age of 3 and with supervision.
Strong Museum Express
For 50 cents both parents and children will enjoy riding on this small locomotive train that circles around a small set of tracks inside the museum. The train was recently added in May 2002 and at this time you really get your monies worth. The last few trips we've gone the "conductors" have let the train circle the tracks for a good 5 minutes (at least), depending on the demand for the ride. Kids of all ages will enjoy this!
Making Radio Waves is the newest exhibit, having only opened in July 2002. This is geared for kids who are school age or higher, and its a mock radio station. I haven't tried this out yet (my son is too young) but I've seen older kids have a great time here.
GALLERIES & COLLECTIONS
Dolls, Dolls, Everywhere!
The second floor of the museum includes thousands of objects from history ranging from dolls, clothes, toys, and more. The museum is most known for the many many dolls that are on display as well dollhouses. They belonged to Margaret Woodbury Strong for whom the museum is named for. When the museum first opened the focus was very much upon these collections but over time its become more of a children's museum. Some children may find these exhibits a bit boring but those who enjoy seeing historical toys, dolls, or elaborate dollhouses will enjoy it very much. The historical dollhouses are very cool and unlike anything I've seen "today".
OTHER "STUFF" AT THE STRONG MUSEUM
Located in the lobby area of the museum is and old vintage diner, called the Skyliner Diner. You can eat inside the diner or on their indoor patio dining area. The Skyliner is actually a Bill Grays location, serving all sorts of tasty burgers and related faire at prices comparable to fast-food. I recommend the cheeseburgers, personally and my son likes the kids meal (with hot dog, of course). Kids meals and high chairs are available and the facility is very clean.
Or, if you want to pack your lunch there is also a vending area with table and chairs also located on the ground level near Louie's Sweet Shoppe. The sweet shop is a 1920's style soda fountain that serves milkshakes and sundaes that are in a word delicious as well as gourmet coffees. Yumm!
Located in and near the lobby are also large and very clean restroom facilities. Both the mens and women's restrooms include the necessary changing stations for children still in diapers.
Other restroom and break facilities are located throughout the museum. There is even a quiet room with couches and a television with a door that closes. This is a perfect spot for parents to take children to quiet down for a bit, or to feed your baby.
Like all museums located near the exit/entrance is a mid-size museum shop with souvenirs, gifts a more. Prices range from many inexpensive items to the unaffordable. Your mileage may vary here!
A little bit of Reading?
The Strong Museum is not just a museum, but its a library too. Book nooks are located all over the museum, with one large exhibit set up on the ground floor next to the Museum Shop. The books belong to the Grada Hopeman Gelser Library which is part of the Rochester Central Library system. Any local library card will work, and the books can be returned to your local branch.
Located adjacent to the Sweet Shoppe is a small theatre showing kid oriented, educational short movies. Movies are Free with your admission to the museum.
And crafts too!
Kids will enjoy doing Make it & Take it crafts set up at tables all around the museum. The tables are great for you to sit down with your child and draw or assemble a craft. The craft activities are always changing at the museum. For example, the day before father's day they had the kids making little paper ties out of construction paper. These are definitely the types of crafts you'll want to hold onto or display proudly on your refrigerator.
Are you (and your kids) Ready to Go to the Strong Museum?
Children who are mobile are likely to not want to be contained in a stroller on the ground floor, but will be content to ride around in the upstairs. Our winning formula for this museum is to hit the lower level activities first and eat lunch while we're at it. Once sufficiently worn out, then we take the Space Ship Elevator upstairs to browse the galleries. Many times, our toddler will fall asleep either in his stroller, or in the carseat on the way home. Ahh...silence!
Have fun at the Strong Museum
For more info on the Strong Museum including directions, admission prices, hours of operation, special exhibits, and more:
For more Kid Friendly places to go in Rochester:
Seneca Park Zoo:
Rochester with Kids
Kids Out and About