Before moving back to Western New York, we would visit my family there at least once per year. The trips involved big family gatherings, wings, and most importantly, a trip to The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester.
No matter how packed our trips were, there was always a full day set aside to visit our favorite museum. Even at less than a year old in 2015, Fox’s first visit was filled with infant playgrounds, toys that made his eyes light up, and fun interactions with other babies his size. New York’s largest indoor butterfly garden is at The Strong and was a huge hit with him in these early years.
Fast forwarding to last weekend, our most recent trip involved many more jungle gyms, interactive displays and even some video game playing. We were lucky enough to take in a full dose of nostalgia wandering through the Toy Halls of Fame, the massive exhibits and collections of artifacts from the worlds of pop culture, games, and toys.
As we wandered from the Sesame Street set re-creation and past the kid-sized Wegmans Super Kids Market (complete with shopping carts and cash registers), we realized that every trip to The Strong museum has been a completely unique experience. Fox shows interest in new activities and exhibits, and we’re able to explore new collections and learn about the history of play from new perspectives.
It’s impossible to fully explain the size and scope of the museum.
I have a soft spot for historical artifacts, and The Strong delivers with hundreds of thousands of mesmerizing items like Barbie No. 1 and the world’s first jigsaw puzzle from 1766. Of course, I had to pry Tyler away from the World Video Game Hall of Fame and the full arcade featuring both modern and vintage cabinets and consoles. The combination of history museum, pop culture nostalgia, and children’s museum is what keeps us wanting to come back as frequently as possible, and no matter how little time has passed between trips, there’s always a new space, exhibit, or interactive area to explore. Of course, it’s always Fox who wakes up every morning asking to go back to his “zee-um!”
Because of its close proximity to Western and Central New York, Pennsylvania, and Canada, it’s an easy and worthwhile trip from a large area of North America. Right now, The Strong welcomes more than half a million visitors per year, and I’m thrilled to learn that the world’s only collections-based museum dedicated to play is planning a massive expansion over the next two years.
Get ready to watch them grow!
The museum is planning 100,000 more square feet of exhibition and exploration space, new exhibits, and a massive redevelopment plan for the immediate area which will be dubbed the “Neighborhood of Play” with market-rent housing, urban-mix retail and a hotel. The additions to the museum and surrounding area are expected to nearly double annual visitation and provide an even more extensive and enlightening experience for visitors.
I’m so excited to see The Strong National Museum of Play continue to grow and welcome more people to this region, it truly holds a special place in our hearts!
Have you ever been?