In these bitter Buffalo winters, sometimes the only way to survive as a mother is to find places where your children can let loose and use all their energy. While there are plenty of places in Buffalo for this, sometimes it can be a fun experience to see what other cities have to offer. Recently, I travelled to the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester with my two-year old son, and my mother. What we found was a children's paradise that also encourages learning.
During busy times, such as last week's school vacation, planning ahead is your best bet. We decided to buy a membership online before arriving to speed up the process. Although this seems pricey at $94 for a family, it will be paid in full after our third trip, and includes discounts at gift shops, guest passes, and free tickets to museum activities. Since there are separate member and non-member admission lanes, this proved to be a great choice.
We also purchased advance (discounted) tickets for their popular "Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden" exhibit, to ensure we could get in. This exhibit is a great experience to see many butterflies, turtles, tortoises, and birds, and escape the winter cold. You do need a timed ticket to enter, but this limits the number of people you have to share the gardens with. At only $3.00 per person (or $1.50 for members), it was a good deal.
The museum is split into many interesting areas. Kids can play on Sesame Street with Big Bird, shop at a children's size Wegmans store, visit a large Lego area, and have fun with the Berenstein Bears. The Lego area proved to be the most exciting for my son. He built a tower using oversized foam lego blocks, and enjoyed a slide located in a lego castle.
What is possibly the most enticing for parents is that the Strong Museum is not just a collection of toys to look at. Themed areas include bridges and slides, playgrounds, sand boxes, playhouses, and more. Children are not meant to "look with their eyes", but are encouraged to touch, jump, climb, and enjoy. There are areas meant for small toddlers through older children as well. Almost as good, is the fact that the kids are learning colors, shapes, numbers & letters, communication and more when they visit.
I would definitely recommend taking the short trip to Rochester with your children to the Strong National Museum of Play. I'm sure to be back soon, and with our membership we can pop in any time! As a single mom, I would advise others to bring a friend or family member to experience the day, as well as help you navigate the building. Here are just a few tips to make your time at the museum even better:
- Visit their website before you arrive to see admission prices and hours of operation. You will get a great plan started after seeing all they have online.
- Consider packing a lunch or snacks. While the museum does have a food court, and cafeteria style diner, these areas get jammed during peak lunch times.
- Spend your time in the areas your child likes most, and don't try to see it all. It was very easy for my mother and I to want to show my son every little thing. We had to step back and just let him play. It was much less stressful this way.
- Get there early. The parking lot fills up quickly after open time. After that, you have to park in another area and take a shuttle.
- Consider leaving the stroller at home if possible. The moms pushing huge strollers had trouble navigating around all the children. If you can, take any little ones in a front or back pack.