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A Day of Family Fun at the Strong Museum of Play

You will enjoy a full day of family fun at the Strong Museum of Play.

{Thank you to the Strong and Visit Rochester for hosting us.}

The Strong Museum located in Rochester, NY is a must-see family attraction.

Bringing out your inner kid is easy to do when you visit the Strong Museum in Rochester.  Encompassing two floors and over 100,000 square feet of exhibits, you will easily spend an entire day visiting this museum.  I visited the Strong this summer with my 9 and 11-year-old children. During our visit we saw kids of all ages, from babies to college freshman visiting with the University of Rochester as part of orientation!

The kids playing Dance Dance Revolution at the Strong Museum of Play.

This is a very popular place! When we arrived at the 10 AM opening, there was already a line at the admission desk. Every exhibit in the Strong has interactive elements.  We first headed towards the Field of Play, where the focus is on the six different elements of play.  Here the kids climbed a rock wall, walked through a giant kaleidoscope, stood in an optical illusion house and more. They loved playing Dance Dance Revolution and I may have even danced a round or two for old time’s sake!

Younger children will love the Sesame Street Exhibit where they can sit on the stoop of 123 Sesame Street, visit Elmo’s World, watch old episodes of the show and more.

The Wegmans Super Kids Market at the Strong Museum.

My kids loved the Wegmans Super Kids Market and WKID TV.  When you enter the exhibit, you can pick either a shopping basket or a miniature shopping cart to shop with.  You are allowed to shop for six items at a time and then are requested to check out.  While shopping you can choose from a variety of foods including fruits & veggies, breads, fish, meats and cheese.  My son even picked up some sushi at the prepared foods section!  Checking out was their favorite part.  You place your items on the movable conveyor belt, scan them and then get an itemized, printed receipt! When you are finished, you are asked to re-shelve your items for the next group of shoppers.  The back of the store has the WKID TV station where kids can be on television or work the camera and lights.

During our visit, “Have a Ball” was in the short-term exhibit gallery.  This exhibit showcased the importance of ball play through different zones. We especially enjoyed playing with Spheros, remote-controlled balls, in the Robot Park. Upcoming exhibits include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Sept. 16, 2017 – January 1, 2018) and Thomas & Friends (January 20 – May 6, 2018).

Superhero fans will love the American Comic Book Heroes exhibit. Young and old will see a collection of familiar superheroes.  There are several hands-on displays and a fun photo op too!

A whole room of pinball machines at the Strong Museum. For a couple of bucks you can get a ton of tokens and play almost all the pinball machines.

The kids were sad that my husband couldn’t make the trip with us. He’s a huge pinball machine fan and they knew he would have loved the Pinball Playfields exhibit. It’s a huge room filled only with pinball machines! Included in the exhibit are the early, basic pinball machines to the fancy, themed ones of today. For only a couple of dollars you can get a bunch of tokens and play to your heart’s content.

You can spend the entire day at Reading Adventureland at the Strong Museum. There is so much to see and do!

One of my favorite areas of the museum was Reading Adventureland.  You can literally spend the entire day in just this one exhibit.  There are five different areas inspired by children’s literature including Adventure Island,  Fairy Tale Forest, Mystery Mansion, Upside-Down Nonsense House and Wizard’s Workshop.  Each landscape has books, interactive elements and some even have craft areas.

We didn’t spend much time in The Berenstein Bears exhibit, but younger children will have a blast with all of the hands-on fun here.  We also didn’t visit One History Place, an interactive exhibit of toys from the past.  For $1 per person you can ride on the Strong Express Train or the Elaine Wilson Carousel.

While we were visiting the Strong Museum we stopped for a lunch break at Billy Gray's.

Before heading upstairs we took a lunch break.  We opted to eat at Bill Gray’s where the kids got a cheeseburger and hot dog kids meal and I got a mushroom swiss burger.  I shared their fries and had brought a water bottle with me.  The kids were super excited that they could get a slushie with their kids meal.

The World Video Game Hall of Fame at the Strong Museum.

After lunch we visited the second floor.  We first stopped at the World Video Game Hall of Fame, where there is a pay-per-play video game room.  There is also a Toy Hall of Fame with the most popular toys of the different decades.  Definitely a walk down memory lane for me!

The kids loved playing electronic Bingo at the Strong Museum.

Upstairs  we also visited the “Game Time!” exhibit.  The kids really enjoyed playing oversized versions of classic games like Connect Four and Battleship. There are games including Jenga, an electronic word search, an electronic big screen Bingo game and more.  We didn’t spend too much time in the other upstairs exhibits, Play Pals, Build, Drive Go and America at Play, due to lack of time.

I was most impressed with the literature connections the museum makes.  Every exhibit in the library houses a collection of books related to the featured theme.  Even better, local area residents can borrow the books!  The Grada Hopeman Gelser Library is a circulating library open during normal museum hours.  Children can borrow books and then return them either back at the museum or any other public library branch in the system.  I think this is such an amazing resource.

As crowded as the museum was on a Friday during the summer, it’s spacious enough that it never felt like it.  The kids never had to wait more than a minute or two to interact with different exhibits. As you can see, there is a lot to do at the Strong.  We visited on a Friday, to take advantage of the longer hours.  When visiting the Rochester area, a visit to the Strong is a must!

The Details:

Strong National Museum of Play
One Manhattan Square
Rochester, NY 14607
(585) 263-2700

Parking:  Free large parking lot

Hours: Monday – Thursday, 10 AM – 5 PM Friday & Saturday, 10 AM – 8 PM, Sunday 12 PM – 5 PM

Admission: $14.50/ages 2+ (does not include admission to the butterfly garden)

Food: There is a food court with a Pizza Hut Express, Taco Bell Express, Subway and Louie’s Sweet Shoppe.  Billy Gray’s Restaurant is located in the museum atrium.  Outside food is permitted but must be eaten in lunchroom C, as the dining room tables and chairs in the food court and atrium are reserved for restaurant guests.

Tips:

*Bill Gray’s has a Happy Hour everyday from 2:30-4:30 PM with 1/2 price milkshakes.  Take a break and enjoy a sweet treat!

*Bill Gray’s restaurant accepts online coupons from its website.

*To make the most of your visit, get there at opening.  Plus, it’s less crowded!

*I recommend that moms wear a crossbody pocketbook or a backpack.  Having a bag keep falling off your shoulder can be very annoying (I know from personal experience!). You will want your hands free, because you will be playing and interacting with the exhibits too!

6

Stepping Back In Time at the Genesee Country Village & Museum

(Thank you to the Genesee Country Village & Museum and Visit Rochester for hosting us.)

Imagine living in a time when you had to grow all of your own food and go to school in a one room schoolhouse.  It’s very difficult for children today to believe such times existed! When I learned that the Genesee Country Village & Museum is the largest living history museum in New York State, I knew that it had to be a stop on our #NYSummer2017.  History is so important in understanding the present and I know my kids learn best from hands-on experiences.

The Genesee Country Village is located approximately 25 minutes away from where we were staying in Rochester.  We arrived at the 10 AM opening ready for a day of fun.  Even though we were there from opening to close, we still weren’t able to see and do everything! When we arrived we received a map and a daily visitor’s guide of all the activities.

We started our visit at the John L Wehle Gallery.  A large collection of hunting and wildlife art is housed here, including paintings and sculptures.  There is also a historic costume collection display featuring 3,500 articles of historic clothing.  They have a room especially for children that has Lincoln Logs, a play kitchen, books and more. I let the kids play while I walked around the gallery.

After leaving the gallery, we headed towards the Historic Village.  The Village is comprised of 68 buildings and encompasses three different time periods: the Pioneer Settlement (1780’s -1830’s), Antebellum Village (1830’s – 1860’s) and Turn of the Century (1870’s – 1920’s).  To visit in time period order, you must start at the left after passing through the village entrance.

Costumed interpreters are in almost every building acting the part of a 19th century villager.  We met many villagers during our visit including a blacksmith, a printer, a tailor, a tinsmith and a dressmaker.  They are both knowledgeable and informative and able to answer any questions you may have.  They actually practice their craft while you visit, building baskets, spinning yarn, making prints and more.

We enjoyed sitting at a desk in the one room schoolhouse and learned that approximately 20 students of different ages would attend each day.  The exception was during planting season, when they would be needed to help in the fields.

Another favorite building was the Pioneer Farmstead.  There we watched a woman preparing Bubble & Squeak (cabbage, onion and potato) for the lunchtime meal.  There are animals on the farmstead  including a pig, sheep and chickens that the kids especially enjoyed visiting.

At 11:30 AM we headed to the Civil War Camp for the Civil War Cooking demonstration.  There we learned about the different types and small amounts of rations the soldiers received. Since there was no mess hall, soldiers had to prepare their own food.  With limited supplies, they had to cook their meager rations to make them edible and to prolong their shelf life. Besides the cooking demonstration we were also able to peek into a camp tent.

Watching the cooking demonstration made us hungry.  After the demo we headed to lunch at the Depot Restaurant.  The restaurant serves sandwiches, burgers, salads, chicken fingers, soup, mac and cheese and more.  The chicken salad sandwich was very good and the kids liked the mac and cheese and chicken fingers.  The restaurant sells ales for those interested in an adult beverage.  Everything is reasonably priced as well.

When the kids needed a break, we headed to the village square where they played 19th century games and attempted to walk on stilts.

D.B. Munger Confectionery is located in the village square and sells sweets and homemade baked goods.

We stopped by Silver Base Ball Park to some of the match between Spring Creek and Flower City.  It was fun to sit in the stands and see them playing ball, with no baseball gloves!

At 2:30 we returned to the Gallery for the free adult-and-child art activity.  On our visit we first took a look at a Bruno Liljefors fox painting out in the gallery. Then we went into the art studio and under the instruction of a gallery staff member painted our own copy. (If you have children 10 or older who enjoy art, like my children, try to take advantage of this fun activity!)

We left the Historic Village right around the 4 PM closing time.  Unfortunately, by the time we visited the Nature Center adjacent to the parking lot, it was closed.  There is access to several hiking trails from the Center but our feet were so tired from walking all day that we opted not to.  We did stop to take some pictures of the  beautiful water gardens before heading out.

We enjoyed our visit to the Genesee Country Village & Museum.  As you can see, there is a lot to see and do here!  When you’re in the Rochester area, make time to visit this fun and educational living history museum.

The Details:

Genesee Country Village & Museum
1410 Flint Hill Road
Mumford, NY 14511
(585) 538-6822

Parking:  Free, large parking lot

Hours: 10 AM – 4 PM, Tuesday through Sunday (May through September)  Wednesday- Sunday (September & October) The Historic Village and John L. Wehle Gallery are closed for the winter months except for special holiday events.  Please check the website for more details  as well as for the nature trail hours.

Admission:  $18/adult, $15/senior citizens (62+) and college students (w/ID), $10/youth (4-18)
-includes access to the Historic Village, John L. Wehle Gallery and nature trails (please check the website for admission prices for only the gallery or nature trails)

Food:  Food and snacks are available on premise at the Depot Restaurant, Freight House Pub and Pavilion Garden Restaurant (summer only).

Tips:

*The Historic Village is very large and you will most likely not be able to do or see everything.  Make sure to check out the daily visitor’s guide to plan which timed activities you’d like to visit.  They only occur once throughout the day.

*Certain village buildings close between 11 AM and 2 PM for staff lunch breaks.  You may want to visit the village before or after those times if you wish to see all the buildings.

*There is a free trolley on weekends (or by advanced registration if needed).

*This attraction requires a lot of walking. Wear sneakers or comfortable shoes.

*These are historic buildings.  Most of them are not stroller friendly.  You may need to park your stroller outside the building and walk with or hold younger children.

*For an additional fee you can make your own punched-tin ornament or purchase prints at the Printing Office.

*Go to the gift shop at the end of your visit.  During the summer it stays open until 4:30 PM, 3o minutes after the museum closes.

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12

Family Fun at the Seneca Park Zoo

(Thank you Seneca Park Zoo and Visit Rochester for hosting us.)

The kids and I visited the Seneca Park Zoo this past summer.  Located in Rochester along the Genesee River, this 15.5 acre zoo is home to over 90 species.  If you are expecting a gigantic zoo, this is not it.  Despite its small size, it offers plenty to see and do for several hours of enjoyment.

We visited on a Sunday and arrived at the 10 AM opening.  While at the admission booth, we learned it was “Funday” and we each received a ticket for a free small popcorn.  This was a tasty surprise!

The zoo’s layout is a straight path.  As you walk from the admission booth, the first building you see is the main building.  This is where you will find animals like the orangutans, lemurs,and white rhino. During our visit we were able to see a snake in the midst of shedding its skin, something we had never witnessed before.

While visiting this area we attended the orangutan experience.  We got to see four-year-old Bella playing around outside while her mom Kumang, pictured here, sat and watched.  I might have a love of orangutans and could have stood here all day and watched these two.  Denda, the dad, was inside the main building.

After leaving the main building, you can walk the Genesee Trail, which leads to the Eco Center.  The fish, reptiles, amphibians and otters live here.

From the Eco Center, you will next visit the Rocky Coasts.  As you walk, you will pass several animals including the Spotted Hyena, Gray Wolves, and Amur Tigers.  The Rocky Coasts area houses the Sea Lions and the Polar Bear habitat.  Sadly, Aurora, the zoo’s only polar bear, didn’t make an appearance while we were visiting.

Personally, I don’t think a visit to the zoo is complete without watching the sea lion feeding. For the best view, I recommend standing along the railing above the rocks.  We got to see 8-year-old Sea Lion, Lily, being fed and given her daily check-up from the zoo keeper.  Lily’s two-month old baby, Bob, sat on a rock sleeping in the sun for the duration of her feeding.  Bob was born in June 2017 and named via an online poll.

In the Center for Biodiversity Exploration you will find the  Z.O.T. (Zoologists of Tomorrow) Zone.  This is a hands-on display with different areas of zoo exploration for kids to engage with including zoo planning puzzles and Critter Kitchen (choosing the correct diets for different animals).

The “A Step Into Africa” exhibit is at the far end of the zoo.  This is where the baboons and the zoo’s four female elephants are housed. During our visit, we were able to see one of the elephants being scrubbed clean.  It was funny to see her being fed treats of whole ears of corn, heads of cauliflower, zucchini and peppers while she was bathed.  The elephants know over 50 verbal commands, which was impressive to see in action.

We ended our visit eating lunch at the Crater Canteen.  I was impressed by the food selections available as well as the reasonable prices.  The three of us shared a Strawberry Fields salad ($8.50) and a Canteen Panini (smoked turkey with pesto, fresh Roma tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella on sourdough bread for $8.50).  For those not as adventurous, they have burgers, hot dogs and chicken tenders as well as “Little Cubs” kids meals.  In the Crater Canteen area, there are several umbrella-covered tables for eating.

For me, one of the key features of the zoo isn’t the animals.  It was the docents standing at several of the exhibits.  These volunteers are there to answer any questions and inform visitors about the animals that they are viewing.  There is also a ZooTeens program where students in grades 8-12 act as zoo ambassadors.  During the summer, the teens make presentations and engage guests in interactive learning activities.

The Seneca Zoo is currently undergoing extensive renovations, which are expected to be completed sometime in 2018.  Construction is underway for new habitats for the White Rhino and the Snow Leopard.  Plus, there will be an “Animals of the Savanna” exhibit, as well as Red Panda, Giraffe and Zebra exhibits.  A new eatery, the Trailside Cafe, will also be opening.  When all the new construction is completed, the zoo looks to be an even better place to visit.

As I mentioned, this is a small zoo.  In approximately three hours we visited all the animal exhibits,  watched a couple of demonstrations, and ate lunch. There are animal experience programs occurring throughout the day and a small playground. Depending on the attention span and temperament of your children, you can make a longer or shorter day of it. This is a great family attraction to visit when in Rochester.

The Details:
Seneca Park Zoo
2222 St. Paul Street
Rochester, NY 14621
(585) 336-7200

Hours:  10 AM – 4 PM (April – October) 10 AM – 3 PM (November – March)

Parking:  Free parking

Admission:
April – October –  $12/adult, $11/seniors (63+), $9/youth (3-11)
November – March  $10/adult,  $9/seniors, $7/youth

Food:  Two food service areas Eagle’s Landing Cafe and Crater Canteen  (most entrees cost between $5.75-$8.50, most beverages, sides and snacks are priced between $2.25-$4.75)

Tips:

*The zoo is stroller-friendly.

*You can bring your own food and snacks.

*Make sure to check out the daily program to plan out what animal encounters you want to see.  Each experience only occurs one time each day.

 

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A Visit to The Adirondack Experience

*I received complimentary admission tickets.  However, all opinions are my own.

Recently, our family visited the Adirondack region of New York. Spanning more than 6 million acres, seeing all of the region in one visit is impossible.  When researching our trip, one of the places that I wanted to visit was Adirondack Experience (formerly known as the Adirondack Museum), located in Blue Mountain Lake, NY. Encompassing over 121 acres, it includes  24 galleries and historic buildings with tons of hands-on learning and fun. An “experience” it is!

We arrived at Adirondack Experience at the 10 AM opening.  We made sure to take the activity book they offered, since the kids (and I) are big fans of these.  This gave the kids some focus as we wandered around and they were motivated by the small prize they’d receive if they completed it.

The first building we entered was The Great Outdoors. This is a play and adventure exhibition geared specifically towards children.  Here the kids did some fishing, climbed a rock wall, walked in a pair of snow shoes and so much more.  We spent a lot of time in here as the kids explored.

Next, we visited the Work in the Woods building.  We learned all about logging in the Adirondacks, from past to present.  Outside the building there is a climbable fire tower, relocated here from Whiteface Mountain, New York’s fifth tallest peak.  From the top of the tower, you can see great views of the mountains.

The highlight of the visit was the new “Life in the Adirondacks” exhibition which opened in the beginning of July.   The exhibit includes 19,000 square feet of interactive fun.  When we first entered the exhibit, we saw a short film about the Adirondacks.  There are hundreds of artifacts housed here, including a canoe, stage coach, snow mobiles, a totem pole and many objects used in everyday life.  We walked through the Oriental, a private railroad car, and the kids dressed up in time period clothing, blasted a rock in the mine, cleared a virtual log jam and rowed a guide boat.

When leaving the “Life in the Adirondacks” exhibition, we made sure to pause and take in the beautiful view of Blue Mountain Lake!

The only scheduled activity on the day of our visit was the trout feeding at 12:30 PM.  The kids really enjoyed throwing the food pellets into the pond and watching the fish pop up and eat them.

After feeding the trout, we were getting hungry ourselves.  Adirondack Experience has a great eatery right on property, the Lake View Cafe.   David, owner of The Well Dressed Food Company and his culinary team provide a great dining experience.  They have an espresso bar and serve bagels and breakfast sandwiches for those eating earlier in the day.  We arrived at lunchtime and had difficulty choosing from the selection of flatbread pizzas, burgers, salads, sandwiches and more.  My daughter ordered the White Garlic Basil, Chicken and Broccoli Flatbread pizza ($9.95/individual pizza), my son had the Fried Cod Sandwich ($9.95) and I opted for the Gyro Wrap ($9.95).  Portions were generous and everything was delicious.  They have a children’s menu for kids 12 and under with choices of a hot dog, chicken nuggets or grilled cheese served with chips and pickle ($6).  They also serve a selection of wine, domestic and imported beer and craft beer and cider.

After lunch we headed to the Reising Schoolhouse and Kids’ Cabin.  Here the kids played old-fashioned games, like top spinning, Jacob’s ladder and ring toss.  Then they helped with Wash Day, scrubbing pieces of cloth and hanging it to dry.  Afterwards, they played in the cabin kitchen. Before wrapping up our visit, we did a quick walk-through of the Boats & Boating exhibit and the recent art acquisitions in the Lynn H. Boillot Art Gallery.

If you have the time, I highly recommend taking advantage of the second day free admission.  There was plenty more that we didn’t see and time-wise I focused on kid-friendly exhibits and activities. There is really not enough time in one day to fully see and do everything that Adirondack Experience has to offer. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to spend another day visiting and we had to rush through the end of our visit to make sure we got to see everything before our target 4 PM departure.  After six hours of walking around, the kids were pretty tired.  I would have loved to have done the self-guided hike to Minnow Pond if we had more time and energy.  Fortunately, this gives us a reason to go back for another visit!

The Details:

The Adirondack Experience
9097-NY 30
Blue Mountain Lake, NY 12812
(518) 352-7311

Hours: 10 AM – 5 PM, seven days a week (May 26-October 9, 2017) 10 AM – 7:30 PM Mondays in July and August
Parking:  Free, large parking lot
Admission:  $20/adults, $18/seniors, $12/students (with ID and children 6-17), Free/children 5 and under Active Military Personnel are free
*Free second visit with paid admission within a one-week period
Food:  Available for purchase at the Lake View Cafe or you can bring your own food and drinks.