Our family recently visited The Strong (National Museum of Play) for the second time – this time with an infant and toddler.
The way I would describe this museum is that it’s the Ontario Science Centre – x10! They don’t call it the museum of PLAY for nothing!
It’s 90% geared towards kids, but one highlight for adults would be the toy museum on the upper level that displays toys from the past, for a moment taking you back to your childhood… remember Raggedy Ann and G.I. Joes?
Choose Saturday Over Sunday
We spent Friday afternoon driving from Toronto and then checked into our hotel in the evening so that we could have the whole Saturday to play at the museum.
It’s definitely better to visit on a Saturday when the museum is open for 10 hours (it’s only open for 5 hours on Sundays).
When you walk into The Strong, you feel a sense of magic in the air. Some people might worry about children’s museums being too crowded, chaotic, or noisy – but for some reason, this place never feels like that.
There are lots of kids, but it’s very spacious with tons of room, running space, and an endless amount of magical places to explore.
The first thing you see when you walk in is the carousel, and then the coral reef fish aquarium. I knew from experience that there were so many more fun spots to visit so we kept this part short.
Your kids will start getting excited when they enter Sesame Street neighbourhood, with Big Bird, Elmo and the whole gang. A perfect photo opp is right on the 123 Sesame Street steps.
Next stop is Wegmans Super Kids Market. It’s similar to the one at the Ontario Science Centre except it’s a lot larger. Like the real Wegmans store in Rochester, there are groceries, shopping carts, and even interactive cash registers where your little ones can scan items and print off a real receipt!
Friendly staff at the front of Wegmans remind you to take only five items at a time, and to return them when you are done. The supermarket is surprisingly organized as families are respectful of putting everything back in its place.
Rides at The Museum of Play
If your kids love trains, they will enjoy the locomotive ride within the museum. Our daughter rode three times!
There are only two rides in the museum – the train and the carousel. If you planning on riding both like us, you can purchase a punch card of 6 rides for $5 at the front, otherwise each ride is $1 (accompanying adults don’t pay).
Lots of Pretend Play
Walking into Reading Adventureland is like walking into a real-life storybook.
Classic tales such as Jack in the Beanstalk and Cinderella are turned into interactive areas where kids can feel like they are part of the story.
There is another exhibit where kids pretend play with an old-fashioned kitchen, tea parlour, and fireplace library. Don’t forget to try out the antique clothes scrub and butter churn!
My toddler’s all time favourite spot was the ‘snow’ area. Imagine a secluded, enclosed area where kids scoop, shovel, and move pretend snow around with other kids. The pretend snow is actually white plastic beads that resemble grains of rice.
We stayed in the snow section for probably close to an hour, as I witnessed her team building with the other kids as they worked towards filling up snow and making up rules about how it should be done.
Shoes are generally removed, and there are benches where parents can observe and supervise. Obviously, this section is not meant for babies.
Just when you think there couldn’t be more to the museum – you will find yourself entering Berenstain Bears County!
There is a treehouse with slide, bear family restaurant, and egg sorting station, just to name a few things. What kid doesn’t love an egg sorting station?
Baby and Parent Friendly
As for the general facilities, everything has been well thought out.
Lunch is reasonably priced with offerings of subs, tacos, pizza, and ice cream (the strawberry cone is fantastically cheap).
Bathrooms are relatively clean and equipped with step stools for your little ones.
Wooden strollers are available for free, although I hardly saw any family using these – there’s so much to do, there’s no reason to be sitting in your stroller!
There are also plenty of cushioned sitting benches around the entire museum in case you want to take a break or even nurse your little one.
My favourite thing about this museum is that it’s really all about playing. Even as a parent, you will feel like a kid again!