With 150,000 square feet of play space and hands-on interactive exhibits, The Strong in Rochester, New York has been one my family’s favorite weekend road trip destinations for the past few years.
The Strong offers kids plenty of opportunities for dress up, interactive play and hands on learning.
Our very first visit to this massive museum was in 2012 and our kids (toddler and preschooler age) had so much fun we stayed for 6 hours! And we still didn’t see all the exhibits!
We’ve been back several times since then and now that we’re more familiar with the lay of the land, we only need a morning or afternoon to cover the exhibits we’re most interested in.
The exhibits are divided between two floors with the first floor focused on activities for younger kids and the second floor (the Toy Halls of Fame) is geared more towards tweens/early teens.
There are several themed play areas on the first floor including Sesame Street, Berenstain Bears, American Comic Book Heroes, and a child size Wegmans supermarket where kids can scan bar coded products at working check-out counters and pretend to host their own cooking show.
You’ll also find a carousel, a passenger train, an arcade and an indoor butterfly garden – the only year-round indoor butterfly garden in upstate New York – on the first floor.
The Toy Halls of Fame on the second floor features full collections of dolls, toys and games from decades past and several interactive exhibits that explores the history of video and board games. Seeing some of the toys my husband and I played with as children in the Hall of Fame always brings back great memories.
Make sure to check out the Comic Book Heroes postcard maker (1st floor) and the Etch a Sketch exhibit (2nd floor) where you can email free souvenir photos from your day at the Museum of Play.
Below are twelve tips for visiting The Strong in Rochester, New York.
Tips for Families Visiting The Strong National Museum of Play
1. Admission is $15USD per person age 2 and older. The carousel, passenger train, butterfly garden and arcade games are not included in the admission. The costs are minimal (Butterfly Garden is $5 and the carousel and passenger train are $1) and worth it if it’s your very first visit to the museum. We recommend adding on the Butterfly Garden the day you visit as your kids may change their mind once they start exploring the museum. Children age 15 and younger must be accompanied by an adult.
2. While the museum has exhibits for all ages, we feel toddlers to tweens would have the most fun as exhibits and activities are geared more towards this age group.
3. Parking is free at the museum but the lot does fill up quickly – especially on weekends and during school breaks when attendance is the highest. There are other parking lots across the street (if you visit on the weekend, these lots are also free).
4. The National Museum of Play is part of the ACM Reciprocal Network and the museum provides members a 50% general admission discount for up to six people to guests who show a valid membership card with the ACM Reciprocal Network logo and a photo ID.
5. Annual memberships are also available just for this museum. If you have a large family (up to 4 children can be put on one family membership) or know you’ll be visiting more than 2 or 3 times a year, it may be worth it to get the yearly membership.
6. Coolers and lunch bags are not allowed in the museum but guests are allowed to bring their own snacks and drinks. However, in an effort to keep the exhibits clean, guests are asked to enjoy their food and drink breaks in Lunch Room C.
7. There’s a food court (Taco Bell, Subway, Pizza Hut Express) on site as well as a Bill Gray’s Restaurant right next to the carousel in the lobby area of the museum. Side note: Happy Hour at Bill Gray’s runs from 2:30PM to 4:30PM daily and milkshakes are half-price.
8. You are allowed to come and go as you want – maybe head out for lunch or a nap at your hotel – as long as you show your wristband when you re-enter.
9. Dress in layers if you’re planning to visit the Butterfly Garden. It is very warm (think tropical rainforest temperatures) I had a sweater on the day we visited and I wanted to get out after 10 minutes even though my kids wanted to stay longer.
10. The museum is very baby and toddler friendly. All restrooms have changing tables and there are family restrooms on both floors. Moms are welcome to breastfeed anywhere in the museum but private nursing areas are also available.
11. The museum is very stroller friendly so remember to bring your own stroller from home for your little ones. Stroller rentals are available as well. Elevators are located at the museum entrance and near Reading Adventureland.
12. There is free Wi-Fi and we recommend downloading The Strong’s mobile app from the Apple Store or Google Play before your visit. The app features self-guided tour info, an events calendar, a butterfly garden guide, an accessibility guide and a list of quiet spaces in the museum for families to take a break from all the hustle and bustle.
Travel Tips for Families Visiting Rochester, New York – What to See & Do and Where to Stay
2. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Sticky Lips Pit BBQ and Wegmans Market Cafe are three of our favorite lunch and dinner spots in Rochester. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is just a 5 minute drive from The Strong – reservations are highly recommended.
3. Over the years, we’ve stayed at a handful of different hotels. Here are our favorites:
- Residence Inn by Marriott in Henrietta – 15 minutes driving to The Strong, kitchen in every room, and complimentary breakfast. Close to Marketplace Mall, Outback Steakhouse, Sticky Lips Pit BBQ, Blaze Pizza, Bill Gray’s and Five Guys.
- The Strathallan Rochester Hotel & Spa in Downtown Rochester – Great location if you’re planning to visit the Rochester Science Center and George Eastman Museum. Less than a 10 minute drive to The Strong.
- Homewood Suites in Victor – 20 minutes driving to The Strong, kitchen in every suite, complimentary breakfast, driving distance to Target, Walmart, Eastview Mall, Olive Garden, Chipotle, and Chili’s. If you want a photo with L.L. Bean’s boot statue, there’s a store located just outside of Eastview Mall.