The Strong National Museum of Play has a wealth of interaction for toddlers, school-aged children and adults. The Strong houses the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of historical materials related to play. And it all started with a little girl whose love of collecting mirrored her parents, who happily encouraged her—Margaret Woodbury Strong.
A playful history
Margaret opened her valuable and obsessive collection to the public originally in her home on Allen Creek Road after her husband’s death, having already lost her only daughter 12 years prior. Quoting author Donovan Shilling from the The Crooked Lake Review, “Margaret Woodbury Strong had the three qualities required for a world-class collector: she had a driving passion for collecting, the rooms to store her treasures, and the almost limitless resources with which to carry out her “fascination” quest.”
Margaret’s father’s business partner was the same Henry Alva Strong who invested in the vision of young George Eastman. At her death, she was the largest owner of Kodak stock in the world! She willed $100,000,000 plus 300,000 collected items to the expansion of her “Museum of Fascination” in a new location at One Manhattan Square.
From The Strong website, “In 2002, The Strong acquired the National Toy Hall of Fame from A. C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village in Salem, Oregon. …the museum determined to concentrate fully on its core collections of toys, dolls, and other artifacts of play and refined its mission accordingly. Between 2004 and 2006, the museum nearly doubled its physical footprint to 285,000 square feet, making it one of nation’s largest history museums.” And second largest children’s museum to The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.
The Wegmans exhibit is exciting because the kids can “shop” for their own products with carts or baskets, weigh their items, pretend to bake bread and pizza, serve sushi and coffee, and then check out their cart at the registers.
It is a great exhibit for parents and children to play together.
Inside Strong Museum of Play
From a historical perspective, the Toys Hall of Fame and the immense doll collection of Margaret Woodbury Strong are enough to keep anyone occupied for an entire day.
It will transport you back into the fun of your childhood! Collections of GI Joe and Barbie, board games, hand-held games, pinball & arcade games, Tinker Toys, dollhouses, train sets… Rochester is lucky to host such an overwhelming collection!
Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden
The butterfly garden has a separate admission fee, and is the only year-round indoor butterfly garden in upstate New York. With a rain-forest environment it’s the perfect retreat from winter!
The tickets used to be timed, but now you can enter at any time and stay for as long as you’d like.
The Pinball Playfields & Classic Arcade Games
As the girls got older, the amazing collection of video arcade and pinball machines became more of the draw.
The Strong rarely has a machine on the floor that is not in perfect condition, with staff present if a machine goes down, or steals a token. They are happy to reimburse you with a replacement token if it does happen.
Outside the Strong National Museum of Play
It’s free to explore Strong Museum’s grounds. Around the entire perimeter, and in the middle of Monroe Ave, there are engaging installations and gardens to enjoy.
Make sure to walk across the street to Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park at Manhattan Square!
More information about The Strong National Museum of Play
Cost: Admission for Museum, Butterfly exhibit is additional
Located in the City of Rochester (get directions). While under construction, GPS may not be accurate.
More information: museumofplay.org/
Parking: Visit the museum’s website for helpful directions and parking information. They are still in a state of transition.
With the location of the entrance and new parking garage moved to Howell Street, you must now pay for admission or have a museum membership to access Bill Gray’s diner.
Margaret Woodbury Strong had an amazing life, and Crooked Lake Review does a wonderful job telling her story.
What is your favorite spot in the Strong National Museum of Play?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!