The Strong National Museum of Play offers interactive experiences for toddlers, school-aged children, and adults. The museum boasts the world’s most extensive collection of play-related historical materials. It all began with Margaret Woodbury Strong, a little girl who shared her parents’ passion for collecting, and they happily supported her.
What’s New in 2023
The Strong National Museum of Play completed a multi-year expansion project in 2023 with the opening of the World Video Game Hall of Fame.
There is a new entrance from the parking garage (technically, it’s the original entrance before the last remodel, next to the carousel.)
Toward the back of the museum is a new cafe and outdoor Hasbro Game Park, themed around classic board games like Candy Land, Monopoly, Simon, and Scrabble.
The Neighborhood of Play is also new, introducing a family-friendly Hampton Inn and Suites next to the Museum of Play and several bars and restaurants, including Nerdvana, which offers an upscale food and cocktail menu paired with video and board games.
Inside The Strong National Museum of Play
The Wegmans Food Market, designed for children, is an exciting place where kids can use carts or baskets to select their products, weigh them, and even pretend to bake bread and pizza. They can also serve sushi and coffee and check out their groceries at the registers. The market is an excellent space for parents and their children to play together while imitating real-life activities.
Skyline Climb is a ropes course above the Bill Grays Skyline Diner. The website describes it as “a thrilling adventure that suspends above the museum’s carousel atrium. People of all ages can enjoy traversing beams and balancing obstacles, maneuvering ropes and wobbly bridges, and leaping off a zipline platform.”
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 is the only indoor butterfly garden in upstate New York that is open year-round. Requiring a separate admission fee, you can enter the area anytime during your visit and stay as long as you’d like. You’ll find a beautiful rainforest environment that allows you to escape the harsh winter weather outside.
Exchange cash for tokens to play an extensive collection of pinball and classic arcade games.
Outside The Strong National Museum of Play
It’s free to explore Strong Museum’s grounds. There are engaging installations and lush gardens around the perimeter and in the middle of Chestnut Street.
Be sure to walk across the street to Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park at Manhattan Square!
A Playful History
After her husband’s death, Margaret opened her impressive and all-consuming collection to the public in her home located on Allen Creek Road. She had already lost her only daughter 12 years earlier. In the words of author Donovan Shilling from 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 had a business partner named Henry Alva Strong, who also invested in the vision of young George Eastman. At the time of her death, Margaret was the world’s largest owner of Kodak stock. She left behind a will that bequeathed $100,000,000 and 300,000 items, which were part of her “Museum of Fascination,” to expand the museum at a new location, One Manhattan Square.
The Strong website states that in 2002, The Strong acquired the National Toy Hall of Fame from A. C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village in Salem, Oregon. The museum decided to focus solely on its core collections of toys, dolls, and other play artifacts and adjusted its mission accordingly. From 2004 to 2006, the museum expanded its physical space to 285,000 square feet, nearly doubling its size and becoming one of the largest history museums in the country. It is now the second-largest children’s museum after The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.
Cost: Admission fee for museum; Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden and Skyclimb require additional fees.
Located in the City of Rochester (get directions).
Parking: Visit the museum’s website for helpful directions and parking information. The parking garage entrance is off Howell Street.
More information: museumofplay.org/
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