Strong National Museum of Play expansion, Rochester NY

Strong National Museum of Play

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.

Best of Rochester - Day Trips Around Rochester book

Day Trips Around Rochester, New York

Best of Rochester Award-Winning Book for Best Published Literary Work of 2023.

Strong National Museum of Play World Video Game Hall of Fame

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.

Strong National Museum of Play view from Nerdvana
Strong National Museum of Play nighttime

There is a new entrance from the parking garage (technically, it’s the original entrance before the last remodel, next to the carousel.)

Strong National Museum of Play new cafe
Strong National Museum of Play outside

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.

Hampton Inn and Suites Downtown Neighborhood of Play
Hampton
Nerdvana Rochester
Nerdvana

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.

Note that many of the restaurants and the hotel validate parking in the museum’s garage, so save your receipts to show when exiting the garage. For example, according to Nerdvana’s website on January 7, 2024 (subject to change), “Parking is available to Nerdvana guests in the Strong Museum parking garage after 4 p.m. for $3.50. Please give the ticket to your server for validation.” According to Lila’s website on January 7, 2024 (subject to change), “Plenty of easy and free parking options—validated parking in the garage.”

Inside The Strong National Museum of Play

Strong Museum Wegmans

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.

Strong Museum reading adventureland
Strong Museum of Play Big Bird Sesame Street
Strong Museum tilted rooms
Strong Museum of Play Mystery Mansion
Strong Museum Sesame Street
Strong National Museum of Play sky climb
Skyline Climb

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.”

Strong Museum display
Strong National Museum of Play dollhouse
Strong National Museum of Play barbies
Strong Museum Kewpie

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!

Strong Butterfly Garden
Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden
Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden
Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden
Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden

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.

Strong National Museum of Play pinball
Strong Museum space invaders
Pinball at Strong Museum of Play

Exchange cash for tokens to play an extensive collection of pinball and classic arcade games.

Outside The Strong National Museum of Play

Strong National Museum of Play legos
Strong National Museum of Play front garden
Strong National Museum of Play connect four
sign

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.

Martin Luther King Jr Park Strong Museum
Martin Luther King Jr Park mural

Be sure to walk across the street to Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park at Manhattan Square!

A Playful History

Strong Museum of Play Conect Four window

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.

Strong National Museum of Play parking garage cover
Parking Garage

Cost: Admission fee for the 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. There are different rates offered for members, museum guests, and non-museum guests.

More information: museumofplay.org/

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What is your favorite exhibit at the Strong National Museum of Play?

Your insights and experiences are valuable. Please share them in the comments.

Debi Bower, Day Trips Around Rochester NY

Debi Bower is the founder and creative director of daytrippingroc.com and author of the award-winning book Day Trips Around Rochester, New York.

People often ask me if I get free access to places while exploring. The answer is no unless I’m invited to previews or granted behind-the-scenes access as part of my media role. Generally, I don’t mention my project, Day Trips Around Rochester, NY, because I want the same experience you would have. I create and share content simply because it brings me joy. I would appreciate your support—a cup of coffee or two to help fuel future field trips—if you have found valuable information here that has helped you explore the Rochester area.

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