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New York

The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York: A World of Play at Your Fingertips

By: Idoia Gkikas

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  • States:
    New York

Some people abide by the saying “Work hard, play hard,” but at The Strong National Museum of Play, playing is the only job there is.

Located in vibrant Rochester in Upstate New York, The Strong is a distinct cultural experience among the city’s many museums and galleries. It celebrates all things play in a multi-story building that’s more than a city block long (seriously, it’s huge!). Here are four ways to explore this one-of-a-kind attraction.

Toy Classics

Yo-yos, paper dolls, wind-up toys, teddy bears – The Strong museum is full of toy artifacts. Compare today’s high-tech gadgets to antiques such as a talking doll from 1890 made by Thomas Edison or an original Monopoly game from 1933, hand-drawn on a circular piece of oilcloth. See the very first Barbie doll, early LEGO building sets and the original 16 Hot Wheels cars. More recent hits such as Simon and Star Wars are archived, too.

Marvel at the first handmade Monopoly set

Marvel at the first handmade Monopoly set
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Discovering Through Play

Comic book fans, listen up – there’s an entire section devoted to Batman, Superman and other American comic book heroes. Power up on video games at the eGameRevolution exhibit, where you can play with your favorite consoles and unusual twists on classics such as Giant Tetris and a four-player version of Pac-Man. Pinball Playfields covers decades of pinball, from a 1940s Humpty Dumpty game to a 2015 Game of Thrones machine. And the Game Time! section is full of board game treasures, including a manuscript believed to be the first-known iteration of Dungeons & Dragons.

Cranks, pulleys and cords let you interact with a giant toy sculpture

Cranks, pulleys and cords let you interact with a giant toy sculpture
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Top Toys and Their Creators

Toys that have stood the test of time are honored in the National Toy Hall of Fame. Reminisce with toddler-age toys – Little People, Mr. Potato Head, Tinker Toys – and enjoy interactive versions of the Etch A Sketch, crayons, bubbles and a Jack-in-the-Box. The World Video Game Hall of Fame is a visitor favorite, honoring global sensations from The Oregon Trail to World of Warcraft. And if you’ve ever wondered about the inventors behind the toys we all love, check out the displays honoring inductees into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame.

Learn about early toy visionaries at the National Toy Hall of Fame

Learn about early toy visionaries at the National Toy Hall of Fame
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Inspiring Imagination

Play isn’t always about toys! Immerse yourself in natural wonders in Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden, a year-round, indoor garden filled with hundreds of colorful butterflies. You can even watch butterflies emerging from their cocoons in the chrysalis case. In the Discovery Garden, explore winding paths, look for whimsical fairy houses and play a game of hopscotch. This seasonal, outdoor garden is so abundant with beneficial flowers and plants that it’s a certified monarch butterfly way station.

Butterfly encounters in the Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden

Butterfly encounters in the Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden
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Getting There

Guests flying into Rochester (ROC) in Upstate New York will enjoy short flight times – less than 90 minutes – from gateway cities such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. Once at the airport, a 10-minute taxi ride will bring you to The Strong museum. The Amtrak rail station is also within a short taxi ride of The Strong.