Sunday, March 30, 2008

Forever young

It costs less than $10 each for my wife and I to be turned into kids for a while on Saturday.

We went to the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester.

Forget the slightly ponderous title. It's a fabulous place.

The museum is ranked as a "gem" by AAA, and it takes about three minutes after walking through the front door to see why. The facility expanded to its current size in 2006 and takes up a good amount of space in downtown Rochester (fairly near the Blue Cross Arena).

The first floor has all sorts of interactive ventures that had tons of kids running around, gleefully yelling and laughing. There are sections devoted to such places as "Sesame Street" and "Field of Play." A local supermarket chain has a fake grocery store in which children can go shopping in kid-sized carts, learning about nutrition along the way, and then have their items scanned at registers. I paricular liked an area designed to encourage reading, even if there were no copies of "Rayzor's Edge" available for the children to study.

Upstairs has more for adults. There's a National Toy Hall of Fame up there, with such items as the Slinky, Viewmaster, Play-Doh, Scrabble and Silly Putty. There are bunches of glassed-in displays of old toys, including dolls and games. For adults, it's like reliving a childhood ("I had that one..."). An area has been set up as something of a radio station, in which kids can practice their announcing skills.

If the adults get bored playing, they can always go into the adjoining butterfly museum (we didn't have time for that). And there are other play areas outside that certainly figured to get plenty of use when the weather is warmer.

I can't imagine a better place to take kids under 10; an afternoon there ought to wear them out for days. For adults who still have a bit of child in them, it's definitely worth a look.

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