Travel Journal: Hall of Fame Destination Ideas
Fun and Games at Rochester's Hall of Fame
Today's halls of fame are more than just places with plaques and pictures. They're more like living history museums where you can enjoy an educational stroll down memory lane. At the Strong National Museum of Play, in Rochester, New York, you can check out the world's largest collection of toys, dolls, and games, spread over 282,000 square feet of interactive exhibits.
Though the museum is home to thousands of toys, only 38 have achieved hall of fame status, including childhood classics such as Etch a Sketch, Mr. Potato Head, the Erector Set, G.I. Joe, Lego, and Barbie. At the "Field of Play" exhibit you can walk through a giant kaleidoscope and create your own patterns, use pulleys to power balls through a gigantic overhead ball machine, or relax and read to your child in the mouth of a jellyfish-shape chair.
Preschoolers will especially love the museum's "Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street?" exhibit. Here, little ones can tap out "Rubber Duckie" on a keyboard, sing with Elmo, and visit with his beloved friend Dorothy the goldfish in the new Elmo's World addition.
Berenstain Bears aficionados will enjoy the new permanent exhibit "Down a Sunny Dirt Road: The World of the Berenstain Bears," opening April 26. The stories come to life as kids design and sell quilts at Mama Bear's Quilt Shop or put on an apron and safety glasses and tackle a project in Papa Bear's Woodworking Shop. Future dentists can play with a giant set of floss, removable teeth, and pretend drills at Dr. Bearson's Dentist Office. And at good ol' Farmer Ben's Farm, kids can sort fruits and veggies in the barn, dress a scarecrow and build a wall with pretend bricks. (museumofplay.org; $9.50 for adults, $8.50 for seniors, $7.50 for children ages 2 to 17; admission to the Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden costs $3 more)
Stop for a bite at the museum's vintage diner. Called the Skyliner, it was originally located in rural Pennsylvania, but the Strong Museum purchased, relocated, and reopened it in 1997, retaining much of the original decor, including the boomerang-pattern Formica, the terrazzo floor, and the pink and gray upholstered vinyl booths. For more adult-oriented fare, nearby Bamba Bistro is a local favorite, serving dishes like lobster ravioli and brown sugar-glazed pork tenderloin. (bambabistro.com or 585-244-8680)
Just a few miles from the Strong Museum is Artisanworks, a renovated warehouse where artists keep studios open to visitors (artisanworks.net; open Friday through Sunday, $12 per person; Sunday visitors can enjoy free live musical performances). While there you can shop at the Elizabeth Collection, a gallery with more than 15,000 works for sale, including paintings and photographs.
New York's Finger Lakes region is also home to many wineries. Just 15 minutes from downtown Rochester is Casa Larga Vineyards, where you can take a tour of the 45-acre facility or stop by for a tasting. (casalarga.com)
Stay the night at the Strathallan Hotel, located in the heart of the city. (strathallan.com or 585-461-5010; rates start at $124 per night)
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