Where to take the grandkids for fun
Your children have taken you up on your offer to keep their kids for a day, overnight, or even a week. So now that you have them, what are you going to do to spend quality time with them while having fun? Depending on their age and your stamina, you’ll find plenty to do in western New York, from mild to wild. Here are just a few suggestions on places that both you and the grandkids will enjoy.
Museums are a great place to take the grandkids; they are fun for kids and not too strenuous for grandparents not used to keeping up with young kids. There are many kid-friendly museums in the area; places where children have so much fun they don’t realize that they are learning something at the same time. Some of the suggested museums are right in the Buffalo area while a few are a bit further away, making them perfect day-trip or overnight destinations.
Buffalo Museum of Science, 1020 Humboldt Pkwy, Buffalo, 716-896-5200, www.sciencebuff.org. Daily 10am-4pm. This museum covers everything from anthropology to zoology, with many hands-on exhibits. My eight-year old son especially enjoys the Explorations Gallery, Connections Gallery and Our Place in Space. There are also a number of traveling exhibits that come to the museum each year. The current exhibit, The Chronicles of Narnia, which opened January 24, runs until May 8. Kids can step inside Narnia and learn about the science behind the blockbuster Disney movie, as well as learn more about author, C.S. Lewis.
Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society, 25 Nottingham Court, Buffalo, 716-873-9644, www.bechs.org. Tuesday- Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 12-5pm. The Buffalo & Erie Country Historical Society is one of the country’s oldest regional history institutions. This is a great place to introduce your school-aged grandkids to area history including information on the Erie Canal, Native American history and the 1901 Pan American Exposition.
Old Fort Niagara, Fort Niagara State Park, Youngstown, 716-745-7611, www.oldfortniagara.org. Daily 9am-4:30pm. Step back in time 300 years when you visit Old Fort Niagara, a National Historic Landmark. The fort’s costumed staff demonstrates 18th Century military life, including drills and musket and cannon firing. The fort’s French Castle is the oldest building in the Great Lakes Region.
Herschell Carrousel Museum, 180 Thompson Street, N. Tonawanda, 716-693-1885, www.carrouselmuseum.org. Open April to December. This museum, located in the former Allan Herschell Carousel factory, has exhibits on the early carousel industry and a collection of carousel animals. The highlight of your visit will be a ride on the 1916 hand-carved carousel.
Explore & More Children’s Museum, 300 Gleed Avenue, East Aurora, 716-655-5131, www.exploreandmore.org Wednesday-Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 12-5pm. This is the perfect place to take young grandchildren, as this museum is geared for kids pre-school age to sixth grade. It is just the right size to have kids explore the exhibits without getting lost. Children are encouraged to touch the exhibits as they discover, play, and learn.
The next four museums are a bit of a drive, an hour or more from the Buffalo area. They are perfect destinations for a long day trip, when you have the kids overnight or for the weekend.
Medina Railroad Museum, 530 West Avenue, Medina, 585-798-6106, www.railroadmuseum.net. Year-round Tuesday-Sunday 11am-5pm. If your grandkids are into trains, this is the museum to go to. Located in a circa 1905 wooden fright house, this museum has one of the largest HO-scale layouts in the country, along with all sorts of railroad memorabilia and antique toys. The museum, which is about an hour from Buffalo, also offers a variety of scenic railroad excursions on a vintage train.
National Museum of Play, 1 Manhattan Square, Rochester, 585-263-2700, www.museumofplay.org. Monday-Thursday 10am-5pm, Friday-Saturday 10am-8pm, Sunday 12-5pm. Formerly known as the Strong Museum, the National Museum of Play is the first museum in the country devoted to the study of play and the only museum in the world to focus on the importance of play in learning. Almost all of the exhibits are interactive and there is even an indoor butterfly garden. The current exhibit, which opens February 5th, focuses on the Tinkertoy.
Special note: Plan on spending the entire day here as it is quite large. Given that fact, it is hard to keep track of kids here. It’s best to have more then one adult to help supervise them. You will be exhausted when you are done here!
Rochester Museum and Science Center, 657 East Avenue, Rochester, 585-271-4320, www.rmsc.org. Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm, Sunday 11am-5pm.While this museum is just a short drive from the Museum of Play, do not be tempted to try to do both in one day. This museum is also quite large and you can easily spend the entire day here. It has three floors of exhibits on science and regional history, including many interactive exhibits.
Corning Museum of Glass, exit 41 off I-86, Corning, 607-937-5371, www.cmog.org. Daily 9am-5pm. Kids 19 and under admitted free. Corning is about a 2 ½ drive from Buffalo, so this is a rather ambitious day trip or an overnight getaway. This museum is one of the most popular attractions in New York State. It houses one of the most comprehensive collections of glass objects in the world. Be sure to catch the Hot Glass Show, where glassblowing is demonstrated. There are also many interactive exhibits pertaining to glassmaking science and technology. Sign up early in the day to get a place in one of their walk-in workshop (additional fee) where you can try your hand at glassmaking.
DISCOVER NATURE, ZOOS, AND MORE
If your grandchild is interested in animals, there are a number of places to take them where they can observe animals in their natural habitat.
Buffalo Zoo, 300 Parkside Ave., Buffalo, 716-837-3900, www.buffalozoo.org. Daily 10am-4pm, closed Mondays and Tuesdays in January and February. When my oldest child was a baby, his grandparents loved to go to the zoo with him. What better way to spend an afternoon than pushing a baby in a stroller at the zoo. The Buffalo Zoo, which is the third oldest zoo in the nation, has seen many renovations and improvements over the past decade. If you haven’t’ been to the zoo since your kids were little, you will be pleasantly surprised. Most animals are exhibited in areas similar to their natural habitat and not cooped up in cages.
Seneca Park Zoo, 2222 St. Paul Blvd., Rochester, 585-336-7200, www.senecaparkzoo.org. Daily November-March 10am-3pm, April-October 10am-4pm. If you’ve been to the Buffalo Zoo many times and want a change of venue, check out Rochester’s Seneca Park Zoo, which is located north of downtown Rochester along the Genesee River. Operated by Monroe County, it is one of Rochester’s most popular attractions. It has also recently undergone millions of dollars of renovations, including a new viewing area for their African Elephants.
Aquarium of Niagara, 701 Whirlpool Street, Niagara falls, 716-285-3575, www.aquariumofniagara.org. Daily 9am-5pm. This is a fun and interesting place to take the grandkids. Explore the undersea world and learn about all sorts of aquatic animals including sharks, piranhas, and eels. You can see a sea lion training session and seal presentations.
Beaver Meadow Nature Center, 1610 Welch Road, North Java, 585-457-3228, www.buffaloaudubon.org. This 324 acre sanctuary is a great place for kids to learn about nature. The visitor’s center houses a variety of exhibits, as well as a children’s discovery room with all sorts of hands-on exhibits. On the grounds, which has 7 miles of walking trails, you can observe many types of animals and migratory birds.
OUTDOOR WINTER ACTIVITIES
If you and your grandkids are looking for some outdoor winter activities to share, here are some suggestions.
Chestnut Ridge Park, 6121 Chestnut Ridge Road, Orchard Park, 716-662-3290. We took our two youngest kids here last winter with our son’s Scout group to go sledding on the park’s large sledding hill. It was a lot of fun; I even went down the hill a time or two. Although the climb back up the hill is a killer! The park also has a toboggan run. One of our friends brought their toboggan and the kids and my husband tried it. They said it’s a fun, but bumpy ride.
Snowshoeing is a winter sport that almost anyone can do. If you can walk, you can snowshoe. The previously mentioned Beaver Meadow Nature center rents out snowshoes and poles for a nominal fee. If you want a more structured activity, the store Paths, Peaks, and Paddles (1000 Ellicott Creek Rd., Tonawanda, 716-213-0350, www.pathspeakspaddles.com) offers snowshoeing walks/hikes every Tuesday night, as well as several introduction to snowshoeing courses and events coming up in February.
Ice skating at Rotary Rink, 40 Fountain Plaza, Buffalo, by the Hyatt Hotel. Free ice skating is offered at Rotary Rink from now until March 20. Skating hours are Tuesday-Friday 11am-2pm and 5-9pm, Saturday from 11am-8pm, and Sunday 11am-6pm. Ice skate rental is available.
Mayville Ice and Cool Jazz Festival, Mayville. February 18-20. www.mayvillechautauqua.org Enjoy outdoor activities and jazz music at this annual festival which takes place on President’s Day Weekend. The highlight of the event is the castle made of ice blocks cut from Chautauqua Lake. Activities include horse-drawn rides, a kids snow slide, chili cook-off and more.