The City of Rochester was blessed with being home to the very philanthropic entrepreneur, George Eastman, the inventor of modern film and founder of Eastman Kodak. As a result of the enormous amount of wealth Eastman personally donated to the arts, and other philanthropists that were largely connected to Eastman Kodak, Rochester, NY is home to several renowned cultural institutions and has a thriving arts scene. The three museums highlighted below are all within walking distance to one another and easy to get to off the main highway. If you’re planning a family weekend in Rochester, these three institutions are must sees.
George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film
George Eastman is known as the founder of Eastman Kodak and the inventor of modern film and photography. The Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film is composed of the philanthropist’s Georgian Revival styled estate and a newer state of the art archival building which opened in 1989. The Eastman House is not a children’s museum but does provide an excellent educational opportunity for older children to learn about one of the most famous American industrialists and the history of Rochester. The Eastman House does have a hands-on center within the main house called the Discovery Room. This room is used for summer camps, school groups and tour groups and allows kids to explore the different methods of photography and film that have recorded history.
A trip to the Eastman House would not be complete without strolling the magnificently kept gardens that encompass various grounds of the estate. The gardens have largely been restored to include plants, shrubs and trees that were present during the period when Eastman lived in the house, between 1905 to 1932. This was a time when opulent wealth could be seen in patches of the country – and before the arrival of income taxes. Given Eastman’s wealth, his home and gardens were rather modest. The gardens are a great place to let children wonder and explore on their own and for parents to take in the beauty of the formal gardens.
Tip: The Eastman House is well known for its annual holiday gingerbread house exhibit in which 100 plus organizations contribute decorated gingerbread houses for display. The exhibit opens in November; so plan ahead for a November / December weekend in Rochester to start the holiday season.
Memorial Art Gallery (MAG)
The Memorial Art Gallery is considered the best museum of its kind in the state outside of New York City and a visit will easily justify why. The MAG is known for its high quality visual arts and is an anchor in the Rochester community. The permanent collection holds more than 12,000 objects that cover centuries of works from well known artists including those local to the Rochester area. If you are looking to introduce your children to photography, paintings of various mediums and sculpture you will not be disappointed at the MAG. Children can partake in scavenger hunts geared towards children in art and other kid friendly focal points. Inquire about the scavenger hunts when you arrive at the MAG.
The MAG recently opened a new exhibit called Renaissance Remix which details life in 16th century as told through a young boy. The exhibit includes videos, hands-on learning activities, touch screens and listening posts. I found the contrasts between men and women, girls and boys to be the most interesting, especially for a parent of a princess obsessed little girl.
As a major institution in Rochester, the MAG hosts year round Family Days which focus on cultural performances, music, dance and other activities the whole family can enjoy. Adults can find various tapas nights, yoga classes, concerts and focused art tours around the Gallery. This is one of the stops on my trip to Rochester that I wish I could have explored more and will definitely do so next time we visit. The MAG is gearing up to celebrate it’s centennial with a new exhibit about Art in the Community.
Now, my favorite part about the MAG is the amazing summer children’s camp program they hold in the lower level of the Gallery. It was one of those experiences that make you say, “I wish I had this where I live so I can send my own children here”. The good news is, you can. If you are visiting Rochester during spring or winter break or even the occasional Saturdays in the fall or winter, the MAG Creative Workshop programs allow kids to attend by the day. Your child can take in an amazing camp experience for a day while mom and dad get to see the highlights of Rochester.
Rochester Museum and Science Center
The last stop within my trifecta of Rochester must see sites is the Rochester Museum and Science Center which is 100% geared towards kids. The Museum Center houses three floors of hands-on educational fun in the natural sciences, weather, technology, regional historical interests such as exhibits on the Erie Canal and underground railroad. The exhibits are geared for varying age ranges from the very young to older school age children. When you walk into the first exhibit area kids are immediately drawn to the wave like steps that they can climb through to arrive at a second floor space just for them. My 5 year old loved this and took about a half dozen consecutive trips to the top. The Museum really encourages children to actively visit the museum through the multitude of hands-on activities. We really enjoyed having the Bean give us a weather report that could be emailed to friends and family afterwards.
Tip: Give yourself about 2 hours at the Rochester Science and Museum Center and, if visiting other sites around Rochester, visit this one later in the day as it will exhaust little ones.
Go Visit:Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film 900 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607 Telephone (585) 271-3361 http://www.eastmanhouse.org/ Memorial Art Gallery (MAG) 500 University Ave. Rochester, NY 14607 (585) 276-8900 http://mag.rochester.edu/ Rochester Museum and Science Center 657 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607 (585) 271-1880 (24 hour recorded information line) http://www.rmsc.org/
Disclosure: Our visit to Rochester was hosted by Visit Rochester.