Last week we shared the top 10 things to do outdoors in the Finger Lakes, but let’s face it, the weather in this cool climate wine growing region isn’t always going to cooperate. So, when you need some indoor activities, Winetraveler has you covered. Whether you’re an art lover and want to ponder the works of renowned glass artisans, or you’re into American history and want to visit a few iconic sights, there are Finger Lakes Museums with a little something for everyone – including kids!
10 Best Finger Lakes Museums To Explore
Rochester, New York
A great stop with young kids that need time to run free. The Museum of Play is a highly interactive, collections-based museum devoted to the history and exploration of play. It boasts the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of historical toys. Adults may even find the history and research behind toys of interest. (My favorite thing was getting to sit on the steps of Sesame Street!)
Corning, New York
Nearly 50,000 objects representing more than 3,500 years of history are displayed in the museum’s galleries all dedicated to glass! You can watch daily demonstrations of contemporary glassworking, learn about the science and technology of glass in the Innovation Center, and participate in “Make Your Own Glass” sessions. And wandering the Contemporary Art + Design Wing is a must as it’s the largest presentation of contemporary art in glass in the world. (And if you’re in need of a special gift for someone, the gift shop here is incredible!)
Corning, New York
A diverse and unique art collection housed in Corning’s Old City Hall, The Rockwell Museum hosts activities for both adults and kids from innovative arts education for children and parents, to exceptional lectures by leading scholars. You can also wander the galleries at your leisure or take children to make their own art in the craft area designed just for them. (Ask about the resident ghost while you’re there!)
Elmira, New York
Originally located on Quarry Farm on a knoll overlooking the Chemung River Valley, this octagonal building is where Mark Twain wrote major portions of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Life on the Mississippi, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Prince and the Pauper, A Tramp Abroad, and many short pieces. In 1952, the Mark Twain Study was moved from Quarry Farm to the Elmira College campus where it is now staffed by trained student guides daily throughout the summer and by appointment in the off-season. (For any literary buff or Mark Twain fan, the copies of Twain’s handwritten manuscripts are a treat!)
Hammondsport, New York
The Finger Lakes Boating Museum is dedicated to the education and preservation of the boating activities and the boat building heritage of the Finger Lakes. The Museum Collection has now grown to more than 200 boats built throughout the Finger Lakes Region during the last century. And the main museum building, built in 1886, was the former Taylor Wine Company headquarters.
Branchport, New York
Educational programs, interactive exhibits, and informational play can all be found at this small museum dedicated to the ecological evolution of the Finger Lakes.
Seneca Falls, New York
Women’s Rights National Historical Park tells the story of the first Women’s Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls on July 19-20,1848. Visitors are welcome to tour the Women’s Rights National Historical Park’s visitor center, historic homes including the Elizabeth Cady Stanton House, the M’Clintock House, the Richard Hunt House, and the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel.
Ithaca, New York
This is for the dinosaur buffs, archaeologist fans and anthropologist aficionados or anyone interested in early world history. You will journey back 540 million years in time and then travel into the future with special exhibitions, lectures and family-friendly programs.
Canandaigua, New York
This 50-acre estate is a serene respite in Canandaigua, gifted to the community by Frederick Ferris and Mary Clark Thompson. This couple of the Gilded Age created Sonnenberg as their Victorian summer home. It is now a beautiful summer escape and one of the few “Country Place Era Estates” remaining in the United States. It is distinctive for its extraordinary collections of period architecture, garden statuary, themed gardens of the world including a Japanese Garden and Teahouse, and the Lord & Burnham Greenhouse Complex.
Auburn, New York
Harriet Tubman was an American abolitionist and political activist. Born into slavery, she escaped and subsequently made some thirteen missions to rescue approximately seventy enslaved people, family and friends, using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. The Harriet Tubman Home is an independent non-profit dedicated to sharing Harriet Tubman’s core values and history with visitors through a guided tour of the property and The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park was established here in 2017.
Winetraveler Bonus Tip: Stop in at Hector Handmade to make your own beaded jewelry or any number of handcrafted items from local artisans.
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Featured photo courtesy Corning Museum of Glass.