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The Children’s Museum, Utica, NY

Where do I begin? The Children’s Museum in Utica has over 24,000 square feet of exploration space. It took us three hours to get through the entire building, and I don’t think we even saw everything. Admission is pricey ($9.00 for anyone over the age of 1 year) and this has been the main reason why we haven’t visited in nine years. But the children get their own allowances and they wanted to go, so we split the admission prices 50/50. Great deal, I’d say! 😀

Entrance

The Children’s Museum is right next to historic Bagg’s Square, of which I wrote here. The Children’s Museum is a testament to the ingenuity of moms. It was a group of women– the Junior League– in 1963 who started out with a lifesize model of an Iroquois longhouse in a library basement, and expanded the project into four stories of displays for children of all ages. This place has EVERYTHING. I snapped almost 100 photos, and that was after whittling my choices down. I obviously cannot post all my photos here. If you’d like to see some really cool stuff, check out my Flickr page.

The kids had an absolute blast. My kids are older (youngest is 11) and we still had a blast. There is a cute playroom for toddlers, but everything else is geared for kids ages 5 to 100.

Food Fight

Shall I possibly list off everything we saw? No way! How about everything we saw that interested us? No way! How about the top fifty? Wow… my blog posts can only be so long, you know! The place is filled with old stuff. And it’s all stuff you can touch and experiment with.

Here’s Injane checking out an old telephone operator board. One ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingy

telephone op

Here’s a cool see-through car that you can explore. Has a crash dummy, too.

SeeThru Car

I, of course, loved the architecture of the building. It used to be an old dry goods store. Can you imagine?! A dry goods store– with an oak staircase, transom windows, tin ceilings, oak flooring, federal-style loft windows?! My house isn’t even built this nicely.

Stairs to second floor

Big Room

Canoe

We loved the Iroquois longhouse. History oozed from everything.

Iroquois Longhouse

Peace Pipe Red Eye

I love the replica Hiawatha wampum belt. Looks just like the real thing.

Hiawatha Belt

There were several pianos and musical instruments in the museum. Several uprights, and some baby grands, an old organ, and assorted xylophones. What blast!

The place also had toys, clothing, dioramas, reptiles, bugs, life-sized displays to play make-believe, a stage with assorted pianos (all out of tune), Legos, displays of community events (like a kayaking group, and the Ride for Missing Children’s Group), puppets, fossils, everything!

Diorama of Oriskany

Trading Post

Kayak

Saras Ride Plaque

I really liked the radio station display. I worked in radio for several years, and seeing this brought back such memories!

Radio Station

I will add that it is rather disconcerting to see equipment that I used in my younger years labeled as “nostalgic.” :S

As seems to happen wherever we go, a photographer from the local newspaper shows up on the day as we do. For some reason, my kids usually have their pictures taken by photographers. They’ve been in the newspaper a few times now. I took a photo of the photographer photographing my kids.

OD Picture of Picture

The kids didn’t make it in the papers this time around.

Here’s a photo of a pacu, a fish native to the Amazon river. He’s a big one.

Amazon Fish

They also had a big turtle, a gerbil, and a tarantula! Several years back, there was a clear plastic display filled with honeybees making honeycomb, but the bees are gone. I saw a sticker that said there was a mite infestation (which I’d been hearing is responsible for our honeybees dying off), so I guess the bees were removed. Too bad; that was one of my favorite exhibits.

Last time we visited, the fourth floor was undeveloped. It was a treat to see new exhibits. They have a small (genuine) airplane the kids can hop in and work the controls.

In the Airplane

There’s also the world-renowned Hot Wheels collection. The toys went way back to- what?- the 50s? Quite a big collection.

Hot Wheels Display

There is just too much to mention, really. The nice thing about this Children’s Museum is that it is a little beat up. It’s old and creaky and some of the stuff is obviously very worn. But that’s part of its charm. You can handle and play with things and not worry about breaking them. You can relax and not have to watch your p’s and q’s that you might drop something. It’s truly a kids’ place.

Outside, there’s a small park around Bagg’s Tavern, and a few train cars to explore. The trains were locked up, so we couldn’t go inside, but we could peer through the windows. And the kids had no problem having fun on the train decks.

Train All Aboard

What started out as an after-school project by community moms and the Oneida Indians has grown to become a wonderful glimpse into our community’s past. I don’t think we’ll ever be too old not to visit the Children’s Museum!

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About the Author

I've been traveling throughout New York State since I got the travel bug after touring the Herkimer Home on a school field trip as a youngster. We've been blogging about our travels since 2006 and have visited over half of New York's 62 counties so far.

Comments (7)

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  1. Suz says:

    Wow, what a cool place- your kids were right to insist on going! All the Children’s museums I’ve ever been to have been science and technology museums. Neat to see the same ‘discovery’ format with a more traditional style museum. Thanks!
    -Suz

  2. Krista Peck says:

    I love this blog…I feel like I’m home everytime I see a photo. I grew up in Watertown & attended my 4 years of college in Ithaca. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Apple says:

    My kids loved it way back when. I’d love to take the grandkids but the admission adds up very fast!

  4. R.B. Phillips says:

    Color balance in your pictures is phenomenal! Great imagery. The caboose is ex-Pennsy, the streamlined passenger car ex-Santa Fe, and the green Adirondack 25 locomotive is ex-Seaboard Coast Line (i.e., from the south). Adirondack donated the RSC-2 locomotive when its diesel seized up. Now, if we can get them to donate their 8223, the Childrens’ Museum would have a real ex-NY Central unit that ran in Utica !

  5. […] with shoes… and I had no ideas. Until I remembered that the kids and I had gone to the Children’s Museum in Utica, NY, and there we had seen some very, very old shoes! Get a load of […]

  6. Stacy Buoy says:

    We just spent several hours at The Children’s Museum in Utica. What a great day! Four floors with 60 Pavilions and 100’s of interactive exhibits. Admission real reasonable, right in line with other area children, family, and tourist centers. Amazing what they’ve done without operational support from the city, county, or state! A must see place.

  7. Yelena says:

    Thank you so much! This is just the kind of info I’m looking for since I’ll be in Upstate NY for a few weeks this summer with my preschooler.