Winter is not quite over, yet the weather is finally getting nice enough to consider taking a drive just to get away from the same old routine. But where's a good place to go? It's usually too wet to do anything outdoors and many of the area's seasonal attractions don't open for another month or two.
Fortunately, Western New York has plenty of art galleries and history museums that offer interesting, fun and educational indoor activities that are perfect for this time of year. This article highlights three areas that have a number of attractions.
* Rochester and vicinity
Rochester offers plenty of sites to while away a day. One of the best-known museums in Rochester is the Strong Museum, the first museum in the country devoted to the study of play. Considered one of the nation's top children's museums, it's in the final stages of a $33 million expansion, which includes the addition of a glass-enclosed butterfly garden.
You can easily spend the entire day here. Kids can explore the many interactive exhibits and even adults can spend hours perusing the extensive collection of dolls, toys and household items that were amassed by museum founder, the late Margaret Woodbury Strong. The museum is also home to the National Toy Hall of Fame.
Another family-friendly museum in Rochester is the Rochester Museum and Science Center, which features three floors of science, regional and Native American history and interactive exhibits. Current exhibits include "Under the Wings of the White Eagle," which explores Rochester's Polish American Heritage; "Motion Commotion," a hands-on exhibit on how we perceive motion; and "Glaciers and Giants," which focuses on the Ice Age.
The museum's Strasenburgh Planetarium features star shows and giant screen feature films on Saturdays. Viewing the night sky through its telescope resumes April 15.
No visit to Rochester would be complete without a stop at the George Eastman House, one of two National Historic Landmarks in the City of Rochester. This 12-acre estate was the home of George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak and the inventor of the Kodak camera. The 37-room mansion, the largest single family residence ever built in Monroe County, now houses the International Museum of Photography and Film. Millions of photos and artifacts chronicle the history of photography. The museum also has a children's discovery room with hands-on exhibits.
The city's other National Historic Landmark is the Susan B. Anthony House. Anthony, known for her work in the Women's Suffrage Movement, lived in this home from 1866 until her death in 1906. Today the home is a museum filled with memorabilia and displays on Women's Suffrage.
Art lovers will want to check out Rochester's Memorial Art Gallery. Operated by the University of Rochester, it is one of the few university art galleries in the country that also serves as the community art museum. The museum's permanent collection has more than 10,000 objects that highlight 5,000 years of art, including works by great masters such as Monet and Matisse. A gourmet restaurant and gift shop round out the museum's offerings.
Contemporary art aficionados may want to check out Rochester Contemporary, a gallery which has been promoting contemporary art in the region for more than 25 years. The gallery has a number of permanent and changing exhibits. One of its more unique displays is the RoCo Art-o-mat, a former cigarette vending machine reformatted to vend cigarette-pack sized artwork by various local artists.
Other places to purchase locally created artwork includes Craft Company No. 6, which is located in a former Victorian-era firehouse. This eight-room gallery, considered one of the top craft galleries in the country, features a variety of handcrafted items, including furniture, pottery, blown glass and garden art. Another Rochester gallery, Artisan Works, has more than 5,000 diverse works of art displayed in 45,000 square feet, along with on-site artist studios.
There are two other area museums you may want to check out either before or after visiting Rochester. The Holland Land Office Museum in Batavia is a great place to learn about Western New York history. This National Historic Landmark structure served as the offices for the Holland land Company, a Dutch banking firm that played a major role in the development of the region.
The museum's exhibits focus mainly on Genesee County history, Seneca Indian history, Civil War memorabilia and pioneer items. Rotating exhibits are changed several times a year. Museum admission is free.
East of Batavia, in the Village of LeRoy, you'll find the Jell-O Museum, which highlights the history of "America's Favorite Dessert," which was invented here. The museum has a variety of Jell-O memorabilia and several hands-on exhibits. The adjacent Leroy House, operated by the local historical society, has displays on area history.
* Chautauqua Lake area
If your search for art and history takes you south of Buffalo, head to Chautauqua County, where a wide variety of museums await. After exiting the Thruway in Westfield, stop at the McClurg Museum. This 16-room mansion, built by James McClurg between 1818 and 1820, is filled with items from the collection of the Chautauqua County Historical Society. Diagonally across the street from the museum, you'll find the charming Lincoln Bedell statues which depict the 1861 meeting between Abraham Lincoln and 12-year-old Westfield resident, Grace Bedell. It was young Grace who suggested that Lincoln grow a beard to improve his appearance.
Heading to Jamestown, on the east end of Chautauqua Lake, you'll find several museums of interest. The Fenton History Center was the home of Reuben Fenton, governor of New York from 1865 to 1869. The 1863 Italian villa-style mansion, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, houses exhibits on Jamestown-area history.
Nearby, the Robert H. Jackson Center, features exhibits on Robert H. Jackson, chief American prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trails of Nazi war criminals. Jackson grew up in Frewsburg and had his law practice in Jamestown.
No trip to Jamestown would be complete without a visit to the Lucy-Desi Museum, which celebrates the life of Lucille Ball who grew up in nearby Celoron. The museum features photos, costumes and other memorabilia. The adjacent gift shop has hundreds of items that will delight Lucy fans.
Visitors to Jamestown may also want to check out the art displayed in the James Prendergast Library. The library features a permanent collection of late 19th and early 20th century paintings, as well as a gallery of changing exhibits featuring local artists.
If you're looking for a museum that combines art as well as history, look no further than the Corning Museum of Glass, located about 2 1/2 hours from Buffalo. One of the most popular attractions in the state, the museum houses the most renowned glass collection in the world, with more than 30,000 objects representing 3,500 years of glassmaking. There are also many hands-on exhibits on glass science and technology, along with the very popular Hot Glass Show glass blowing demonstration.
Visitors can even try glass blowing or other glass related crafts at one of the museum's workshops. Sign up early in the day, as these fill up quickly. The museum has a huge gift shop filled with glass items for every budget, as well as an extensive collection of books.
The Rockwell Museum, also located in Corning, has the most comprehensive collection of western art in the United States. The museum, founded in 1976 by the Robert Rockwell family, has works by Frederick Remington and many other artists who portrayed scenes from the western frontier.
While in Corning, be sure to take a stroll down Market Street, a historic four-block area lined with boutiques, restaurants and small art galleries, including several shops that feature handmade glass items.
Here are Web sites and phone numbers for the attractions listed in the One-Tank Trip.
Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau, (585) 546-3070, www.visitrochester.com
Artisan Works, 565 Blossom Road, Suite L, Rochester; (585) 288-7171, www.artisanworks.net
Craft Company No. 6, 785 University Ave., Rochester; (585) 473-3413, www.craftcompany.com
George Eastman House, 900 East Ave., Rochester; (585) 271-3361, www.eastmanhouse.org
Holland Land Office Museum, 131 West Main St., Batavia; (585) 343-4727, www.hollandlandoffice.com
Jell-O Museum, 23 East Main St., LeRoy; (585) 768-7433, www.jellomuseum.com
Memorial Art Gallery, 500 University Ave., Rochester; (585) 473-7720, www.mag.rochester.edu
Rochester Contemporary, 137 East Ave., Rochester; (585) 461-2222, www.rochestercontemporary.org
Rochester Museum and Science Center, 657 East Ave., Rochester; (585) 271-4320, www.rmsc.org
Susan B. Anthony House, 17 Madison St. Rochester; (585) 235-6124, www.susanbanthonyhouse.org
Strong Museum, One Manhattan Square, Rochester; (585) 263-2700, www.strongmuseum.org
Chautauqua County Tourism, 357-4569, www.tourchautauqua.com
Fenton History Center, 67 Washington St., Jamestown; 664-6256, www.fentonhistorycenter.org
Lucy-Desi Museum, 212 Pine St. Jamestown; 484-0800, www.lucy-desi.com
James Prendergast Library, 509 Cherry St., Jamestown; 484-7135, www.cclslib.org/prendergast McClurg Museum, NY 20 and 394, Westfield; 326-2977 Robert H. Jackson Center, 305 East Fourth St., Jamestown; 483-6646, www.roberthjackson.org
Corning Information Center, (607) 962-8997, www.corningfingerlakes.com
Corning Gaffer District Festivals, (607) 974-6436, www.gafferdistrict.com
Corning Museum of Glass, exit 46 off I-86, Corning; (607) 937-5371, www.cmog.org Rockwell Museum, 111 Cedar St., Corning; (607) 937-5386, www.rockwellmuseum.org