While her parents work, 2½-year-old Kynslee Aldridge spends days with her grandmother, Debbie Ryan of West Seneca, watching TV, working at her play kitchen, singing and dancing.
It’s fun but sometimes gets a little old, so once a month Grandma takes Kynslee to Explore & More Children’s Museum in East Aurora.
“She loves coming here,” Ryan said. “It’s a learning experience. At home in the wintertime, there’s not as much to do. Plus she’s an only child so this is great for her to play with other kids.”
Explore & More is among a mountain of options in Western New York for families that, after the hustle and bustle of the holidays, run the risk of winter hibernation at home. Parents can address the dreaded “I don’t have anything to do” refrain with any of the active options below, including our top trio. Next week, we’ll focus on activities in the great outdoors.
“The way children develop the building blocks of learning, and getting to understand process, is through play. They’re engaging their education in a way that gives them more potential,” said Douglas Love, who has led some of the largest children’s museums across the country. He became Explore & More chief executive officer this week and will lead the effort to build the nonprofit’s new $18 million, 43,000-square-foot museum at Canalside.
1. Explore & More Children’s Museum
300 Gleed Ave., East Aurora exploreandmore.org, 655-5131
This museum caters to those from infancy to 12 years old. Its sweet spot: preschoolers and those in first and second grades, spokesperson Jennifer Fee said. The museum unfolds in a 5,000-square-foot cranny of Aurora Town Hall and features nine sections with names that include Building Curiosity, Food for Thought, Make It Go and Faces of Buffalo.
Explore & More plans similar exhibits, though more dynamic in size and scope, as it expands by eightfold at Canalside in 2018.
“What really sets us apart from a lot of other museums is that we really focus on our cultural component,” Fee said. Images of flags and children from around the world are painted around the entrance to the museum and just inside, words on a tiny green railroad engine beckon, ALL ABOARD.
The Faces of Buffalo exhibit will be recast as Being Good Neighbors at Canalside and feature activities tied to heritages that make up the region’s melting pot. Hands-on displays in the current exhibit include a puppet theater, rice table and mini-canal lock system. “The idea of Faces of Buffalo is to get kids familiar with, ‘Who am I? What is my community? Who are my neighbors? And what is it that makes them special?” Fee said.
The museum hosts an Explore Even More program from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesdays into May and a family friendly Let’s Get Physical fitness program from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. the second and fourth Saturday of each month also into spring. A day’s worth of programs focused on diversity are planned Jan. 18 for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Family Fun Week runs during February break.
2. Buffalo Museum of Science
1020 Humboldt Parkway
This no longer is your childhood science museum. During the last five years, it’s been revamped with more hands-on exhibits, including the Explorations early childhood gallery, and workshop spaces that teach about prehistoric times, space, the environment and forces that shape our planet. The National Geographic 3D Cinema offers affordable, science-related features.
Learn from Independent Health how to keep your family fit and active – and enjoy free museum admission – Jan. 18. The museum also hosts an electric-charged Energy Day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 23, four overnight weekend camp-ins the next several weeks and school break discovery camps the week of Feb. 15.
3. Aquarium of Niagara
701 Whirlpool St., Niagara Falls
Family visits to Niagara Falls are much more affordable this time of year and can include stops on both sides of the border. The Aquarium of Niagara is a top spot. See seahorses, sturgeons, sea lions and more. Participate in special programs that take you behind the scenes with marine specialists and let you feed penguins. The aquarium also plans a new 1,200-square-foot Humbolt penguin exhibit as it plunges into its next half-century in operation along the Niagara Gorge.
FAMILY FRIENDLY FUN
Albright-Knox Art Museum
1285 Elmwood Ave.; for hours, admission costs and other info, visit albrightknox.org or call 882-8700.
Art classes, special programs and a free Jan. 22 exhibition opening by Canadian artist Erin Sherriff are part of the fun at this historic gallery that celebrates modern and contemporary art.
Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens
2655 South Park Ave.; buffalogardens.com; 827-1584
The renovated indoor haven, which soon will feature a nighttime Lumination feature, includes special monthly events in its Wegmans family garden. The theme next Saturday is let it snow.
Buffalo History Museum
One Museum Court; buffalohistory.org, 873-9644
Exhibits trace the rich history of the region. M&T Third Fridays include free admission, children’s activities and more. A contemporary quilting bee takes place this month.
300 Parkside Ave.; buffalozoo.org, 837-3900
A Warm up with Cold Blooded program in the Reptile House from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Cabin Fever Reliever in indoor exhibits on Jan. 23 and several special programs next month are part of the winter itinerary.
Niagara Falls Butterfly Conservancy
Niagara Parkway, Niagara Falls, Ont.; niagaraparks.com; (905) 356-8119
More than 2,000 butterflies flutter in a lush rain forest-like setting.
MOSTLY KID FUN CENTERS
Billy Beez Walden Galleria Mall, Cheektowaga; waldengalleria.com, 989-5012
Jungle-themed fun zone where parents can hang with kids on slides and in play zones and sports courts.
Epic Sports Center
2793 Wehrle Drive, Bowmansville; epic-center.com, 565-3742
Indoor athletic field, go-cart racing, foosball, ping-pong and billiards are among the offerings.
Fallsview Indoor Water Park
5685 Falls Ave., Niagara Falls, Ont.; fallsviewwaterpark.com, (888) 234-8413
Three acres of indoor fun include water slides, tube towers, pools and Planet Hollywood Beach Club, all on the popular Clifton Hill strip. Hotel waterpark packages start at $169 Canadian.
Great Wolf Lodge
3950 Victoria Ave., Niagara Falls, Ont.; greatwolf.com/niagara, (800) 605-9653
Swim, splash, slide and dine a short drive north of the mighty cataracts.
Just Fun Family Entertainment Center
6000 South Park Ave., Hamburg; justfunhamburgny.com; 648-3222
Black light mini-golf, bumper cars, bazooka ball and an arcade are part of the fun. No admission, pay for what you play.
Lasertron 5100 N. Bailey Ave., Amherst; buffalo.lasertron.us, 833-8766
Laser tag, cyber sports and a sports bar are featured here. January special includes 4 attractions and $10 arcade card for $30.
7 Kids Play Cafe
7041 Transit Road, East Amherst; 7kidsplay.com, 777-2288
A play cafe, babies and kids in motion are part of the offerings in this place that can be quiet for parents and fun for their younger children.
Palm Island Indoor Water Park
8520 Park Road, Batavia; palmislandindoorwaterpark.com, (585) 344-2100
Water slides, water tubes, Monsoon Lagoon and a pool with a basketball hoop are featured here. Hotel packages start at $145.
Pole Position Raceway Walden Galleria Mall; polepositionraceway.com/buffalo-ny
Electric indoor go kart racing is fast and furious but the cost can add up for families.
Rolly Pollies 9630 Transit Road, East Amherst and 4058 N. Buffalo Road, Orchard Park; rpwny.com, 689-6151
Fitness, music and creative arts programs, as well as play time, are available in its two locations.
Sportzone at the Grille
Paddock Chevrolet Golf Dome, 175 Brompton Road, Town of Tonawanda; thegrillatthedome.com/sportzone.php, 504-4745
Golf, hockey and a QB challenge are among the HD simulated sports options here, and there’s food nearby.
4779 Transit Road, Depew; toddletowna-z.com, 656-8800
Peanut-free indoor play facility for children up to 5; reservations are not required.
We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym
6950 Erie Road, Derby; werockthespectrumbuffalosouthtowns.com, 562-7274
For all children, including those with special needs, this site contains an indoor play structure, sensory based toys, swings, crash mats and other features designed to improve communication, cognitive, social, emotional, behavioral, fine and gross motor skills.
Whitworth Ferguson Planetarium
Buckham Hall, Rockwell Road, SUNY Buffalo State; fergusonplanetarium.net, 878-4911
Includes a 35-foot diameter projection dome. Staff leads educational programs about astronomy, planetary science and earth sciences. Includes an exhibit on the Hubble Telescope. “From Dream to Discovery” runs Friday and Saturday nights this month. Make reservations online.
Seee more photos of Explore & More and the Aquarium of Niagara at galleries.buffalonews.com