Life » Culture

Midwinter family activities to cure cabin fever


RMSC's "Expedition Dinosaur" exhibit is for dino-lovers of all ages with life-sized animatronic creatures and interactive games. - PHOTO BY JACKIE MCGRIFF, COURTESY ROCHESTER MUSEUM & SCIENCE CENTER
  • RMSC's "Expedition Dinosaur" exhibit is for dino-lovers of all ages with life-sized animatronic creatures and interactive games.
February break is over, and there’s a seemingly unending stretch of winter ahead of us that could play out like this: work and school, the homework huddle, chores, sleep, repeat. Pandemic restrictions are slowly lifting, but as people try to get back to normal life, kids might be experiencing more than the usual levels of cabin fever. Which, as you know, makes for a chaotic household.

The antidote is available in the form of family-oriented recreational activities offered by area institutions and parks. Here and there, a few hours outside in the crisp air or taking in a museum exhibit can make a world of difference.
We’ve included a mix of outdoor activities and indoor educational options to exercise the body and mind.

Hang out with the lizard kings

Dinosaurs went the way of the, well, dinosaur long before our ancestors ever stood upright. But our fascination with the ancient reptiles endures. Still, it can be hard to wrap our minds around the reality of the beasts. So it’s always fun to seize the opportunities when dinos jump off the textbook pages and are brought to “life.”
If your kids are too young to watch the pulse-pounding “Jurassic Park” films, head over to Rochester Museum & Science Center’s “Expedition Dinosaur” exhibit, now on the museum’s third floor through May 1. It features life-sized, roaring and moving animatronic versions of several species, as well as interactive puzzles, challenges, and paleontologist activities. Visitors can learn what and how the dinosaurs ate, where and how they lived, and — just like in “Jurassic Park” — contemplate elements of the dinosaurs that live on in modern-day birds.

Admission to RMSC (657 East Ave., is $20 for adults, $19 for seniors and college students, $18 for ages 3 to 18, and free to kids under 3 and museum members.

Snowy treks in the pines

Located in Naples, RMSC’s Cummings Nature Center offers year-round recreation for families, including the use of 12 miles of ski trails and a three-mile snowshoeing loop, with the option of renting the necessary equipment. Both activities offer the chance to get the blood moving without too much daredevilry and at a slow enough pace for children to spot winter wildlife along the trails. Cumming also offers accessibility-focused adaptive skiing sessions that provide one-on-one instruction and specialized equipment ($20 per class, $60 for full session).

Themed Winter Wild Walks are scheduled for every weekend in March. Learn how to identify animal tracks on March 5-6. The session on March 12-13 focuses on identifying the early signs of spring. The last two weekends are centered on the history and science of maple sugaring. Programs take place at 10:30 a.m. on weekends, special pricing applies, and registration is required.

Cumming Nature Center is located at 6472 Gulick Road. Winter admission is $5 per person and free to RMSC members. Ski and snowshoe rental is $5-$15. Call ahead at (585) 374-6160 to be sure trails are open.

March is prime maple sugaring season, and Genesee Country Village & Museum celebrates with demonstrations, storytelling, and pancake breakfasts. - PHOTO COURTESY GENESEE COUNTRY VILLAGE & MUSEUM
  • March is prime maple sugaring season, and Genesee Country Village & Museum celebrates with demonstrations, storytelling, and pancake breakfasts.
The sweets that grow in trees

Speaking of maple sugaring, that long-standing regional art is the focus of one of the most popular annual events at Genesee Country Village & Museum. The Maple Sugar Festival and Pancake Breakfast weekends take place March 19-20 and March 26-27 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

It’s easy to take the simple breakfast staple of syrup for granted and forget all about what goes into making it. Visitors of all ages can directly witness the technology involved at the museum’s Sugarhouse, where its evaporator transforms watery sap into the thick sweet stuff we drizzle on our pancakes and waffles (or directly onto fresh snow!).

The museum puts an historic spin on its educational efforts, so there are lessons in the techniques and tools that settlers to the region used to collect sap and transform it into maple sugar. This includes discussions led by Haudenosaunee storytellers Perry Ground, Tonia Loran-Galban, and Veronica Reitter, hands-on tree-tapping activities, and maple-flavored treats at the Depot Restaurant. There are spicy maple wings, a maple Monte Cristo, maple-walnut blondie sundae, and for the adults, maple craft beer.

Pancake Breakfast seatings take place at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., and noon. The meal includes plain or cinnamon swirl pancakes and New York maple syrup, sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, and a hot beverage, with vegetarian and gluten-free options.

ASL interpretation will be available for select programming on Saturday, March 19, and Sunday, March 27. Visitors should dress warmly, as most events take place outdoors. Tickets for the Maple Sugar Festival and the Pancake Breakfast are sold separately and range from $10-$13 each, or can be purchased in combination for $16-$22 (noon seating only). GCVM is located at 1410 Flint Hill Road, Mumford. More info is available at

Cultivating a young nature-lover

The wintertime programs for children at Letchworth State Park offer the benefits of time in the fresh air while fostering the next generation of eco-minded citizens.

Take, for example, the adorably-named “Knee-high Naturalist” programming. Geared toward kids ages 3 to 6 (accompanied by an adult), it’s held every-other Monday through March 21, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. in the park’s Humphrey Nature Center. Each event is themed, and may include storybook reading, crafts, or a short nature walk. The next meet-up is on March 7. Register by calling (585) 493-3682.

Then there’s the all-ages Project Feederwatch, sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This is a great family activity that helps train young citizen scientists and future naturalists. Participants meet at Humphrey Nature Center for bird count days every Saturday and Sunday through April 7, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. You’ll learn about the lives and habits of birds that stick around in the winter, and learn ways to practice citizen science at home.

Letchworth, which is located in Castile, also offers weekly themed hikes and other activities. For a full list, visit

Rebecca Rafferty is CITY’s life editor. She can be reached at