Two words that don’t fit – glass and kids. Two phrases that definitely don’t fit – glass museum and crazy (in a good way) early elementary-aged kids. At least that’s what I thought. But, the minute we walked in we knew that visiting the Corning Museum of Glass with our kids was a good idea.
Three weeks in Upstate NY for this Florida-raised, North Carolina-living girl was just what I needed. I didn’t know quite what to expect as we got the news that we’d spend the summer there, but I had heard of the Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG) and was excited to check it out. We ended up basing ourselves in Corning and, because I knew I wanted to visit at least more than once, I purchased an annual pass. Turned out that over the course of three weeks we probably visited the museum 15 times.
Let me say a little disclaimer. I don’t get paid to visit museums, write about it, or anything. I’m not someone who likes to talk things up when maybe it’s not worth it. So, over the course of these 15 visits that our kids decided independently and without coercion to do – I wondered – how can I rave about this amazing and wonderful place without coming off as fake? How can I gush that this not-so-little museum on the edge of the Finger Lakes is – amazing without using that word over and over?
So much love for CMOG
Honestly, I don’t know how to express it. Just know that all the words that follow, are true.
Who knew a museum dedicated to glass would be such a fun time? Repeatedly. I knew we’d enjoy it, what I wasn’t expecting was for my kids, who were six and eight while we were there, to ask to go almost every day of our trip. Since we spent so much time there and did such a variety of things, I think the best thing to do is to make bullet points of the top reasons we loved the Corning Museum of Glass, which include tips for your visit.
The Corning Museum of Glass is so affordable
Corning Museum of Glass Admission
The cheapest annual pass paid for itself after two visits. It included entrance for me and my husband and kids are always free. The daily admission tickets were around $20 per person, but the kids are still free and the number of things to do during your visit will make it feel like a bargain anyway.
Check out their site for the most up-to-date price.
Other reasons CMOG is so affordable
I’m not sure if it’s possible to see all of the gorgeous glass items, watch demonstration after demonstration, and not want to try making glass yourself. My original plan was that we’d all try ONE type of glassworks. We ended up trying all of them. Why? Well, it’s fun and it’s so affordable.
I looked up how much it costs to do similar things in my hometown of Charlotte and it was almost 3x as much as what CMOG charges. So, plans changed, and we did as much as we could.
CMOG Annual Pass Membership Benefits
The glass pass makes it an even MORE affordable outing. You get discounts at the restaurant, cafe, and gift shop. You won’t want to leave CMOG and, really, there’s no reason to.
The Corning Museum of Glass is so fun
CMOG exhibits are awesome
During our time in Corning, there were exhibits for New Glass – the items that didn’t even seem like glass, Glass and the Moon – which felt more interactive and showed glasses help in technology – decorative glass and the history of glass. All of these were child-friendly because they were either so fascinating that the kids were enthralled or hands-on so the kids could play.
CMOG shows are amazing
I’m glad we had the annual pass because we were able to catch so many shows again and again. Watching masters doing their work is a thing I’ll never get tired of, but I was surprised that my kids loved it too. One of our favorites was the “Glass Breaking” demonstration. It was the first one we went to, the last one we went to, and the one we visited a few times in between.
CMOG hands-on glass activities are outstanding
I already mentioned the low price, but the variety of options helps make it fun. We could go right from watching a demonstration to trying our hand at something. While we were there we tried glassblowing, bead-making, glass fusing, and sandblasting. The kids always loved the last thing they did the most – but the one that asked to try again before we left was the sandblasting.
While those glass-making activities are for a small fee, there are other opportunities for kids to get a bit hands-on. Some of the demonstrations have audience participation and my kids were always excited to do just that. My daughter was overjoyed when, on our last day at the museum, she was picked to do the glass-breaking demonstration. They gave her a glass rabbit as a thank you.
One of their favorite activities that we returned to do over and over again was to design something using markers. Every week a gaffer would pick a few designs and make them. My son’s pick, a drawing of his avocado stuffed toy, was selected. We got to keep it afterward.
The Corning Museum of Glass Staff is the best
Staffing is important in a glass museum. I don’t think we would’ve returned as often as we did if it weren’t for the outstanding staff. They made us feel welcome day after day.
The studio staff knew how to work with kids around three things we don’t normally let kids near – glass, sandblasting, and extremely hot fire.
The glass-breaking demonstration staff answered my kid’s questions every single time.
The “ask me” staff around the museum would entertain the kids, patiently listen to them talk about the museum, and give us the best tips.
When my son picked up his glass avocado, so many staff members saw him carrying and excitedly said – “you’re the avocado kid, we loved it!” He felt like a celebrity.
Other points of interest at the Corning Museum of Glass
Parking and the Shuttle
The main parking lot is just across the street from the museum. The parking’s free and so is the shuttle that gives visitors front door service. The shuttle also continues to the Gaffer District of Corning for a stop at the Rockwell Museum and the main walking area.
We loved the food and variety at the museum’s restaurant. It was a bit pricey, but with the 10% discount from the membership, we thought it wasn’t too bad. They had a fun selection of Asian food, burgers, chicken nuggets, pizza, soup, salad, and sandwiches.
The best gift shop
The huge gift shop is a must-see and must-shop place. My kids wanted to go back again and again. We did stay away from the gorgeous decorative pieces because I didn’t want to risk a break-it, buy-it policy. We enjoyed the kaleidoscopes, magnet collection, and other cool things we could get. They also have awesome books!
Staying in Corning, NY
Corning is a small town in the southern tier of New York State. At almost half-way between Manhattan and Niagara Falls, I think it makes a great overnight stop. Or, people can make a vacation out of it by visiting nearby Elmira and all of the Finger Lakes.
If you’re staying in Corning there are three main hotels to consider:
- Staybridge Suites. This is where we stayed. They have kitchen suites with up to two-bedrooms, two-bathrooms. The stay includes breakfast every day and dinner Monday-Thursday. It’s the closest hotel to the museum, but it could do with a bit of updating.
- Hilton Garden Inn is the next closest hotel. It’s a newer hotel and not too far away from things. We would’ve stayed here, but we wanted more space.
- The Raddison is right in the Gaffer District. This is definitely the choice for families wanting to be near restaurants and shopping.
Corning Restaurants and Shopping
The Gaffer District is the place to eat or shop in if you want to do those things outside of CMOG. We spent a lot of our time in Corning walking those streets. Spent a lot of time shopping and ate at a ton of restaurants. Our two favorites, by far, were:
- Aniello Pizza: Get the pizza, obviously. But try the salad, too. I don’t know if they sell a bottled version – but delicious. However, don’t try the garlic knots, You’ll be dreaming about them and they may keep you in Corning longer than you planned.
- Fiesta Brava: The absolute nicest staff with the most delicious Mexican food. Such a great find! I just wish we found it earlier in our stay so we could’ve gone there more than once.
If you’re in the area and want to check out book sites in Upstate New York, you’ll want to visit Elmira, NY for the Mark Twain legacy.