If you’re the type to swoon at the sight of a strawberry shake, drool over double scoops of dulce de leche and relish rivulets of rocky road, you’ll surely feel you’ve died, been ice-cream-ated and gone to heaven.
The highly hoopla-ed Museum of Ice Cream — not so much a museum as a pop-up, walkthrough, taste-though art installation and Instagram backdrop – has been crazy popular in New York and Los Angeles and has finally arrived in San Francisco, revealing its innermost sweetness at a preview Thursday.
It opens to the public Sunday, but unless you already have a ticket in hand, woops, sorry, sad face, your ice cream just plopped on the ground.
Yes, this ode to the frozen treat is the hottest $38 ticket in town, available online only and already sold out through October (crazed fans scooped them up in 18 minutes earlier this month). More tickets for November through February went on sale this morning at 9 a.m., but if you’re reading this at 9:05 a.m., well …
Why the frenzy? Why the hype? Why the nonstop Insta pics from stars like Gwen Stefani and David Beckham? Well, It’s totes adorbs, sure. You get some tasty samples of treats, sure. But otherwise … I’m not really sure.
This shrine to sugary serendipity is just off Union Square, housed in the historic bank building at 1 Grant Street which, on the outside, resembles Gringotts Wizarding Bank from Harry Potter, but inside it’s frothed up more like the Honeydukes sweet shop. And instead of grumpy goblins there are perky millennials with cute ice-cream nicknames and lots of exclamation points: “Hi, I’m Cowboy Cookie-Dough Chris! Were a different kind of museum!! Check your adult self at the door!!!”
Upon entry, you dip down a stairwell to the lower level and soon feel like you’re in ice cream. Strawberry ice cream, specifically — the inspiration of creator Maryellis Bunn. So there’s lots of pink. Lots and lots of pink. Hallways, rooms, ceilings, floors. Seriously, they must have used all the pink paint in existence. If any of you planned to paint a baby nursery a certain gender-specific color, you’re out of luck.
A dozen guests at a time wander through the technicolor maze into rooms like the Gummi Bear Garden, the Cherry Room with cherry sculptures the size of small hippos, where you’re handed a wisp of cherry-flavored cotton candy. There’s a rock-candy cave, where “Ally Mode” passes out strawberry Pop Rocks: “Freshly mined from the cave!!” There’s a game of ring toss onto whipped-cream cans, a unicorn/rainbow room with tiny doors that lead to a mirrored crawlspace.
It’s like Willy Wonka married Mary Kay in Victoria’s Secret, moved to a house on a Candyland game board and adopted the Pink Panther, My Little Pony and Hello Kitty as pets.
Bunn, 25, who designed the exhibits from her childhood dreams, says her goal was to draw millennials to an “experiential space.”
“It’s all about fun, and feeling like a kid again,” she said, lounging on a white sofa at the end of the maze. “Everyone loves ice cream. It’s a way to bring people together.”
The best part of the whole thing, of course, is getting small samples of treats as you go through. Many were specially crafted for the show, from companies like SF’s Bi-Rite Creamery and My/Mo mochi.
The cherry on top, so to speak, is the Sprinkle Pool room. Under the building’s gold-leafed dome, there’s a mini swimming pool filled with 100 million plastic colored sprinkles. (They’re not edible, so you can’t go all Augustus Gloop and scoop in mouthfuls, but you can take off your shoes, wade in and get sprinkles between your toes.)
End with more photo-ops on swings beneath pink bananas, a ping-pong table and gift shop with sprinkle crowns, golden ice-cream scoops and ice-cream-shaped plushie dog toys, and you’ve probably had your fill.
The whole thing is really adorable, clever, tasty, but quite overhyped. Still, it’s fun and frothy fare, and at least some of the proceeds go to a charity partner at each location. In the Bay Area, it goes to Creative Growth, which serves artists with disabilities.
Museum of Ice Cream; 1 Grant Ave., San Francisco; tickets are $38 and available online only; sold out through October, but tickets for November through February are now on sale at www.museumoficecream.com.
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