Museum of Ice Cream transports visitors to a candy-colored world of sprinkles and scoops that’s tucked away inside the Tribune Tower off of Michigan Avenue. Unlimited ice cream treats, a giant ball pit “pool” filled with plastic sprinkles, and beautiful exhibits galore are designed to delight visitors of all ages. We headed downtown to see how the experience held up as a destination for families with young kids.
The Museum of Ice Cream invited us to a complimentary preview of the experience. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
What is the Museum of Ice Cream?
Let’s get this out of the way first: it’s not really a museum in the traditional sense. While there are a few spots you can pick up a bit of ice cream history, MOIC is really a playground celebrating ice cream. It’s an art exhibit meets indoor playspace meets giant Instagram op.
The Museum opened in Chicago this July, joining existing locations in NYC, Austin, Singapore, and Shanghai. It also joins a slew of newer museums in Chicago that advertise themselves as immersive experiences, including the delightful Color Factory Chicago in the Willis Tower, the art- and technology-focused WNDR Museum Chicago, and the art-focused Immersive Monet & the Impressionists.
What to Expect
To find the museum, walk past the main entrance to the Tribune Tower, on the tower’s south side, towards the NBC building. (Be sure to check out the building itself for stones from important buildings around the world as you walk past.) Look for the pink entrance by the Foxtrot restaurant.
We were handed Dove bars before we even went inside, which we sat and ate in the pink vestibule as we listened to a brief introduction to the museum. Mostly, we were reminded that all the treats inside are unlimited!
Then, it was in through to a space designed to look like an ice cream-themed CTA train station to board a train car whose windows were displays that made it look as though were were journeying through whimsical ice cream worlds.
Past the train car is the main room, where there are places to sit and enjoy treats from the ice cream and cocktail bar. These are the only things not included in your ticket, and since there are plenty of other treats I would recommend skipping them. You’ll also find bathrooms off this room.
From here, you have three choices for where to start:
- Go to the left of the bar to visit the Ice Cream Lab first.
- Go to the right of the bar to visit the carnival game room.
- Do a U-turn to the right to dive right into the Sprinkle Pool.
We started with the Sprinkle Pool, which was by far the kids’ favorite place to play; we also ended there, since the exit (through the gift shop) is right through those doors.
The Sprinkle Pool
The sprinkles are made of a lightweight plastic material, similar to what you’d expect from a ball pit ball. Kids (and adults!) can jump off the ‘diving board’ platforms and slide down the slide. My six- and four-year-old kids really enjoyed burying themselves underneath all the sprinkles and popping back out, as well as jumping in; my two-year-old niece loved climbing all around the pit.
Signs ask visitors to take off their shoes but do not say anything about wearing socks. I would highly recommend wearing socks.
If you take the entrance to the left of the ice cream and cocktail bar, you’ll end up in a carnival-themed room with a cotton candy stand, carousel-style ride-ons, a basketball hoop, ice-cream Whack-a-Mole, and a water shooter race.
Continue journeying through the museum to discover a variety of other spaces, including a few mini-golf holes on a course with giant sundaes and donuts.
This is also where brave souls can try an ice cream hot dog, made of hot dog-flavored soft serve (with a strong celery salt flavor) in a pink bun and topped with spicy mustard and a cornichon pickle.
Past this room, you’ll find a room with some fun facts on the history of ice cream, with a display of ice cream flavors, a chance for kids to turn the scoop on an old-fashioned ice cream churn, and a guess-the-smell game. Then, a cloud-themed room with balloons offers a welcome spot to sit, as well as shaved ice.
Other exhibits include a giant video game, a jelly bean-themed room with hands-on wall toys, and scoop art by Chicago-based fiber artist Brendan O’Shaughnessy (a very welcome addition).
The Ice Cream Lab invites visitors perform hands-on experiments with ice cream. If you have older kids, I think this would be the best spot to start; you’ll find it to the left of the bar from the main area, or at the end of the loop if you start in the carnival room.
This area invites everyone to take a closer look at flavors and a good spot to sit and engage more deeply.
Photo ops abound everywhere you go. Kids will want to play and explore, but I suspect the museum will also appeal to retro art-loving adults and influencers. Treats all along the way keep energy levels high.
The museum is all on one level, with ramps available throughout. Even the mini-golf hole borders had curb cuts. The ‘sprinkle pool’ also has a working pool lift; a staff member told me that anyone who wants to use it just needs to ask, and a manager will head on over to operate it.
Sensory sensitive children and adults may struggle with being overwhelmed. Exhibits feature bright colors and loud noises, with few soft surfaces to absorb noise.
Weekday tickets start at $36/person, and weekend tickets start at $44/person. Kids 2 and under are free. You must reserve tickets online in advance.
Is the Museum of Ice Cream worth it? Honestly, I think the answer will vary. It’s a high-energy experience with a lot of excitement and endless sweets, and it’s also along the Magnificent Mile, which is a beautiful stretch of Chicago. So if you love ice cream and don’t care as much about the price tag, go for it!
Museum of Ice Cream
435 Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
Check out our list of immersive experiences and new exhibits in Chicagoland for more special events and new museums.