It’s opening day at the Chicago Museum of Ice Cream, that means unlimited treats!
Have you been to a MOIC near you? This popular tourist attraction also exists in New York City, Austin, Singapore and Shanghai, with occasional pop ups in places like San Francisco and Miami. Each experience is fine tuned to reflect the landmarks and icons of the location.
As you know, it doesn't get more Chicago than a hotdog!
My friend Taylor has a major sweet tooth, even bigger than mine, if that’s possible. When she came to visit, I packed our schedule with the most iconic sweets and treats Chicago has to offer.
This included a self-guided donut shop tour (blog post coming soon!), a stop at Garrett Popcorn for their signature cheddar and caramel corn blend, triple scoops at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, and a surprise visit to the newly-opened Museum of Ice Cream, fondly abbreviated to MOIC; an all-pink, all-sugar experience at the base of the Chicago Tribune tower along the Riverwalk.
Brandon and Hallie joined us for the adventure. Look at this happy group!
To enhance the suspense, we covered Taylor's eyes and guided her to the entrance before revealing the saccharine surprise. She loved it!
We received our first ice cream of the experience - a full size vanilla Dove bar covered in milk chocolate - and headed inside.
Opening a large, pink freezer door (very on the nose), we ventured into the frozen rosy wonderland and found ourselves on a train platform.
We were impressed by how well MOIC embraced Chicago culture in the decor and references. Little did we know, the best was yet to come!
While we waited for the "L" train to pick us up, our pink-clad host encouraged us to think up and write our best ice cream names on nametags to wear on our journey through the museum.
Hallie and I chose "Rainbow Sherbert" and "Phish Food" because obviously we didn't understand the assignment and just picked our favorite ice cream flavors.
We boarded the "L" and hung on as our train passed fudge lakes dotted with banana split boats, and cotton candy beaches shaded by wafer cookie palm trees.
Chicago's ice cream "Loop", celebrating our iconic transit system.
I think I'll go visit Marshmallow next, sounds like a sweet place.
The train dropped us at a lounge-style ice cream shoppe at the center of the museum. Retro chairs and booths in rich reds and bubblegum pinks outfitted the room.
From this cozy home base, we decided whether to visit the Sprinkle Pool, the Ice Cream Lab, the halls of interactive games, the gift shop, or relax in a booth and enjoy a treat from the ice cream counter, including boozy signature cocktails.
So much to do, so much ice cream to eat!
We skipped the adult beverages and bought two huge milkshakes; one oreo and one circus animal cookie with thick pink whipped cream and a candy-coated cherry on top. Beyond sweet, beyond worth it.
We also shared this adorable mini sprinkle pool sundae that had chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream scoops hidden underneath layers of whipped cream and loads of pink and red sprinkles.
It even came with a little pool ladder, in case we fell in!
Finally, we ventured into the museum game rooms...for more ice cream.
How clever is this yarn ball ice cream scoop wall? I wish my walls at home looked like this. Do you see your favorite flavor?
My advice to you when visiting the MOIC: eat a healthy lunch before you go and leave room for unlimited goodies. The museum is a non-linear experience that allows guests to walk through as many times as they desire to collect unique ice cream treats along the way.
Some take it as a personal challenge!
We stayed at MOIC for several hours. No matter our preferences for creamy, crunchy, dairy-free or fruity, the museum offered a taste for all of us.
In the jellybean room, we played Connect 4 on this giant contraption while slurping up cones of pineapple sorbet soft serve covered in a cherry candy coating.
Then we flipped tiles to play this gummy bear and popsicle matching game.
I can't tell you how to play this cherry video game; we didn't stick around long enough to learn it. But it seemed like fun.
In the dream room, we used markers to write our hopes on balloons that covered the floor. I wrote something like "travel more" on mine.
Then we crunched on flower-shaped strawberry and coconut snow cones topped with a Pop Rocks and bubblegum sprinkle mixture. Yes, real bubblegum!
It was a strange experience to eat the refreshment but then discard the gum afterward. Maybe some people swallowed it? Oh well.
This way to the Sprinkle Pool.
We slid, we swam, we dove. We truly lived.
And then we washed our hands.
In previous Museums of Ice Cream, the pool was filled with tiny plastic sprinkles, no bigger than grains of rice. When people laid down in the pile for photos, the plastic got lodged in their ears and noses. #1 ew, and #2, lawsuit!
So they pivoted to these large, hollow plastic tubes, made from the same shiny material that was used in the ball pits from your childhood. Go ahead, dive in; it's a soft landing.
Look, a scale model of the Sprinkle Pool room!
In this room, we learned the history of ice cream and took turns smelling the wall to guess which ice cream flavor scent was wafting through these portals.
I couldn't guess a single one - they all smelled like laundry detergent and perfume to me!
No, that's not spaghetti with marinara sauce. This wall portrayed ice cream flavors from around the world, such as:
- Onde-onde, or in Indonesia called klepon, is a dessert made out of glutinous rice flour or sweet potato, filled with coconut palm sugar and coated with grated coconut.
- Mastic, found on the island of Chios, is produced by the resin glands of certain trees and dries into pieces of brittle, translucent resin that softens and becomes opaque when chewed. The flavor is bitter at first, but then releases a refreshing flavor similar to pine and cedar.
- Paletas are a Mexican frozen treat made from fresh natural fruits such as strawberry and mango or made from rich creamy ingredients such as Chocolate and Sicilian pistachio, then mixed with secondary ingredients such as water, milk, or condensed milk.
- Ais kacang, or "iced beans," is a thirst-quenching concoction from Malaysia made of shaved ice, red beans, jelly (usually grass jelly or agar agar), and sweet syrup. Popular toppings include sweet corn, peanuts, evaporated or condensed milk, mango, durian, gula melaka syrup, basil seeds, and cendol.
Vintage ice cream and snow cone scoops. Do you recognize any that were in your home's kitchen drawer?
Vintage ice cream bags.
Leaving behind our mini learning experience, we grabbed golf clubs to play putt putt, sending the ball scooting through sprinkled donut holes and skirting around giant pink hotdogs.
Doesn't that blushing frank look yummy, at least in theory? We imagined it tasted like strawberry cake with fudge on top.
In a twist we were not expecting, we had the opportunity to taste a real live ice cream hotdog for ourselves. What a marvelous dream come true!
Our hopes were high with the first bite. A rush of savory-sweet hotdog-flavored soft serve with real mustard and a pickle shocked our senses. Though dyed pink, the bun was made of regular wheat bread, sprinkled with poppy seeds.
You guys, it did not taste good. But it was fun to try!
Taylor's pained face says it all.
Here's the deal. We all agreed that reconstructing the dessert with a pink cake bun, lemon “mustard” sauce and a lime candy "pickle" would have made for a more cohesive and delicious flavor experience. Get rid of the gross hotdog-flavored ice cream and replace it with vanilla or cherry.
BUT we acknowledged that the current snack certainly gets people talking and posting on social media (hello marketing team)! Mission accomplished there.
You can see how busy the exhibition was on opening day.
In the final game room, we played a water shooting game called Cherry on Top, losing dramatically to this little kid in the yellow shirt.
And we swayed back and forth on these charming pink circus animal rides.
Our final treat of the day was this cup of raspberry sorbet or blue moon ice cream topped with a cloud of cherry cotton candy.
On our way out the door, we visited the gift shop to collect some rosy souvenirs.
To our surprise and delight, the staff thanked us for joining them on opening day and handed us each a rainbow giftbag filled with MOIC goodies: a starry-eyed unicorn, pink hotdog keychain, rainbow notebook, cherry socks and colorful party hat.
I also took home this pink hotdog enamel pin for my Chicago pin collection.
Wow, that was a long post, but now you know what to expect from the Chicago Museum of Ice Cream!
Here's one last awkward, mid-sentence photo of the hotshot crew that dared to eat their weight in dairy one summer afternoon. Thanks for joining us.
Click below to read about other fun experiences we've had in Chicagoland: