On my most recent trip to Disneyland, I was very excited to check out the newly reopened Fantasmic. We had great seats, sitting almost front and center with just a family of four in front of us. Right before the show began, the young girl sitting with her family whipped out her phone, and didn't put it back down until the show had concluded. As the show went on, she took hundreds of blurry photos and dark videos, all while never glancing up and smiling ear-to-ear. Over and over again, on basically every attraction we went on, there was a similar trend- young people on their phones.
It struck me, as I'm sure it's struck many of you, that social media has created a whole generation who are more excited by documenting experiences than they are by simply watching them. The only problem- your traditional amusement park isn't really built for this. While many have tried, it's basically impossible to get quality content from your phone while on a roller coaster or dark ride.
So how does the amusement industry evolve with this growing trend? Welcome to the Museum of Ice Cream- an attraction built for the age of Instagram. In fact, the creator has been described as "The Millennial Walt Disney", with ambitions to grow and scale Instagrammable attractions nationwide.
Written by Andrew Cunningham
The Museum of Ice Cream launched in New York, heavily leveraging social media influencers and from the beginning. As they expanded to LA and eventually San Francisco, Gwen Stefani, Katy Perry, Kim Kardashian, and even Queen Bey herself took to Instagram with colorful photos and videos depicting life in this candy coated world.
When it was announced that MoIC was expanding to San Francisco, I was intrigued and wanted to get tickets. Let me tell you- I was far from the only one.
Getting tickets to the first round of San Francisco was like getting highly sought after concert tickets. I used my Amex for pre-sale, sat in a virtual queue, and had about .02 seconds to find a time and check out. I ended up getting a Monday lunchtime slot, which was a lucky grab. Twitter and Facebook were immediately bombarded with people complaining that they spent their afternoon in a virtual queue only to find the experience was immediately sold out.
Clearly, there is a ton of demand for the kind of experience that MoIC provides.
Your experience starts by arriving at your assigned time slot and checking in at the museum entrance. You are assigned to a team of about 15-20 people, and then go through various pre-museum activities that seemed to be designed to space groups out to help with guest flow. We had to come up with a team name (Vanilla Sprinkles), go through an ice cream trivia contest, and were finally ushered to the Ice Cream Vault to begin our colorful journey.
Once in the Ice Cream Vault, an MoIC employee did a spiel of the rules. Everything was pretty simple: most exhibits were interactive, but we were asked not to touch a select few things. The museum also has a strict one-way flow. You are able to spend as much time you like in a room, but once you leave a room you cannot reenter.
After departing the Ice Cream Vault, you are free to work at whatever pace you'd like through the museum. RIP team Vanilla Sprinkles.
The general flow of the museum is spread between pop art installations, interactive displays, and various ice cream stops. The ice cream stops usually correspond to nearby artwork, so you can take your photos with treats as you go through.
Naturally, the Instagram portrayal of MoIC leaves out a few of the lesser points of the experience. Almost every photo spot or ice cream station had lines that weren't managed at all. There were some definite moments of frustration trying to work our way through the exhibits and it did get pretty crowded at certain bottlenecks. There were also several picture spots that were dirty or tarnished from previous guests, which obviously made them less desirable for photos.
At scale, they definitely have a few kinks to work out in terms of guest flow and maintenance, but that's not unusual for an early-stage attraction concept. The demand seems to be there for them to grow and figure these things out.
I'm usually a pretty photo-shy person, and I don't even have an Instagram account, but I tried my hand at a couple photos. I think I have a long road ahead of me before I reach influencer status on Instagram.
The museum's finale is the iconic dip in their 4 foot deep pool of (plastic) sprinkles. This was the one part of the experience that was closely managed by the staff- you were put into a group of about 10 people and given a time limit to go take a dip in the pool.
I have to say, despite my less-than-enthusiastic look in the picture, it was pretty fun getting knee deep in a pool of sprinkles. As I'm writing this article, I'm still finding sprinkles in my pants, pockets, socks, and many unspeakable places (or, unfortunately, nearby streets and gutters).
Like any good attraction, MoIC ends with a trip through a gift shop. Various colorful, candy-themed items are on display and ready for you to bring home with you.
Oh, and those jewel ice cream pieces? Priced at $4-$6k each.
Good for you, Museum of Ice Cream. Don't hate the player, hate the game.
So, what did I think of the Museum of Ice Cream? Personally, at $38 a ticket, it wasn't really my cup of tea.
With that said, I think it's a business model that'll be really interesting to follow as they attempt to grow. People are clearly willing to pay for these experiences, and if I were a major park chain, I'd be looking at ways to integrate the concept into my properties. They still have kinks to work out with the experience, but they definitely have the opportunity to hit on something big.
What are your thoughts? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, and of course, Instagram.