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Museum of Ice Cream to Become Next Piece of Magnificent Mile Tourist Hell

The interactive exhibit moving into Tribune Tower next summer will include a cafe, a bar, a mini golf course — and actual, edible ice cream

a swimming pool filled with multicolored sprinkles; there is a slide, and people lounge on the side. it is in a pink room.
A rendering of the Chicago location of the Museum of Ice Cream.
The Museum of Ice Cream

The Museum of Ice Cream, the ice cream-themed art installation that kicked off the trend of Instagram “museums,” is opening a new location in Chicago in 2022. The space, which will be the anchor tenant in the redeveloped Tribune Tower site, 435 N. Michigan Avenue, will also include a speakeasy-style bar and restaurant and a mini golf course.

This will be the museum’s fourth permanent location: The others are in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood; Austin, Texas; and Singapore. Chicago’s 13,544-square-foot space will contain 14 installations, including a ball pit-style pool filled with antimicrobial plastic sprinkles, a signature attraction at every MOIC. Reports have warned about the sprinkles’ negative environmental impact. However, a MOIC rep told Eater Austin over the summer that the museum had resolved those concerns.

The owners are tailoring the Chicago museum to reflect the city: Visitors will enter through an El stop and ride a train inside — another “Pink Line,” fitting with the museum’s signature color. There will also be a jelly bean-filled replica of the bean-shaped Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park and an ice cream confection shaped like a Chicago-style hot dog.

Other potential exhibits include a rainbow cloud balloon, disco rooms, and a bouncy castle. The Chicago location will also contain an educational exhibition of historic ice cream memorabilia, a first for the MOIC franchise. Turns out guests at other museum locations didn’t just want Instagram moments; they actually wanted to learn something while at something that describes itself as a museum.

Visitors will be able to take a 60- to 90-minute guided tour that includes breaks for ice cream samples. Those who choose not to take the tour can go directly to a speakeasy-style bar that will serve cocktails, ice cream, and non-ice cream items.

Originally opening in 2016 as a pop-up in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, the Museum of Ice Cream became a cultural phenomenon, attracting celebrities and inspiring a wave of imitators where visitors could take Instagram-ready selfies in front of art installations, including Chicago’s WNDRMuseum. Founder Maryellis Bunn, who was just 24 years old when she opened the first pop-up, told New York magazine in 2017 that her ambition was to be the “next Disney” and that, in the short term, she planned to open 180 “experiums” worldwide.

The “museum” hasn’t grown as Bunn had hoped. In 2018, Target stopped carrying a line of MOIC-branded ice cream. A 2020 Forbes expose disputed what the museum’s parent company, Figure8, was worth. Employees told the magazine that despite the inclusive environment the museum promoted, the workplace was “this pink, Kombucha-on-tap, millennial shitshow nightmare.” The company attracted further controversy in the summer of 2020 when Ahmaud Arbery’s name was misspelled on a Black Lives Matter display outside the New York location.

The pandemic, which affected the entire industry, further slowed Bunn’s plans — a San Francisco location closed permanently in July after a four-year run — but the company is on a resurgence: The Austin and Singapore locations both opened in August.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who did the honors at a ribbon-cutting ceremony this afternoon, said in a news release that she was excited about the museum’s impending arrival. The pandemic has also been hard on the Magnificent Mile; the retail-heavy stretch of Michigan Avenue is filled with empty storefronts, including the former Topshop, Gap, and Water Tower Place Macy’s. (The latter will be filled by another interactive space, the Dr. Seuss Experience, which opens Friday.)

Though there is no definite opening day for the Museum of Ice Cream, those who are curious can sign up for a mailing list to stay apprised of news and opportunities to buy tickets.

Museum of Ice Cream, 435 N. Michigan Ave., scheduled to open Summer 2022.