Museum of Ice Cream: A place where the old can feel young again

Entrance of the Museum of Ice Cream, at left, and the sprinkle pool, at right. Photos: Nurul Azliah/Coconuts
Entrance of the Museum of Ice Cream, at left, and the sprinkle pool, at right. Photos: Nurul Azliah/Coconuts

I ate ice cream three times the other day. 

It started with a scoop of cookies and cream in a beach-themed room, followed by an apple pie-flavored cone in a diner-style room, and then the traditional potong ice cream in pulut hitam flavor – a popular local black glutinous rice dessert. 

I didn’t think I would be raving about pulut hitam ice cream with someone’s grandmother at the Museum of Ice Cream, but I did. We both loved the ice cream’s rich and creamy taste, and how nostalgic it was to eat. 

Though I couldn’t stomach any more cream or glucose by the time I got to the replica of the iconic Toa Payoh playground around halfway through the attraction, ice cream sandwiches tempted me there, but all that playing and dancing was starting to make me feel sick. 

Like a kid who’d eaten too much ice cream; which was the point, the Museum of Ice Cream in Dempsey Hill was a place to play and eat ice cream as much for its older visitors as the young. And after a year of pandemic anxiety and monotony, it was nice to feel carefree enjoying loads of ice cream alongside other grownups doing just the same. 

The Museum of Ice Cream, or MOIC, is a playground made up of 14 installations that opened a few weeks ago. Visitors, who pay around S$40 per ticket, are required to be either fully vaccinated or produce a negative COVID-19 test result – rules that didn’t seem to hold people back from going to the American attraction’s first Asian outpost when I visited recently. In Singaporean tradition, there was a queue at the entrance of the single-story attraction, looking cheerful and very pink amid the day’s gloom. Nobody seemed to mind the pouring rain when I got to its Loewen Road location.  

Unlike regular museums, there was no such thing as artifacts or million-dollar works here. Who would want to see an ancient ice cream cone or an abstract painting in Neapolitan colors, anyway? I would, actually. But there’s none of that at the MOIC. Instead, it has a room filled with giant-sized popsicles, a tunnel of glowing soft-serve cones, an archway dangling with yellow and pink plastic bananas, and a pool of plastic ice cream sprinkles. 

All serve as whimsical backdrops to embellish any Instagram photo. If you enjoy dad jokes like I do, celebrity names remade into ice cream flavors also hung on some of the walls. Mariah Carey and Boyz II Mint, Scoop Dogg, and Britney Pears, were some of my favorites.  

MOIC was also a time to play. I saw a mother so thrilled about photographing her son dangling from one of the giant popsicles that she forgot about his safety. She ended up being reprimanded by a staff member dressed as an ice cream princess. There were parents who jumped around with their children in a bouncy castle, and a father who tried to shoot some hoops with his son in the playground room but scampered off in embarrassment after missing a shot. 

Singaporean adults can be a shy bunch when it comes to play time. Some entered the hidden disco room and walked out almost immediately without swinging their hips or just stared at the thousands of white magnetic letters covering pink walls in another room, suppressing any instinct to form words with them. I didn’t see anyone attempting to create their own ice cream designs on tablets set up for that purpose. 

Some grownups were total sports. At the sprinkle pool, where hundreds of plastic sprinkle-shaped balls filled a shallow pool, I saw both children and adults diving and rolling around. The merchandise section was also filled with mostly adults trying to get their hands on special Singapore edition Museum of Ice Cream T-shirts and caps. 

To be honest with you, I doubt I would even go to that place if I had not been hibernating in the past year due to the spread of the virus. After roughly 20 months of staying at home too much and never stepping out of the country, I’ve become a hermit. It was safe to say that going to the MOIC was probably the most fun I have ever had since 2020. Pre-pandemic, I’d only say that for concerts. These days, ice cream will do. 

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