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A sprinkle pool, you say? What you need to know about Austin's Museum of Ice Cream

Eric Webb
Austin 360

They introduced themselves as Coffee Bean and Honey, emerging from an imposing fortress that looked like someone put a former Circuit City into Dolly Parton drag. My new friends were more excited about saying hello than I’ve been about anything in my life.  

And yet, a whiff of duress swirled around Coffee Bean and Honey's joy at this little corner of the Domain.  

No, this wasn’t a hostage situation in Candy Land. This was Museum of Ice Cream, the newest location for an interactive art experience that’s made headlines — not all flattering — and flooded Instagram feeds around the world. The deliciously named employees were welcoming a group, including me, to check out the new space. They also gave me a popsicle, so duress or not, the ice was sufficiently broken.

Esther Williams who? An employee swims in the sprinkle pool at Museum of Ice Cream on Aug. 20 in Austin. The attraction is now open at the Domain.

Museum of Ice Cream began as an idea at South by Southwest in 2016, according to co-founder and creative director Maryellis Bunn, and opened as a pop-up in New York City that year. Its colorful brand of sweet scenery has spread to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Singapore and now the capital of Texas. The Austin location opened Aug. 21.  

If you, discerning reader, ask yourself, “Is this less of a museum and more like another warehouse of plastic tableaus suited for dating profile pictures?” then I would direct you to this official description: “The series of immersive activities encourages guests to explore beyond Instagramable opportunities and engage all five senses, making it an inclusive experience for all.” 

Customers enter Museum of Ice Cream on Aug. 20. Upon entry, guests are supposed to pick out new, ice cream-themed names.

After you read that, I would then say, “Oh yeah, it's a big-time photo opp farm.” And that’s not a knock, necessarily. Walking though Museum of Ice Cream reveals a bright — bright — wonderland of dessert-themed visuals. Here’s what you need to know before you go.  

We all scream, or at least smile 

As far as the vibe at Museum of Ice Cream, the writing was on the wall. No, not a metaphor. In one room featuring a wall splattered with magnetic letters, I saw someone had rearranged a few of the characters to read “MANIC ENERGY.”  

The attendants I encountered from the front door and all the way the through 12 installations were unflaggingly enthusiastic and awe-filled. The mood ranged from “I chugged Mountain Dew” as a baseline to “blink if you need help” at the height.  

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The very first room is the quietest in the whole joint. Giant, shiny maraschino cherries hang from the ceiling, and sprinkles dot the wall, glowing a shade of “Miami Vice” pink. There, you are told to adopt a new “ice cream name” and write it on a name tag. I met a Cookie Dough and a Red Velvet that afternoon; I chose Eric, But Ice Cream. 

Sara Osburn laughs while visiting the banana room at Museum of Ice Cream on Aug. 20.

First taste 

Your first stop is the Cocktails and Creams soda fountain, a 1950s-style diner that offers soft serve (included with your ticket). There’s another café-style bar with boozy beverages at the end of the walk, but this one’s definitely the most on-theme. When I visited, the jukebox was bumpin’ and the neon burnin’ (and a few rollerskaters slid around the floor looking all retro and such). For kiddos — or for you — ice cream-themed puzzle sheets sat in a red box at the booths. 

Yes, you will leave with a full camera roll  

On to the rest of the sights. I’d emphasize that your eyes will do most of the work here, despite the “engage all five senses” line. Pink, Warhol-esque banana splits dot yellow wallpaper, right as you enter a room where plastic bananas of the same colors hang from the ceiling, like if Josephine Baker had marketed a line of fringed curtains.  

Employees play with giant dice at Museum of Ice Cream on Aug. 20.

Elsewhere, you roll huge, red foam dice in a faux-candy shop before filling up a bag of Valentine’s Day-colored candies . There’s a Whack-a-Mole game filtered through the ice cream motif, renamed Scoop-a-Scoop, which is not how verbs work. Cheerful staff members spin cotton candy, right next to plush piñatas available for purchase. (Both the candy bag and the cotton candy are included with the ticket.) If you scarf the fluff down in time, you get to ride bouncy frosted animal cookies, like the kind you'd find in front of a grocery store. 

As you might have gathered, the link to ice cream is tenuous at times at Museum of Ice Cream, but the whimsical aesthetic is consistent. There’s a mirrored, round corridor — think an inverted disco ball — and a neon, sherbet-hued archway that are both worth your iPhone memory space. 

Museum of Ice Cream teamed up with local favorite Amy's Ice Creams on two new flavors.

There’s ice cream, yes 

Museum of Ice Cream teamed up with local fave Amy’s Ice Creams on two flavors, Congress Parade and Moontower Mangonada. The former is a vanilla cake batter ice cream mixed with frosted animal crackers and rainbow sprinkles. The latter is a vegan option, made of oat milk, mango and a chamoy swirl. You get a free lil’ scoop during the walkthrough. 

The sprinkle pool 

This is what you were waiting for, I know. Yes, Museum of Ice Cream has a sprinkle pool. No, it’s not actually filled with sprinkles, but instead oblong plastic tubes. It’s essentially a ball pit, and there’s nothing wrong with a ball pit.

Well … your appetite for a ball pit in a pandemic might be low, true.

Museum of Ice Cream's sprinkle pool is more of a ball pit, really.

There are slides into the pool, but watch yourself and your tail bone. It’s not deep.  

According to the museum, you also can reserve one of the poolside cabanas for their private events.  

What about pandemic safety?

Everyone is encouraged to mask regardless of vaccination status. According to Museum of Ice Cream, its staff members are regularly tested for COVID-19, and when I was there, everyone wore a face covering — including pretty much every guest I saw. There are masks at the front in case you forget yours. The museum also says that staff members regularly disinfect “touch points.” Though, those sprinkles in that pool are probably not getting individual spit shines after every “swim.”

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If you consider yourself super-cautious about your leisure activities and being around other people in the pandemic, especially as Austin remains in Stage 5 risk-based guidelines, here’s the real talk: Museum of Ice Cream might not be the most comfortable experience for you. It’s pretty much entirely indoors, and the spaces can get a little tight. When I went, it was also pretty warm and stuffy inside. 

Vanilla ice cream with watermelon swirl at Museum of Ice Cream in Austin.

Guests reserve entry times, meant to help with social distancing.  

How do you go?

Oh yeah, reservations. There’s a daytime experience for all ages, which includes five treats, and a nighttime experience that’s recommended for ages 16 and older, with guests of legal age getting a “spiked treat.” Tickets start at $39 per person. Kids 2 and under get in free. When purchasing tickets, you can add on a featured milkshake special for $12 or a summer cocktail special for $10. You can also buy those in-house.

Museum of Ice Cream is located at 11506 Century Oaks Terrace, No. 128. It’s open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday-Monday. Go to to make reservations. 

Museum of Ice Cream is open at the Domain by reservation.