Candytopia, a new museum in San Francisco, is a favorite childhood game come to life. It travels along a winding rainbow path as visitors wander through different worlds of candy. Treats are around every turn and huge structures composed of various sweets tower overhead. Visitors encounter different characters such as confectioners and museum curators that interact with you along the way. Unfortunately, unlike the board game Candyland, the journey ends in the gift shop, not the candy castle.
Following in the footsteps of the Los Angeles installation, which has been visited by 150,000 people, San Francisco’s newest food-themed museum, Candytopia, has become a popular destination since its debut in early September. Although Candytopia was originally projected to close in November, the success in ticket sales has prompted them to stay open through the holidays.
The 16,000 square foot exhibit, located on Market Street and adjacent to Union Square, is easily accessible and optimally located. The museum flows through various themed rooms, consisting of overflowing crates of candy and interactive structures and displays. Organizing the contents into different themes created a sense of anticipation and kept me interested through the duration of the experience. Start to finish, the walk through lasts about an hour, which seemed short to me considering the $34 ticket price.
On the upside, candy samples are almost always in reach with two to three treats per room. The samples are well placed and match the environment, with a range of candy from Lindor chocolates to watermelon Airheads. The different tastes enhanced each room by engaging all senses in the experience.
Before entering the museum, my excitement was already high as I was greeted by a large-scale, bright red dragon made up of 125,000 cherry cola gummies, among other pieces of candy. Large gears displayed on the wall began to churn, triggering the doors to open up to a hidden room, the library. After, I traveled down the escalator underneath an assortment of neon lights, which acted as a portal into the candy fantasy. Art is placed at intervals along the walls and throughout the various rooms. The walls are brightly lit, with a utopian society of lollipop farms and flying unicorn pigs depicted on the wallpaper.
One room is an art gallery displaying recreations of famous paintings and portraits of pop culture figures made of candy. Each creation is beautifully composed with an array of hundreds of thousands of gummies, jelly beans and other types of colorful candy. All the displays are interactive and touchable, encouraging children to interact with the artistic displays. The creations feature timely artists and events, such as life-sized replicas of the Golden State Warriors’ Championship trophy and a jelly bean rendition of rapper Cardi B. All playfulness aside, each formation is extremely detailed and creatively involves a variety of candy.
With props and high-quality cameras, the museum is curated towards a social media experience. Photo opportunities are available throughout, with workers standing by to take candid group pictures. The experience would be unsatisfying without a group of friends and a camera. This took away from the overall experience for me, as the goal seems to shift toward taking the perfect picture for Instagram. Like many things on social media, viewing posted images previous to the visit created a higher expectation. Ironically, there is no internet connection anywhere in the museum, which is inconvenient at times.
Although the number of tickets are limited and arranged throughout the day, the rooms still felt crowded. Bands of children ran around seemingly unsupervised, which made the experience stressful. At the more popular attractions, there was a wait time, although it was no longer than five minutes.
The highlight of Candytopia is the marshmallow pit. Visitors can wade through a pool of foam marshmallows, which is especially appealing to kids, and enough cardio to last a week. With 250,000 marshmallows, the pit is deep enough to disappear into the abyss of foam, however it makes walking difficult as there is no solid footing.
Overall, Candytopia is true to its name. Its unique exhibits and thoughtful presentation make even the “not dessert people” want to return for a second go. The combination of overwhelming neon colors and sweet flavors of artificial sour candies create an attractive experience for all ages, making it worth the hefty price.