Even though I don’t live in NYC, I pride myself on not acting like a tourist when I’m there. I generally avoid Time Square like the plague and have gotten pretty adept at navigating my way through the subway system. Even though I’m 5’2” and have short little legs, I can walk just as fast (if not faster) than native New Yorkers. I’m always when befuddled visitors approach me asking for directions and I take a secret pleasure in the fact that the guys that are handing out flyers trying to convince you to take a bus tour or other such tourist traps generally ignore me. I may not live in the city, but I like to give the illusion that I know what I’m doing and where I’m headed (though my frequent stops at Magnolia Bakery for banana pudding probably blow my cover).
My most recent trip, however, I decided to embrace my role as a tourist a bit more. I went to the top of the Empire State Building for the first time, which offers gorgeous views but was windy as hell and not worth the hefty price of admission.
Still, it’s something that I think everyone has to cross off their bucket list when given the opportunity and while I don’t know that I’d be persuaded to do it again, it was worth it just to say I did it.
It was a bitterly cold day when I was in NYC, so I had to plan activities that would minimize my time outside and that didn’t require long walks from a subway stop. Generally I just wander around and don’t mind excursions that take me off the beaten track, but this visit was all about staying warm until it was time to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway. I had planned to check out the Matisse exhibit at MOMA before it closed, but I waited too long and tickets were sold out. Me and my damn commitment issues. But this got me thinking about other museums in New York and while there weren’t any other exhibitions at the major museums that necessarily appealed to me, there was one museum that I’d secretly wanted to check out – Madame Tussauds Wax Museum.
Now, I am fully aware that wax museums are cheesy and pretty much the epitome of a tourist attraction, but I’d always harbored a private desire to go to one. They’ve intrigued me since I was a kid; back then, I was slightly afraid of them, but as an adult it was more curiosity at how realistic the wax figures were in creation and a general affinity for all things celebrity. I’d never really admitted this to anyone, since I figured that like most things I wanted to do, no one would be interested or worse, they’d think this was a lame way to spend an afternoon. But since I needed a place inside to spend some time and I didn’t have anyone with me to convince that this was a good idea, I decided to take the plunge and purchase a ticket to Madame Tussauds – even if that meant going into the belly of the beast (Times Square). The info that clinched the deal – they had a Jon Hamm wax figure. No way that I was missing that. I grit my teeth when I got off at the Times Square stop and prepared myself for regretting this decision.
Honestly – I had the best time. Like, a way better time than I would have anticipated. Being a tourist ain’t half bad.
The fun at Madame Tussauds is twofold – being amazed at how accurately they captured some celebrities and laughing hysterically at the wax figures that are just far enough off that they are kind of creepy. The figures fall primarily in the first category, but there were enough in the latter to keep things amusing. I was curious how restrictive the museum would be, but they full encourage you to pose and take pictures with any of the figures. Periodically throughout the museum there are staff photographers that will take photos for you with particular figures. My favorite was getting to hop on a bicycle with ET in the basket, but you can also have your picture taken with President and Michelle Obama, Taylor Swift and King Kong. The staff will even tell you certain poses to strike for the best results. You of course have to pay for these photos, which I was not going to do, but there were plenty of other free photo ops throughout the museum. I had assumed that I’d only be in the museum for 45 minutes or so, but given how expansive it was and how much fun I was having, I was in there much closer to 2 hours.
I took photos of pretty much every wax figure in there, but unlike some of your older relatives I won’t bore you with all the photos. Instead here are some of the highlights – the good, the bad and the ugly:
The only downside of the visit was that by going to this alone I had less chances to have my photo taken with the figures. I met a lovely Australian couple that offered to take some photos for me, which I look them up on, but I didn’t want to keep pestering them. Everyone seemed to be having a grand old time in the museum and I think it would be a fun trip to make with a group of friends. Honestly, under the right circumstances, I’d go back. It was a silly way to kill a few hours and it made me laugh, which was was exactly what I was looking for on a blustery NYC afternoon.
Madame Tussauds Wax Museum is located at 234 W 42nd St, in the heart of Times Square.