Harvey Milk.
Harvey Milk on Milk Day.

Madame Tussauds

Field review by the editors.

San Francisco, California

Madame Tussauds is the gold standard for a venerable tourist attraction genre -- the wax museum. Tussauds discourages the fusty label of "museum," preferring to be known as a wax attraction. Tussauds owns popular locations all over the world, and spares no expense creating ultra-realistic likenesses of historical icons and celebrites (at the cost of about $300,000 per figure). They place them in atmospheric scenes, and then invite the public to touch and interact (encouraging family-appropriate fondling).

Jimi and Jerry.
Jimi and Jerry.

At the Tussauds San Francisco, local celebrities are allotted significant square footage -- city leaders, musicians and actors. You'll see the current mayor, slain gay rights activist Harvey Milk, and replica Bay Area landmarks from the Golden Gate Bridge to Chinatown. Movie directors include Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, and Alfred Hitchcock (the local connection is The Birds and Vertigo, but his scene is more Psycho). Musicians Carlos Santana, Janis Joplin, and Jerry Garcia all await your posing pleasure. Silicon Valley is represented by Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, if they aren't on a junket elsewhere. Viral web celeb Grumpy Cat joined the SF team in 2015, and wax Steve Wozniak was added in 2016.

You might see a Beyonce, Babe Ruth, and Serena Williams. The current U.S. president is usually on hand, but we suspect Barack Obama will find some way to remain near his successor's Oval Office set.

Like any attraction offering close encounters with celebrities, Tussauds is sensitive to changing preferences and fickle tastes. Travolta's Vincent in Pulp Fiction -- still cool? Jennifer Anniston -- still attracting flirtatious dads? Madonna who? No one gets melted down, but falling stars are moved into the shadows and eventually shipped off to storage.

The attraction provides props and costumes for visitors to enhance their photo ops and selfies. Squeeze into a red sweatshirt and pedal a skybound bicycle with E.T. in the basket. Shred a guitar alongside Jimi Hendrix. Sit on the bus seat behind Rosa Parks.

It may be as real as it's ever going to get, so enjoy.

Madame Tussauds

145 Jefferson St., San Francisco, CA
In the Fisherman's Wharf tourist district. South side of Jefferson St. midway between Taylor and Mason Sts.
Su-Th 11-7, F-Sa 11-9 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

San Francisco DungeonSan Francisco Dungeon, San Francisco, CA - < 1 mi.
Ripley's Believe It Or Not! OdditoriumRipley's Believe It Or Not! Odditorium, San Francisco, CA - < 1 mi.
Musee MecaniqueMusee Mecanique, San Francisco, CA - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Hippie Temptation House, San Francisco, CA - 3 mi.

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September 18, 2020

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