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CA staycation with 'Madame Tussauds' and 'The Dungeon' in San Francisco

San Francisco's Madame Tussauds Wax Museum.
Photo credit:
tickets.sftravel.com

I recently visited San Francisco and found a few things that I enjoyed, but would have missed had my perceptions of the dense tourist laden Fisherman’s Wharf proven true.

Some people like to get away and take a vacation in their own state; it saves not only money but time.

Californians happen to be lucky enough to live in such as place that has plenty to do whether you’re travelling 50-miles or 500.

San Francisco, one of the most sought after destinations in the world is only a hour flight away from San Diego, and offers many things to do.

By following “insider” advice on avoiding the more touristy parts of the city, you may extrapolate yourself from enjoying some of the funnest activities the Wharf has to offer.

For me, two of these places are Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and the new San Francisco Dungeon experience, both worthy of your time and least taxing on your budget.

Tussauds' original London museum is 200-years old, the one in San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf opened in 2014. They constantly update their stars, and feature modern celebrities in their cast of mesmerizing statues.

One thing's for sure once you enter into this symposium of wax humanoids, the creep factor will grab ahold of you and weaken your sense of reality.

The statues are fully detailed and so life-like you will need to shake the feeling they are live performers able to stand completely still waiting to jump at you when you least expect it. 

They aren’t real though and you can walk right up to them, gazing into their teary eyes and wondering if it is truly what they look like at a dinner party.

In fact you can get so close to them (they aren't behind any barrier) that selfies are encouraged, but be respectful of the art and try not to do them damage.

One character that stood out for me was Johnny Depp. If there was ever a sense of how realistic these figures are, just spend a little time in front of him and make eye contact.

Next get a quick picture with Whoopi Goldberg as Deloris in her “Sister Act” costume. She is an amazing piece of work with every little nuance and skin fold so realistic you expect her to say, “Molly, you in danger girl!”

Other remarkable pieces are Microsoft’s Bill Gates and departed Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Both men, even in wax, have ideas in their eyes.

One trick I did with my camera was trying to angle it so it appeared their gaze was focused directly on my lens. It takes a few tries, but the effect is worth it.

Tussauds is a very creepy experience, but that is outweighed by the pure awe you feel as you make your way through the many characters and entertainers which have captivated us through history and show biz.

You may never shake the feeling you're being watched. 

If you have never been to a wax museum, nothing can prepare you for the experience of meeting the most detailed ersatz representations of your celebrity crush; it's an intimate affair. 

The next thing I visited at Fisherman’s Wharf was the new The Dungeon.

This is a thrilling walkthrough experience like no other.

It incorporates live actors to tell the most haunting aspects of San Francisco’s history and some parts will not only get your pulse racing, but educate you on San Francisco’s not-so-romantic past.

As you make your way down the dark corridor, this adventure is actually underground, a first for San Francisco, you will meet an emcee named Jack Gamble who theatrically warns you that your experience may not give you safe return.

It’s entertaining and builds up the tension, but I was more taken by the immense details of the set pieces and costume work.

Recreating 200-years of the city’s most ill-famed landmarks, visitors make their way through different historical scenarios that come to life as actors play out infamous and notorious events from the city's history.

You will be put on trial, tortured and accused of gold-snatching, even shanghaied by an evil mariner who wants to make you his ship's slave until he can sell you to the highest bidder in China. 

One memorable scene is within a rustic doctor’s office which features an assistant showing you the gruesome effects of the plague and her inhumane experiments for a cure.

The Dungeon finale is probably the scariest bit of it all, as you find yourself behind bars inside the foreboding Alcatraz.

The dazzling lighting and special effects are effectively theatrical, but small children may be disturbed at the many jump-scares.

The Dungeon actors don’t touch you, but there is no lack if interactivity, and if you want to know what I mean, I suggest you find out for yourself.

In addition to the walkthrough, The Dungeon just opened an underground drop ride; a first in North America. It’s all a part of your adventure through the underbelly of San Francisco’s haunted visage.

The Dungeon is probably best paired with Madame Tussauds as they are literally next door to each other without a wall to separate them. In fact, you can buy tickets to both at one central kiosk in the center of both attractions on the ground floor.

If you plan on taking a small seasonal vacation within California, and decide on San Francisco, don’t avoid some of the attractions because you feel they are the most “touristy.”

Just remember that these offerings are what people from all over the world come to see and missing them would be like missing “The Haunted Mansion” at Disneyland because the line was too long.

Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and the newly added Dungeon are wonderful and inexpensive ways to create memories with your family and each are uniquely satisfying in their own way.

Whether it’s the creepiness of feeling watched by Clint Eastwood or Steve Mcqueen in the Wax Museum or being stalked by one of San Francisco’s most notorious prisoners inside The Dungeon, everyone will have a great time and perhaps move a little bit closer to you in the process.

For more information on Madame Tussauds click HERE.

For more information on The San Francisco Dungeon click HERE