I cuddled up on the couch with George Clooney, played air guitar with Jimi Hendrix and joined Bobby Moore in holding the World Cup aloft. I also shared a peaceful moment with the Dalai Lama before giving President Trump a piece of my mind. This was all part of a fun visit to Madame Tussauds famous waxworks museum in London.
As had never visited the attraction before, I found the ‘Information for Senior Visits’ guidebook extremely helpful – available online. The museum is located a very short walk from Baker Street underground station: turn left past Sherlock Holmes and it’s straight ahead. Alternatively, taxis can drop visitors off directly outside the main entrance on Marylebone Road. With a VIP or Disabled ticket you can enter through a special entrance without queueing.
Once inside the museum you follow a one-way route walking from room to room to view the different collections. At the time of writing, the exhibits include music and film celebrities, sporting heroes, world leaders, cultural icons, super heroes, the royal family and a special Star Wars display. One fascinating section shows how the models are made – each hair is inserted individually and great care is taken to match eye colours. As the models are based on accurate measurements and molds taken from the actual people, you get a real sense of their height.
Pop star Cheryl Cole, for example, is tiny while President Trump really does tower. Many of the models are uncannily lifelike and it has been known for the real life celebrities (including Arnold Schwarzenegger in his Terminator role) to prank visitors by posing in place of their waxwork figure and suddenly coming to life, sending visitors screaming! I approached a very lifelike Johnny Depp with trepidation.
One unexpected aspect of my visit was enjoying unlimited access to photo-opportunities. You can get surprisingly close up and personal with some of your favorite celebrities or world leaders. In addition, professional in-house photographers are on hand to photograph you as you pose with some of the most popular exhibits such as the Royal family or the pop group One Dimension. There is no pressure to buy any of the photos.
The Museum includes a small cinema showing the Marvel 4D experience. Don a pair of 3D glasses and watch a short film: as super-heroes battle to save London, shards of glass and metal hurtle towards you from there screen with alarming reality while your seat alternately vibrates to heavy footsteps, sprays you with water, blasts out air and punches you in the back! A group of older women nearby me spent most of the time ducking and screaming. (There are ‘normal’ seats at the back for the more faint-hearted.)
There is also an internal roller-coaster style ride ‘The Spirit of London’ where you leap into the open cab of a slow-moving miniature London taxi and journey through the city’s sometimes gritty past. Coordinating getting out of the ‘taxi’ and onto a moving travelator before stepping onto firm ground was quite a feat – not recommended for those with limited mobility.
Exit, as you’d expect, is through the gift shop. I just had time to view and purchase my official photos before dashing off to catch my train. The museum suggests that visits take around 1.5 to 2 hours but you might wish to allow extra time if you visit during busy times such as school holidays or weekends.
Madame Tussauds is keen to meet the needs of its older, less mobile visitors. It has recently placed silver stars on the walls at various points along the route to indicate places where weary visitors can take a rest and regroup. If you need to take rest at any stage along the route, you are encouraged to contact a staff member to help you locate a chair. There are plenty of toilets and a number of food and drink stands within the building but, perhaps unsurprisingly, only the Cafe Nero in the gift shop serves hot drinks.
As the museum can only accommodate up to 3 wheelchairs at any one time, it is best to reserve your space in advance to avoid disappointment. You can take your own or hire a wheelchair on arrival – available on a first-come first-served basis. Accompanying carers may be admitted at no cost with suitable proof of your disability. Please note, push chairs and strollers are not permitted. Once inside there are lifts available to each floor and plenty of ramps for wheelchair users. The ‘Senior Visitors’ guidebook provides detailed accessibility information for each section.
The museum has plenty to keep visitors of all ages entertained. For an unparalleled opportunity to get close up and personal with an amazing collection of famous people, check out the website for ticket deals, grab your selfie stick and have a great time schmoozing with the stars.
The 2017 Silver Travel Awards were held at Madame Tussauds.