Musée Mécanique

Things to do Fisherman's Wharf Free
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Musée Mécanique
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Dave Patten
Musée Mécanique

Part museum, part old-fashioned arcade, the Musée Mécanique houses Ed Zelinsky's collection of more than 200 coin-operated games and amusements dating back to the 1880s. The result is a love letter to the era before video games, as well as to turn-of-the-century San Francisco. Gypsy fortune tellers, giant mechanical-circus dioramas, can-can girl stereoscopes, carnival strength testers, player pianos, and a looming Laughing Sal (a cackling mechanical relic salvaged from San Francisco's defunct Playland at the Beach amusement park) are among the games that delight kids and adults alike. Along the walls, photos of early San Francisco and earthquake memorabilia set the mood for a time when the city was still something of a western outpost on the edge of the Pacific. Step out back and you'll find the USS Pampanito, a restored World War II submarine that's open for tours.


Venue name: Musée Mécanique
Address: Pier 45, The Embarcadero
San Francisco

Cross street: at the end of Taylor St
Opening hours: Mon–Fri 10am–7pm; Sat, Sun 10am–8pm
Transport: Metro to Jefferson St & Taylor St/ Bus 2, 4, 8, 18, 24, 27, 38, 39, 44, 47, 54, 56, 58, 72, 74, 76
Price: Free.
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Erin Kuschner

What a great blast from the past, both for kids and adults. Every time I come here I always get my fortune read by the Gypsy Woman, and have kept those fortunes in my wallet for years. Wandering around the space is like touring a hands-on museum, and it's great to see everyone in awe over mostly forgotten pastimes. There's a lot of touristy, gimmicky sites in this area of San Francisco, but this is a definite must-visit.