Musée Mécanique, at Pier 45 in Fisherman’s Wharf, is one of the largest privately held collections of vintage mechanical arcade machines in the world. Displaying some 200 pieces from the more than 300 acquired by Edward G. Zelinsky throughout his life, the museum is still owned and managed by the philanthropist and historian’s family. But words like museum and display are misleading: The majority of these contraptions still work. Stock up on quarters and dust off your nostalgia, because this is a chance to introduce your kids to the PlayStation of the good old days. There are music boxes, barbershop quartets, peep shows, fortune-tellers, jerky dioramas (ranging from a colorful carnival to a dingy opium den), and more; many of the items are over a century old. There are also more modern arcade machines—still ancient by today’s standards—such as pinball, Pac-Man, and Street Fighter II; those with a competitive streak can play Skee-Ball or air hockey. Presiding over it all is the life-size Laffing Sal, whose full-blooded cackling is the only thing that cuts through the cacophony of beeping and buzzing and clanging and the riot of carnival tunes. As well as a cool place to play games with your kids, it’s a fun lens through which to teach them about life in the not-so-distant past, and perhaps about your own childhood. Entry is free, and there are plenty of change machines. Photo: Gary Stevens/Flickr
Machinations for the Imagination
It feels like a carnival that swooped right into town and will disappear one night, right off of the Embarcadero in San Francisco. However, the Musee Mecanique and its 200 arcade games and musical displays are open year round to delight and inspire. Photo from Flickr by Jeremyriad at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeremyriad/4463851372/
Step back in time at an antique arcade
Wooden dolls come to life to the sound of piano tunes, fortunes are told and children and adults alike are captivated by the moving curiosities at this antique arcade. The giant Laffing Sal greets entrants at the Musée Mécanique with a cackle of laughter and quarters clink into any variety of mechanical machines new and old. The arcade is the largest privately owned, and publicly displayed, collection of coin-operated art in the world. The arcade was once housed at the Cliff House at Ocean Beach and in 2002 was moved to Pier 45. Hours: Mon -Fri from 10am. to 7pm., Sat and Sun from 10am. to 8pm. Free.