Fisherman’s Wharf is an icon of San Francisco, with both the hustle and bustle of the still active fishing community along side tourists who run in and out of the various restaurants, shops, and museums. Nestled next to the iconic Grotto restaurant is my favorite place in all of San Fransisco, Musée Mécanique, an astounding arcade filled with antique, vintage, and contemporary amusement machines, from games of skill to ones that spring to life to perform a little show to ones that spit out a little card telling you your future. So often items of such age (as there are many machines well over 100 years old here) are locked behind glass, or out of reach beyond a velvet rope, but here at Musée Mécanique you are welcome to put in a quarter and try your luck at a variety of games, or just be entertained by a puppet show or, for the more morbid minded, witness a miniature execution.
I first visited Musée Mécanique back in 2012, and each time I have gone back to San Fransisco I return, because it’s just that much fun. It’s also a prime example of how one person’s passion for something can bring joy to thousands. Edward Galland Zelinsky is the man who made all of this possible when he won a prize of five quarts of oil at a Bingo event at age 11. Being 11 and not having a car, he had no need for the oil, so he sold it to his piano teacher and bought a penny skill game, which entertained his friends and family alike. The pennies added up, providing him with money to spend, allowing him to continue to buy more amusement machines, and thus his collection grew over the decades. Some pieces are from former iconic arcades and places of amusement such as Playland, at the Beach and the Sutro Baths. The collection was available to the public at the iconic Cliff House for many years, before being forced to move as the result of a renovation in 2002, when it found its current home along Fisherman’s Wharf.
From love testers to pinball machines to strength contests, there is something for everyone at Musée Mécanique. I personally love the fact they still have a good ol’ fashioned photobooth, the non-digital kind! I also love the fact their gift shop is a vending machine. Musée Mécanique is free to visit and there are plenty of change machines and an ATM to get those quarters! Also if pinball is more your thing, stay tuned for a visit to an incredible pinball museum!
Be entertained, enchanted, and amazed at Musée Mécanique at Pier 45 along Fisherman’s Wharf in San Fransisco.