Musee de Mechanique

The same day that we took on Mission Dolores, my husband and I had planned ambitiously to tour the San Francisco Cable Car Museum. Unfortunately we spent so much time at the Mission that by the time we swung by the museum the street parking was impossible; something to keep in mind for those of you planning to visit.  Earlier is better. 

Not ready to leave the city, we went down to the waterfront on our way out and settled on paying a visit to the Musée Mechaniqué on Fisherman’s Warf, Pier 45 at the end of Taylor Street.

This is a favorite spot of ours and one that gets little play with the tourism industry. Open 365 days a year and admission free, the massive single floor space is dedicated to as many coin operated mechanical games as you can possibly imagine; from the  early 1900’s to the 1980’s. Everything is wheelchair accessible. The prices range from a penny to 1$, most are 25 to 50 cents.  There are change machines throughout the building.

Like any arcade (if you remember what those were like) it engulfs you with raised voices and clacking and pinging and buzzing noises, so brace yourselves and expect to holler at whoever you’re with when exclaiming over the weirdness of whatever you’re playing.  And there is some interesting stuff to be seen. Lots of fortune teller machines, a creepy amount of Mutoscopes (an early form of motion picture that involved looking into an eyepiece while cranking a handle on the side) that advertise the opportunity to witness the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. There are a few that skew disturbing on the politically incorrect scale. At least one is labeled with the sign that it should not be played if one is easily offended. 

An unsettling favorite of mine is the Chinese Opium Den.

None of the figures in this one come out looking good, from the wicked Chinese drug lords plying their product to the addict Miner draped in a filthy shawl.

            I did take a lot of video footage inside but as I’m sure you’re beginning to notice, I shoot crappy video. Therefore I am including as little of mine as possible and attaching some great links here for the best videos on the Musée Mechaniqué I’ve found.  Below are the hours of operation as well. This place is great for adults and children who love playing and exploring the history of playing before i-phones and computers started separating us into our own little worlds.

Minimum Hours

  • (We will stay open later if the crowds demand it, Fun Doesn’t Sleep!)
  • Mon-Fri 10am-8pm
  • Sat-Sun 10am-8pm
  • Holidays 10am-8pm

A concise look at the place with a little of the flavor

Unfortunately the next one would not embed but I urge you to copy and paste for a great in-depth look behind the scenes at the Musee Mechanique and a personal interview with the quirky owner

A wonderful interview with the owner and builder of the place

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