karen portrait circle

By Karen

Updated October 14, 2023.

Musée Mécanique

Coolest collection of antique games!

Laughing Sal, with her crazy cackling, greets visitors to Musée Mécanique, a huge collection of old-time mechanical entertainment.

Funny, amazing and even a bit creepy!

Laughing Sal greeting visitors to Musee Mecanique at Fisherman's WharfLaughing Sal

What is Musée Mécanique?

Musée Mécanique is one of the most remarkable collections of "entertainments" from the early 20th century and later.

The earliest precursors of video games, if you will; explore the games your grandparents used to play!

Put a quarter in and you never know what you'll see. Have your fortune told, see weird little plays, test your strength, and watch antique peep-shows.

Singing quartet at Musee MecaniqueA quartet to sing for you

Towards the back of the exhibit, there are more "modern" games: ms. pac-man, space invaders, pinball, and various other arcade game from the more recent past.

History of the Collection

Ed Zelinsky is the owner of the collection at Musée Mécanique; he started collecting game machines when he was a child in the 1930's and eventually amassed around 300 items, mostly vintage.: music boxes, slot machines, penny games, etc.

This collection has been on public display for decades, first at Playland on Ocean Beach, then in basement of the Cliff House, and since 2002, at Pier 45 on Fisherman's Wharf.

Laughing Sal (or more correctly, Laffing Sal) was one of a series of down-at-the-heels, laughing ladies made by a Philadelphia company and sold during the 1940's to amusement parks around the country.

Typical are the frumpy clothes, missing teeth and annoying laugh! Laughing Sal has a sister on the Santa Cruz boardwalk.

Vintage poster of Musee Mecanique at PlaylandMusée Mécanique at Playland SF

A Sampling of the Collection

There are so many games and oddities here...imagine 200 of them in one room. I've just picked a handful to give you a taste of what there is to see.

Fortune Tellers

There's a number of folks here who would be happy to reveal your future: wizards, wise women, gypsies, etc. Here are a couple of them.

Wizard fortune teller at Musee MecaniqueWizard Fortune Teller
Gypsy fortune teller at Musee MecaniqueGypsy Card Reader

Test Your Skills

Wrestle with the strong man, or play ball.

Arm-wrestling machine at Musee MecaniqueTest your strength
Baseball game at Musee MecaniquePlay baseball

Morality Plays

The evils of alcohol and drugs. A message from the past; odd little plays unfold.

Drunkard's Dream at Musee MecaniqueThe Drunkard
Opium Den at Musee MecaniqueThe Opium Den

Grim and Grimmer

Execution scenes, French or English, take your pick. Drop in the quarter and be appalled.

The Guillotine at Musee Mecanique
The English Execution at Musee Mecanique

Peep-shows from the past

Disasters and marriage advice.

The 1906 Earthquake at Musee MecaniqueEarthquakes
Marriage advice at Musee MecaniqueWhat could it be?

The Unexplainable

This one is the strangest of all: The Inquest. You'll never guess what happens when you put in the quarter!

The Inquest at Musee MecaniqueThe Inquest...?

The Unmentionable

Not really...but they do warn the easily offended;)

I had to find out; pretty funny! Kids would especially enjoy the humor.

What is the "song of the prairie"?

Other Fun Stuff at Musée Mécanique

Besides the old arcade games mentioned above, you can play fussball, air hockey, ride a horse, drive virtual cars, whack moles, shoot baskets, etc.

This attraction is good for at least a couple of hours of entertainment for visitors of all ages.

Hours and Fees

Musée Mécanique is open daily: 10 am to 8 pm.

Entrance is free, but the machines require coins (quarters).

Yellow post it

Good to Know: All of the machines require quarters to operate, most only one quarter. There are change machines in the building to supply you with the quarters.

Location of Musée Mécanique

Entrance to Musee Mecanique at Pier 45, Fisherman's WharfEntrance to Musée Mécanique

The museum is in a large building right in the heart of all the activity at Fisherman's Wharf, on Taylor Street, just off the main drag on Jefferson Street.

It's at Pier 45, right near the Red and White Fleet dock.

Map of Fisherman's Wharf and Musee Mecanique
Map data (c) OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA

More to explore nearby...

Share this page: