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Monday, May 21, 2018

Southern California Vol. 23 - Musée Mécanique

This week I want to talk about a museum that’s further north than L.A.  I haven’t even touched what all there is to do in San Francisco because to be fair, I’ve only been there twice and both times for only a couple of days.  However, since we’ve been talking about museums over the last two weeks, I have to give a shout out to one of my favorite museums on the planet.  

I’m talking about the Musée Mécanique located down near Fisherman’s Wharf.  I’ve only been there once and I only got to stay a fraction of the time I wanted to, however I’ve made it a bucket list item to go back and spend at least an afternoon exploring everything on display.

The Musée Mécanique is basically exactly what its title suggests.  It’s a collection of over 300 antique (and not so antique) coin operated machines.  There are games, puppet shows, film loops and music boxes.  The building they’re in can only house a portion of the machines they’ve collected over the years, but you’ll get to experience at least 200 while visiting. 

It all began with Ed Zelinsky who collected his first penny arcade machine at the age of 11.  He first put his collection on display at Playland in the 1920’s.  Eventually, it became part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and finally moved to its current location in 2002.  It’s still owned and operated by the Zelinsky family.

So what’s so great about a building full of old arcade machines?  Well, they all work.  That’s right.  They all actually work.  In fact, the museum is free to get into but you’ll need coins to operate the machines themselves. 

Among my favorite things during my short visit was a puppet show.  It’s called The Opium Den and once you deposit your coin, you’ll see the horrors of opium addiction in the form of death’s heads and ghosts visiting the Den’s customers.

Check out the picture above.  That’s my friend Will Mason holding my four-year-old daughter up so she can see the “adults only” show.  Don’t worry.  The film loop was a bunch of ladies showing their ankle-length bloomers.  Oh the scandal!  

So seriously, if you find yourself in San Francisco and all of your friends and relatives want to go to the most touristy place around, then you’ll end up at Fisherman’s Wharf.  Let them wander over to the chain stores on the pier.  Tell them you’ll meet up with them in an hour or so and go check out the Musée Mécanique.   It’s a truly great time and a pretty rare experience.

Thanks and see you next week!

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