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Musée Mécanique – San Francisco’s Antique Coin Operated Arcade


by Sile Stockwell



Welcome to Musée Mécanique, San Francisco’s beloved antique coin-operated arcade. Nestled along the picturesque Fisherman’s Wharf, this hidden gem is a testament to the city’s rich history and love for vintage entertainment. Stepping into Musée Mécanique is like taking a journey back in time, where visitors can immerse themselves in the nostalgia of a bygone era.


With its vast collection of beautifully preserved mechanical wonders, Musée Mécanique offers a unique and captivating experience for visitors of all ages. From old-fashioned fortune-telling machines to intricate dioramas and elaborate carousel rides, there is something to delight and fascinate everyone who walks through its doors.


Established in 1933 by Edward Zelinsky, Musée Mécanique started as a small collection of mechanical music instruments and coin-operated machines. Over the years, Zelinsky and his family tirelessly gathered rare and exquisite specimens, turning the arcade into a cherished institution that captures the imagination of locals and tourists alike.


What sets Musée Mécanique apart is its commitment to preserving and showcasing the historical significance of these mechanical marvels. Each machine is meticulously restored, ensuring they retain their original charm and functionality. This attention to detail allows visitors to experience a truly authentic journey through time, as they interact with the same machines that once captivated audiences decades ago.


Whether you’re an avid collector, history enthusiast, or simply looking for a unique outing, Musée Mécanique offers a delightful escape from the modern world. Step inside and let the sights, sounds, and stories of the past transport you to a time of wonder and excitement. Join us as we explore the fascinating world of Musée Mécanique and discover the treasures that await within its walls.


History of Musée Mécanique

The history of Musée Mécanique dates back to the early 20th century when Edward Zelinsky, a passionate collector of mechanical oddities, opened the arcade in 1933. Zelinsky’s fascination with coin-operated machines started as a hobby and quickly grew into a lifelong passion.


Originally located in San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach amusement park, Musée Mécanique became a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. Zelinsky and his family tirelessly scoured auctions, flea markets, and even private collections to acquire unique and rare machines to add to their growing collection.


Unfortunately, in 1972, Playland at the Beach closed its doors permanently, and Musée Mécanique faced an uncertain future. However, thanks to the efforts of Dan Zelinsky, Edward’s son, the arcade found a new home at Fisherman’s Wharf in 2002.


The move to Fisherman’s Wharf breathed new life into Musée Mécanique, attracting even more visitors and cementing its status as a San Francisco icon. Today, the arcade continues to be a family-run business, with Dan Zelinsky and his wife, Mike, overseeing the day-to-day operations.


Throughout its history, Musée Mécanique has remained true to its founding principles of preserving and showcasing the magic of vintage coin-operated machines. The collection spans over a century, encompassing a diverse range of mechanical wonders, from early 20th-century slot machines to iconic fortune-telling machines and mesmerizing dioramas.


Each machine in Musée Mécanique’s collection is a testament to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of its time. They provide a fascinating glimpse into the past, allowing visitors to experience the thrills and entertainment that captivated audiences in a bygone era.


Today, Musée Mécanique stands not only as a testament to the Zelinsky family’s dedication and passion for preserving history but also as a celebration of San Francisco’s vibrant culture and rich heritage. It serves as a reminder that the simple joys and wonders of the past can still captivate and enchant in our fast-paced digital world.


Collection of Antique Coin Operated Machines

The collection of antique coin-operated machines at Musée Mécanique is a treasure trove of nostalgia and history. With over 300 fascinating machines on display, visitors are transported to a bygone era of mechanical marvels and entertainment.


One of the highlights of the collection is the assortment of vintage arcade games. Step up to the classic pinball machines, where you can test your skills and relive the excitement of flipping those silver balls. Feel the rush as you try your luck at the vintage slot machines, complete with their charming pull handles and brightly colored reels.


For those seeking a bit of mystery and enchantment, the fortune-telling machines are a must-see. From the mystical Zoltar to the whimsical Grandma Predicts, these machines offer glimpses into the future or, at the very least, provide a fun and interactive experience.


Another notable feature of the collection is the vast array of music boxes and player pianos. Immerse yourself in the melodious tunes of yesteryear as you witness these beautiful instruments come to life. The intricate mechanisms and ornate designs of these music machines are a captivating sight, enchanting visitors with their timeless appeal.


No visit to Musée Mécanique would be complete without exploring the magical world of dioramas. These miniature scenes come alive with intricate moving parts and intricate detail. From bustling cityscapes to scenic landscapes, each diorama tells a unique story, captivating and immersing visitors in their whimsical charm.


One of the most iconic attractions at Musée Mécanique is the antique carousel, featuring beautifully hand-carved and painted wooden animals. Take a ride on the enchanting carousel and feel the joy and wonder that it has brought to countless visitors throughout the years.


Throughout the collection, you’ll find an eclectic mix of vintage arcade games, fortune-telling machines, music boxes, dioramas, and more. Each machine is a testament to the creativity and craftsmanship of its time, providing a glimpse into the past and a chance to experience the simple joys of a bygone era.


Whether you’re a history buff, a fan of vintage entertainment, or simply looking for a unique and engaging experience, the collection of antique coin-operated machines at Musée Mécanique is sure to leave you enthralled and inspired.


Popular Attractions at Musée Mécanique

Musée Mécanique offers a plethora of popular attractions that captivate visitors with their vintage charm and interactive experiences. From classic arcade games to captivating dioramas, there is something for everyone to enjoy at this beloved San Francisco destination.


One of the most iconic attractions at Musée Mécanique is its collection of vintage arcade games. Step back in time and try your hand at the classic pinball machines, where you can challenge yourself to beat high scores and experience the excitement of the silver ball bouncing off bumpers and ramps. Test your luck at the vintage slot machines, with their colorful reels and nostalgic pull handles. And don’t forget to try your hand at other arcade favorites like Skee-Ball, air hockey, and foosball.


The fortune-telling machines are another crowd-pleaser at Musée Mécanique. These charming contraptions offer the thrill of peeking into the future or receiving quirky predictions. From the famous Zoltar, known for his appearance in the movie “Big,” to Grandma Predicts, these machines provide a delightful and interactive experience that is sure to bring a smile to your face.


The collection of music boxes and player pianos at Musée Mécanique is a must-see for music lovers. Get lost in the melodies of these beautifully crafted instruments as they transport you to a bygone era. The intricate details and harmonious tunes create an enchanting atmosphere that adds an extra layer of magic to your visit.


Dioramas are another highlight of the museum. Step into miniature worlds filled with meticulous attention to detail and whimsical scenes. Whether it’s a bustling cityscape, a charming countryside, or a historical event, these dioramas bring stories to life with their moving parts and exquisite craftsmanship. Explore the scenes, immerse yourself in the stories, and let your imagination run wild.


And of course, a visit to Musée Mécanique wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the antique carousel. Take a spin on this beautifully restored carousel featuring hand-carved and painted wooden animals. Feel the joy and nostalgia as you soar through the air, reliving the magic of a traditional carnival ride.


These popular attractions at Musée Mécanique offer a unique and immersive experience, transporting visitors to a time where simple pleasures and old-fashioned entertainment reigned supreme. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a vintage game lover, or simply looking for a fun outing, Musée Mécanique promises an unforgettable journey through the past filled with laughter, excitement, and cherished memories.


Restoration and Maintenance of the Machines

Preserving the charm and functionality of the antique coin-operated machines at Musée Mécanique is no small task. The team behind the scenes works diligently to restore and maintain each machine, ensuring that they continue to delight visitors for years to come.


Restoration is a labor of love at Musée Mécanique. Skilled craftsmen meticulously repair and refurbish each machine, bringing them back to their original glory. Every detail is considered, from replacing worn-out parts to carefully cleaning and polishing intricate mechanisms.


One of the challenges of restoring these vintage machines is finding and sourcing the original parts. Often, the team has to search far and wide, reaching out to collectors and participating in antique auctions to obtain the necessary components. This commitment to authenticity ensures that the machines maintain their historical accuracy and charm.


Maintenance is also a crucial aspect of keeping the machines in working order. Regular inspections and upkeep are carried out to prevent any potential issues. The team applies lubrication to the moving parts, polishes the exteriors, and ensures that the electrical components are properly functioning.


For some machines, maintenance requires extra care and attention. Delicate items like music boxes and dioramas necessitate delicate handling and the expertise of specialists who understand the unique requirements of these intricate mechanisms. This meticulous approach ensures that visitors can experience these mechanical marvels in their full glory, with every detail functioning as intended.


Part of the charm of Musée Mécanique is the authenticity of the machines. While the team ensures that the machines remain operational, they also respect the historical integrity of each piece. This means preserving any minor imperfections or signs of wear and tear that add to the machine’s character and authenticity.


Musée Mécanique’s commitment to restoration and maintenance is a testament to their dedication to preserving the history and magic of these vintage machines. The attention to detail and meticulous craftsmanship ensure that visitors can step into a world of nostalgia and enjoy these mechanical wonders for years to come.


Events and Special Exhibitions

At Musée Mécanique, the excitement doesn’t end with the permanent collection. Throughout the year, the museum hosts a variety of events and special exhibitions that enhance the visitor experience and offer new reasons to come back again and again.


One of the most anticipated events at Musée Mécanique is the annual Vintage Arcade Expo. This event brings enthusiasts and collectors from all over the country to showcase their rare and unique machines. Visitors can enjoy a hands-on experience with a wide range of vintage arcade games, try their luck at various skill-based challenges, and even compete in friendly tournaments. The Vintage Arcade Expo is a celebration of the golden age of arcades and a chance for visitors to immerse themselves in the nostalgia of classic gaming.


In addition to the Vintage Arcade Expo, Musée Mécanique organizes special exhibitions that highlight specific themes or showcase unique machines. These exhibitions delve deeper into the history and cultural significance of the machines, offering visitors a more comprehensive understanding of their context. From themed displays focusing on a particular time period or genre to exhibitions featuring machines with unusual or rare features, there is always something new and exciting to discover at Musée Mécanique.


Throughout the year, Musée Mécanique also hosts live performances and interactive demonstrations. Visitors can watch skilled artisans demonstrate the inner workings of various machines, providing insights into the mechanics and craftsmanship behind these vintage wonders. These demonstrations offer a unique opportunity to learn more about the restoration process and gain a deeper appreciation for the artistry involved.


During holidays, Musée Mécanique adds a festive touch to its exhibits. Visitors can experience special themed displays, such as Halloween-themed machines or holiday decorations that transform the arcade into a magical wonderland. It’s a chance for visitors of all ages to create lasting memories while enjoying the timeless charm of Musée Mécanique.


Additionally, Musée Mécanique occasionally collaborates with local artists, musicians, and performers to enhance the visitor experience. Live music performances, art installations, and interactive exhibits bring a fresh and dynamic energy to the museum, creating a multi-sensory experience that both delights and educates.


Whether you’re a regular visitor or planning a special trip to Musée Mécanique, be sure to check the museum’s website or inquire about upcoming events and special exhibitions. It’s a chance to delve deeper into the world of coin-operated machines, experience live entertainment, and make your visit even more memorable.


Location and Admission Information

Musée Mécanique is conveniently located at Fisherman’s Wharf, one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist destinations. The exact address is Pier 45, Shed A, San Francisco, CA 94133. The museum is easily accessible by public transportation and offers nearby parking options for those arriving by car.


Admission to Musée Mécanique is free, allowing visitors of all ages to enjoy the wonders of this vintage arcade without any financial barriers. The museum operates on a pay-per-play model, where visitors can use quarters to activate the machines and experience the magic firsthand.


Visiting Musée Mécanique is like stepping into a time capsule, and it’s important to budget accordingly. While admission is free, it is recommended to bring some quarters to fully immerse yourself in the experience and try out the different machines. Quarters can be obtained at the change machines conveniently located within the arcade.


The museum is open daily from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM, providing ample opportunity for locals and tourists to explore the collection at their leisure. However, it’s worth noting that the museum might close earlier on certain holidays or for private events, so it’s always a good idea to check the museum’s website or give them a call in advance to confirm the operating hours.


Musée Mécanique’s location at Fisherman’s Wharf offers visitors the chance to enjoy other attractions and activities in the area. From delicious seafood restaurants to scenic waterfront views and unique shopping opportunities, Fisherman’s Wharf has something for everyone to enjoy before or after their visit to the museum.


For those interested in purchasing souvenirs or taking home a piece of the vintage charm, Musée Mécanique has a gift shop onsite. It offers a selection of nostalgic items, such as postcards, T-shirts, retro toys, and collectibles, allowing visitors to bring a piece of the museum’s magic home with them.


Whether you’re a local looking for a fun day out or a tourist eager to explore San Francisco’s hidden gems, Musée Mécanique offers a unique and memorable experience. Immerse yourself in the world of vintage coin-operated machines, unleash your inner child, and create lasting memories of a bygone era.



Musée Mécanique is a true gem of San Francisco, providing a delightful escape into the world of vintage coin-operated machines. With its vast collection of antique arcade games, fortune-telling machines, music boxes, dioramas, and more, the museum offers a captivating journey through time.


From the moment you step through the doors of Musée Mécanique, you’re transported to a bygone era filled with magic, nostalgia, and wonder. The meticulously restored machines, each with its own unique story, capture the imagination and ignite a sense of childlike joy in visitors of all ages.


The dedication to preservation and restoration is evident in every aspect of the museum. The attention to detail and commitment to authenticity shine through, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the vintage experience. It’s a journey that not only showcases the historical significance of these machines but also celebrates the artistry and craftsmanship of their creators.


Beyond the permanent collection, Musée Mécanique offers special events, exhibitions, live performances, and interactive demonstrations that add an extra layer of excitement and engagement. These experiences allow visitors to connect even more deeply with the history and charm of the vintage arcade.


Located at Fisherman’s Wharf, Musée Mécanique provides a perfect blend of historical intrigue and a vibrant waterfront atmosphere. Whether you’re a local looking for a unique outing or a tourist seeking to embrace a piece of San Francisco’s rich cultural heritage, the museum offers an unforgettable experience.


With free admission and a pay-per-play model, Musée Mécanique allows everyone to step into this world of vintage wonder without any financial barriers. So bring your quarters, unleash your inner child, and let the magic of Musée Mécanique transport you to a time where simple pleasures and mechanical marvels reigned supreme.


Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a fan of vintage entertainment, or simply seeking a memorable experience, Musée Mécanique offers a one-of-a-kind journey through the past. It’s a testament to the enduring appeal of these antique coin-operated machines and a reminder that the joys of the past can continue to captivate and inspire in the present day.