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Need some inspiration on fun things to do in San Francisco? Check out Musée Mécanique, the famous Fisherman’s Wharf arcade.

By Leila N’Amara

Usually, here at Dylan’s Tours, we stick to guiding tourist through the streets of San Francisco via minibus and electric bike. Occasionally we take time to partner with our friends at Urbanist, a page dedicated to exploring the cities of the world, and take over their live stream walking tours.

In our latest take over, we explored one of the many secret things to do in San Francisco, Musée Mécanique. Located in Fisherman’s Wharf, this San Francisco arcade museum is home to hundreds of coin-operated arcade games. 

Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the biggest tourist attractions in all of California, so it’s no surprise that it is home to the most authentic arcade museum San Francisco has to offer.

Watch the video below to see our whole tour of Musée Mécanique San Francisco.

A Hundred Years of Fun At The Museum Mécanique 

The Museum Mécanique has over 300 coin-operated arcade games in working condition, making it one of the biggest San Francisco arcades, and privately owned collections of its kind.

But what sets Musée Mécanique apart?  It is one of the only museums where you are encouraged to touch and play with all of the exhibits aka the arcade games, making it one of the best-hidden things to do in San Francisco.

The Musée Mécanique is one of our favorite fun things to do in San Francisco during the day, so fill your pockets with quarters and let out your inner child as you enjoy yourself at Musée Mécanique San Francisco.

Here are some of the best and worst coin operated arcade games at the Musée Mécanique in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.


Laughing Sal: Most Terrifying Attraction

things to do in San Francisco for free - musee mecanique

Photo by Justin Ennis via Flickr

Laughing Sal has been terrifying locals since the first days of this San Francisco arcade museum. The towering, six foot, gapped tooth ginger tosses herself back and forth while a laughing track plays. Her laugh will send chills up your spine, and leave you with an uneasy, eerie feeling.


Don’t Waste Your Quarters on End of the Trail

Musee Mecanique - secret things to do in san francisco

Photo by Eric Huang via Flickr

They are so many fun games at the San Francisco Musée Mécanique, don’t waste your time with the End of Trail. This machine is only a fan that blows fabric.

The owner and son of original collector, Dave, had to install wooden panels at the base of this machine since so many people were kicking due to frustration.


Visit The Carnival At Musée Mécanique

hidden things to do in San Francisco - Musee Mecanique

Photo by isuperwang via Flickr

One of our favorite coin operated arcades games at Musée Mécanique San Francisco is The Carnival. With over 100 individual moving parts you might need to watch this one a few times to fully appreciate its unique craftsmanship. This is a great game to see after dark, as The Carnival looks incredible lit up.


The Arm Wrestler: The Most Famous Attraction

Musee Mecanique San Francisco

Photo by Tom Hilton vis Flickr

If you have seen “The Princess Diaries,” you may remember the scene where Julie Andrews plays the Arm Wrestler arcade game, that was filmed at Musée Mécanique!

Julie Andrews blew away co-star, Anne Hathaway, and the entire film crew when she won this mechanical match. The owner said “[the director] thought I made it easier for her…I didn’t.”

See how your strength compares to the famous British actress when you explore this San Francisco arcade museum for yourself.


The Photo Booth: Worth the Extra Quarters

San Francisco arcade museum

Photo by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

Cherish your memories at the Musée Mécanique with photos from an old school photo booth. These black and white photo booth strips are worth all the quarters you have.


The French Execution: Not For Everyone

Fair warning while most of the coin-operated arcade games at the Musée Mécanique are fun, it has some pieces that aren’t appropriate for all ages.

If you are exploring the museum with kids, skip games like The French Execution, The English Execution, and The Chinese Opium Den.

coin operated arcade games - Musee Mecanique

Photo by drazz via Flickr


Don’t Miss The Cry Baby

fun things to do in San Francisco during the day

Photo by Neil Conway via Flickr

While you are wondering around the Musée Mécanique, it is easy to pass by The Cry Baby without thinking twice, but we highly recommend making time for it.

This is more than an arcade game; The Cry Baby is a work of art capturing the beauty of life. The original track for this crying baby was damaged, so the current owner recorded his infant son crying at 3:00 am to replace the missing audio track.


Musée Mécanique Hours

The Musée Mécanique is open 365 days a year. The Musée Mécanique hours are 10:00 am – 8:00 pm, but their website states, “We will stay open later if the crowds demand it, Fun Doesn’t Sleep!”.


Take a Break from All The Fun At Musée Mécanique And Enjoy A Meal At One Of The Best Places To Eat Near Fisherman’s Wharf


Boudin’s Bakery

fun things to do in San Francisco during the day

Photo by Jeremy Brooks via Flickr

Do you know how champagne is really only champagne if it’s from the Champagne region of France? San Francisco sourdough is kind of the same way. You haven’t really tried sourdough bread until you’ve tasted Boudin’s Bakery.

Isidore Boudin created the first batch of sourdough bread during the Gold Rush in San Francisco. The original “mother dough” that Isidore Boudin made has been their secret ingredient for almost 200 years.

Every new batch of sourdough is made with a portion of the “mother dough,” so you can literally taste the original batch Boudin made during the Gold Rush.


Fog Harbor Fishhouse

hidden things to do in San Francisco

Photo by Trisha Fawver via Flickr

Looking for some waterside dining with unbeatable views of the Golden Gate Bridge? Then be sure to book a reservation at Fog Harbor Fish House.

This Pier 39 staple is a true family run restaurant, with three generations of the Simmons serving up fantastic seafood. Check what time the sun sets, and make your reservation about 30 minutes before for the best views of the Bay.


 The Buena Vista

FThe Buena Vista has some of the best Irish Coffee this side of the Atlantic.  This coffee and whiskey cocktail, topped with floating cream, is the perfect treat when taking a break from exploring Musée Mécanique. 


Getting To Fisherman’s Wharf

Exploring the Musée Mécanique is one of the most fun things to do in San Francisco for free. Whether you’re arriving by boat, train or car, here’s how to get to Fisherman’s Wharf to see the Musée Mécanique at Pier 45.


By Boat: Sail Into Pier 41

fisherman's wharf arcade

Photo by mifl68 via Flickr

If you’re coming from the North Bay or East Bay, taking a boat might be the most scenic route. You can catch ferries from Sausalito, Larkspur, Alameda, and Oakland to Pier 41 throughout the day, all year long.

Pier 41 is right in the middle of Fisherman’s Wharf, and only a 30 minute walk away to Musée Mécanique. The F Market Streetcar is an easy way to make it to the arcade if you don’t want to walk.


By Train: Ride The Historical F Market Streetcar

Hidden things to do in san francisco - fisherman's wharf arcade

Photo by Mobilus In Mobili via Flickr

If you’re coming from Union Square or any of the downtown BART stops, you can hop on one of these streetcars from Milan, Melbourne or even Philadelphia to get into San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.


By Drop Off: Catch A Pedicab, Regular Cab Or Your Favorite Ride Share

fun things to do in San Francisco during the day

Photo by Sonny Abesamis via Flickr

On weekends, holidays and pretty much all summer the F Market Streetcar can be so crowded that the train won’t even stop where it usually stops, it just cruises on by. This is where pedicabs, or rickshaws, come in handy.

You can also hail a real cab by calling the cab company or open up the app for your favorite rideshare company, and enjoy your ride to Musée Mécanique.

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Does the Musée Mécanique have you wanting to explore San Francisco? Continue planning your trip to the Bay Area with these blog posts:

Best Hotels in Union Square San Francisco

Top 10 Things To Do in San Francisco

What to do in San Francisco in 3 days

A Guide to San Francisco with Toddlers

Best Wine Tours from San Francisco

10 Things You NEED to Know Before Going to Alcatraz