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Give your child the gift of glimpsing the way it was

SAN FRANCISCO -- Trying to pry your kids away from those video games during their holiday vacation? Well, take them on a gaming adventure back to the days when you were a child.

It's like a video arcade from the past. Musée Mécanique at Pier 45 (near the Fisherman's Wharf ultimate tourist zone) offers visitors a chance to relive the days of coin-operated games.

Visitors can drop in a coin and try their luck at arm-wrestling, take the advice of a fortune-telling granny and enjoy the cackling of Laffing Sal from the old Playland at the Beach.

Once located at the Cliff House, Musée Mécanique moved to Pier 45 in 2003. It houses many pieces from Playland, San Francisco's oceanfront amusement park. Among the collection of more than 200 pieces are hand cranked music boxes, organ grinders and a steam powered motorcycle all collected by Edward Zelinsky who began his hunt for coin operated fun at the age of 11 when he purchased his first penny skill game.

The museum of machinery with its animated, moving people and instruments is a chance to visit the games of the past and comes complete with laughs and not only ones from mechanical Laffing Sal.

WHERE: Pier 45 at the end of Taylor Street, Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco

WHEN: Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

COST: Admission is free, although all machines are coin operated.

GETTING THERE: Take Highway 580 westbound through the Altamont Pass. Continue through Oakland and cross the Bay Bridge into San Francisco. Take Fremont Street exit and turn left, then turn right onto Howard Street. Turn left onto The Embarcadero. Continue to Fisherman's Wharf area (Embarcadero at Taylor). Musée Mécanique is at Pier 45.

DRIVE TIME: 1 hour, 40 minutes (Mapquest)

MORE INFO: 415-346-2000 or

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Bee assistant librarian Karen Aiello can be reached at or 578-2392.