The website claims that it’s “a trip down memory lane,” but for my generation, it’s more like a trip down a scary, dark forest path. Either way, the Musée Mécanique is truly a unique experience. It’s a privately owned collection of mechanically operated musical instruments and antique arcade machines-all of them in working condition and available to play.

The machines come from as far back as the turn of the century, so be prepared to be astonished, amused and a bit horrified. Yes, that really is a snuff machine-for a quarter you get to watch a doll be executed. I use the word “get” very loosely.

It’s not all fun and games, though; there are some truly great (and less creepy) pieces in there. My favorite one is way in the back, so you’ll have to look for it. It’s a fortune-telling machine that prints a fortune on a typewriter right in front of you, then pops it out the side.

You can find the Musée at Pier 45 down at Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s a bit hidden…one of the reasons it’s not that well-known. Admission is completely free; just remember to bring lots of quarters.

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