Housed in a former grocery store, a modest exterior hides and extraordinary collection of games, oddities and miniatures, many of which came from or celebrate the history of San Francisco’s great and much missed amusement park, Playland at the Beach.
The museum-meets-arcade opened in 2008 under the guidance and vision of the late Richard Tuck, whose personal stock pile of historic games and artifacts makes up the core of the current collection.
Along with rooms full of sideshow-related oddities, classing pinball and arcade games, one entire room is dedicated to the Marcks Family Miniature Circus, a series of detailed dioramas hand carved by Isaac and Donald Marcks over the course of half a century. It represents the Sells Floto Circus, an early 20th-century traveling circus and sideshow.
Artifacts from the original Playland include one of the three giant Laffin Sal automatons, vehicles from the Playland Dark Mystery ride, a wooden skeeball game, and a large chunk of the original clown head signage from the front of Playland’s main building. Other objects include original tickets, photographs, and signage. A detailed diorama on display shows how to original park once looked.
Also on display are artifacts and photos from Sutro Baths, once a magnificent glass topped public bathhouse in San Francisco, no left in not un-picturesque ruin.
Update: Playland-Not-At-The-Beach closed in 2018.
Visit California with Atlas Obscura Trips
Hip-Hop, Hippies, and Robots: Invention and Reinvention in San Francisco
We'll set out together, September 19-21, to explore unusual galleries, test our cocktail-making skills, and visit the city's best unofficial museum.