Scientists agree that the only reason adults have children is so they have a socially acceptable reason to visit amusement parks, eat at novelty pizza arcades, and see movies with Shreks in them. Put some fun in the oven with today's kid-friendly Groupon to Playland-Not-at-the-Beach, located in the old Angelo’s Market Building in El Cerrito. The Groupon includes access to all exhibits, shows, arcade games, and carnival games. Choose one of the following options:
- $5 admission for children ages 14 and younger or seniors ages 55 and older (a $10 value)
- $7 general admission (a $15 value)
Playland-Not-at-the-Beach is a 9,000-square-foot monument to American amusements of yesteryear. Stroll along the rainy-day-proof boardwalk to play charming antique penny-arcade games while attempting to remember the last time something cost a penny. In Pinball Alley, more than 30 pinball machines are set to free play, providing hours of quarter-free fun, and Esmeralda the Fortune Teller (additional cost) transforms awkward adolescents into 80s leading everymen. The Bygone San Francisco exhibit engages eye rods and cones with 3-D pictures of the 1906 earthquake, and 2-D historical footage and home movies play inside Laughing Sal’s Theater with just as much clarity and 100% fewer cataclysms. Learn about San Francisco’s Sutro Baths and Whitney’s Playland, which once stood guard over Ocean Beach, protecting the city from invasive longboards.
Occasionally, you can catch 16-year-old Magical Nathaniel’s prestidigitation act, which sends magic-loving maws plummeting to the floor. Gather the whole family or a group of anonymous picture-frame models for old-fashioned, eye-popping, and jaw-dropping amusements with today’s Groupon to Playland-Not-at-the-Beach.
- This place is amazing! And truly a labor of love! – Michael B., Yelp
- At the risk of sounding corny, I must say this place is cool, neat, awesome and fun! They don't call it a museum of fun for nothin'. I suggest starting with the Playland history documentary, which also includes fascinating stories of the Sutro Baths. – rosie m., Yelp
Not many history museums feel like an arcade, especially now that the Smithsonian no longer keeps the Hope Diamond inside a claw machine. Playland-Not-at-the-Beach aims to change that. Its Coney Island Pinball Museum chronicles the 1930s through the 1970s with the flashing lights and electronic beeps of more than 30 fully operational pinball machines. Visitors can test their flipper-thumbs on vintage baggatelles, woodrails, and configurations both pre- and post-electronic. Nearby, Pinball Alley showcases more modern machines like Star Wars. But there is one stark break from strict historical accuracy—these arcade games are completely free, requiring no quarters or bushels of crops to play.
There are plenty of reasons to take a break from gaming and explore Playland-Not-at-the-Beach's other areas. A hand-carved display stands front and center at the Circus Sideshow, depicting a tent with a sword swallower and other performers. Spooky lights and sound effects pay tribute to haunted attractions at Dark Mystery. Laughing Sal's Theater, meanwhile, projects historical footage of the center's namesake: the old Whitney's Playland at the Beach amusement park, which was once one of San Francisco's favorite attractions. Beyond the games and displays, Playland-Not-at-the-Beach hosts performances from magicians and other entertainers, including Professor B and his flea circus.