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Weirdest Museums In The East Bay

The weirdest museums in the East Bay invite the public to try a hand at American pastimes or to get a taste of old customs, literally. Bring your camera and the family for free play, no quarters required. Play antique pinball machines, arcades, video games and carnival attractions. Adults will enjoy the more sedate sake museum and tasting. Likewise, ladies and gentlemen may be seated at tea time at the historic Pardee home, the site of a ghost investigation by a medium descended from a Comanche psychic.

Pacific Pinball Center
1510 Webster St.
Alameda, CA 94501
(510) 205-6959

Pacific Pinball Center, a non-profit amusement experience in the beach town of Alameda, offers that retro feeling with a museum dedicated to preserving an American pastime, pinball. Pinball wizards will find that 85 of the machines are playable and free all day with admission, no quarters required. The collection of 800 games goes back to 1879, through the 1930s and 40s to the 60s and 70s. The pinball industry in the 70s made more money than the film industry. Find your favorite fantasy. Look among the vintage television shows whether it's "Twilight Zone," "The Addams Family," "Charlie's Angels" or "CSI." Movie themes include "Creature from the Black Lagoon" or "Dracula" to "Pirates of the Caribbean," plus lots of novelty themes such as "Surf Champ," "Cover Girl" and "Roller Disco." The Center opens a new room in July for more events and games.

Related: Best Mimes, Musicians and More in San Francisco

playland not at the beach

10979 San Pablo Ave.
El Cerrito, CA 94530
(510) 592-3002

Playland-Not-at-the-Beach is an amusement arcade full of playable pinball games set on free play and arcade attractions from a bygone era, with artifacts from San Francisco's Playland At The Beach amusement park and Sutro Baths. Check out the antique carnival games, the mother and baby mummies, a Laughing Sal animated carnival lady or watch a live magic show. The museum runs a magic camp and hosts murder mystery parties plus rents out the facility.

museum of digital entertainment

The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (MADE)
610 16th St.
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 788-5702

The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (MADE) preserves video games and offers free classes and a summer camp. MADE provides playable games along with game development parties, lectures and events. The collection has more than 3,000 games. If you feel competitive, on Friday nights, MADE hosts tournaments. Video games have come a long way since Pong and PacWoman, Donkey Kong and Joust.

Related: Best Places To Visit This Summer In North Bay

takara sake museum

Takara Sake Museum
708 Addison St.
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 540-8250

Takara Sake Museum presents an historical sake-making process at its facility in Berkeley, near the waterfront and the bistros and shops of Fourth Street. Visitors may also taste in the tasting room. See which sake you prefer and judge its sweet or dry character, aroma and texture. See how each goes with salmon, sushi, sashimi, oysters, wine-cooked scallops, spare ribs, unagi and much more.

pardee museum

The Pardee Home Museum
672 11th St.
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 444-21

The Pardee Home Museum hosts tours, teas and special events, serving tea after a house tour of artifacts a tradition started by Mrs. Pardee.  She was the wife of Governor Pardee who helped during the 1906 earthquake. However, museum offerings have included a ghost investigation led by a medium descended from a Comanche psychic. The house, with its garden, redwood carriage house and water tower, stands across from Preservation Park. Peruse the period clothing and hike up to the cupola for a rooftop view. The museum hosts private teas and rents out the home for weddings, memorials and private parties.

Cindy Warner is a freelance writer and a San Francisco Bay Area native. Cindy has covered SF theater and opera for via her bicycle since January 2009. Check out her work on


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