One of the benefits of walking a city is discovery. I’m not claiming this as a great insight, as it is a trope of most travel writers. And while it may be a cliche, it is also a fact, and one, sadly, that most visitors ignore in a mad dash to check off as many sites as possible. Even in San Francisco, a city I’ve lived in for all of my adult life, I’m grateful I can still find something unexpected and new.
In this case–pinball. I was out walking several months ago and took a turn down a street I usually pass on my way to Haight St. And there I found a pinball parlor. A fair amount of my youth was spent spending my allowance and newspaper route money on pinball. I got pretty good. Not hustler good, but skilled enough for a satisfying frequency of winning free games.
Free Gold Watch (yes, that’s the name) is located a block away from Haight St, and across the street from Golden Gate Park, and 5 blocks away from InoVino, my regular Friday night wine bar.
There are a variety of machines, but my favorites are in a room devoted to vintage games. The older machines are not overloaded with lights, bells, whistles, and traps like the newer models, and the angles aren’t as steep.
Fun for the whole family. If you have kids who haven’t played pinball, this is a good opportunity to introduce them to a possibly lifelong habit.
San Francisco is the only city in the world with cable cars. What people sometime mistake for cable cars are electric trolleys or street cars. The big difference is a cable car doesn’t have an engine. It’s a box with wheels. What gets it up and down the hills is it has a grip, and that grip grabs the moving cable under the street. It’s like grabbing a tow line at ski resort.
From a platform inside you can the machinery that moves the cable under the streets.
There are four cables for the three cable car lines. That’s because the Powell line splits and takes riders to Hyde St or Taylor St on Fisherman’s wharf. The California St. line is continuous. Where ever they end, they all start here, winding out in their miles long loops.
To see the machinery is to truly appreciate what simple yet amazing technology the cable cars employ. It is virtually unchanged since 1873, except instead of steam engines powering the machines, it is now electric. It will give you an enlightened experience when riding a cable car.
There is also a museum about the history of the cable cars, and of course a gift shop, which actually has cool stuff.
You should visit because there is no other place like it in the world. And best of all, it’s free. Bring the family because the kids will like it, and if they don’t, no matter. You haven’t spent a dime. But they’ll like it. It feels like you’re backstage, looking at secret things. It’s a little noisy, not too much, just enough to let you know something special is going on.