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Q: Where is Playland-Not-at-the-Beach located?
A: We are located in the old Angelo's Market building at 10979 San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito, CA 94530. (Jefferson is the nearest cross street.) We are just north of Berkeley — 20 minutes from San Francisco. We offer free parking behind the museum.

If you use BART, we are an easy walk 5 blocks south of the El Cerrito Del Norte BART station on the west side of San Pablo Ave. (Turn left when you leave the station.)

AC Transit is right across the street from us. Please see our Playland-Not-at-the-Beach map for driving and walking directions.

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Q: When is Playland-Not-at-the-Beach Open?
A: Please check our Calendar Page for details and our most current hours. During the school year Playland-Not-at-the-Beach is open to the public every Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. We are also open during the week for pre–arranged Field Trips, School Visits and private events. We tend to be open on school holidays such as Memorial Day and MLK Birthday. In addition, by special advanced arrangement we can be open any night of the year for parties and events. Playland is open during the summer through Labor Day.

When not open daily Playland-Not-at-the-Beach is available 7 days a week for people to come by to view the site for potential parties. Just call (510) 932-8966 for a quick tour.

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Q: Do you take credit cards?
A: Yes, we accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express debit and credit cards.

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Q: What exactly is Playland-Not-at-the-Beach?
A. Playland-Not-at-the-Beach is a temperature-controlled 9000-square foot building chock-full of amazing things to see and do. There are 30+ pinball machines set on Free Play, arcade games, videogames, carnival games of skills where you can win prizes, penny arcades full of antique amusement devices, live magic shows, an amazing hand-carved miniature circus, side show acts, miniature dioramas, Fascination games, and historic exhibits with artifacts from the Sutro Baths and Whitney's Playland in San Francisco. Playland-Not-at-the-Beach is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit Museum of Fun. Designed and built entirely by volunteers, the 20+ interactive exhibits celebrate the magic and history of America's bygone amusements. Our goal is to educate newer generations about the bygone days and allow those who remember Whitney's Playland and the Sutro Baths the opportunity to recapture the glorious sights and sounds of that marvelous era.

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Q. I just found out about a couple of special events you had, and I am sorry to have missed out. Do you have a mailing list so I will know about future events. I have heard that you also have special private parties. How do I get invited?
A: We would love to send you our newsletter. You can sign up for it online.

Our newsletter will tell about what is happening at Playland-not-at-the-Beach as early as possible, you will then find out about all our special events and when tickets will be available. Many of our special events in our newsletter sell out before we announce them on the website or on the Internet.

On occasion we also do have some special private parties for people who have purchased our Multi-Visit Passes and for our Volunteers.

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Q. Do you have rides at Playland-Not-at-the-Beach?
A: No, alas, all our exhibits and attractions are bolted to the ground. Maybe some day in the future when we have another location, we may be able to put up some amazing antique amusement park rides for modern audiences to enjoy. But that's way off in the future.

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Q: Do I need to bring quarters with me to play all your pinball games?
A: All our 30+ pinball machines are on free play, along with our arcade machines and the carnival games. We have just 5 machines that require guests to use their own quarters — a bubble gum machine, Esmeralda the Fortune Teller, the Joy Wheel Prize Vending Machine, and a Crane Game we call the Diving Bell. We have also installed a soft drink machine that vends bottled water and soft drinks. The price for drinks is $1.00. Guests are still welcome to bring their own refreshments.

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Q: What is the price for a 2-year old child? I see that you have a price for Youths up to 14. But is there a young child's price?
We have deliberately not added a child's price because we would prefer to have a conversation with individual parents about the advisability of a child under 3 going through our museum. We have created the ad line that Playland-Not-at-the-Beach is for everyone 3 to 103 years old. For our guests under 3, Playland-Not-at-the-Beach might be a little intense, and we don't want to scare small children. Our rule of thumb is that if the child is afraid of clowns, then it might be better to take them to Children's Fairyland in Oakland (a fantastic place to visit, by the way!) or to Habitot in Berkeley. If a child is not afraid of clowns, then we leave it up to the parents to walk ahead to see if any of our "surprises" would be too scary for their children. Our haunted attractions (Dark Mystery, Laff in the Dark and soon The Haunted Manor) can easily be avoided. Let's face it — Laughing Sal scared a lot of us when we were kids at Playland in San Francisco!

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Q: Are you wheelchair accessible?
A: Absolutely! We welcome people with mobility issues, and our volunteers will gladly offer assistance for anyone enjoying our many attractions. We also have footstools for our younger guests who want a better view of the miniature circus or Santa's Village. Our restrooms are large and modern and can accommodate wheelchairs, and every exhibit was planned with turn around space.

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Q: Does Playland-Not-at-the-Beach have the original Laughing Sal?
A: To be accurate, there were over 250 original Laughing Sals. It was a product that was for sale out of a catalogue. Whitney's Playland at the Beach had multiple Laughing Sals. As one wore out, the Whitneys would replace it with a new one. In Northern California there are at least half a dozen Sals — the one from the John Wickett collection is at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the one at Musee Mecanique on Pier 45 is of mysterious origin, there is one in an antique store on the peninsula, and another is in a private collection in the San Jose area.

Playland-Not-at-the-Beach is the only place on the planet that we know of that has TWO Laughing Sals. One came to us from a collector in Ohio, the other was designed especially for us by sculptor Chuck Jarman — we call her Sinister Sal. On special occasions (such as our Haunted Museum) we have even let Psycho Sal out of her cage, but she's definitely not for the kids!

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Q: Can I use public transportation to get to Playland-Not-at-the-Beach?
A: Yes, the El Cerrito Del Norte BART station is 5 blocks away and AC Transit is right across the street.

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Q: What is parking like in the area?
A: We have a brand new parking lot with plenty of spaces, and it is totally free. If we ever get crowded there is also free parking on the side street (Jefferson) less than 100 feet from our building.

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Q: How long should I plan to stay when I visit your museum?
A: The average family stays about 2 hours, but a lot depends on the age of the guests. If you enjoy playing pinball, you might want to schedule more time since we have 3 arcades full of machines. If you want to watch additional historic footage in Laughing Sal's Theater, that will take more time. And you can play as long as you like in the Carousel Carnival and the Fascination games, and the longer you play, you can win more tickets to trade in for prizes!

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Q: Do you allow guests to come and go, in and out of the museum?
A: Yes, you can visit Playland-Not-at-the-Beach in the morning, leave to go get some lunch or take the toddler home for a nap, then return later in the day at no charge.

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Q: Does your museum serve snacks and soft drinks?
A: We do not have a food service license, but we have installed by popular demand a $1 vending machine that sells bottled water and soft drinks including ice tea, sugarless lemonade, Coke and Diet Coke. There there is a sandwich/donut shop right next door that is very affordable. Weinerschintzel Hot Dogs is one block away and Little Caesar's Pizza and Roma Pizza are within a few blocks. We do allow guests to leave the museum for food and return without paying. Guests are also welcome to bring their own food to eat in our Penny Arcade Party Room, assuming it has not been booked for a party. There are a number of decent sit down restaurants within 5 blocks.

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Q: Do you allow cameras in the museum?
A: Yes, Yes, Yes! And we enjoy getting copies of the pictures afterwards. It is really fun for us to see our museum through the eyes of our guests.

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Q: Is it true that your museum has a 3000-year old mummy?
A: Actually we have two mummies. The mommy mummy is called Princess Pity Potty. The baby mummy is named Porta Potty. As you might have heard, the princess was in the process of diapering her baby when the palace guards attacked the two of them. To this day the baby mummy still makes sounds as if it needs to have its diapers changed!!

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Q: How big is Playland-Not-at-the-Beach? I kept getting lost when I was there the other day. It's a good thing you give out maps!
A: When we were designing our space, we wanted to create the feeling of surprises around every corner. We also put things at odd angles and use a lot of smoke and mirrors. The building is actually 9000 square feet.

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Q: I thought one of the goals of Playland-Not-at-the-Beach was to be totally free all the time. Now you are charging admission. What gives?
A: When we started building Playland-Not-at-the-Beach in 2000, we altruistically thought our costs would be controllable since it was all volunteers doing it. Much to our amazement (and grief), city rules and regulations forced us to spend $128,000 to put in a firewall and another $150,000 to put in a brand new parking lot. Now we are in a position where we have to charge money just to pay our bills, even though we are almost all still volunteers. Our goal is still to include everyone in our merriment, so if you know of anyone (families, friends, neighbors) who would love to come spend a day with us but cannot afford it, please let us know and we will make sure they receive a free pass.

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Q: How long will your museum be open in El Cerrito?
A: We hope forever, but the truth is that we are dependent on two factors: finding enough people willing to donate their time as volunteers to help run the museum and bringing in enough money to stay open. You can help by telling your friends and neighbors how much fun you had during your visit.

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Q: Do you have an Annual Pass available for sale? I live a few blocks away, and I would love to come play in your 3 pinball arcades every weekend.
A: We do not have a season pass, but we do have a Multi-Visit Pass. One person can buy a pass for 6 visits and receive a large discount. The General Admission pass is only $ 60 (instead of $90), and the Youth / Senior pass is only $40 (instead of $60). An added incentive is that a Multi-pass holder gets 10% off all purchases in the Souvenir Shop. You may purchase the MultiVisit Pass at the Playland-Not-at-the-Beach box office or on this website using a credit card. Another bonus is the pass does not have an expiration date.

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Q: How do your Murder Mystery parties work?
A: Our events are customized according to the group holding the event. Most of our parties are about 3 hours long, and that includes time for the murder mystery, a magic show, as well as all our 30+ pinball machines set on Free Play, carnival games (where the guests win prizes) and the chance to view all the exhibits and view historic films.

Depending on what kind of murder mystery you want, we can design a game where the guests work in teams and have to go through the entire 9000 square foot building to retrieve clues hidden amongst the 20+ exhibits. Sometimes we have volunteers in costumes to spice things up or surprise the guests. The murder mystery can be spooky or just plain fun. The solutions really require some deductive thinking and combining all the clues to solve the riddles.

The party can start any time after 5:30 PM. We do not have a license to sell food or drinks, but you are welcome to bring anything you like including beer and wine. There is a large full kitchen available. Often for adult parties there is a potluck element and guests bring their favorite dishes to share, or you can have pizza delivered, or we can even suggest some caterers.

The cost for a party is $150 for 10 people, $300 for 20 people, and $10 for each additional person over 20 guests. We do however recommend that Murder Mystery parties book as "Exclusive Parties" for a better experience. The Exclusive Party guarantees that you are the only group at the Museum so we can insure the best Murder Mystery for your group, it also includes 20 guests.

If you have not yet visited our Museum of Fun, we suggest coming by for a brief tour. It is the perfect place for a Murder Mystery. Occasionally the lights even go out during such an event and guests are left with just flashlights!

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