Looking around today's Ocean Beach, it's difficult to visualize Playland and the surrounding areas as they once were. But there are plenty of reminders all around you.
Just south of here at Golden Gate Park's west entry stands the Dutch windmill, which was built in 1902 and renovated in 1982. It pumped water from underground to fill man-made lakes and aid in the park's construction.
To the north, the Cliff House exhibits historical photos and memorabilia. Built in 1909, it is a descendant of the original, which burned down in 1894, as did its replacement in 1907. Downstairs you'll find the Musée Mechanique, home to arcade games relocated from Playland and Sutro Baths, and a replica of the Fun House's infamous Laughing Sal (drop in some coins to hear her haunting howl). On the terrace, visitors can peer into the Camera Obscura, built in 1940. It is the largest optical device in the west, offering a revolving panoramic view of the surrounding landscape.
Sutro Baths, beyond the Cliff House, lost its popularity over time despite attempts to revitalize with new attractions. In 1966, owner George Whitney gave up and sold the property, which caught fire and burned during its demolition. Today, only the ruins remain as an exploration site for curious beachgoers.
The It's It, Playland's famous
ice cream and cookie sandwich — which the Whitney brothers invented — can still be purchased at most grocery stores.
And the Ocean Beach Terminal, where you now stand, once bridged the gap between Playland and a city that was miles of sand dunes away.
"This is the magic of Playland...you see, Playland is associated with all of our memories that are near and dear to our hearts. So when we think about Playland, we rekindle those feelings..."