When it’s raining outside, or your kids need a break from the same old park routine, check out some of these cool, retro indoor activities around the Bay Area. From pinball museums to one-of-a-kind indoor miniature golf courses, to board game cafes, there are plenty of places celebrating the entertainments of yesterday. Introduce your kids to some old-timey fun and indulge yourself in a bit of nostalgia.

photo: Kate Loweth


This spot near SFMOMA and Yerba Buena Gardens is the place to go when you want to up your table tennis game in style. SPIN is definitely not your mom's garage—it is a funky industrial space with rad graffiti art from Stikki Peaches on the walls and old-school jams playing. Open from noon until late, kids are welcome at SPIN until 9 p.m. when it goes 21+. You reserve table time in 30-minute increments and there's a menu full of shareable plates and cocktails to go along with your game.

Choose one of the two tables in their newly-opened patio area and you'll have your own space to lounge, eat and play. Don't miss new additions to the summer menu like the triple-stack of Cuban sliders and the matcha-dipped strawberries for dessert. Kids will also love the Hop Pop Chicken and Margherita Flatbread. Check their calendar for upcoming family-friendly events. 

690 Folsom St.
San Francisco, CA
Online: wearespin.com


photo: Anita Chu

Free Gold Watch

No, there are no gold watches here, but what you’ll find instead is a treasure trove of classic pinball and arcade games. This hidden-away gem is actually a print shop owned by an avid pinball machine fan. Most of the space is taken up by over 50 pinball games, many of them vintage. Don’t miss the domed hockey game in the back, or the arcade cabinet that plays over 500 video games, including Shinobi and Super Mario Bros.

1767 Waller St.
San Francisco, CA
Online: freegoldwatch.com

photo: Anita Chu

Subpar Mini Golf

The indoor miniature golf course with the best views in San Francisco. Located at one end of Ghirardelli Square, it looks out over the San Francisco Bay toward Alcatraz. The golf course itself is a tribute to San Francisco, with every hole modeled after a famous city landmark, from Lombard Street to the Golden Gate Bridge. See if you recognize them all. There’s also a Subpar in Alameda that has an electric car track too!

900 North Point St. #F-201 (in Ghirardelli Square)
San Francisco, CA

1511 Park St.
Alameda, CA

Online: subparminigolf.com

Playland Japan

This mini arcade in the Japantown Mall has some hard-to-find Japanese arcade games, such as Dance Dance Revolution, taiko drumming, and pachinko. The claw machines also offer some really cute plushie prizes. After you get your gaming fix, go across to Sophie’s Crepes for a  snack, and then Kinokuniya to check out their book and toy selection.

1737 Post St. Ste 323 (In the Japantown Mall)
San Francisco, CA

Gama Ride

This extensive modern arcade features tons of 3D/4D-style ride simulators, lots of interactive games good for younger kids and old school skee ball and air hockey tables. Best of all, it’s in Tanforan Mall, so you might even be able to get a little shopping done while the kiddies are entertained. Tanforan has a surprising number of other play options too, including a bounce house center and playland for younger toddlers, so it’s a good option to check out with your whole family.

1150 El Camino Real Ste 345 (In Tanforan Mall)
San Bruno, CA
Online: gamaride.net

Pacific Pinball Museum

This museum houses an incredible collection of over 90 pinball machines, some dating back to the 1940s. The best part is all of these machines are playable, making this one of the most fun and interactive museums you could take your kiddies to.  Admission fee gives you unlimited play on all the machines all day, no extra quarters needed, which is an incredible deal.

1510 Webster St.
Alameda, CA
Online: pacificpinball.org

photo: Anita Chu

Urban Putt

Definitely the most original miniature golf course around, each of the 14 holes is themed after a part of San Francisco, from the Mission to the Bay. There are Rube Goldberg-like contraptions, interactive elements and decorations everywhere you like. It’s an amazingly detailed fantasyland you’ll love exploring as much as your kiddos. There’s also a separate game room with skee ball and other arcade games and a full service upstairs restaurant. A great place for a party or date night too.

1096 S Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, CA
Online: urbanputt.com

High Score Arcade

If you’re missing the arcades of your childhood, you’ll be thrilled to find High Score Arcade. Owners Shawn and Meg have built an amazing collection of 80s arcade games that may bring a nostalgia-filled tear to your eye. The perfect place to introduce your kid to the favorite games of your childhood, from Pac-Man to Donkey Kong to Tron. $6 an hour for unlimited play on the machines, so no need to bring your quarters.

1414 Park St.
Alameda, CA

1051 B St.
Hayward, CA

Online: highscoresarcade.com

photo: The Game Parlour

The Game Parlour

Tired of Chutes and Ladders? The Game Parlour has a collection of over 800 board games, from old to new. You won’t run out of games to keep your kiddies entertained and challenged. $5 cover lets you stay and play as long as you want; since there’s no time limit, try arriving earlier on weekends before it fills up. The Game Parlour also offers food and drink—don’t miss their mochi waffles!

1342 Irving St.
San Francisco, CA
Online: www.thegameparlour.com

Campo di Bocce

Campo di Bocce captures la dolce vita of Italy in a classic Italian restaurant setting complete with covered bocce courts. It’s a great option for a meal out with the kids: enjoy some playing time with the littles, then sit down to pasta and pizza. The staff will give you a quick lesson on how to play but most kids pick up the basics very quickly.

4020 Technology Pl.
Fremont, CA

175 E. Vineyard Ave.
Livermore, CA

565 University Ave.
Los Gatos, CA

Online: campodibocce.com

photo: Kate Loweth


This spot combines high-end pub fare with vintage nostalgia and houses it inside an old bank in downtown Campbell. The walls are lined with arcade games and pinball machines with a four-player Pac-Man table game in the corner. You can also pull out a board game from dozens of options. The menu had BBQ pork sliders as well as more eclectic fare like the ahi shoyu poke salad. 

400 E. Campbell Ave.
Campbell, CA

—Anita Chu