In the long, unscheduled summers of our childhood, when unicorn posters peppered our walls, and our only form of exercise was getting up to change the channel on the tv, we lived for those rare occasions when our mother would give us a handful of quarters and send us off to local pinball arcade (presumably so she could smoke cigarettes, drink Tab and watch General Hospital uninterrupted). Take a stroll down memory lane and introduce your kids to the summers of your misspent youth when you step into the Pacific Pinball Museum in Alameda.
Go: Year-round, rain or shine.
Approximate travel time: Webster Street in Alameda is five minutes from downtown Oakland and about 20 minutes from Berkeley. Enter the island’s West End through the Posey Tube.
What to see: The four rooms filled with 90 pinball machines are easy to navigate with kids in tow. While it’s still a small setting, the museum’s grown a lot from the single room it occupied a decade ago. Yes, it’s been there that long! The front room hosts the oldest machines, including the first commercially available pinball machine manufactured with a coin slot and spring loader.
The pinball machines get more and more modern with each room, and you and the kids can read about each one to learn when it was made and what features you can look for. Over a dozen retro-style art murals covering the walls make for a festive setting, and era memorabilia that includes a jukebox playing the likes of The Drifters and The Platters set you back in time.
For Mexican food, Calafia Taqueria and Otaez Mexican Restaurant are located on the same street as the museum. Nearby East Ocean is a popular Chinese food spot with dim sum choices. Or try sitting on the back patio at Wescafe.
How to dress: Dress comfy. Big pockets aren’t necessary. All the machines are set on free play, so once you pay the admission fee ($15 for adults and $7.50 for kids 12 and under), you can have at ‘em. There is, however, a group of coined machines near the front entrance for those who’d rather not pay admission.
Need to know: Pacific Pinball Museum hosts birthday party packages, and a special party room is available, though you don’t need to rent out the whole museum if you want to throw a party. Tell your guests that parking is metered, but free after 6:00pm and on weekends. And, if you’re planning to bring over 20 guests give the museum a call ahead of time for a heads up!
Bonus: Don’t know how to play pinball? Head to the projector in the party room, where Pinball 101 plays daily. Interested in exploring more Bay Area pinball spots? Try the Musee Mecanique in San Francisco and Playland Not-at-the-Beach in El Cerrito.
Cost of trip: $20 for adults; $10 for kids under 12.
1510 Webster Street
Have you visited the Pacific Pinball Museum? Let us know in the comment section below your tips and tricks for visiting this Alameda hot spot.
–Renee Macalino Rutledge
photos courtesy of Pacific Pinball Museum’s Facebook page