It’s rare to find a place to spend the day that mom and dad can enjoy as much as the kids, but they’re out there. If you’re taking a trip to NorCal and looking for some family fun, make a stop at the Pacific Pinball Museum in Alameda. Parents can travel back in time and relive their childhoods as they finesse classic machines from their youth like Back to the Future – while the little ones battle against the bad guys, save the day, and compete for high score as they master games featuring some of their favorite action heroes like Iron Man. Get there early, since you pay a one-time entrance fee for a chance to play all day until your fingers give. No coins needed, the games are all on freeplay. How cool is that? Besides the obvious fun of playing the machines, the whole clan can enjoy the beauty of the iconic American games on display in the large warehouse known as the Lucky Ju Ju.
The curators of the Pacific Pinball Museum – who believe that each machine has a soul, yearning to be played – hold enormous passion for their machines. You can sense it as you walk through the endless rows of these works of art, especially the antiques. Not only is it a feast for your eyes, it’s a history lesson come to life when you observe the extremely rare Parlor Bagatelle – with its deep brown wood, stars, and bells – built in 1871. On any given afternoon, the noise from the pinball floor is reminiscent of a classic Vegas casino. With so many lights and whistles sounding off, you’ll think you’re in an old timey circus.
Not only are the games fun, they give you that great feeling of nostalgia – the way you felt when you were young. It’s cool to pass that along to your kids. These days, they spend most of their time staring at screens and swiping images with their fingers. Pinball machines are solid pieces of metal and wood that they can hold and shake–but not too hard, because they’ll “tilt” and put a premature end to the game. Watch the joy in their eyes as they pull that plunger and manipulate the flippers. They’ll shout with excitement upon hearing the sirens, bells, and booms, playing happily until it’s time to go home.