Just a few miles east of the Las Vegas Strip, you’ll find a hidden gem. So hidden, some locals don’t even know it exists. Venture inside and you’ll find a place that takes you back and revives your inner child -- and all you need is a few quarters.
What is this place, you ask? It’s the Pinball Hall of Fame − where bells, bumpers and buzzers remind you of the arcades you grew up in.
Tim Arnold began collecting pinball machines when he was just 16 years old. Throughout his childhood, pinball was quite popular, especially considering that it was banned in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago because many associated it with gambling. Eventually, the ban was lifted in the 1970s, making pinball available to everyone. Over the years, Tim continued to collect and built up quite a collection of both pinball machines and vintage arcade games.
In the early 1990s, he and his wife, Charlotte, moved to Las Vegas, bringing with them a collection of almost 1,000 pinball machines. Not sure what to do with them after they arrived, Tim stored them in the tennis court in his backyard. Lucky enough for them, one of the joys about Vegas is not having to worry about rain too often.
Eventually, he moved the games into a warehouse and began “Fun Nights,” a night when the games were available to the public to enjoy. The goal was to raise enough money to eventually open the Pinball Hall of Fame, which became a reality in 2006.
You may think you’ve taken a step back in time as you walk through the doors, but that’s all part of its appeal. The interior consists of rows and rows of pinball machines with a collection of vintage arcade games mixed in, some that date as far back as the 1930s.
There’s a dim lighting throughout that enhances the glow of the pinball machines. The air is filled with the sounds of clinking coins, repeated echoes of the bells and chimes for the machines, lots of laughter and maybe even a few tears. As you make your way through the aisles examining all this place has to offer, you’ll begin to realize that the child inside of you is still alive and well.
What makes it special?
Ever see a pinball machine before it was formally known as pinball? Did you even know there was something before pinball, which helped to pave the way for its modern name?
If you didn’t, then you’re in luck. One of the interesting things about this place is that it houses an original pinball machine, owned by Tim and Charlotte, before it was formally known as pinball.
The game was JIGSAW and it was built in 1931, making it one of the oldest games in their collection. And the best part − it still works. The goal is to get the metal ball into each of the holes on the board and eventually complete the puzzle. Each hole corresponds to its own puzzle piece. But throughout the board are metal pins that direct your ball away from the holes – hence, the name pinball.
But this place offers much more than just pinball games. It’s the vintage arcade games that truly make it stand out. Sure we all know pinball machines are fun, but have you ever played Sega Basketball or the Magic Baseball Game or Goalie or, better yet, Fifth Inning? Have you even heard of these games?
If you haven’t, then it’s time you did.
Even if you don’t like pinball machines or arcade games, you’ll leave wishing you were able to play each and every game in the collection. You’ll feel more joy and potential anger in the few hours you spend there than you ever imagined you would. You’ll be baffled as you read the history of some and realize the age of others.
But the main reason you should visit is because it’s here where you are able to get a glimpse into the history of pinball. This is something that you won’t be able to find anywhere else, as it’s here that the golden age of pinball is still alive and kicking. Need we say more?
Pinball Hall of Fame
1610 E. Tropicana Avenue
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Open 7 days a week, 11a-11p