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Pinball Wizard

Posted by Johnine Larsen on September 27, 2017
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Tucked away in the International District/Chinatown lies Seattle’s most interactive museum: The Seattle Pinball Museum. More than fifty pinball machines span the entire history of pinball, from rickety games as old as 1934 to flashy moderns machines. The Hobbit, Star Wars, Alien—every major franchise seems to have adopted an alternate life in this world of pinball. Visitors can come for a few minutes or a few hours. The museum offers unlimited games for $15/person.

It’s a noisy place, but not obnoxiously so. The sound of pinball machines mix together like a bizarre, disjointed symphony—like something you’d hear in a casino, only without the smoke. And a lot less expensive, too. The museum sells snacks, vintage sodas, craft beer, and cider (every pinball machine comes with a cupholder), so you get a complete experience. This isn’t any dry museum walkthrough—the Pinball Museum is meant to be enjoyed.

The Seattle Pinball Museum opened in 2010 as an unconventional experiment. From their website:

During our search for an affordable venue, we came across a program called Storefronts Seattle. Storefronts Seattle is a program that pairs empty storefronts & juried artists to revitalize a neighborhood. Chinatown & Pioneer Square were the first neighborhoods in the program for Storefronts Seattle. An application was submitted and ten juried artists were selected. The Seattle Pinball Museum was chosen as a creative enterprise. The initial grant was for a three-month stint at a vacant storefront in Seattle’s Chinatown / International District. Storefronts granted us an extension of five months and then Seattle Pinball Museum transitioned to a standalone, independent business in June 2011.

The museum changes its collection of games regularly, and it has mechanics on hand to fix whatever inevitably breaks on these pieces of unconventional history. When I stopped in to take a look, a mechanic had one machine open, and I got a glimpse into the inner workings. Their current list of pinball machines is available here.

Visitors can choose between two ways to sample the pinball machines: a single-entry pass, good for one extended entrance, or a multi-entry pass for those who want to interrupt their gaming with ventures throughout the International District. Kids can visit for a reduced price, too:

  • Single-entry Adult: $15
  • Single-entry Child (ages 7-12): $12
  • Multi-entry Adult: $20
  • Multi-entry Child (ages 7-12): $17

The museum is open every day but Tuesday:

  • Monday: Noon – 6 p.m.
  • Tuesday: Closed
  • Wednesday: Noon – 6 p.m.
  • Thursday: Noon – 6 p.m.
  • Friday: Noon – 10 p.m.
  • Saturday: Noon – 10 p.m.

Seattle is filled with bizarre secrets like the Pinball Museum. It’s part of why I love this city so much—oddities hidden all around, and no end to the quirks this city has to offer!