Originally published in Skill Shot 24, June 2012
Seattle is a great city for pinball. It’s also a great city, period. Here are some ideas of where to go and what to do in and around town, pinball and otherwise.
BALLARD. With a selection of 13 pins (many you can’t find elsewhere), amazing ice cream, and some of the best beer prices around ($2 cheap, $4 good), Full Tilt Ballard has quickly become a gamer hotspot. The machines are in excellent shape and each one is armed with cupholders, but keep in mind, kids often leave ice cream streaks and smudges on the glass. Centrally located, FT is within walking distance of other good Ballard spots. Just down Leary is Card Kingdom/Cafe Mox, where you can buy board games and card games and then play them in the cafe nextdoor over food and drinks! Along Market you’ll find Sonic Boom and Bop Street Records, both excellent destinations for audiophiles. Ballard Ave has a few decent options for food and drinks, but can be crowded and annoying. Skip it and get a cheap pint and a slice at Snoose Junction Pizza while playing Monster Bash or World Cup Soccer 94. Just wash your hands first! (Kayla)
(editors note: Snoose Junction closed for business on 5/31.)
FREMONT. Add-a-Ball Amusements is located in quirky Fremont just north of downtown. There are a variety of machines, ranging from electro-mechanical (Surf Champ) to solid-state (Bride of Pin-bot) to dot-matrix display (Twilight Zone). Several classic arcade games also share the rooms of this converted scooter repair shop. The owners Travis & Brad are usually on the premises, keeping the pins in working order or tending the bar, which features drafts and a rotating selection of cans and bottles. There’s even a microwave popcorn vending machine! The pinball is affordable (25 or 50 cents per game), and there is a taco truck in the parking lot. Not your average arcade! (4th Place Andy)
While you’re in Fremont, also check out Brouwer’s with beer galore and the gnarly Fremont Troll under the bridge, have your photo taken with a statue of Lenin and eat a messy gyro at Sinbad’s. If you love chocolate, stuff your face with samples at Theo Chocolate Factory. El Camino has fantastic margaritas; you can drink them on the huge back patio all year long.
SEATTLE CENTER/LOWER QUEEN ANNE. So you’re at Seattle Center. What is there to do besides dance in the fountain or eat mall food at Center House? Why not head over to 5th Ave and check out The Funhouse before it closes! They have 4 pins, including a Funhouse. It’s a divey punk rock space and a Seattle music institution that must be experienced before it’s gone. Speaking of experience and music, across the street is the Experience Music Project (EMP), a museum for music nerds. If you’re more of a science geek, the Pacific Science Center is right there too. And on Denny, there’s Bandits. They have Cactus Canyon! Over on 1st and Queen Anne, you can find Cafe Mecca and Floyd’s. Both have pinball machines and great bar food. Ozzy’s on Mercer has nightly karaoke, Pagliacci boasts “Seattle’s Best Pizza,” and Jabu’s on Roy Street has a newly renovated game room with 2 pins and at least one more on the way. Also on Mercer: a KFC/Taco Bell location to satisfy all of your Locos Tacos desires. (Bernard)
BELLTOWN. Nestled in between downtown and Seattle Center, Belltown is one of the arts and entertainment hotspots of the city. For pinball players Shorty’s is the center of the action. Their large pinball collection (17) contains the newest Stern pins like TRON and Transformers as well as classics like Speakeasy and The Champion Pub. The punk rock atmosphere has stiff drinks, a seedy circus motif and tasty hot dogs (including veggie dogs). Hot dogs are the apparent late night food of choice in Belltown – they’re everywhere! The street vendors are almost as numerous as the crack dealers. It’s a bit shady at night, but don’t let that stop you. This is one of the easiest neighborhoods to hail a cab. Nearby, The Crocodile is a good place to catch both national and local rock acts, while Tula’s brings the jazz. Across the street, Bedlam Coffee is one of the favored independent coffee shops in the area. Belltown is also dotted with other small shops and art galleries, including punk record store Singles Going Steady. (Gordon)
DOWNTOWN. Gameworks is a massive arcade/restaurant/bar in the thick of the city at Pike and 7th. A great break from downtown shopping, Gameworks focuses on newer, flashier arcade games, so expect bright lights and moving pieces. If you’ve got an itch for gun games or DDR, they’ve got you covered. Next, head west to the water. After the Space Needle, Pike Place Market is Seattle’s most iconic landmark. Some locals take it for granted, but that’s their loss. It’s a bustling, vibrant open-air market with artisanal cheese makers and bakeries, great regional produce, and quirky and charming stores. Check out the Crumpet Shop, Metzger’s Maps, the Market Magic Shop, and the Gum Wall, or have a drink in Post Alley. There’s more than you have time for.
The waterfront has a million great diversions like the aquarium, Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, and soon even a ferris wheel! In the middle of it all is the Seattle Waterfront Arcade, complete with skee-ball, air hockey, a ticket-based prize booth, a carousel, and a few new Stern pins. (Graham)
Don’t Ride the Ducks.
INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT/CHINATOWN. In the heart of the International District/Chinatown (yes, we call it both) lies the Seattle Pinball Museum. Owned and operated by Charlie and Cindy Martin, the Seattle Pinball Museum is an essential visit, boasting the city’s largest year-round collection of pinball. The games span over 6 decades! Two years ago, SPM opened with about a dozen games and has grown to 40+. At SPM, you pay a cover, and everything is on free play – a relief for quarter-strapped beginners and heaven for pinball aficionados. While in the neighborhood, walk 10 feet in any direction and you’ll find Chinese or other Asian dishes. I recommend hitting Jackson St for a tasty and filling banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich) for $3 at Sun Bakery. Uwajimaya is an Asian supermarket the size of a city block that must be seen to be believed. The ID can get pretty seedy at night, but epic karaoke at Bush Garden is worth it any night of the week.
Pioneer Square has cool architecture, Underground Tours, Ghost Tours, Magic Mouse Toys, antique shops, art galleries galore and standup acts at the Comedy Underground. If you look extra hard (and keep a Skill Shot on hand), you might even find some pinball. (Graham)
GEORGETOWN. This neighborhood is dominated by the towering brick complex that once housed the Rainier Brewery – now converted to artist studios and light industrial work spaces. Art, metal, beer and pinball define Georgetown. This is the most dense cluster of businesses with pinball that Seattle has to offer: seven locations all within a half mile. The current gem is located at The Mix: Data East’s 1991 “Star Trek” — Beam me up! Some non-pinball highlights include: Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery (publisher of critically acclaimed, independent, and fringe comics); Georgetown Brewing Company (makers of the addictive Manny’s Pale Ale, a microbrew almost universally available in bars across Seattle); and the Trailer Park Mall (yes, vintage goods all displayed in and outside classic motor homes). If you’re in Seattle on June 9th, you can’t miss the annual Georgetown Carnival. This is not your average carnival: power tool races, The Freakatorium, side-shows, music, beer garden, and tons of mind-bending art. (Nosebleed)
TACOMA. From downtown Seattle it only takes 30 minutes by car and about an hour via bus or train to get to Dorky’s in Tacoma, possibly the biggest arcade in Washington state. Tons of pins and arcades to play as well as a HUGE beer selection and some damned tasty foods. Family friendly during the day with an adult atmosphere at night that occasionally includes live music, Dorky’s has something for everyone. Once you manage to drag yourself away, you can wander down to one or all three art and history museums on Pacific Avenue, or cross the Chihuly Bridge of Glass for free. There’s Hell’s Kitchen a block from Dorky’s to catch a punk or metal show and Poison Apple nearby offers pop culture and kitsch – well worth checking out. You can also grab the free light rail to Freighthouse Square for more boutiques and eats or catch bus route #1 and poke around all the cafes and shops (record stores galore!) on 6th avenue. (Kayla)
Look for us to update this article in the near future!