In the International District of Seattle, there is a new museum to visit: The Seattle Pinball Museum! The Seattle Pinball Museum is part of the Storefronts Seattle initiative to revitalize that area. They get a three-month, rent-free storefront and try to make a go of it. We visited a few weeks ago.
It’s a pinball museum, so there are games through the ages, but it’s not a normal museum. It’s totally interactive! You can play all of the games. The oldest game in the museum is ‘Bumper,’ made by Bally 1936. You have to physically bump the table to move the ball around and score points. Despite my devotion and love for the game, I am a notably bad pinball player, but this was the worst I’ve ever scored. I’m surprised they kept making pinball games, because the Bumper is just too dang hard.
You can move through the evolution of the pinball game, seeing how certain features and game theories gained or lost popularity through time. There are some fine examples of the fantastic 1960s and 1970s games from the mass popularity era of pinball, and some newer machines with digital score screens, complicated ramps and goals. All of the machines are set on Free Play mode, and for your $5 admission fee, you can play as long as your supple wrists and flipper fingers can hold up. They even have an unlimited juke box with some truly stellar music so you can dj your own SPM experience. I want to share with you some of our faves, but this is only a fraction of what they have. I think this is the largest public collection of pinball machines in the Pacific Northwest. The machines are well maintained, too, so you can’t blame all your shortcomings on some worn out rubber bumpers.
Funland was like a pinball trip to an amusement park. It’s a 1968 Gottlieb machine with a unique spinner in the middle. I was really addicted to this game because the girl in the mod white dress with knee-high boots and a rifle is, well, kind of adorable.
This Wagon Train game is a 1960 Gottlieb. It’s like, if Oregon Trail were a pinball game except slightly more racist. Despite the baggage, the game is really fun. Where most pinball games have a painted or laminate game board, this one has a lot of visible wood in the background. It’s pretty.
Elton John Pinball was unfortunately out-of-order when we visited, but maybe next time? I heard that this game is in trivial pursuit.
My all-time favorite machine was the 1979 Bally Future Spa.
The future spa is a sort of fitness/sci-fi themed game, with lots of weight lifting and aerobics aesthetics. It’s a wide body machine with continuous background sound. I probably played at least 40 games on this machine in one single visit to the SPM. I couldn’t get enough.
Look how happy the future spa makes me! Deliriously happy. Filled with JOY! How much does one of these cost? I need one!!
For more info, check out the SPM facebook page. There’s a bubble tea place on the corner (Gossip) who will let you use their bathroom if you buy something. Bubble tea is almost the perfect fuel for hours of pinball, we discovered. Anyway, I highly recommend visiting the SPM. Since they don’t have their own permanent space, I’m not sure how long they will be around and unlimited pinball on historic machines is basically a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Despite the residual arm soreness from button mashing, this was epic. I have loved a lot of museums in my day (example: this photo of me at the Barbed Wire Museum in McLean,TX) but this might be my all-time fave. Walk, don’t run.