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We all have special things we like to do on our birthdays. When I turned 40, I asked my two brothers if they would like to join me on a tour of pinball museums and iconic pinball arcades in the United States. The agreed to join me on my trek.
My birthday pinball travels started in my hometown of Pittsburgh. We made another stop in Pennsylvania after that and then headed into the great American South.
Professional and Amateur Pinball Association World Headquarters
As I previously made mention, our first stop on my birthday pinball machine museum and iconic arcade I began in Pittsburgh. The adventure started at the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association World Headquarters.
This is an awesome and awe-inspiring place. There are hundreds of pinball machines set up at the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association World Headquarters, intended for tournament play.
The building in which the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association World Headquarters is located is intriguing in and of itself. It is a massive, 100-year old edifice.
I learned that two times a year, the doors open to the most highly regarded pinball players in the world. The World Pinball Champion is crowned at the headquarters on an annual basis through the tournament play organized by Professional and Amateur Pinball Association World Headquarters.
The center is the brainchild of committed pinball fan Kevin Martin. He opened the headquarters using his own collection. The first championship was held in the headquarters building in 2004.
Keep in mind that Professional and Amateur Pinball Association World Headquarters usually is not open to the public. I was lucky enough to begin my tour when one of the twice-annual competitions was in progress. These are the times in which the public is welcome into the building.
Pennsylvania Coin-Operated Gaming Hall of Fame and Museum
Our second stop on my birthday pinball museum tour was the Pennsylvania Coin-Operated Gaming Hall of Fame and Museum. This amazing place is inside a 10,500 square-foot former Dollar Store. This museum maintains a very large collection of over 400 vintage arcade games and pinball machines in working order. While at the museum, I learned that there is more to the place. There are an incomparable 1,200 other machines in storage awaiting restoration. This includes a significant number of pinball machines.
In addition to the sheer number of pinball machines and other arcade games, the museum is also home to some very rare items. The collection of pinball machines and other arcade games at the museum spans 70 years. It includes a machine of which only 10 were produced with only four remaining. Only one is playable, and that is located at the Pennsylvania Coin-Operated Gaming Hall of Fame and Museum.
Roanoke Pinball Museum
From Hopewell, we headed south to Virginia and the city of Roanoke for our visit at the Roanoke Pinball Museum. The Roanoke Pinball Museum is a fairly new facility, having opened its doors in 2015.
The Roanoke Pinball Museum has a solid collection of 50 pinball machines. They range in “age” from 1948 to the late 1990s. Each exhibit at the Roanoke Pinball Museum is fully playable.
A unique feature at the Roanoke Pinball Museum is a pinball machine known as Screwball. This machine dates back to 1948. It is one of the earliest pinball machines with flippers.
The Roanoke Pinball Museum does host competitions from time to time. These oftentimes coincide with the anniversary celebration of the founding of the museum.
Asheville Pinball Museum
Asheville, North Carolina
From Virginia, my brothers and I were off to North Carolina and the Asheville Pinball Museum. The Asheville Pinball Museum features 30 traditional, mechanical pinball machines. The museum is also home to about 20 classic video arcade pinball machines.
The Asheville Pinball Museum is located in the iconic, classic Battery Park Hotel in downtown Asheville. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A nice feature of the museum is that a flat entry fee not only gets you in the door but provides you access to all of the pinball machines. You don’t have to drop any quarters to play.
After our pinball machine museum and arcade your, my brothers and I headed off to Myrtle Beach for a couple of days. Although being at the shore is always nice, the time spent at the different pinball museums and related establishments made this special birthday trip truly memorable and magical.
Jessica Kane is a writer for The Pinball Company, the best online source for new, used, and refurbished pinball machines, arcade cabinets, and more!