He’s A Pinball Wizard – There Has Got to be a Twist

One of my stand out teen memories is playing on a girls’ volleyball team and going out to eat as a group before or after the games. Because if you know me at all, you’ll know I am all about the food and not the competition. One particular time, we went to a pizza parlor. I don’t remember the pizza, but I do remember playing Ms. Pac Man in the back of the restaurant. I also remember a young man who finished playing right before I did. But he didn’t put his initials into the high score column at the end of his game. So I walked to his table to tell him in my most flirtatious yet squeaky 13-year-old voice that he’d forgotten to put in his initials, and he told me, in a deep, and dare I say sexy, musical voice (that I can clearly remember 38 years later), “put in yours.” I swooned my way back to Ms. Pac Man and did just that.

I’m sure you’re wondering how this relates in any way to travel. Fair point. But I did get to play Ms. Pac Man recently, at an arcade bar in Portland, and all the memories came flooding back. There were no men with sexy, musical voices nearby (sorry Bob), but I got to play my favorite video game, and drink a beer at the same time. How fun is that? Quarter World Arcade, on Hawthorne Boulevard in Portland, Oregon, is a great place to spend an evening. Bob, our daughter Sarah, her boyfriend Harry, and I played a few buckets of quarters on old video games and classic arcade games too.  We took turns competing in basketball Pop-A-Shot, Ms. Pac Man and Pac Man, and Space Invaders, to name a few. The quarters went just as fast as the beers.

Then, while passing through Las Vegas recently, Bob and I stopped with his sister and her husband at the Pinball Hall of Fame. On the outskirts of the Las Vegas Strip, this 10,000 square foot warehouse space has more than 150 pinball machines, all fully operational and all available to play. Some date from the 1950s, while the “newest” are from the 1990s. They range in price from $.25 to $1 per game. It’s dark inside this gaming hall, but shouldn’t a Pinball Hall of Fame be dark? I played an old wooden baseball arcade game, a similarly old bowling one, and many others too. 

Both Quarter World and the Pinball Hall of Fame seem like they are run by people who enjoy old-fashioned video and arcade games. I don’t guess that either place is making money hand over fist, but in both places, the star of the show is definitely the games. If you’ve got some time on your hands in Portland or Vegas, and enjoy a good video or arcade game, I’d encourage you to check these places out. And if you hear a sexy musical voice playing Ms. Pac Man, please let him know I’m no longer available, so he’ll have to put his own initials into the high score column.


Both QuarterWorld and The Pinball Hall of Fame are free to enter, but be prepared to drop some change on the machines.

QuarterWorld is all ages until 8pm, but then after it’s 21 and older.