As the Museum of Pinball puts it “Pinball doesn’t need to be SAVED – it needs to be SAVORED!”
There are many amazing pinball locations across the United States but none can touch the scale of the Museum of Pinball in Banning, California. If pinball was born in a pizza parlor, raised in a bar, and went to school in a bowling alley, it has grown up and gotten a real job at the Pinball Museum.
The museum, which opened in 2013, claims the title of the largest pinball arcade in the world. It is set up inside a 1959 Deutsch Co. warehouse once used for aerospace and defense manufacturing. While it may seem like a step down to go from aerospace to pinball, the industrial setup of the warehouse turns out to be quite useful for the museum. The 600 pinball machines and 300 other arcades draw a huge amount of power but the building, which can supply 480 volts of electricity, has no trouble keeping up.
The space was created by one-time arcade owner John Weeks who began collecting machines in 2004 and originally planned to open a game bar in LA. After struggling to make it work, Weeks set his heights higher, he decided to build the biggest arcade in the world. Among the hundreds of machines are some particular novel ones. These include a Hercules, a huge pinball machine that uses cue balls in place of pinballs, and Joust, which is a two-person head-to-head, player vs. player pinball machine. The oldest game in the collection is from the 1840s and contains literal pins. There are also numerous “electro-mechanical” machines that form an odd sort of hybrid of mechanical pinball workings and video game-like displays.
The museum isn’t currently open for drop-ins. As the electricity to just run the machines costs $1,500 the museum currently only opens for special events. Rather than charging per game (which comes along with pricey licensing fees to the game manufacturers), the museum charges an admission fee. Set up as a non-profit, all profits are donated to charity.
In 2015 the museum was awarded a Guinness World Record for the largest number of people, 331 of them, playing pinball simultaneously. It also holds regular pinball competitions where over 3,500 people came to compete for cash prizes. The museum is also surrounded by five acres of trees.
Update: The Museum of Pinball has closed.
Know Before You Go
Located a little over an hour from Los Angeles and Orange County, near Palm Springs in an empty area of Banning, just south of the I-10 freeway.