10 Seattle Pinball Arcades to Spark a Love Affair with Seattle (and Pinball, of Course)
Which came first, Seattle’s association with subcultures or its status as a pinball hub?
It’s a trick question: they really go hand-in-hand. Seattle is a destination for pinball arcade lovers – a national pinball hotspot where the game has a scandalous history, a diverse array of communities keeping the game alive today, and arcades full of pinball games rarely seen anywhere else.
Seattle’s approach to tolerating vice during prohibition made it a national home for pinball. Before the advent of flippers in the 1930’s, pinball was a gambling machine – a game of chance banned outright in cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Pinball was only tolerated in Seattle under heavy regulation and taxes – and a nod from scandalous law enforcement officials willing to look the other way for a price.
Seattle's speakeasies and seedy nightclubs became pinball’s home, and its existence in prohibition’s underworld led to pinball rackets serious enough to bomb each others’ businesses. In the 60’s, “pinball king” Ben Cichy “accidentally drowned” just before testifying against local law enforcement in a pinball bribes scandal. Crime syndicates controlled Seattle's pinball parlors all the way into the 1970’s when government officials were finally indicted for taking bribes from pinball proprietors.
Today, pinball’s speakeasy roots are still apparent in Seattle, though the subculture has gone more mainstream in the city. Pinball is now a strong part of what gives Seattle its vibe – to visit Seattle’s pinball arcades is to visit Seattle.
If you're lucky enough to experience Seattle, Washington through its favorite game, here are 10 popular pinball locations and arcades to play in:
Ice Box Arcade
- Address: 615 NW Bright St. Seattle, WA 98107
- Pinball machines on location: 33
You're invited to Seattle’s best backyard party at The Ice Box Arcade. You can bring your dog, chill on the patio, grill a couple of hot dogs, drink a cold beer, and play pinball on a large collection of well-maintained pinball games, including all of the most popular modern tables plus a few classics from pinball eras past. The Ice Box has plenty of video games (including Killer Queen), plus shuffleboard, pool, and air hockey. This barcade has a full-service bar and a busy events calendar with live music, stand-up comedy, open mics, karaoke, and pinball tournaments.
- Address: 2126 2nd Ave Suite A, Seattle, WA 98121
- Pinball machines on location: 30
Jupiter Bar (Gameroom) is an artsy dive bar arcade in Belltown with isles of the latest pinball favorites, plus classics in its “Bally Alley,” which is capped off by Slugfest and Star Trek. There’s a pong table, a whole room dedicated to Killer Queen, and a postcard vending machine so you can write home about it. Food is by Situ Tacos, a Lebanese-Mexican pop-up known for its tacos.
- Address: 315 N 36th St. Seattle, WA 98103
- Pinball machines on location: 23
Formerly a secret pinball speakeasy, Add-A-Ball is worth visiting just to scope out the quirky decor. Located in the Fremont area across from Brouwers on the alley, Add-A-Ball is no longer hidden but still such a gem that it gets packed enough with pinheads to wear away the floor in front of the most popular machines. There are two floors of video arcade games and glorious old pinball machines like Bad Cats, Party Animal, and Radical! Just grab a beer while you wait your turn.
Georgetown Pizza and Arcade
- Address: 5513 Airport Way S, Seattle, WA 98108
- Pinball machines on location: 21
Pizza and pinball in an 80’s style arcade. What more do you need? Youngsters and the young at heart will love this winning combination at Georgetown Pizza and Arcade. It’s a relatively new spot, but the pinball collection includes some pretty cool older games like Xenon and Eight Ball, and there’s plenty of pizza and fun for the entire family.
Crave 80's Arcade Bar
- Address: 8628 36th Ave NE #100, Marysville, WA 98270
- Pinball machines on location: 17
Rat your bangs and don your best stonewash jeans – the 80’s are back over in Marysville at Crave 80’s arcade bar. Is there an exact replica of your mom’s living room back when Reagan was president? Check. Boom box on the wall? Check. Is the menu in a Trapper Keeper? Indeed it is. See? It isn’t too late to go back! Come grab a beer and play all your favorite arcade games and pinball machines from the 80’s. Be sure to try the world-famous stuffed puffins: hot doughnuts filled with ice cream. Tell your mom you’ll be out past curfew tonight!
- Address: 2306 California Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98116
- Pinball machines on location: 18
Admiral Pub is an LGBTQ+ friendly neighborhood sports bar in west Seattle with darts, skeeball, ping pong, board games, and an awesome lineup of pinball machines. Local pinball enthusiasts regularly host tournaments and leagues here, and Admiral also hosts the occasional drag show.
- Address: 6301 24th Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107
- Pinball machines on location: 16
Olaf’s is a dive bar and live music venue in the Ballard neighborhood – a hip waterfront neighborhood in Seattle where Nordic and maritime roots run deep. These sailors literally sculpted a vagina room in which to play classic and modern pinball machines – the entranceway births your game. Also, the food is excellent, the rotating beers always please, and the staff is as charming as the artwork.
- Address: 2316 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98121
- Pinball machines on location: 16
If you’re not afraid of clowns, you’ll love Shorty’s – the original pinball bar. Shorty’s is circus-and-Coney-Island-themed, featuring old-school arcade games like Joust and Galaga, and a rotating lineup of pinball machines. Shorty’s is probably the only place in the world where it is acceptable to set a drink on a pinball table – the booth’s table, not the cabinet tables. You’ll see.
Tik Tok's Workshop
- Address: 1216 Sylvan Way Bremerton, WA 98310
- Pinball machines on location: 14
Tik Tok’s Workshop in Bremerton is a pinball arcade and steampunk bar where the owners are the local repair guys, so you know these machines are always pristine. Tik Tok’s pinball lineup is a rotating collection with modern machines, but they also like to provide older pins that you may have never played and won’t find anywhere else. The owners work to grow the local pinball community by holding training events as well as walkthroughs of individual games and will even help familiarize you with the internal working of a pinball machine and give you basic troubleshooting pointers. Tik Tok’s still a bar, so patrons must be 21 and up.
Northwest Pinball Collective (Sanctuary of the Silver Ball)
- Address: 1120 North 97th St. Seattle, WA 98103
- Pinball machines on location: 24
The Sanctuary of the Silver Ball is the Northwest Pinball Collective’s membership-based community space in Seattle. The Sanctuary holds a rotating selection of 20 free-play pinball machines accessible for members, as well as tournaments, classes, and repair parties.
- Seattle Pinball Museum in Seattle, WA
- 8 Bit Arcade Bar in Renton, WA
- The Triple Knock in Tacoma, WA
- Another Castle: Arcade Edition in Edmonds, WA
- Waterland Arcade in Des Moines, WA
If you’ve played pinball in Seattle, tell us about your favorite place to play!
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