The Asheville Pinball Museum has over 30 vintage tables and more than 20 classic video arcade games to admire, but that’s not even the best part. Located in the old Battery Park Hotel in downtown Asheville, the Museum makes its visitors a pretty sweet deal: one entry fee to let you in the door, and the flipper, buzzer, flashing world inside can be your pinball playground, no quarters needed.
There is another way in, and that one is free. If you just want to have a look around, you’re welcome to watch the other Pinball Wizards and learn about the Museum’s collection, some of which date back to the 1940s. The oldest ones aren’t for play, but tables from the 1960s onward are still in operation.
Each machine in the collection features a plaque with its date of production and its place in pinball history, a history that included a ban in many parts of the United States as late as the 1970s. Some officials saw the pastime as no more than games of chance, not games of skill. If you could “win” by simply letting a silver ball bounce around some bumpers, that was seen as gambling. And truth be told, in the early years it didn’t take a whole lot of skill. The industry’s solution was to add flippers, which came about in the late 1940s. Still, in many places it took many more years before the bans were lifted.
The Museum’s home, the old Battery Park Hotel, is on the National Register of Historic Places. It went up in 1924 as a replacement for the old, old Battery Park Hotel, a Queen Anne style beauty that was torn down to make way for the new, old hotel’s 14 story tower. In the 1980s it was converted to senior housing in the upper floors, with commercial and restaurant space on the bottom – including a spot for the Museum.
In the rear of the Museum, a collection of original Golden Age arcade cabinets are lovingly kept in working order, with plaques of their own detailing each game’s significance to gaming history.
Some of the machines are for sale, so think about how you might fit one into your den. With table themes ranging from the Addams Family to the Harlem Globetrotters, you just might find one that suits your décor – if not your “Crazy Flipper Fingers”.
Know Before You Go
The Asheville Pinball Museum is at 1 Battle Square, across the street from the Grove Arcade in downtown Asheville. Hours are Monday 1pm to 6pm, closed on Tuesdays (they need time to repair and tweak all those machines!), Wednesday, Thursday & Friday from 2pm to 9pm, Saturday noon to 9pm, and Sunday 1pm to 6pm. Admission is free to just look. To play the games, admission is $15 for adults and $12 for kids 10 and under. It can get pretty crowded, especially on weekends. If the Museum is full you can put your name on the waiting list (they don’t take reservations).