This blog post was updated on October 18, 2018.
Pinball has a long, strange, history in New York City. Although it’s a pastime that many associate with a simpler era, the truth is that pinball used to be illegal in many major cities – and New York was no exception. In fact, many legislators such as Fiorello La Guardia (yep – that La Guardia) thought it was a mafia-run racket designed to rob schoolchildren of their lunch money. This is especially odd considering that brass knuckles would have been so much more effective.
Luckily, thanks to a million-to-one shot, New York has since made an honest game of pinball. And while it may not be as omnipresent as it once was, there are still plenty of great venues where you can get a quick game in. Here are our favorites:
The Fifth Estate – This sometimes quirky, often classy Brooklyn bar has a little bit of everything – from jazz to live comedy and even burlesque. If you’re not distracted by any of the live entertainment, you can enjoy some old school pinball machines. While many New York establishments have pinball from the 1990s and 2000s, you’ll find some late 70s fare here. Star Trek, anyone?
Sunshine Laundry – Most people probably don’t look forward to laundry day. But then, most people don’t live near Sunshine Laundry. This honest-to-goodness Laundromat (with Brooklyn, you never know if a business is what it says it is) is the home of five classic pinball machine. You can work up a high score while your clothes work up some suds.
Reciprocal Skateboards – You don’t have to know what a kickflip is to play a few rounds at Reciprocal Skateboards – but it probably wouldn’t hurt. This store is both a world-class skate shop and the home of up to nine well-maintained pinball machines. Come learn about Bob Burnquist while you try to become the new champ on Revenge from Mars.
Satellite Lounge – While many pinball enthusiasts seem to prefer the classic, old school machines, the folks at Satellite Lounge have gone in the opposite direction. Here, you can play pinball iterations of some of the latest and greatest movie franchises. That means you can try your hand at Transformers, Avatar, and even the Christopher Nolan-era Batman machine – all while enjoying a drink from the bar.
Bar Great Harry – Not only does this bar boast one of the most impressive craft beer lists in the entirety of Brooklyn (which in and of itself is no small feat), but it also has a fine selection of pinball machines. What’s more, they actually encourage you take on the competition. If you get the high score on any of Bar Great Harry’s three pinball machines, you’ll get a cold, frosty craft brew – on the house.
Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list of every NYC venue with a pinball machine. But this will give you a good taste of where to find some of the best games in the city. And once you get confident in your skills – the big leagues are waiting.
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