Pinball Hall of Fame: The Most Fun You Can Have for a Quarter

Pinball Hall of FameThe Pinball Hall of Fame is located in a large nondescript warehouse building at 1610 East Tropicana Avenue. There are easily a hundred pinball machines here, new and old, as well as a few vintage video arcade games. It’s like the pinball arcade you dreamed of when you were a kid. There is even a coin operated fortune teller and a “Peppy the Clown” musical puppeteer.

According to their website, this interactive museum is completely non-profit. They spend no money on advertising, heck they didn’t even spend money erecting a sign out front! Any profits above and beyond basic maintenance and operating costs are donated to the Salvation Army. This is clearly a labor of love.

Popcorn Machine at Pinball Hall of Fame 25 centsThe space is pretty basic. It’s a warehouse. Floors are cement, a plain drop ceiling hides wires, girders and pipes. Food and drink are available in the form of cold soda, candy and hot popcorn – which are sold from old fashioned vending machines for just a quarter or two.  Much like the nearby casinos, the only flashing lights and ringing bells come from the machines themselves.

Yes! You read me right, the machines are working. All of them. You can change your bills in for quarters and play any one you like. They work like they did when they were new – every light, every sound effect. “Hey Chucky, quit playing with the clock!” begged the clown in my “Funhouse” machine, plastic eyes darting around trying to follow the ball. Twenty years melted away while I played.

Dr Who Pinball Machine Information CardIt’s like an electromechanical museum, where they actually let you touch and play with stuff. Many of the machines have handwritten cards attached offering the history of the machine, numbers produced, etc. There are rare machines like the Gottlieb “Canada Dry” machine, released in 1976 as a promotional item, and available only in Europe. There are antique machines like Bally’s 1947 pitch and bat game “Heavy Hitter”. There are not only traditional pinball and pitch and bat machines spanning generations, there are also viewing galleries, shooting galleries and other historic electromechanical machines as well.

Target Roll Electromechanical Craps MachineIf you are a fan of the game of craps you definitely need to check out the Bally “Target Roll” machine. This machine was released in 1959 after it became illegal to sell gambling machines in all but a couple of US states. Cleverly disguised as a harmless pinball game, this machine is actually an electromechanical crap table! Roll a 7 or 11 on your come-out roll and the machine knocks loudly to signal that you should be paid. Roll 2, 3 or 12? Game over. Roll any other number and you have to match it. If you match, it knocks again and you start over, if you 7 out it’s game over. The “score” is random, simply there to fool the authorities. It’s brilliant!

There is also an area to the far left of the building where machines are repaired and restored. Peek here for a preview of what new games might be available soon. Last time I was in they were working on some interesting looking machines like “Safe Cracker” and “Alien Dunk.” I can’t wait to try them out.

Pinball Machines at the Pinball Hall of Fame Las VegasIf you’re old enough to remember pumping quarters into a favorite machine, they probably have it here. Drop a quarter in your favorite game – it’ll likely last longer and bring more smiles here than at any of the casinos down the street. It’s cheap, it’s nonprofit and it’s a chance to relive your childhood. It’s the most fun you can have in Vegas for a quarter, short of winning a jackpot.

Peppy The Clown Coin-Op MarionetteTips:

  • Check out their website (below) for a full list of games.
  • Quarters are available from a change machine inside, no need to bring your laundry money.
  • Unlike many places in Vegas that are open 24/7 (love that!) the Pinball Hall of Fame is only open 11am-11pm, midnight on Friday and Saturday.
  • If you can’t make it to the Pinball Hall of Fame, you can still play some of their machines. A few of their machines are on loan to the Riviera Casino, where they can be played 24/7.
  • You can bring the kids here, but you can’t just drop them off. Kids under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Website: www.pinballmuseum.org
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Rick’s Restorations: Reality TV, Take Two?

Rick Dale's Truck parked outside Rick's RestorationsNot long after Rick’s Restorations got their very own television show (American Restoration) they packed up their shop and moved closer to downtown Las Vegas – into a new, larger shop at 1112 South Commerce Street, a somewhat industrial area a short drive from the Fremont Street Experience. The new space has a decent sized lot out front for visitors to park, a room for each of the steps of restoration, a big yard for storing big stuff, and yes, a gift shop. Like Gold and Silver Pawn, they also have some History Channel merchandise for sale, but it’s not quite as plentiful or as in-your-face.

Brettly's Truck parked outside Rick's RestorationsRicks_Restorations-yardWhen I arrived there were no lines out front. There were half a dozen cool restored and rodded out cars in the lot, including Brettly’s truck, which looks even better in person than on television. Inside there weren’t a lot of people around. After a few minutes of browsing the shop, checking out some vintage coin-op machines and slot machines that were restored for the show, I was approached by a staff member who offered a tour.

The tour took about 15 minutes. The guide was personable and funny. He showed us the workshops and some more items from the show, adding in some details about the show and how it is presented that you wouldn’t learn without taking the tour. We also got to see a couple items that were featured in episodes that hadn’t yet aired. Overall, not a bad take… especially for the low low price of free.

Rick Dale posing with meAfter the tour I was browsing in the gift shop when my girlfriend spotted Rick Dale (owner and star of the show) on his way into the shop from outside. He was chatting with a lone fan. We went outside to join them.

In person, Rick is exactly as he is portrayed on television. He seems an honest, hard working guy that still hasn’t quite figured out why a bunch of strangers want to shake his hand. He was very gracious, shook my hand, made some small talk about the shop and let me get a picture with him. I hope the “fame” doesn’t ruin him or his shop.

Ricks_Restorations-vending-machinesGet there before the word gets out. It’s definitely worth the trip for any fan of the show, of antiques or of classic automobiles.

  • Rick’s Restorations holds a car show in their lot on the first Friday of each month from 5-8pm. Tours are available and you just might meet someone from the cast while you’re there.
  • There are some restored items available for sale in the shop. Many were featured on the show. Prices are in line with the quotes you see on TV.

Website: www.ricksrestorations.com
Related Articles:
Gold and Silver Pawn: Long Lines, Short Changed
Count’s Kustoms: The Reality TV Tour Continues

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Gold and Silver Pawn: Long Lines, Short Changed

Gold and Silver Pawn Las VegasFor those that don’t know, Gold and Silver Pawn is the pawn shop that the hit reality television show “Pawn Stars” is based upon. The shop is located between the strip and downtown at 713 South Las Vegas Blvd. Due to the popularity of the show, there are often long lines of people baking in the sun waiting to get inside. When they are filming you will wait even longer… No-one is allowed in or out during most of the filming.

Once inside it’s one huge line of people snaking around the small (smaller than it looks on tv) shop. It’s pretty much single file, moving slowly around the shop in as orderly a fashion as possible. There’s enough pressure from the crowd behind you to keep you from lingering too long to fancy any one thing. You get to see most of what the shop has to offer, rather sequentially. Eventually the line weaves past the registers and out of the store, your passage out allowing one more person in.

Picadilly Circus Roulette Machine at Gold and Silver PawnI’ve joined the lines outside Gold and Silver a couple of times now. Once with my girlfriend, and once with my dad. Each time I’ve waited no less than 45 minutes in the hot Las Vegas sun to get in. In both instances, the only person I recognized from the show was Antoine the bouncer, who was manning the door. Inside I did see a number of items from the show: superbowl rings, the Jimi Hendrix artwork, presidential signatures, the Piccadilly Circus electronic roulette slot machine, and merchandise… lots of merchandise… t-shirts, coffee cups, those silver coins with the Old Man’s mug on them… you name it.

Gold and Silver pawn is no longer a pawn shop, and the stars of the show no longer “work” there. I’m pretty sure a couple of them never did. It’s a set for a tv show, and it’s a tourist trap. If you treat it as a busy museum, it’s kind of cool. You can see some neat, rare and valuable items – some of the same items that are featured on tv. If you just hit a colossal jackpot you might even be able to take one home. Otherwise, it’s “free” entertainment.. the only cost is your time and your discomfort, waiting to get in.

Superbowl Rings at Gold and Silver Pawn Las VegasTips:

  • If you go, don’t expect to meet the Old Man, Rick, Cory or Chum.
  • Don’t expect to be on television unless you have an appointment.
  • And don’t expect to pick up a cheap souvenir, unless you want to buy the same trinkets they’re hawking on the History Channel website.
  • Do bring a big jug of water, a fold up chair, and some sunscreen. The throngs waiting outside with you will think you’re a genius, and you’ll enjoy the rest of your day a whole lot more.

Website: www.gspawn.com
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The Neon Museum: Las Vegas Unplugged

Entrance of the Neon Boneyard ParkLas Vegas is a city of constant reinvention. Out with the old and in with the new. Keeping up with the times means taking down 50 year old buildings and complete remodels and redesigns every decade or so. There’s always something new and interesting in Las Vegas. But what about the old, and the historic? Casinos like The Sands, where the Rat Pack was born? The Stardust, former home of the famed Aku Aku tiki lounge?

Well, The Sands was imploded to make way for the Venetian and the Stardust was imploded to make way for the (now stalled) Echelon Place. Neon Sign from the Stardust HotelBut perhaps the most iconic part of these casinos, and many others, lives on at the Neon Museum.

Flashing lights and neon signs – there is nothing that is more quintessentially Las Vegas. All over the city, bright colors and flashy animations draw people into casinos, bars and restaurants. For over 15 years the Neon Museum has been collecting and showing (by appointment) the signs that no longer light the skies of Las Vegas. The restored vintage signs displayed in the East Fremont District are a small part of the Neon Museum’s collection.

Not too far from the Fremont Street Experience, the Neon Boneyard is a storage yard at 770 North Las Vegas Blvd. There is a small, park like meeting area with a few tables where visitors gather before their tours, and a large fenced in yard that houses the many signs of their collection.

Neon Boneyard Pool Player and Assorted SignsIn the past, visitors were required to sign up and prepay for a tour at least two weeks ahead of their trip. Starting on October 27th, with their grand opening, tours will be given every half hour with ticket sales available in their shiny new (yet historic) visitor center (reservations are still recommended). Upon arrival you will be greeted by a passionate volunteer tour guide. The tour group must stay within sight of the guide, following them around a purposeful path through the haphazard piles of neon, lights and metal. Photographs are permitted, but you may only bring a camera, no bags, tripods, etc. are permitted. The guides know their signs and their Las Vegas history well, and will surely teach you something you didn’t already know about Sin City.

The signs here are, essentially, as found. Bulbs are broken, sockets are empty. Paint is peeling and surface rust is creeping in. There are bits of broken glass here and there and some signs have sharp metal edges and corners – please look, don’t touch. While some of the signs might still be operational, none are electrified. All of this, I think, adds to the charm and authenticity of the place. This is old Las Vegas – unplugged.

Tips:Neon Boneyard Arrow Sign

  • Bring a camera, sunscreen and water.
  • Wear comfortable closed toed shoes and make sure you’ve had your tetanus shots.
  • The Neon Museum is holding a grand (re)opening party on the night of October 26th. Check their website (linked below) for details.

Bonus: The new visitor center, opening on October 27th was built from the lobby of the 1960’s La Concha Motel.

Website: www.neonmuseum.org
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