It’s been two years since we were last at the Museum of Pinball in Banning for an Arcade Expo show. In that time there has been a number of changes to the building and the collection, but the essence of the show remains the same – an amazing collection of pinballs of all ages combined with an equally impressive range of video games, all available to play over the event’s three days.
The Museum of Pinball is located in semi-desert around 75 miles East of Los Angeles, at the foot of a mountainous landscape. It may be March, but there is still snow on the peaks and while the daytime temperatures might be warm in the sunshine, they drop away quickly once the sun drops behind the hills.
The Museum doesn’t open to the public daily, weekly, or even monthly. Instead, it hosts four major events each year – Arcade Pinvasion and INDISC Pinball Festival in January, Arcade Expo in March, and Pinball Madness in October.
Tickets for Arcade Expo could be pre-purchased online, or bought on the day from the ticket desk. A purchased entry got you a coloured wristband with which you could come and go as often as you wished.
Friday and Sunday entry cost $50 each for an adult, while Saturday is $65. Kids entry is priced at $15 per day, while a three-day adult pass is also available at $130 ($35 for kids). These are online prices. On the day prices are $5 higher.
The show began in the courtyard outside the Museum building where food vendors had set up. On Friday there were two stalls selling hot dogs, ice creams, burgers and other ‘street food’.
With no food allowed inside the Museum, there is an outdoor seating area in front of the food stands. At night the area is warmed by living flame heaters.
A little further down the hill from the Museum building we find a shooting gallery with electromechanical gun games along with a seating area where live music would be performed later in the day.
There was also a Funhouse facade which is presumably used for some of the other events held at the Museum.
Back up the hill, we return to the main entrance to the Museum.
On the wall is a large white space where visitors are invited to make their mark using the pens provided.
Beyond that is a display case showing some items found inside pinballs which arrive at the Museum, as well as the collection’s oldest exhibit.
As you enter the Museum you have two main choices – turn left for pinballs, or turn right for videos.
There is a third choice, and that is the Museum’s gift shop which has a selection on T-shirts, posters, patches, coasters, and other pinball and gaming items for sale.
Entering the pinball hall, you immediately appreciate the scale of the collection, with rows upon rows of games from all eras. For anyone experiencing this for the first time, this is often a jaw-dropping moment.
The newest machines are at the front of the hall, while the machines in each row are broadly determined by the manufacturer.
There is also a shorter row showcasing the latest (or sometimes, last) titles from other pinball manufacturers Dutch Pinball, American Pinball, Heighway Pinball, HomePin and Spooky Pinball.
The other newest titles are from Stern Pinball and they are found on the other side of the hall in the Stern zone.
Jersey Jack Pinball have their own dedicated area with three of their titles featured. Only Pirates of the Caribbean is not in this collection.
We are updating this report live across the weekend, and we’ll be back shortly with much more from Arcade Expo, including a look at the huge EM machine collection, more of the newer games, the seminars which have taken place so far, and more vendors inside the Museum building.
So, check back a little later for our continuing reports.