On August 11, 2012, my family and I decided to take a trip to Baltimore to see the National Pinball Museum located at 608 Water St., Baltimore, MD. We enjoy pinball machines and wanted to take the opportunity to play some pinball machines on a single admission fee for a couple of hours.
For those looking to visit for themselves, there are several parking garages nearby, or you can park on the street if you like. The museum spans three floors, with the lobby and history museum on the first floor. All playable games are on the second and third floors. The minimum cost for admission to get in is $12 per person. That is for all age ranges. There are no reduced charges for children, etc. Your admission gets you two full hours in the museum to play an unlimited amount of pinball and/or tour the museum. A few games in the collection still cost money, but nearly all of them are on freeplay, or require a “swipe” of a pass card you receive when you purchase your admission.
Floor number one has the actual museum. The pinball machines on this floor are not playable. The self guided historical tour contains pinball machines spanning the many decades from the old Bagatelle tables to more modern solid state machines. There are historical references and information throughout the exhibit, but the exhibit itself is not very large. However, it’s a “must see” for first time visitors.
If you are ready for the real action, head upstairs to the second floor. There you will find 40+ pinball machines spanning the decades from the old manual fed wood-rail EM systems to modern electronic multi-level machines, along with many variations in between. I personally liked some of the 70’s Bally solid state machines like Ted Nugent, or the early 70’s EMs. For more older wood-rail EMs, head up to the third floor. Here you’ll find a larger selection of older machines, along with a few solid state systems mixed in with them.
One disappointment I had were the number of machines which were switched off. I would say 25%-30% of the games were out of service, including one of my favorite pins, Black Knight. For your $12 admission price, you get two hours to play the games. Even with the number of games that were out of service, two hours is a suitable amount of time to play what was there. There is a $14 “four hour” option, or a $25 “three day” unlimited pass (along with annual passes), but considering the number of games which were out of service, I couldn’t recommend buying the four hour pass. Maybe the three day if I planned to stay in the area for a couple days, but I’d start to get bored after two hours in any single day on the machines which were operational.
The owner of the museum states that he rotates the machines from time to time. For that reason, I have no hesitation in going back there in the future for another two hour pass in order to get my pinball fix. This from a guy who has eight pinball machines of his own in his gameroom, none of which are currently duplicated in the National Pinball Museum’s visible collection.
The hours of operation (as of the publishing date of this post) are:
FRIDAYS: Noon – 8 PM
SATURDAYS: 10 AM – 8 PM
SUNDAYS: Noon – 6PM
You can find more information at the National Pinball Museum website: http://www.nationalpinballmuseum.org