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Back to Old School: Pinball, Putt-Putt and More Retro Fun Around Seattle, the Eastside and the South Sound

Published on: March 03, 2015

Author photo taken at Shake, Shake, Shake

One of the best things about having kids is getting to revisit your own childhood favorites. Remember when bowling was something you did without a controller, and you went to the arcade to play video games?

If your kids think free time has to mean screen time, maybe it’s time you drag everyone out for some old-school style fun in the real world. Sure, the Seattle area is known for all things hip and high tech, but we found many great places that are proudly retro. (P.S. What'd we miss? Post your old-school favorites in the comments!)

Seattle and the Eastside

The Pinball Museum, International District

Pay your admission and have your fill of machines set to free play. At this retro gem in the heart of the International District, you’ll find more than 50 machines, including some going back to the 1950s. Most kids will find pinball tricky at first, so this is a great way for them to learn without blowing through all your change. 

Seattle Pinball Museum. Photo by Elisa Murray

Tip: Because the machines are delicate, children under 7 aren’t allowed, and this policy is enforced. Check the Facebook page for updates and specials.

Details: Admission $13 for adults and $10 for kids ages 7 to 12; all-day pass $18/adults and $15/kids. Open Thursday–Saturday, noon–10 p.m.; Sunday, Monday, noon–5 p.m. 508 Maynard Ave. S. Seattle.

West Seattle Bowl

There is archaeological evidence suggesting bowling may date back to ancient times. West Seattle Bowl isn’t that old, but it has been around since 1948. Bumpers are available on every lane here, so you won’t have any gutter balls. A really nice feature is that you can choose which bowlers get them, so they are raised or lowered automatically depending on who is bowling. Mercer Island mom, Kelsey Joyce, calls this spot, “Family friendly and clean."

Tip: You can get two free games of bowling with a breakfast purchase on Sunday mornings. You can also reserve the “Family Fun Pack” on Sunday afternoons, which includes two hours of bowling, shoe rental for up to six people, and a pitcher of soda for $45. Make reservations on weekends (you can do it online) at this popular spot. West Seattle Bowl is one of many area lanes participating in KidsBowlFree in the summer.

Details: Lanes range from $21–$29 an hour per lane. Shoe rental is $4. Open daily. Reservations can be made on their website. 4505 39th Ave. S.W, Seattle.

Photo credit: Full Tilt Arcade

Full Tilt Arcade

There are four Seattle-area outposts of this homegrown ice cream parlor/arcade franchise. The combo of ice cream and their new and old video games and pinball machines, make great fun for the whole family. West Seattle mom Rachel Vaughn loves the vegan ice cream and the stools that let young customers peer in the case. She adds that they do a great birthday party.

Tip: Several friends suggest you visit the White Center store during the day, saying it has more of a club feel in the evening.

Details: Full Tilt is open daily, with locations in White Center, Columbia City, the U-District, and Ballard. 

Interbay Putt Putt

You won’t find windmills here, but it’s one of the area’s only mini golf spots, and a round of putt putt is always great fun (or frustration) for all ages.

Tip: The course is closed to families during the “Pints and Putts” league for adults in the summer. Call ahead year round to confirm openings.

Details: Adult are $9 and kids are $6.50. 2501 15th Ave. W., Seattle.

Arcane Comics, Ballard

Comic book shops are great for nostalgia lovers and modern reluctant readers. Our younger son and his dad have had a great time bonding over their shared love of Green Lantern titles. Seattle mom Sharon Feliciano, founder of the popular website Parenting Geekly, takes her kids to this Ballard location, which the whole family loves for its huge kids’ selection on dedicated shelves.

Details: 5809 15th Ave. N.W. Seattle, WA 98107. Their website suggests parking behind the Ballard Dental Clinic.

Photo credit: Willows Run

Rainbow Run Golf Course at Willows Run, Redmond

This 18-hole miniature course includes tunnels, caves and surprise special effects like roaring animal sounds!

Tip: The course sometimes closes without much notice for private parties, so call before you head out.

Details: 10402 Willows Road Northeast Redmond. It’s closed Mondays and Tuesdays and periodically for private functions. Admission is $9 for adults and $6 for kids 12 and under. You can save a dollar by going before 11 a.m.

Husky Deli, West Seattle

Stepping into this popular ice-cream spot is like walking into an old-time general store, with wood paneling and little-bit-of-everything inventory. The owners have been serving scoops since the 1930s, and it continues to be a family-run neighborhood gathering spot. Sit at the counter and enjoy a made-to-order deli sandwich — great value for the size. Ice cream flavors range from the traditional to the exotic (coffee Oreo!).

Tip: Bring patience if you go on a weekend; you may find a crowd. You can take a prepacked container home if you don’t want to wait.

Details: Open daily. 4721 California Ave. S.W., Seattle. 

Luna Park Cafe, West Seattle

Photo credit: Luna Park Cafe

Seattle based travel writer CoreyAnn Khan recommends this West Seattle diner where you’ll find jukeboxes, walls full of funky 50s memorabilia and plentiful portions.

Tip: Parking is very tight here and waits for breakfast are long on weekends. You might choose another time if you don’t want to wait — you can get their famous breakfast all day.

Details: Open daily. Their website has their menu and some interesting tidbits about the restaurant’s history. Luna Park Café is right below the West Seattle Bridge, 2918 S.W. Avalon Way, Seattle.

Triple XXX Rootbeer, Issaquah

You’ll find décor and eats straight out of Happy Days at Triple XXX Rootbeer. The walls are literally covered with memorabilia. Reviews on the food are mixed, but everyone agrees its worth a trip for the ambiance, especially if you’re a nostalgia lover. Burger and sandwich portions are enormous, so plan on paying the $2 fee to share unless you’ve burned off some serious calories on nearby Tiger Mountain first.

Tip: It’s cash only, although there is an ATM. Service is friendly and efficient, but it is often crowded. There are vintage car, “Cruz-Ins,” most Saturdays year round. You can see the schedule on their website

Details: Open daily. 98 N.E. Gilman Blvd. Issaquah.

South Sound retro fun

Photo credit: Alyson Frederick from Chalet Bowl

Chalet Bowl, Tacoma

It definitely has retro décor, but it's the small size and neighborhood location that gives this friendly Proctor spot an old-school feel. There are just 12 lanes, and it’s popular with young, neighborhood families.

Tip: Because of its small size, you may want to call ahead for a reservation. Be sure to check for weekly specials and ask about the glo-bowling.

Details: Open daily. Open bowling ranges from $3.25–$4.75 per person/per game. Shoe rental $4. You can also rent by the hour, which includes the lane and shoes for up to six ($28–$36 per hour per lane) Be sure to check for weekly specials on their website. 3806 N. 26th St., Tacoma.

Destiny City Comics, Tacoma

Thought the all-ages section of this small shop in the Stadium neighborhood is small, the owner is friendly and knowledeable, and was able to steer our 9-year-old towards several appropriate titles. While most of the shop is for comic fans of all ages we didn’t see any covers or posters displaying anything rated more than PG — a big plus.

Tip: Destiny City is right next to King’s Books, the area’s largest independent bookseller. You’ll find somewhere around 150,000 new and used titles here. Check their website for special comic launch events and other fun. 

Details: Open Wednesday–Saturday, noon–8 p.m., Tuesday and Sunday, noon–6 p.m. 218 Saint Helens Ave. Tacoma. 

Dorky’s Video Arcade, Tacoma

Photo credit: Dorky's Arcade

If you remember Pac Man and Frogger, you’ll be right at home at Dorky’s in the heart of downtown Tacoma, which boasts several rooms of old-school video games and pinball machines. Beer is available, but there is an equal mix of young families, teenagers and twentysomethings on first dates. Our boys had a great time here, although they were initially frustrated to get out so quickly. Your gamers may be surprised at how tricky the old-fashioned games can be at first. Be prepared to go through some quarters.

Note: All ages are welcome only until 9 p.m., after which this spots is strictly 21 and up. Children must be with a grown-up at all times.

Tips: Most games are 25 cents a play. You’ll need to pay for on-street parking nearby. There is no ATM on site. You can add cash back on your card purchases for a fee, but we suggest you come with cash. 

Details: Open daily. 754 Pacific Ave. Tacoma. 

Tiffany’s Skate Inn, Puyallup

Lucky South Sound families have several great roller rinks to choose from, but our family particularly loves Tiffany’s Skate Inn for its wood floors, friendly staff and family-friendly music selections. They’ve updated their snack bar and video game area, but it still has that old roller-rink smell you’ll remember. Two other nearby rinks with a similar vibe are Pattison’s West in Federal Way and the Auburn Skate Connection in Auburn.

Tips: Young skaters can have their wheels tightened to make them roll less — a great idea for beginners. Check hours before you go as most roller rinks close on occasion for team practices and school events. If you need a bargain, go on Tuesdays, when admission is $2, skate rental not included. They regularly post special deals on their website (this one opens with loud music) and Facebook page.

Details: Open daily, with skate sessions most days of the week. 1113 N. Meridian, Puyallup.

Shake, Shake, Shake

This hamburger and shake place in Tacoma’s Stadium neighborhood has a super-cool interior — imagine the Jetsons opening a diner — but it’s the tasty burgers and real ice-cream shakes that will keep you coming back. Try one of their inventive flavors — like the tiger stripe, made with the area’s most famous confection: Almond Roca. The straightforward menu also offers hot dogs.

Photo credit: Shake Shake Shake

Tip: You don’t order meals by the number here, so the price can add up fast. We think it’s worth it, and the fries are big enough to share. So are the shakes, but you won’t want to!

Details: Open daily. 124 N. Tacoma Ave., Tacoma.

Don’s Ruston Market And Deli

Sit at the counter and order a malted or another classic treat at this little spot in picture-perfect Ruston. It’s a tasty trip back in time. On our last visit our boys sat on stools at the counter chatting about their days with the owner, while he made their real ice-cream shakes.

Tip: The market is close to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium and Point Defiance Park, and it’s a great stop before or after a day looking at animals.

Details: Open daily. 5201 N Winnifred St. in tiny Ruston.

More old-school fun

That's how we bowl: Guide to bowling

Family skate and more feel-good fun at the rink


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