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, when 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 of the house for some old-school 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.
Seattle and the Eastside
Seattle Pinball Museum, Chinatown–International District
Pay your admission and have your fill of machines set to free play mode. At this retro gem in the heart of the International District, you’ll find more than 50 machines, including some dating 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.
Tip: Because the machines are delicate, children younger than 7 aren’t allowed, and this policy is enforced. Check the Facebook page for updates and specials.
Details: Admission is $20 for adults and $17 for kids ages 7–12.
Find it: 508 Maynard Ave. S. Seattle
More pinball: The Northwest Pinball Collective is a newer player on the pinball scene, operating on a membership model. Members join and then have access to play a variety of pinball games at its center, called The Sanctuary, in North Seattle. Our impression is this spot is for super fans vs. dabblers.
There is archaeological evidence that suggests 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 the bumpers, so they are raised or lowered automatically depending on who is bowling. Mercer Island mom Kelsey Joyce called this spot “family-friendly and clean."
Tip: Make reservations on weekends at this popular spot.
Details: Lanes start at $15 per hour and a half and increase depending on the day and time you want to bowl. Reservations can be made on the website and are made in either hour and a half or two-hour blocks.
Find it: 4505 39th Ave. S.W, Seattle
More bowling: Get your bowl on at all these spots around town: Spin Alley in Shoreline, Roxbury Lanes in White Center, Lynnwood Bowl & Skate, Bowlero in Lynnwood and Bowlero in Tukwila (formerly Acme Bowl).
There are two current Seattle-area locations of this homegrown ice cream parlor/arcade gem. The combo of ice cream and both new and old video games and pinball machines makes for great fun for the whole family. West Seattle mom Rachel Vaughn said she loved the vegan ice cream and the stools that let young customers peer into the case. She added that the business does a great birthday party.
Tip: Don’t try to eat your ice cream and play pinball at the same time.
Details: Full Tilt is open seasonal hours, currently Tuesday–Sunday, 3–8 p.m.
Find it: Full Tilt has locations in White Center and Columbia City. The Ballard shop had to close recently, but owners hope to find a new spot.
Interbay Miniature Golf, Seattle
You’ll find waterfalls rather than windmills here, but it’s one of the area’s best miniature golf spots, and a round of mini golf is terrific fun for all ages. We’ve got a full primer on what to expect. Spoiler: You’ll love it.
Tip: Do not sweat the rules with beginners and young kids.
Details: Adult admission is $12; kids, $8.
Find it: 2501 15th Ave. W., Seattle
More mini golf: Find a mini golf spot near you with our guide to where to play mini golf around Seattle.
Arcane Comics, Shoreline
Comic book shops are great for nostalgia lovers and modern reluctant readers. My younger son and his dad have had a great time bonding over their shared love of “Green Lantern” titles. Seattle mom Sharon Feliciano has taken her kids to Arcane Comics to get new titles regularly. The whole family loves it for its huge kids’ selection on dedicated shelves.
Tip: New to the world of comic books? You’ll want to mark your calendar next year for Free Comic Book Day. Participating shops give out — you guessed it — a free comic book. Arcane Comics is a participating shop, and you’ll find at least a dozen more in the Puget Sound region with the Free Comic Book Day store locater.
Details: Arcane is open daily.
Find it: 15202 Aurora Ave. N., Suite A, Shoreline
More comics: Use the Free Comic Book Day store locater to find a shop near you; your local library can also recommend graphic novels for kids who like this style of reading.
Looking for some outdoor fun that can help with math skills, hand-eye coordination and even memory? This 18-hole miniature golf course is your answer. It’s a scenic course with a par listed for each hole — one for kids and one for adults.
Tip: There’s also a nine-hole, par-3 course that is fun for older kids.
Details: Check the website for current hours. Admission is $13 for adults and $9 for kids 12 and younger. Note that they are cashless, but do accept debit, credit cards, apple and google pay. First come, first served — just show up.
Find it: 10402 Willows Road N.E., Redmond
Husky Deli, West Seattle
Stepping into this popular ice cream spot is like walking into an old-time general store, with its wood paneling and a 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 — a great value for the size. Ice cream flavors range from the traditional to the unusual (coffee-Oreo?!). You’ll also find a fun selection of candy and European products.
Tip: Pack your patience if you go on a sunny weekend; you may find a crowd.
Details: Open daily
Find it: 4721 California Ave. S.W., Seattle
More ice cream: Who needs more ice cream? Duh, everyone. Check out our guide to tasty ice cream shops around town, including Husky Deli.
Luna Park Café, West Seattle
Seattle-based travel writer CoreyAnn Khan recommends this West Seattle diner where you’ll find jukeboxes, walls full of funky 1950s memorabilia and plentiful portions. A sign in the window promises the best milkshakes in Seattle. You’d better go find out for yourselves.
Tip: Parking is 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. The website has the menu and some interesting tidbits about the restaurant’s history.
Find it: Luna Park Café is located right below the West Seattle Bridge at 2918 S.W. Avalon Way.
Triple XXX Rootbeer Drive-in, Issaquah
You’ll find décor and eats straight out of “Happy Days” at Triple XXX Rootbeer Drive-in. The walls are literally covered with memorabilia. Reviews of the food are mixed, but everyone agrees it is worth a trip for the ambiance, especially if you love nostalgia. Burger and sandwich portions are enormous, so plan on paying the extra fee to share — unless you’ve burned off some serious calories hiking on nearby Tiger Mountain first.
Tip: It’s cash only, although there is an ATM on-site. Service is friendly and efficient, but the drive-in is often crowded. There are vintage car “cruz-Ins” most Saturdays year around. You can see the schedule on the website.
Details: Open daily
Find it: 98 N.E. Gilman Blvd., Issaquah
South Sound retro fun
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 neighborhood families.
Tip: Because of its small size, you definitely want to make a reservation online (reservations are no longer taken by phone). Be sure to check for weekly specials and ask about glow bowling.
Details: Closed Monday, hours vary; check the website for the current schedule. Per-hour bowling starts at $25.
Find it: 3806 N. 26th St., Tacoma
Some folks will remember this spot as Rollin’ 253, and no matter the name, it’s still getting kids and families rolling on four wheels — well, eight, actually. Enjoy some family time during the all-ages public skate sessions. Looking for a new date-night idea? Adult skate on Thursday evenings is for the 18-and-older crowd. Need some new laces, knee pads or a fresh pair of roller skates? Fritzy’s Roller Skate Shop will help you out and the shop is pretty much next door.
Tips: A variety of birthday party packages are available. If you are hosting a party for a big crowd (up to 75 people) consider renting the whole facility.
Details: Hours and prices vary, so check the website for specific activities, sessions and times. Admission for the three-hour public skate session is $15. Purchase tickets ahead of time and skip straight to skating when you arrive.
Find it: 2101 Mildred St. W., Fircrest
Shake Shake Shake, Tacoma
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, such as the Tiger Stripe, made with the area’s most famous confection: Almond Roca. The straightforward menu also offers hot dogs.
Tip: You don’t order meals by the number here, so the price can add up fast. We think it’s worth it, and an order of the fries is big enough to share. So are the shakes, but you won’t want to!
Details: Open daily
Find it: 124 N. Tacoma Ave., Tacoma
Dorky’s Arcade, Tacoma
If you remember Pac-Man and Frogger, you’ll be right at home at Dorky’s. Located in the heart of downtown Tacoma, Dorky’s 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 20-somethings on first dates. Our boys had a great time here, although they were initially frustrated by how quickly they reached “game over.” Your young gamers may be surprised at how tricky the old-fashioned games can be at first. Be prepared to go through some quarters. Dorky’s also serves up some tasty dinner specials.
Tips: All ages are welcome only until 9 p.m., after which this spots is strictly 21 and older. Children must be with a grown-up at all times. Most games are 25 cents a play; come with cash. For current info and specials, take a look at the Dorky’s Facebook page.
Details: Open six days a week (closed Monday)
Find it: 754 Pacific Ave. Tacoma
Destiny City Comics, Tacoma
Though the all-ages section of this small shop in the Stadium neighborhood is small, the owner is friendly and knowledgeable 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 higher than PG — a big plus.
Tip: Destiny City Comics is located right next to King’s Books, the area’s largest independent bookseller. You’ll find somewhere around 150,000 new and used titles there.
Details: Closed Mondays
Find it: 218 Saint Helens Ave., Tacoma
Editor’s note: This article was originally published many years ago and was just updated for ongoing retro fun in 2023.