As a tourist destination, Las Vegas is first and foremost a playground for adults. There’s no doubt about that. But what about when you want to satisfy your inner kid/nerd — or amuse the actual kids you dragged along on vacation?
Here’s an itinerary that’ll have you gaming all day without having to sit down at a slot machine or poker table!
After treating yourself to a nice room service breakfast (and recovering from the previous night’s shenanigans), hop a taxi over to the Pinball Hall of Fame.
Far removed from the Strip near the UNLV campus and McCarren International Airport, the Pinball Hall of Fame is a big warehouse filled with rows and rows of pinball machines, some dating back to the early decades of the industry.
If you get there right when it opens at 11 a.m., the place has a hushed solemnity akin to an actual museum. The lights are dim and the machines are idle, waiting for players to launch their steel balls into the fray. Simply walk in (there’s nobody at the door), get your change, and get going.
Although most of the hundreds of machines are pinball, you’ll also find other retro games like Duck Hunter, Robotron, Donkey Kong, Paperboy, and more.
Even if you’re not particularly familiar with pinball, the Hall of Fame is an incredible step back in time. (You should watch this short Vice documentary on the game to get a deeper appreciation for it!) Most of the older games have an attached note card that tells what year it’s from and gives a bit of history.
There’s a claw machine from 1938, a crane game featuring an actual toy crane (pictured above), and of course, pinball machines spanning many decades and themes, from cowgirls to creepy clowns to Super Mario Bros. I was most amused by a game called Prop Cycle, which featured a bright yellow stationary bike and a “winged bicycle” simulation. How futuristic!
For the modernists among us, there’s also a selection of newer pinball machines spanning Lord of the Rings, Monopoly, and the like.
On the Friday I went, the Hall of Fame filled up at noon for a women’s pinball tournament. I didn’t stay to watch, but I was heartened to see how many people still enjoyed the game and its culture.
Now it’s time to head back to the Strip and maybe grab a bite to eat before making your way to Midway & Adventuredome at Circus Circus.
Full disclosure: Both New York-New York and Circus Circus posit themselves as family-friendly hotels (and have repetitive names), with arcades and roller coasters installed alongside their casinos. Having been to both, I would say without hesitation that Circus Circus is a better gaming experience.
Midway features a whole slew of win-a-stuffed-animal, carnival-type games, as well as classics like Galaga and air hockey, plus newer systems like DDR and Mario Kart Arcade GP. The atmosphere is vibrant; kids and families start lining up to get in 20 minutes before the place opens at 10 a.m.
Once you’ve had your fill of winning teddy bears and throwing skee balls, make your way across the casino to Adventuredome, a giant space covered in fuschia-tinted glass. Unlike Midway’s classic carnival feel, Adventuredome is more like a modern theme park. You’ll find some of the same arcade games scattered throughout the floor, along with laser tag and a bevy of roller coasters and 4D rides for when you want a more immersive experience.
After tuckering yourself out amid the chaos at Circus Circus, you’ll likely need a nap by the pool and some dinner. Then it’s time to put the kids to bed, because they won’t be able to get into your next stop: Insert Coin(s).
Take a cab north to Fremont East, a revitalized part of town that lacks the glitz of the Strip as well as the seediness of Fremont West. Insert Coin(s) is a bar that boasts an inventive setup: Along one wall of the roomy bar is a row of old-school arcade games ranging from Dig Dug to Tekken Tag. The opposite wall comprises a row of booths (can seat 4-5 people), each with two TV screens in front of them.
You can reserve a booth beforehand or just take whatever’s available when you get there; each one has two different consoles, and the selection is pretty comprehensive. You could sit at a booth with a Nintendo 64 and a Wii, or a NES and an Xbox One — as of March, they seemed to have everything except for a Wii U.
Booths are rented in a two-hour block ($50, comes with a flight of beers and shots) or all night ($125, comes with bottle service). Once you’re settled in, a staff member will come by with a game menu, and you can choose from a library of games for your consoles. It’s fairly affordable — especially compared to how much money you could spend gambling — and great for a date or with a group.
How do you like to spend your quarters? Let us know in the comments!