Pinball Wizard

Play on at the Roanoke Pinball Museum.

Kids learn better when learning is fun, but should learning really be this fun?

The Roanoke Pinball Museum, which features more than 50 of the world’s most awesome pinball machines ever, “playfully educates” young people about the science behind the machines and a bit about America’s popular culture since the 1950s, according to Rachel Hopkins, project manager of Center in the Square’s newest addition.

The museum sports a remarkable array of engineering feats, pop-art masterpieces and cultural benchmarks: The 1948 wood-enclosed, electro-mechanical Genco’s Screwball without active side bumpers plays much differently than the solid-state Dirty Harry machine made four decades later with its “slingshots,” “vertical upkickers” and a cacophony of tough talk and .44-caliber gunfire. The Gorgar from 1979 was the first machine to talk, and the Elton John Captain Fantastic and Indiana Jones machines take Boomers and Gen Xers back to the mall arcades of their youth.

Educational resources are available for school groups, and staff and volunteers are on hand to explain the tech specs of the machines. But in this rowdy, rollicking room filled with the wildest and weirdest pinball machines ever made, in the end, it’s just a very fun place to play. RoanokePinball.org

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