Since 1995, Baltimore, Md. has been the home of the American Visionary Art Museum, a magical place that displays a vast amount of unusual and offbeat work by outsider artists, such as these carved Styrofoam cups made by Mark Swidler.
Now there are even more reasons to hightail it to Baltimore. This weekend the city welcomes its newest attraction: The National Pinball Museum.
Here’s the story I put together about the museum for msnbc.com Travel:
David Silverman, founder of the National Pinball Museum opening Saturday, Jan. 14, in Baltimore, Md., first discovered the coin-operated, arcade-game known as pinball when he was 4 years old.
“Back then, New York was one of the cities that banned pinball,” Silverman, 63, told msnbc.com. “Lawmakers considered it gambling and they thought it was associated with the mafia. So I first saw a pinball machine while on a vacation with my parents in upstate New York.”
Silverman grew up to be an avid pinball player and, eventually, a pinball machine collector. “My first machine was ‘Fireball,’ which was made by Bally, a major pinball company. My wife liked the game, so we kept it lit up in the living room. One game led to another and now I have more than 900 machines.”
While searching for parts and people to repair and maintain the machines in his collection, Silverman learned the history of pinball and discovered that it had roots reaching back to the 18th century.
“The early games were handmade and were played liked billiards with a cue stick,” said Silverman. “Then the coil spring came along and the cue stick was replaced by the plunger. Flippers didn’t come along until 1947, but that changed pinball from a game of chance to a game of skill.”
Like the metal balls in the pinball machines, the National Pinball Museum has been bounced around. Until it lost its lease in September 2011, the museum was located in Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood. It’s new location, in Baltimore’s attraction-rich Inner Harbor, is smaller (two floors instead of four) but still offers a history gallery with original artwork and more than 40 vintage machines and an interactive gallery with more than 50 working machines, including some classic film and TV-themed machines dating back the 1940s and 50s, that may be played.
If you go:
The National Pinball Museum is located at 608 Water St. in Baltimore, Md., and will be open Friday-Sunday beginning Jan. 14. Admission tickets include play time on the machines in the museum’s Pinhead Gallery.