When real estate expert Jerry Pinkas bought a pinball machine to entertain clients’ kids at his office, it was only the start of something much bigger.
As a teenager in the 1980s, Pinkas spent a lot of time at his local mall and boardwalk arcades playing pinball, and his passion for the game never diminished. Soon, one office pinball game turned into two, and eventually he had so many that he began taking them home. Eventually, Pinkas learned how to repair these mazes of moving parts, from their plungers (those spring-loaded knobs that send the balls flying) to their switches, spinners, and stoppers. Then in 2018, he turned his collection into the Myrtle Beach Pinball Museum, an interactive display of retro history with one main goal: “to preserve pinball for what it really is: a national treasure of pure American engineering, art, and pop culture.”
With more than 25 playable games, the Myrtle Beach Pinball Museum hosts one of the largest collections of pinball machines open for public play in South Carolina. Inside, it’s like stepping back in time to an arcade era in which brightly lit backboxes and whizzing silver balls were the norm. Still, it’s much less of a dungeon than those arcades of old, and along with games from the 1970s and ‘80s—when the sport was at its zenith—made by legendary pinball manufacturers like Gottlieb, Bally, and Williams, you’ll also find newer machines from the ‘90s and 2000s.
Try testing your skills against a movie Slimer toy target on the Stern 2016 Ghostbusters pro model machine, or defeating Davy Jones, Captain Jack Sparrow’s nemesis, on the Stern 2006 Pirates of the Caribbean. There are also games based on Indiana Jones, Star Trek, and the Monopoly board game. Each machine has a plaque detailing its date of production, manufacture, and any significant improvements or features, as well as the game’s history.
The museum itself is completely volunteer-run, and games are rotated in and out periodically for maintenance (and to keep things fresh), so a machine that isn’t there one visit may be on display the next, and vice-versa.
Know Before You Go
Admission to the Myrtle Beach Pinball Museum is $12/hour, per person (there’s a $2 discount for anyone showing a military, first responder, local, or AAA ID). Cash, credit, and Apple Pay are all welcome forms of payment. Once inside, the games themselves are free to play, so don’t worry about bringing along that stack of quarters.
Because the museum has limited capacity (they only allow in as many players as they have available machines), advance reservations for your time slot are highly recommended. You can make them here.
The museum’s opening days and hours change weekly (and are fewer during winter), so check the website for the current schedule before you go. There’s an onsite lot with free parking during business hours, except when the museum is hosting special events like birthday parties
There’s no food or drink onsite, though there are plenty of restaurants within walking distance.
For an up-to-date lineup of playable pinball games, check the Myrtle Beach Pinball Museum website.