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Pinball Palace

Test your pinball playing skills on a collection of vintage machines—free in Alameda, Calif.

pinball gallery proprietor Michael Schiess, Alameda, Calif.
Photo caption
Pinball wizard Michael Schiess lights up Alameda.


Pinball was king when Tommy rode the silver ball to fame in the Who’s 1969 rock opera. Times have changed, but at Lucky Ju Ju Pinball Gallery in Alameda, Calif., east of San Francisco, the game still rules.

For a donation at the door, anyone can walk in to play on a changing lineup of 25 pre-1980s machines from proprietor Michael Schiess’s private collection of 200. Best of all, Schiess sets every machine to free play—no quarters needed.

Between bites of free chips and salsa, kids and adults test the tilt sensors on classics like Fireball—"the holy grail of electromechanical machines," Schiess says—and observe the "no hogging" rule while the jukebox plays the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, and, of course, the Who. (510) 205-9793,

Photography by Sean Arbabi


This article was first published in November 2007. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.