Video games have come a long way sing "pong." Video games today are in a diff erent stratosphere compared to what they were like in the 1980s heyday. They are now much more advanced. However, many people enjoy playing the games they played when they were kids. And there are facilities all over the country that cater to these individuals who want to turn the clock back, if just for a couple of hours. Four are located in the Twin Cities and off er much more than just retro arcade games, including many other kinds of games plus private event space.
How does taking a hang gliding ride, in which you are actually harnessed up into a hang gliding-style device while wearing goggles and getting wind blown in your face, sound?
You can experience that at SMAAASH (the three As stand for “America’s Adrenaline Arena”) at the Mall of America. “The ride moves around and follows the visuals that you’re seeing, so you kind of incorporate all of that into one, and it makes it an incredible experience,” says Marketing Executive Olivia Salow. “Another big attraction is our multilevel go-cart track where you’re actually moving up to 40 miles per hour.”
There are about 15 arcade games and eight active games, including a hockey game and a soccer game in which guests try to kick a ball into the goal with computerized goalkeepers. There is a camera that tracks where the ball is going.
Virtual reality games include Batman, in which guests can ride a motorcycle, plus skiing and boxing games. There is also beer pong, darts and a hammer game.
A private room can accommodate up to 35 guests both for a seated dinner and a cocktail party. There are television screens for presentations and meetings. A “patio” out front along one of the mall corridors can host up to 100 guests both seated and standing. Groups can rent the entire venue for up to 600 guests.
An in-house caterer is available for events and can provide standard and specialty pizzas as well as salads. A full bar offers an extensive craft beer selection with more than 60 beers on tap.
Can Can Wonderland; St. Paul
Can Can Wonderland isn’t just a fun name to say. It’s an homage to the American Can Company, the building’s home dating all the way back to 1889 and the manufacturer for many notable brands such as Campbell’s Soup and Del Monte.
Open since January 2017, Can Can Wonderland is a venue that supports the arts in a fun way. There is an 18-hole mini golf course in which the holes were designed by local artists. “Each hole has its own unique creativity to it, such as a Minnesota State Fair-inspired hole, a batting-cage hole and a Prince-inspired hole,” says Events Coordinator Cassandra Roy.
The walls are nostalgia-based and are also decorated by local artists ranging from graffiti art to fine art. A vintage boardwalk is lined with antique games dating back to 1950 such as pinball machines, Skee-Ball and other random vintage games that have been restored. An electronic arcade offers vintage games like Pac-Man.
On days in which Can Can Wonderland is open to the public, Thursday through Sunday, groups can rent a semiprivate space for up to 80 guests seated and up to 100 standing. On days in which the facility is closed, groups can rent the entire venue for up to 1,000 guests. Every day of the week, a separate area that was once a train docking station can accommodate up to 500 guests.
An in-house caterer provides, among other things, Grey Duck pizza, gourmet hot dogs, nachos, popcorn and mini donuts as well as custom menus. There is also a full bar.
Says Roy, “People come here and feel nostalgic, feel like a kid.”
TILT Pinball Bar; Minneapolis
If you’re a pinball lover, TILT Pinball Bar is the place for you.
“We have 22 pinball machines from various eras, from brand new to more than 50 years old,” says co-owner John Galvin. “Some are older machines, but there’s also a nice selection of more modern ones. Stand-up arcade games kind of squashed pinball in the 1980s to an extent, but pinball has been making a resurgence in the last few years.”
Galvin says the modern pinball machines have a lot more going on than the older ones, such as multiple playfields, ramps that carry the ball around and stronger flippers that give the ball more speed. “The oldest pinball machine we have is from 1965, called Cow Poke,” Galvin says. “The Addams Family, from 1992, is one of our more popular machines. It’s the most-produced pinball machine ever.”
Open since last April, TILT is a cozy space with dim lighting, similar to an old-time arcade, with some retro flair like pinstriping on the walls but modern touches, too, to create a cool balance.
Tables can be reserved for 12 guests. TILT also features plenty of bar seating as the space is designed for standing and playing games. In-house catering provides specialty hotdogs, bratwurst, a vegan brat, nachos, and other chips and dips. A full bar offers thoughtfully crafted cocktails and a wide selection of local and regional beers.
Up-Down does its best to make guests feel like they are 13 years old again.
Fifty arcade games like Galaga and Centipede, 10 pinball machines and four Skee-Ball tables will do that. Not to mention three Nintendo 64 games and giant-sized Jenga and Connect Four games on the front and back patios when the weather cooperates. An indoor/outdoor rooftop bar has a table hockey game.
“There’s something for everybody here,” says Marketing Manager David Hayden. “We also have ‘80s and ‘90s nostalgia. We might have pro wrestling or American Gladiators and ‘80s and ‘90s movies playing on our TVs.”
Groups can rent the entire venue during the week before 3 p.m., when it opens to the public. With both patios and the rooftop bar, Up-Down can accommodate up to 400 guests. During the winter, it can host up to 250 guests.
“During the nonwinter months,” Hayden says, “we keep the seating on the inside to a minimum, with most of it on the patios, because the idea is to keep people moving around and interacting with the games.”
An in-house caterer provides standard and specialty pizzas, as well as salads. A full bar offers 60 craft beers on tap, about half of which are brewed in Minnesota.