With 238 pinball machines and over 200 other games, Hillsboro Next Level Pinball Shop & Museum It bills itself as the largest trail in Oregon. It can add to that, the best place to play pinball in the world, after winning Pinball’s favorite site in the year TWIPY Pinball Awardsheld on Saturday in Frisco, Texas.
The TWIPYS Awards are the pinball world’s people’s choice awards, organized by TWIPYS This Week in Pinball A popular site for pinball fans. Last year, in addition to winning Favorite Pinball, Next Level got TWIPY for Favorite Pinball.
The size of the lanes and the unique payment model make it a fan favorite. All the pinball and arcade games in Next Level are set to free-to-play, so no coins or swipe cards needed. Visitors pay $20 for a day pass for unlimited play.
Next Level opened in 2017 with 100 relatively modest (but still big) toys in a 10,000-square-foot storage space near Hillsboro Airport. Over the years, the toy and memorabilia collection has grown to occupy the entire 20,000 square foot building, with plans to add another 6,000 square feet next year.
“We have a big 10-year plan,” said co-owner Jordan Carlson. “If you’re thinking about Disneyland, we’re trying to build an arcade land. We’ll eventually keep about 1,200 arcades and pinballs.”
It’s not just gaming that sets Next Level apart. It’s the thousands of pieces of pop culture memorabilia found throughout the aisles, from movie posters to life-size superhero statues. Both the arcade and museum are the result of years of folk culture amassed by the Carlson family – first by Fred Carlson and then by his son and wife, Jordan and Whitney Carlson.
Fred bought his first few pinball machines in the 1970s, with the intention of creating a small family game room. This personal collection doubled, eventually outgrowing a barn and becoming a home runway. Fred passed his love of arcade games on to his son, who continued to buy broken pinball machines over the years and fix them.
When Fred began collecting toys, he was curating a little bit of everything: VHS tapes, bubble bath dispensers, TV trays, Pokemon, and vinyl records. Every inch of wall space at Next Level is covered in a dizzying array of pop culture items, stacked to the ceiling in some 200 custom boxes.
In Farid’s words, he collects “everything but money”.
Most impressively, he owns what is believed to be the world’s largest collection of lunch boxes, some 3,146 of which are on display at Next Level. They include some of the first themed lunchboxes marketed to kids, like Aladdin Industries’ Hoppalong Cassidy 1950 Lunchbox, which changed the lunchbox game forever.
“You can usually get people to come to museums once or twice to check it out, but how do you get people to come three, four, five or six times a year?” Jordan said. “We really try to cater to all the different generations so someone comes along, finds a piece of their childhood that evokes a happy memory, and has a good time. And then you offer 500 singles matches as a reward.”
The Hillsboro community has also begun donating items, including several hundred loose-fitting Star Wars figures on display and hundreds of old Time magazines.
“Some people literally come in here for three hours and just look at everything on the walls and not even play a single game,” Jordan said.
For those who want to play, Next Level has plenty of options, especially for pinball fans. The oldest pinball game on Earth is in 1977 Knight Rider. the rarest? Sega 1998 golden braid, which has not been officially released. Only 10 quiz games have been created, and you can play one of them in Hillsboro.
Next Level contains popular pinball games like Medieval Madness, Attack from Mars, and the new Stern’s Godzilla, along with the most prolific games of all time like Addams Family and Eight Ball Deluxe.
Runs to the next level Weekly pinball tournaments Every Friday, it is also a distributor of new pinball games, selling pieces from Stern, Jersey Jack, Chicago Gaming, and American Pinball.
“The pinball community is pretty big in Oregon and Washington,” Jordan said. “I think it’s because of all the rain that gets us here.”
The Carlson family owned a landscaping business for 13 years, before Fred retired and Jordan dedicated himself full-time to gaming. Whitney, who runs the day games with her husband, has always loved arcade games but has grown to have a deeper appreciation for them.
“My husband is a big dreamer, so he puts something like this together and brings it to life. It’s amazing to watch him do,” she said. “I became very invested in it too because we decided this was going to be our life. We have to make it the best, we have to be next level. And that’s the name. We are next level.”
Next Level Pinball Shop & Museum
The next level is about to enter the second busiest week of the year: spring break in Oregon. (The busiest is the Christmas holidays).
Spring Break Hours: Noon-9pm, Monday-Wednesday, March 27-29; noon-11pm Thursday-Friday 30-31 March; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, April 1; and 10am-9pm on Sunday, April 2.
In all other weeks, Next Level is closed from Monday to Wednesday.
Next Level is located at 1458 Northeast 25th Street in Hillsboro. For more information visit nextlevelpinballmuseum.com.
Looking for more spring break activities? Check out our list of 36 spring break adventure ideas in Oregon.
– Samantha Swindler, [email protected], @employee
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