My oldest son was born in Denver, but we moved to Fort Collins when he was 6 months old. My youngest son was nearly born in the car on Prospect, but fortunately stayed put until we could get through the doors at PVH. We barely made it. Our family has truly grown up in Fort Collins over the last 11 years.
When we first moved here I was heavily involved in MOMS Club, holding a few of the leadership positions including president for a few years. In those early years, our lives were packed with playgroups, trips to various parks, and a plethora of babyshowers and toddler birthday parties. There was never a dull moment in our schedule.
But as we’ve grown in Fort Collins, we’ve far outgrown the little kid activites that we used to do. I know that’s been a challenge for Growing Up readers at times, too. What fun things do we do with our older kids? Something that doesn’t bore them after 5 minutes lamenting about how they want to get back on their iPad again?
One of our absolute top Fort Collins family favorites has been Pinball Jones.
Pinball Jones opened in the heart of Old Town Square in October of 2011. Although, unless you knew what you were looking for at the time, it would have been remarkably easy to walk right on by without knowing the treasure that lived below the sidewalk. Well before Social dug their underground speakeasy hideout, owner Kim Jones had already created something really awesome under the historical cornerstones of our community.
These days our kids are playing Xboxes and games on our iPhone apps, with technology entrenched into their childhoods. For them, Pinball Jones is like going back in a time machine as they ask the questions that make us feel like a living relic, “Mom? Did you have color TV in the 80s?” There are pinball machines dedicated to Ghostbusters and AC/DC, providing an opportunity to reminisce with “when I was your age…” stories.
As parents, Pinball Jones lets us indulge in our own childhood nostalgia, battling against our kids in a round of Pac Man and introducing them to potential bloody knuckles in a vigorous game of air hockey. There are tried and true games that our family always play each and every visit: Pac-Man Battle Royale, air hockey, 1959 Royal Crown Big Ball Bowler (or the 1962 Queen), Fire Ball Skee Ball, and Big Buck Hunter.
Ah, Big Buck Hunter. At this point my boys are old enough to fill their pockets with quarters and play games on their own, allowing a little bit of a side date night for my husband and I as we sip on a beer and challenge each other in our typical highly competitive way. We always choose the elk or moose games, talking about how we can’t wait for the real big game hunting season in the fall, and laugh when one of us gets mauled by the mountain lion.
And that’s what I really love about Pinball Jones. It’s for both kids and parents alike.
Not only have we been there many times for our own family fun, but we hosted my oldest son’s 7th birthday party there. This was well before their renovation, free popcorn for everyone, and access to a bathroom – instead having to escort kids into the “artfully controversial” restroom at the neighboring GNU Experience art studio. It was one of the most memorable birthday parties we’ve had. The kids had a blast getting to play all of these cool games, standing on step-stools since they weren’t tall enough to see the actual game, and Kim gifted my birthday kid with a PBJ t-shirt. He was swimming in it, it was so big. Much like the adult t-shirts covers kids wear during arts and crafts. But he wore it all the time at home, and four years later, he’s finally grown into it – and still wears it. And four years later, they no longer need to stand on the step stools to play.
Start your adventure with dinner at Big Al’s, head on over to Pinball Jones for a few hours, take a walk around Old Town, and end at a candy or ice cream shop, like Rocket Fizz, Walrus, or Kilwin’s. That’s how my boys are Growing Up Fort Collins these days. Pinball Jones will be our family favorite for a very long time as we continue to make some long-lasting FoCo memories together.
107 Linden Street, Fort Collins
Cost: As much or as little as your like. No entry fee. Some games are 25 cents, most are $1. Local craft beer or cider on draft is $5-$6. Beverages for kids too. Popcorn is free!