A few weeks back I reported on my trip to Arcade Expo 5.0 in Banning, California. I was actually there on vacation for a full week, so decided to drive up the coast from LA and check out San Francisco once the Expo’s festivities were over. I had no real plan in San Francisco, other than to do the tourist stuff during my three days there.
I did arrange to drop in on a collector friend for a day who lives in the city. He was the perfect host and gave me a tour of the sights in an amazing 1974 yellow Cadillac convertible. Driving across Golden Gate bridge in this thing with the top down was an experience I’ll not forget in a hurry:
I was then left to my own devices to seek out some other things to do while in the Bay Area during the time I had left. After a visit to Alcatraz, which is a must if you’re in San Francisco, I hunted down a place that I had heard about via Instagram.
Free Gold Watch is located in the famous Haight-Ashbury district which borders the famous Golden Gate Park, a short Uber ride from the action Downtown.
It’s hard to know what to make of the place from the outside. Located in a residential street, you’d easily pass it by as nothing more than someone’s garage. Suffice to say, there aren’t many clues to what you’re going to find inside.
From what I could work out, Free Gold Watch is a T-Shirt Printing Shop that doubles up as a pinball arcade. Yeah I know. But hey, why not? And the good news for us is that it claims to host the most pinball machines in the San Francisco area.
Wander inside and you are greeted with the most beautiful sight:
Venture further into the shop and you’ll discover more pinball:
It’s not all about Pinball though. There was a smattering of video games too:
There was a very cool room hidden out the back which hosted several electro-mechanical tables:
It’s easy for players to overlook the electro-mechanical pinball era. But really some of the tables are more challenging and clean than many modern tables. Sometimes all the bells and whistles distract from the essence of pinball.
Some other highlights worth pointing out:
So to summarise – Free Gold Watch is a great find. If you’re at a loose end in the Bay Area, you have to check it out. Quirky, friendly and full of every kind of pinball you would possibly want to play from early electro-mechanical tables right through to up-to-the-minute new releases – this place has it all in an environment I would suggest you’ll not come across anywhere else.
Highly recommended, and one of the world’s pinball hidden gems. Get there before word gets out! Opening times can be found on its minimalist webpage here.