Try the Arcade Games of the Past at Milestones

August 2, 2016

Long ago, before the heyday of the video game arcade in the 1970s and 80s, another kind of amusement arcade existed. From the late 1800s to the middle of the 1900s, penny arcades were popular attractions where the young and old gathered to entertain themselves with a variety of coin-operated machines. At Milestones Museum of Living History you can experience for yourself the excitement of the past as you step back through time to the authentic vintage penny arcade.

Automated mechanical shows began to appear in the 1700s, where they attracted big crowds in cities or as part of travelling fairs. Later on, clockwork entertainment machines were developed that worked when a coin was inserted, and the earliest type of arcade machines were born. These machines often contained small models or puppets that acted out a scene when a coin was dropped in. Many of them had macabre or horrific themes, with executions featuring surprisingly often! Clockwork machines eventually gave way to electric, but these little automated shows remained a hugely popular source of entertainment for quite some time.Milestones

Alongside the mechanical shows, other types of arcade machines also proved popular. There were games of skill, with the chance to win a prize, or just to show off to friends and spectators. Some of the games that used small metal balls later evolved into the pinball machines still found around the world today. Many weird and wonderful novelty machines were also made, from a range of different fortune telling machines and ‘love testers’ to those that were simply designed to give an electric shock, which was considered to have health benefits at the time. Whatever the type of the machine, they generally cost a penny to operate, and so the places where people could go to use them became known as penny arcades.

You’ll be comforted to know that there aren’t any electric shocks on offer in the Milestones penny arcade, but there are plenty of other fascinating and exciting arcade machines of the past. There are about 50 on display, from original mechanical shows to skill games, all kept in working order and ready to go at the drop of a coin. To keep them authentic, all of the vintage machines take old pennies, so you’ll need to change your modern money to be able to operate them. As soon as you’re clutching a handful of pennies you’re ready to explore the arcade, and you’ll feel like you really have been transported to the past.

The great thing about the penny arcade is that kids (and adults!) of all ages are bound to find something they enjoy. Younger children will be entranced by the mechanical puppet shows, and will love the chance to win some sweets by playing the crane machine. Some of the skill-based games are tricky enough to keep older kids and teenagers busy, and there are even opportunities for two players to race head to head and see who’s fastest. There’s also the chance to have your fortune told, and see for yourself some of the more gruesome old machines that used to thrill the arcade visitors of the past.

The experience as a whole is a rare chance to see a working penny arcade, as sadly many of these old machines have been destroyed, lost, or fallen into severe disrepair over time. Even where they do survive, there aren’t many places left where you can see so many together, and all lovingly cared for and kept in full working order. Because of this, the penny arcade alone is worth a visit to Milestones, without even taking into account everything else there is to see and do. Make sure you take plenty of change to convert into old pennies so you can try out all the different machines.

If you’re planning a visit to Milestones, save some money for the arcade by taking advantage of our exclusive discount voucher, which gives one child free entry!

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