Whether you’re looking for a theater revival you can enjoy with your kids or just a cool arcade for your next date night, we’ve got the low-down on where to find nostalgic fun in Michigan.
MICHIGAN—As the saying goes, everything old is new again, and thinking about it that way sure gives you plenty of “new” places to check out in Michigan.
Nostalgia marketing is all the rage right now, having been made popular by millennials over the last decade or so. Though one could easily criticize this tactic, nostalgia provides a chance to recapture the pastimes of a different time and keep them alive for following generations.
It also gives us a reason to revive dying aspects of Americana. Take drive-in movie theaters, for example—at the height of their popularity in the 1950s, there were as many as 1,500 drive-ins throughout the country, including more than 100 in Michigan. As of 2022, according to the Detroit Free Press, the Mitten State only had about a dozen drive-ins left.
Seeing a swing in the other direction, classic arcades are currently in the midst of a comeback. The supposed “golden age” of arcade gaming was from 1978 through 1983, with fighting games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II bringing about a resurgence in the 1990s. That puts Gen Xers and millennials at the forefront of the recent nostalgia surge.
We’ve rounded up a list of our favorite arcades and drive-in movie theaters around Michigan for those who either want to relive those childhood memories or make new ones for their own families.
Detroit Metro and Downriver
666 Selden St., Detroit
Barcade dates back to 2004, billed as the “original arcade bar” that inspired the current surge of similar establishments. Michigan’s version of the classic can be found in Detroit’s Midtown. The business concept is simple: more than 40 classic arcade games and pinball machines with over 25 craft beers on tap.
1Up Arcade Bar
33316 Grand River Ave., Farmington
The 1Up Arcade Bar is located above the Basement Burger Bar for two floors of vintage outings in Farmington. Over 20 arcade games, as well as tabletop games and Super Smash Bros. tournaments, are packed into the upstairs space. The arcade bar offers a wealth of video game-themed craft cocktails—order one for bonus game tokens.
One Eyed Jacks
48922 Van Dyke Ave., Shelby Township
One Eyed Jacks is a well-rounded gaming establishment featuring vintage arcade games, pinball, pool, darts, and cornhole. They offer 10 tokens for every $10 spent on food and drink. With more than 30 types of games, that’s a lot of free play. Check out the gaming references on the drink menu, too.
Free Play Pinball Arcade
34830 Utica Road, #100, Fraser
At the Free Play Pinball Arcade, a flat rate of $15-$20 gives you access to one of the largest collections of pinball machines. Their 5,000-square-foot venue also features classic arcade games, foosball, skee-ball, darts, and more. Their jukebox bar serves up neon lights and classic cocktails, but if you want food, you can always bring your own.
10400 Ford Road, Dearborn
Ticket Price: $28 (2+ occupants)
The Ford-Wyoming Drive-In, or Ford Drive-In for short, is America’s largest drive-in theater. The property features nine different screens and enough parking for 2,500 cars. Patrons can choose to use either the old-fashioned speakers or an FM stereo system. They also offer a full concession stand, but patrons are allowed to bring their own refreshments.
Memory Lane Drive-In Theater
6501 N. Monroe St., Monroe
Ticket Price: $9 (adult ticket), $25 (carload)
The Memory Lane Drive-In Theater opened in 2021 following a renovation of the old Denniston Drive-In that closed in 1985. The family-owned theater plays first-run and older films. Outside food and beverage is discouraged to keep the revenue stream flowing, but concessions are cheap and usually better quality than typical indoor theaters.
Southern, Southeast, and Central Michigan
1214 S. University Ave., Ann Arbor
220 Albert St., East Lansing
Pinball Pete’s has served as a legendary establishment for generations of students at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. But with over 250 arcade games and Michigan’s largest selection of pinball games, it’s a legend among Michiganders in general. In addition, Pinball Pete’s is inflation-proof, as they have not raised prices since 1991. It’s a popular late-night hangout; you just have to make sure to keep feeding the machines.
Keystone Bar and Arcade
200 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti
The Keystone Bar and Arcade is located in the basement of Bobcat Bonnie’s Ypsilanti location. The aesthetic is a retro-lit version of your parents’ basement intended to bring back those nostalgic vibes. Aside from the collection of pinball games and craft cocktails, you can also check out the classic arcade games or pool tables.
Tilted Arcade Bar
146 W. Michigan Ave., Jackson
The Tilted Arcade Bar in downtown Jackson has more than 40 different pinball and classic arcade games, all playable for $1 or less. There are also pool tables for the classic bar gaming experience. The large bar features beer on draft and classic cocktails, including video game- and pop culture-themed cocktails.
10816 Grand River Ave., Brighton
It may be simply named, but The Arcade in Brighton is a favorite hangout of the locals. The Arcade features rare pinball machines, classic arcade games, and VR games. All games are playable for one flat all-day rate of $15-$20. The Arcade also shares a parking lot with a nearby party store, making it easy to grab snacks before getting back to the game.
Capri Drive-In Theater
119 W. Chicago Road, Coldwater
Ticket Price: $12 (adults)
The Capri Drive-In Theater in Coldwater was named one of the “10 Best Drive-Ins in America” by USA Today. This drive-in dates back to 1964, when US-12 was the main route between Detroit and Chicago and Coldwater was the perfect halfway point. There are two projection screens at the Capri, as well as a snack bar with different concession favorites.
Bay Area and Thumb Region
Crazy Quarters Arcade
401 Center Ave., Bay City
The Crazy Quarters Arcade in Bay City is a family-friendly free-play arcade—but it recently got a speakeasy-style expansion. The new level of pinball machines is called Nudged Underground, but they weren’t moved so as to serve alcohol. Instead, the basement harkens back to when pinball machines in public spaces were outlawed in 1942 in New York City—with other cities following suit—until the 1970s. With Crazy Quarters filling up more space, it’s a good time to check it out.
The Last Level Bar and Games
14281 Fenton Road, Fenton
Fenton’s The Last Level Bar and Games arcade just opened in summer 2023. The arcade charges a fee for entrance based on age, with $1 in tokens given at entry and 50 cents in tokens given for a drink purchase. But most games are set for free play, anyway. More than 30 arcade games and video game consoles are available, as well as board games.
2778 E. Sanilac Road, Carsonville
Ticket Price: $20 (vehicle)
The Hi-Way Drive-In up in Michigan’s Thumb may be off the beaten path, but it’s the oldest remaining drive-in theater in Michigan. Located in Black River Fairgrounds, this drive-in has been operating since 1948, but more recently, it’s also been a hotspot for local music. The Hi-Way Drive-In is noteworthy for its all-grass lot. It’s open seasonally, so check the status before you make the trip.
US-23 Drive-In Theater
5200 Fenton Road, Flint
Ticket Price: $11 (adults)
The US-23 Drive-In Theater is only open seasonally, but it’s still an important part of the summer for those in the Flint area. Ticket prices are for double features playing on three giant screens. The US-23 Drive-In was originally built in 1951, but extensive renovations in 2009 and 2013 brought it into the 21st century.
Western and Southwestern Michigan
LFG Gaming Bar
116 Portage St., Kalamazoo
Normally, LFG means “Looking for Group,” but in Kalamazoo, that means “liquor, food, and games.” The LFG Gaming Bar features both a drink menu and food menu inspired by video games and other pop culture references. Each item purchased includes four tokens. They stock a wide variety of video games, including classic arcade machines as well as retro-generation consoles like Super Nintendo, playable for free with any purchase.
The Pyramid Scheme
68 Commerce Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
The Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids’ Heartside neighborhood is a pub, music venue, and pinball arcade. The bar features 24 different pinball machines as well as plenty of craft beer and other beverages. Though the pub doesn’t actually serve food, you’re allowed to bring in grub from any local establishment.
22711 M-40, Gobles
206 S. State St., Gobles
200 S. Gremps St., Paw Paw
One of the most popular arcades in the western Michigan area, Klassic Arcade features three locations—Klassic Arcade 1.0 and 2.0, both in Gobles, and Klassic Arcade 3.0 in Paw Paw. The arcades feature over 50 games including pinball, classic games, shooting games, pool, and more. Check out Aurcade for the full list of available games.
Retro Electric Arcade
2163 W. Main St., Suite 150, Lowell
Retro Electric Arcade is a newer arcade charging a flat rate for arcade admission. They have more than 40 different vintage arcade games and pinball machines, as well as foosball, console and handheld gaming, board games, and more. They have a full list of their available games posted online. They also host a unique retail shop that features a curated mix of authentic retro toys and collectibles.
7020 W. 48th St., Fremont
The Clubhouse Arcade is a family-owned venture with more than 70 game machines. Aside from a large selection of tournament-ready pinball machines, there are many other arcade games available. Instead of using quarters or tokens, the Clubhouse Arcade is a free-play venue with a flat rate of $12 most days.
Sunset Drive-In Movie Theater
69071 Red Arrow Highway, Hartford
Ticket Price: $30 (vehicle)
The Sunset Drive-In Movie Theater is a seasonally open drive-in that’s been delighting families since 1948. There’s only one screen, and tickets are for double features. Patrons are allowed to bring their own concessions.
5 Mile Drive-In Movie Theater
28190 M-152, Dowagiac
Ticket Price: $30 (vehicle)
The 5 Mile Drive-In is the sibling establishment of the Sunset in Hartford. Built in 1961, the 5 Mile Drive-In was built in 1961 and accommodates 500 cars. Like with its sister theater, there’s only one screen, but tickets count for a double feature. The 5 Mile Drive-In is open seasonally.
920 E Summit Ave., Muskegon
Ticket Price: $11 (adult)
The Getty Drive-In is one of Michigan’s most popular drive-ins, as it’s been operational since 1944. Getty has four screens showing double features. Owned by Celebration Cinema, the drive-in also features a large playground and arcade room, as well as a self-serve concession stand.
Northern Michigan and Upper Peninsula
The Coin Slot
346 E. Front St., Traverse City
The Coin Slot in downtown Traverse City is a classic arcade bar and pinball parlor. The venue features around 20 machines, including classic arcade games. A wide variety of beer is available on the drink menu, including Michigan-made craft beer options. Food is available from Two Sons Pizza onsite.
Mine Shaft and Rock House
915 Razorback Dr, Houghton, MI 49931
This arcade and sportsplex in the Upper Peninsula might just qualify for the northernmost arcade in the country. The Mine Shaft and Rock House, inspired by the historic Keweenaw Peninsula in the heart of Copper Country, has an arcade, bowling alley, mini-golf course, and more. Patrons can play more than 40 arcade games with an arcade card, with individual games costing between 25 cents and $1 to play.
Two Bit Operation
123 N. 2nd Ave., Alpena
Two Bit Operation is the ’80s-themed arcade portion of Bob’s Bullpen, an entertainment venture founded by Bob LeFevre, an Alpena native and comic book artist whose work includes Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Two Bit Operation was actually revived from an earlier arcade of the same name in Alpena, which was not considered retro when it existed in the ’80s and ’90s. The arcade features 25 classic arcade cabinets hosting more than 2,600 games. There’s also a foosball table, skee-ball, air hockey, and more.
Cherry Bowl Drive-In Theatre
9812 Honor Highway, Honor
Ticket Price: $12 (adult)
Honor’s Cherry Bowl Drive-In was originally opened in 1953 and has remained a family-friendly draw ever since. It’s the one drive-in in Michigan that’s committed to never showing R-rated movies. Many features of the drive-in, such as the popcorn maker and sound system, still use as much of the original 1953 hardware as possible.
Highway 2 Community Drive-In Theater
US Route 2, Manistique (across from the Schoolcraft County Airport)
Highway 2 Community Drive-In is not only the only drive-in theater operating in the Upper Peninsula but also one of the only nonprofit-run drive-in theaters in the country. The drive-in originally opened in 1953 and is currently owned by the Upper Peninsula Film Union, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to preserving the drive-in. Film events are always free to the public thanks to corporate sponsorships, with only special events like concerts charging admission.
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