When I can hear the sound of spare coins jingling, I get an itch for a real pinball fix and head to the Haight and Free Gold Watch. Located on Waller, a block off Haight, a garage door opens onto the largest collection of classic steel pinball machines in the city. This is not a fancy place for hipster drinks or electronic gaming. It is real pinball with flippers and an extra ball if you match. Started in the spare room of a tee shirt printing company, there are now about 100 true pinball machines waiting for a couple of quarters to spring into life.
There is a room with some very old-school games from the 1950s that feel like a trip back in time, but the majority are classic movie and pop culture machines from the 80s, 90s and 2000s. Play the Addams Family pinball or Lord of the Rings – can you reach Mount Doom? Sounds and lights and bonus points add up to an amazing way to spend an hour before exploring the entrance to Golden Gate Park or diving back into the Haight.
Open seven days a week, Free Gold Watch feels like a hidden club for the neighbourhood. It is a friendly place to spend an hour and score 40,000 points for hitting Indiana Jones’ secret hoard.