Location: 245 Blair Blvd, Eugene, OR 97402, USA
While driving up to Seattle from San Francisco in October 2012, we broke the drive with an overnight stay in Eugene. Although we found a couple of pinballs in the city centre while refuelling after a long day's travelling, it wasn't until we got to Seattle that we learned we'd missed the best location of all.
So there was only one thing to do: get back in the car and drive back to Eugene to visit Blairally (pronounced Blair-Alley).
The home of Blairally is a nondescript building in a semi-industrial area to the west of the Williamette River. The immediate area around Blairally is dominated by the Ninkasi Brewery and has seen rapid expansion on site right behind Blairally, providing the arcade with both customers and supplies of beverages.
Started in 2010, Blairally may be unobtrusive from the outside, but step through the front door any doubts are immediately blown away and you know you're in the right place.
Since we were just talking about the Ninkasi beers, let's start at the bar, the surface of which is made from shuffle alley wood.
Blairally has a selection of daily food or beverage offers as well as regular theme nights and a Pinball Daze tournament on Sunday afternoons.
The bar is the centre point of the room, but nearly all the remaining space is given over to games, games and more games.
The longest row starts at the entrance and runs the full length of the building.
Facing those newer games was a bank of classic '80s solid-state machines.
Moving behind these solid-state machines we take a temporary break from pinball and discover two electromechanical games - a ten-pin ball bowler and a puck skeeball.
As you can see, it's not all pinball at Blairally. In addition to the bowler and skeeball, there are plenty of classic video games on the right side of the room.
The final selection of machines are on the far right of the room, and we return to the pinballs. This time it's a selection of electromechanicals.
We said earlier that 'nearly' all the space beyond the bar is taken up by games. The exceptions to this are a small seating area for those taking a rest or enjoying some of the bar snacks, and the obligatory rest rooms.
Back in the bar - and in no way related to the rest room - we find the "How High Can You Get" high score table for the video games. That stands next to the serving hatch for the limited range of snacks available, which largely consists of chips, macaroni variants, quesadillas, and grilled sandwiches.
Having this number of games in the arcade doesn't come come without maintenance issues, so space has to be given to a repairs and spares area. In the case of Blairally, that space is through the back door and across the parking lot.
Thankfully, the weather in Eugene allows games to be set up outside.
Blairally really is an unexpected treat. Situated away from the more popular parts of the city, it really lives up to the 'Retro Arcade' name by bringing Eugene's residents a unique collection of classic pinball and video games.
The decor may be minimalist and the food selection somewhat restricted, but there's a very positive down-to-earth vibe about the place which encourages visitors to enjoy themselves.
And with such a selection of machines awaiting your press of the start button, it would be difficult not to.
Blairally is open 4pm to 2am Monday to Friday, and 2pm to 2am at the weekend. Parking is available in the street outside and you can get more details of the current game line-up and information about special events on their Facebook page.
© Pinball News 2014