Date: October 2023

Location: 755 Prior Avenue North Suite #004, Saint Paul, MN 55104, USA

INTRODUCTION

Can Can Wonderland (CCW), the vision of co-founder Rob Clapp, was established in an old historic tin can factory within the Prior Works’ northernmost building.

The Can Can Wonderland logo
The Can Can Wonderland logo

LOCATION

CCW is located in the Hamline Midway neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota. By keeping an eye out for the ‘monumentous’ smokestack, you can’t miss the location.

The view of the location from the north
The view of the location from the north
The view from the south
The view from the south

Maybe the keen among you spotted the secret front entrance in the view from the South?

CCW's 'secret' entrance
CCW’s ‘secret’ entrance

Additionally, there is a third fairly indirect elevator entrance down a long hallway from the Yellow Lot.

PARKING

There is a small parking lot next to the building.

These select parking spots fill up fast
These select parking spots fill up fast
Stairs leading to parking across the street and one of those ‘sign spinners’ with helpful information
Stairs leading to parking across the street and one of those ‘sign spinners’ with helpful information

But, there is free underground parking as well.

Fairly steep inside parking ramp
Fairly steep inside parking ramp

The ramp leads to basement parking.

Pictured are just some of the free underground parking spots
Just some of the free underground parking spots

To avoid accidents stemming from their being only one ramp, underground parking is controlled by a light system based on the game you learned as a child.

Red light/green light
Red light/green light

The colour-changing sign next to the basement entrance hints at the lively things to come.

A hint of things to come
A hint of things to come

Through the door and you’re into the main hallway with bathrooms and the entrance to CCW.

The main hallway
The main hallway

Once fully inside, this is the view:

Pay your admission fee and get a wrist band the front desk
Pay your admission fee and get a wrist band the front desk

Can Can Wonderland is a cashless venue with no tipping.

Admission costs:

  • $10.00 per person on Wednesday
  • $13.00 per person Thursday through Sunday
  • No cover for children 5 and under

The artist-designed 18-hole mini golf costs:

  • $13.00 for children under 12
  • $15.00 for anyone over 12

There is a military and seniors discount of 20%.

Golf info
Mini-golf info

CCW’s schedule is as eclectic as their amusement area.

  • Monday and Tuesday: Closed
  • Wednesday and Thursday: 4pm until 10pm
  • Friday and Saturday: 11am until 1am
    (21+ only Friday and Saturday after 9pm)
  • Sunday: 11am until 7pm
Hours of operation
Hours of operation

The depth and diversity of Can Can Wonderland’s entertainment makes it suitable for both young and old alike. In fact, it is part of their mission to whimsically bridge the generation gap by having something for everyone. Allowing grandparents to play alongside their grandchildren. This is their grand vision and enjoyable intent. Hard-working proof were the staff who kept circulating to ensure everything was squeaky clean for everyone.

SWAG

Can Can Wonderland is sooo fun and inclusive, you can make it a staycation. You can even have them host your own private event. And, don’t forget to buy your souvenir from the swag shop or on line.

Swag from CCW and artists works, all for sale
Swag from CCW and artists works, all for sale

One interesting souvenir is this sticker designed by one of the employees, Ruben.

Cute and cool sticker
Cute and cool sticker

FOOD

Tasty fare is available via a kiosk.

A group ordering yummy, chef-made food
A group ordering yummy, chef-made food

There’s a more conventional printed menu available too which includes vegetarian options.

Food available to order from the kiosk
Food available to order from the kiosk

We tried the signature burger while we were there.

The CCW Burger is one tasty burger
The CCW Burger is one tasty burger

DRINK

Self-pouring taps with thirsty-six handles. Sorry, we meant to say thirty-six.

Possibly the world’s funnest vending machine
Possibly the world’s funnest vending machine

Here’s the menu of CCW themed drinks available from the full-service bar.

CCW speciality drinks
CCW speciality drinks
The full-service bar for those with an ‘21 and over’ wrist band
The full-service bar for those with a ‘21 and over’ wrist band

SEATING

Once you’ve gotten your food and/or drink, you can head over to the seating area.

The seating area across from the bar
The seating area across from the bar

There are many other places to set down your drink, you can take it with you.

A shelf and seats next to an artist’s sculpture
A shelf and seats next to an artist’s sculpture

Many of CCW’s pinball machines had drink holders fitted, so you could take your beverage of choice with you while you played.

Just two of the many pinball games bookending an arcade machine
Just two of the many pinball games bookending an arcade machine

THE VENUE

Can Can Wonderland takes up a large portion of the basement. This is because it is literally built around an eighteen hole miniature golf course.

CCW is a whimsical and colourful place, usually packed with a ballyhoo of people.

This wasn’t even one of their busier Sunday afternoons
This wasn’t even one of their busier Sunday afternoons

The inclusion of the creativity of local artists and community is very much the vision of the business model. The art is all around, in the golf course and on the walls.

The art changes every four months – or so
The art changes every four months – or so

Artist and in-house technical staff work together to create installations such as murals and golf hole themes.

‘Hole 11’ is pictured above and below
‘Hole 11’ is pictured above and below
This hole offers the ‘Putt Stop’ a staffed mini-bar
This hole offers the ‘Putt Stop’ a staffed mini-bar

Here’s one of the staff-created amusement machines, called ‘Blow Ball’.

This little one came to play
This little one came to play

This big fluff is CCW’s unofficial mascot, Don the Mastodon. OK, its name isn’t Don. We just decided to call it that. Nicknames have to start somewhere.

Not “a Don”, just ‘Don’
Not “a Don”, just ‘Don’

The ‘golden throne’ makes up the last mini-golf hole.

Whimsical and creative, hole 18
Whimsical and creative, hole 18

Game Room

There is a hall leading to the arcade.

Just a short stroll to even more fun
Just a short stroll to even more fun

Paid admission gets you free play on all entertainment machines. This, of course, includes the pinball games.

Just press to free play any amusement machine
Just press to free play any amusement machine

The picture below shows just part of a room full of games.

These are just some of the sit-downs
These are just some of the sit-downs

PINBALL

After that l-o-n-g introduction, it’s finally time for the part in which you pinballers might be most interested. All of the games played well, with just one pin turned off.

There are even pinball-like games.

A group of three games with long playfields
A group of three games with long playfields

There are sooo many pinball machines, some are grouped by theme.

Fun at just one of the pinball theme spots
Fun at just one of the pinball theme spots

Here’s another group of pins.

A half-circle consisting of eleven EMs
A half-circle consisting of eleven EMs

There were a half-dozen more modern digital pinballs.

Just one of six electronic pins grouped together
Just one of six electronic pins grouped together

For pinball machines alone, there were just too many to fully cover in one article.

Please click the thumbnails below to view all the pinball machines CCW had to offer during our visit.

Electromechanicals:

Electronics:


JUST TOO MUCH

CCW offers much, much more than ‘can’ be covered in this article.

Just one of the many, many fun things to do at CCW
The Smash Room – just one of the many, many fun things to do at CCW

To find out more, Pinball News spoke to Can Can Wonderland’s Jeannie Kenevan, who is their Director of Marketing & Special Projects.


Who started Can Can Wonderland?

The four founders are Rob Clapp, Chris Pennington, Jennifer Pennigton and Christi Atikinson. Rob is the sole owner of Can Can Wonderland now, seven years later.

How would you describe the business?

Can Can Wonderland is within an old tin can factory, hence the name Can Can Wonderland. In its heyday, the building had been the largest can manufacturing site in the country. After it closed and sat dormant for years, the concept of Can Can Wonderland started to take shape as a large venue filled with an epic 18-hole indoor mini golf course designed by teams of artists. The mini golf course is surrounded by a retro arcade of 125+ machines rescued, collected, and repaired, plus some of our own one-of-a-kind games made with spare parts from machines and the factory.

Is the range of attractions fixed, or are there rotations of the games?

There are some games that are mainstays and others that rotate through. If a machine goes on the blink, we pull it off the floor into the workshop for repair and bring out another machine to put in its place. Sometimes we do special groupings and features depending on time of year and other factors.

How are down or troublesome games reported?

If reported by a customer, we first send a staff member to verify that it’s not a matter of operator error or a power source issue. If we cannot roll it off the floor into the workshop immediately due to public foot-traffic surrounding it, then we flag it with a note that it is temporarily resting or out of order, and as soon as we can swap it out we do. We have a large workshop where five electromechanical specialists work on the machines throughout the week and weekends.

Why choose ‘retro’ electromechanical arcade machines as opposed to more modern versions?

Part of our mission is to repair, reuse, and restore. We are the anchor of a revitalization project within an era-specific building brought back to life for utilitarian purposes. People have their own access to what’s current and new. We provide access to what’s retro and rare. It also spans the generations nicely to focus on the games that are a walk down memory lane for those who grew up with them, and for the kids of today there is a novelty in that they don’t play at home on their modern gaming devices.

Tell us about one of your electro mechanical specialists, ‘Jonny Pinball’.

8-year-old Jonny was walking along the alley with his grandpa, “Pops,” as he called him. They saw a pinball machine kicked to the curb. Pops said, “Jonny, you’ve gotta learn how to fix stuff. People are throwing valuable things away because they don’t know how to repair them.” Jonny was willing to learn. Pops showed him how to replace broken bulbs, worn-out gaskets, buttons, wires, levers, & springs. By the 4th grade Jonny was doing maintenance at the local bowling alley after school in trade for free-play in the arcade. He fell in love with the game of pinball. He now gets calls from all over the world and has rescued thousands of arcade machines from our disposable culture and restored them to continue bringing people joy.

Your self-serve beer wall seems like an innovative concept. How does that work from a customer perspective?

Customers go to the Tap Wall Attendant counter to obtain a plastic tapwall card by opening a tab with their credit card. The customer then walks up to any of the 36 taps. The beauty of the tapwall is that guests get the chance to try as little or as much of any of the tap selection as they would like! They use the digital touch-screen above the tap faucets to choose how many ounces. If they’re just trying it they can choose to pour just a small sample size. Of note, it’s not just beer on the tapwall, there are ciders and seltzers too!

Do you have any reciprocity with your neighboring businesses?

We compliment each other well. A lot of guests come to play mini golf, pinball, and other arcade games at Can Can and then go down the hall to do the Puzzleworks escape rooms or the FlannelJax axe-throwing or upstairs to BlackStack Brewing or Fly Freak Studios.. We have had performers from Collide Theatrical Dance and Fly Freak Studios perform at Can Can, and we’ve had staff from the other business come to order food, etc. We order coffee from True Stone Coffee Roastery, J’s Kombucha and The Donut Trap have vending machines along the way into Can Can Wonderland, and we do work with several of the independent artists within the building.

Tell us about your community involvement.

Can Can Wonderland is the first arts-based public benefit corporation in Minnesota. We are an economic engine for the arts. We give money back to local artists and art-based organizations. We also donate to a lot of charitable organizations in the form of prizes, events, etc., and we participate in a number of off-site events within the local community.

Besides the many pinball games, is there anything you believe makes Can Can Wonderland stand out among other entertainment choices?

The mini golf, for sure. The built-in programming and entertainment. The arty, retro, quirky décor. A truly one-of-a-kind place with one-of-a-kind attractions within.

Can Can Wonderland is a place where guests can discover and experience games and amusements that exist nowhere else. For example, The World Famous Golf Ball Bazookas, or Caraoke (karaoke within a retro car – a 1976 AMC Pacer), or The Smash Room where people 18+ can throw breakable objects down a walled-in lane ending with gears and other old factory parts., The Band-o-lier, where you can make musical instruments hanging from the ceiling play unique songs, or Hee Haw – a throw-the-ball-at-a-target game that makes mechanical donkeys react when you hit the target hard enough.

And there’s more still being conceptualized by the Can Can Dream Team to be built by the Can Can Fabrication Team.


Oh, there’s just one last thing.

There is a standing invitation to Bill Murray to come play mini-golf.

"So I got that going for me, which is nice."
“So I got that going for me, which is nice”
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