Hitting Up All the Free Play Arcades, Downtown Denton, and Taking the Back Roads Home

I always loved playing arcade games as a kid. We did a lot of camping when I grew up and a lot of campgrounds had small arcades. I’d save up my allowance to play a few games and would have carefully rationed my money to make sure it lasted.

My love of arcade games never waned, and when I had the choice to buy Cruis’n USA, I jumped on that opportunity. This is an old picture of the full arcade version of Cruis’n USA in my living room of my apartment in Marshfield, Wisconsin. It was right next to my server rack and I think I had a couch that I curb shopped for. Yeah, I had the ultimate bachelor pad (I ended up selling this game when I moved to Austin).

When Victoria and I were celebrating her dad’s birthday in the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) area, we got an ad on Facebook for Free Play Richardson. The premise of the place is that you paid an admission fee and then every game is set to free play. I could play as many games as I want and I don’t have to worry about rationing my quarters! This place sounded amazing! I put this on my list of places to visit, but didn’t get a chance to visit for a while…

…A while ended up being a year-and-a-half later. I wonder if this is one of the longest times between someone seeing an ad and converting them to a customer. I’m not sure, but I can say the Facebook ad worked. It just took some time.

Life was hectic, and Victoria and I just wanted to get away for a weekend. Why not visit finally visit Free Play Richardson? We hit the road on a Saturday morning.

I needed gas and one of my favorite stops on I35 is Slovacek’s. We timed everything just right that we could also eat lunch there.

In my opinion, Slovacek’s makes some of the best sausage in Texas. I will normally get a few sausage links or a Frito pie. I was looking at the menu and the beer bread sausage sandwich with sauerkraut and cheese caught my eye.

I ordered that and brought it to the table. I wasn’t disappointed. It was great!

Since I love jerky, I got some for the road.

Victoria got a buttermilk pie.

We then hit the road.

We finally made it to Free Play Richardson!

We paid the admission fee and I got a wristband.

I then took a glance and realized I was in arcade heaven!

 

Victoria and I made our way around the arcade and I played a bunch of different games. I found the Ms. Pacman game was cranked up to max speed. It was pretty high action and got the adrenaline going. I was kind of hooked and that was probably the game I played the most.

Our original plan was to play arcade games at Free Play Richardson and then stay in Richardson for the night. We’d explore Richardson a bit and then go back to Austin. I realized there were two other Free Plays out there. Now the impulsive nature in me said, “Let’s visit them all.” In many ways Victoria was originally reluctant, but she agreed. We decided to drive to Denton to check out Free Play Denton. I decided to dig into my jerky on the way there.

In no time, we were at Free Play Denton!

Our wristbands worked to get us in and we proceeded to start playing some games.

I realized there was a bar there, so I figured it would be cool to spend the night in Denton. Victoria thought this was a good plan and we could explore Downtown Denton. I had stayed at a La Quinta in Denton previously, so I knew it would be a good place to stay. We drove there, checked in, and sat down for a minute to get our bearings.

Since we planned to drink, we decided to call a Lyft. Our Lyft driver showed up promptly and took us downtown. The clouds looked pretty threatening.

Our first order of business was to get something to eat. Victoria loves pizza and Italian food in general, so our plan was to go to J & J’s Pizza.

After eating, we walked around the courthouse square. I started picking up on the vibe of the town and I really liked it. Minus one crazy person who thinks the earth is flat, Denton seems like a well put-together town. It’s clean and the courthouse is beautiful. It also feels very laid back.

The first store we decided to peak our heads into was Atomic Candy. If I was reliving my childhood through the arcade, why not get some candy to go along with it?

I haven’t had candy cigarettes (or whatever they call them now) in years! This was a great find. I “smoked” one on the bench outside the store.

It was off to more walking. This time we passed a historic bank and some really cool murals!

Legos were another cool thing I played with as a kid. Why not check out Minifigs Bricks and More?

After checking out Legos, the used book store caught our eye. Recycled Books, Records, and CDs really exemplified the saying, “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” It’s an old opera house that is brimming with books. I swear you could get lost if you’re not careful!

If I hadn’t taken a Lyft, I’d probably have bought about $100 in records and CDs. This is definitely a place I need to check out when I have my car and can fill up my trunk!

After wandering around this amazing maze of books, records, CDs, and a ton of other stuff, Victoria and I made our way outside.

Our next stop was Market on Oak. Coffee is easy to carry so we bought some locally roasted coffee.

We then took a gander into Denton Trading Company. While nothing caught our eye at that moment, I was impressed how open the store felt and some of the cool quirky things they had. Once we get a bigger home, I could see this place being good to help decorate.

We completed our walk around the square and were getting thirsty. We made our way back around to go to Hooligans. I caught a few more pictures and it seemed like some people decided to preach as I made my way there.

We made it into Hooligans and had a drink.

After Hooligans, we decided to check out Andy’s Paschall Bar for a second drink. It was cool seeing the historic-feeling inside, but we realized there wasn’t a place to sit. We decided we’d make our way back to Free Play Denton.

We ended up having a few drinks and ultimately got free admission for the next day at Free Play Arlington.

The games were a lot of fun after a few drinks. I’m glad there were places to put the drinks next the games. I really got into Ms. Pacman and was soon hitting the high score!

It was getting kind of late so we called our Lyft driver. It was the same person who drove us earlier that day.

Victoria and I got a good night’s sleep and then woke up and had breakfast. Our final destination was Free Play Arlington.

We were soon there and the place was pretty empty. It was great to really get to play the games I wanted. I kept hitting up Ms. Pacman and also found the Cruis’n World game was actually Cruis’n USA! You bet I played that a lot and won some “free” (I guess if it weren’t set to free play) races.

We definitely got our fill playing arcade games in this weekend. It was time to hit the road and go home. I figured, why not make the final part of our adventure taking the two-lane highways back to Austin? I dialed in the GPS to avoid the interstate and ultimately took a combination of farm-to-market roads and US highways. We stopped at a Chicken Express along the way.

Since we were taking the back roads of Texas, why not put on some good Texas music? Buddy Holly it is!

For the most part, it was smooth driving. We’d occasionally get behind a slow person and traffic seemed to sometimes be heavy, especially for the remote areas we were in. The clouds started to get a little threatening, but we didn’t run into any weather along the way.

We made it back to Austin and relaxed a little before getting ready for another week. I’m really glad this trip turned out like it did. I originally planned to only go to Free Play Richardson, but I’m glad my impulsive nature (and Victoria’s willingness) allowed us to go to all three Free Plays.

I also loved exploring Denton. It’s a really cool city that I want to come back to. I know I’ve just scratched the surface, but Denton left a really good impression on me and has made me antsy to come back. Maybe I’ll take the back roads there. Then again, I’d probably miss Slovacek’s. I’ll figure it out, but you’ll have to stay tuned to see what I discover next!

To see more of my adventures, click on the map! Or if you prefer to see a list of more blog entries, click here.

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