Go BIG or Go Home
What Happens When A Small-Town Family Visits The "World's Largest"... Whatever!

World’s Largest Pinball Machine, Chicago, IL

Not being able to clone myself presents two major problems: A) I have to do ALL the laundry myself; and B) I can’t visit all the really cool BIG things out there I want to see. Like the world’s largest pinball machine, which anyone (other than poor ole’ clone-less me) can find at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, which just happens to be the largest science museum in the western hemisphere!


The largest science museum in the western hemisphere!

So while I make sure the kids have clean undies, I rely on generous contributors to write monthly guest posts covering what I have to miss. This month, that kind soul is Jessica at Suitcases and Sippycups. When she sent me her photos of the pinball machine, I was caught off guard, because I thought it would look like an arcade table-style game.

She told me that this is an exhibit piece, and you watch the action rather than play it. I’m pretty sure it would put me into a delighted trance. But until my clone reports in with her bottle of Tide so I can go see for myself, I’ll settle for Jessica’s report:

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

Inside Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry we found the Swiss Jollyball, the world’s largest pinball machine.  This isn’t one of those attractions that promise giant-ness just to lure visitors.  At 7 feet tall and 15 feet wide, the Swiss Jolly Ball earned a proper place in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1988.  Visiting was a family affair, including me and the mister and our four boys, ranging in age from 10 to 2.

Pinball machine

This wasn't the type of pinball machine I envisioned...it's even better!

WHY did you go there, exactly?

All our traveling roads seem to lead to Chicago, as we have visited the Windy City ten times in ten years for a number of business and family obligations.  This trip was prompted by an airfare war that produced $100 roundtrip tickets. We just couldn’t pass it up!  Every trip to Chicago must include a trip to the Museum of Science and History and the Swiss Jollyball.

Okay, what was so cool about it? 

The countless bells, lights, and cleverly arranged movement triggered by the magic silver ball are enough to keep any mechanically-minded kid busy for a good while.  Adults and babies seem to be mesmerized by the motion, as well.  It’s also a great place to rest and recharge after touring the giant museum.  The area is never very crowded, and with tables and snack bars nearby, you can grab a quick snack while you watch the mechanical motion.

Swiss Jolleyball

Can you imagine how much fun it was constructing this?! Love the cows!

How it rated on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = snoozefest, 10 = add to your bucket list): [rating=8]

I would give it an 8, especially in conjunction with the museum, which is a can’t-miss Chicago attraction. Even though the museum houses some amazing exhibits, this is the one thing my kids remember, and run to as soon as we enter the museum.

A little background info about the place:

Created as a travel advertisement for the Swiss Tourism Board, the Jollyball takes you on a tour of the Swiss countryside and tourism hot spots.  It was created by Charles Morgan, a British jeweler living in Switzerland, using parts salvaged from the junkyard.

Hey YOU! Go BIG!

Museum of Science and Industry

57th Street and Lake Shore Drive

Chicago, IL 60637

(773) 684-1414


  1. Steve said,
    December 21, 2011 @ 11:48 am

    Wow! Definitely not like any pinball machine that I’d picture, but it looks like it would be very entertaining. Are there flippers in there somewhere? It can’t be a real pinball machine without flippers!

  2. Lisa said,
    December 21, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

    We go to Chicago quite often as well but it’s been awhile since we’ve been to the Museum of Science and Industry. We’ll be there for a few days this summer so we’ll definitely be checking out this pinball machine. It looks really cool although I think I’d be more intrigued by finding all the Swiss tourist hot spots than by the machine itself. Great post, Jessica and Have a Merry BIG Christmas, Traci!!

  3. Kelley said,
    December 21, 2011 @ 11:52 pm

    That IS awesome! I could see my boys just staring at it forever. I didn’t know that museum was the biggest in the western hemisphere! Dadgum, that’s huge! I’ve been to Chicago once but we didn’t go there. What a shame. 🙁

  4. Jay Kane said,
    January 1, 2012 @ 10:35 pm

    Wow, that’s pretty cool. Never even thought that somebody would take the time to construct a pinball machine of this size. I use HereStay.com to find vacation home rentals and was just looking for homes around chicago, which there are plenty of. I’ll definately have to look into this thing the next time I’m in the area.

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  1. December 21, 2011 @ 9:59 am

    […] Today I am sharing about our own brush with “greatness” at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.   The Museum of Science and Industry is actually a big site all on its own, as the biggest science museum in the western hemisphere.  Inside it also houses the Guinness world record certified world’s largest pinball machine.  Traci was kind enough to let me share about the pinball machine and our experience at the MSI.  Just how big is the world’s biggest pinball machine?  Check it out on Go Big or Go Home. […]