Visiting Funspot: The World's Largest Arcade


Reprinted from Hedgehogs Without Borders

Part of the fun of traveling is delving into a country's underbelly, those places that are just so damn odd it can sometimes be difficult to figure out exactly how they fit into a country's culture. And when you're on the road, you have the perfect excuse to visit those off-the-wall places that the locals generally avoid...until they have friends in town. ("Do you want to go see the world's largest ball of twine? It's just down the road!") Traveling means not only can you visit the world's largest thermometer collection, but you can grin proudly for the camera and proclaim loudly to the world, "Yes, I am indeed standing in front of 4,000 thermometers and I am loving it!"

Tim and I are big fans of quirky travel sights. We've balanced eggs on nails at the Inti Nan Solar Museum at the equator in Ecuador. We've squeamishly made our way past medical oddities in Philadelphia's Mutter Museum. And we've even toured a UFO museum in Turkey under the watchful eye of a very intent museum caretaker. Because, hey, how many times do you get the chance to visit a UFO museum in the middle of Turkey?

So when our best friend Philip asked if we wanted to go on a road trip to see the world's largest arcade (conveniently located a mere three hours from Cape Cod), who were we to say no?

For nearly 60 years, the village of Weirs Beach in Laconia, New Hampshire has been home to Funspot. Founded by Bob Lawton in 1952 (after borrowing $750 from his grandmother), Funspot was originally known as Weirs Sport Center and was located across from the boardwalk (and near all the summer tourists) that overlooks Lake Winnipesaukee.

(Yes, the same Lake Winnipesaukee mentioned in the 1991 Bill Murray movie, What About Bob. Though, it should be noted, What About Bob was not actually filmed on location, much to the disappointment of town residents and, most decidedly, the tourists who still go there hoping to see part of the movie set. But this is neither here nor there when it comes to our hero of this tale: the largest arcade in the world.)

It was on the boardwalk that Weirs Sport Center became the perfect place for families to go during the rainy days of a week-long vacation. And with a penny arcade, an indoor miniature golf course, and an active concession stand, there wasn't much more a family looking for a break from the beach needed.

But it wasn't until 1964 when Bob Lawton purchased 21 acres of land and re-located his business just a bit down the road that his labor of love would become more than just a place to pass the time.

As the years passed (and after the name changed from Weirs Sport Center to Funspot Family Fun Center), Funspot became a destination in its own right.

Over the next 40+ years, Funspot expanded and changed into what it is today: an entertainment mecca containing just about every indoor activity you can think of all under one roof. Video games, pinball machines, bowling, bingo, and an indoor mini-golf course fill three-stories and 75,000 square feet.

It's also home to the American Classic Arcade Museum with over 250 pre-1987 video games and pinball machines. PacMan, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Space Invaders, and Centipede are but a few of the games still beeping and buzzing at Funspot. It is here where adults can re-live a bit of their past, spending hours with their faces illuminated only by the glow of a screen, putting token after token into the game from their childhood all for that chance to get just one level further, just one score higher.

Which, of course, bring us to the next part of our story.