As a young teenager, I fondly remember going with my friends to the bowling alley. We would go during the middle of the day in summer when games and shoe rentals were just $1 each. We would play four or five games and have an absolute ball, spending the entire afternoon at the alley.
I grew older and my fondness for bowling deteriorated. I no longer jump at the chance to throw a 12 pound ball down a greased up, narrow lane. I rather attend a ballgame, play putt putt, or hit a bar before going bowling. However, every now and then I do get an itch to bowl. Even the times I don’t feel up to it but go anyway, I usually walk out of the alley thinking I am glad I did that.
One thing is for sure: bowling has evolved.
One thing is also for sure: bowling has not evolved.
Your bowling experience will center on where you go to do it. There really is no right or wrong answer on where you go – it just depends on your mood (and what is available). Judging on my bowling escapades over the past few years, you can choose from one of the four options…
Trendy Game Center – Yesterday, we took Sloan bowling for the first time. We went to 810 Billiards and Bowling, a brand new entertainment center that opened in a former grocery store in Market Common. With a rustic but hip interior, the bowling balls are painted like billiards balls, brick covers the area above the pins, and you have to climb steps to enter the bowling area and descend down steps to bowl at your assigned lane. It feels like you are bowling inside a retro warehouse – a warehouse that has a cool bar, ping pong tables, and several billiards tables.
Why Go? If you want a “gourmet” bowling experience in a creative setting with plenty of other entertainment options.
In Da Club – When Sid and I spent a weekend in Charlotte, we went to a club. Wait, I mean we went bowling at a place that felt like a club. The space was intimate, the music blared, and the lights dazzled. Called StrikeCity, it actually is purposely designed as a bowling/club hybrid. Because the lanes are stacked so close together, human interaction with the people at the lane next to you is encouraged. Before we finished our first game, Sid and I were already pals with the couple next to us.
Why Go? You want to party! Get your drink on while mixing and mingling…just don’t forget to bowl when it is your turn.
Cosmic Fun – In the 1990s and 2000s, bigger and brighter bowling alleys were built around the country. These centers offered space and a modern appeal. They tried to attract both the hardcore bowler and the younger demographic. Bowling leagues would take place during the day and early evening but come night the lights would turn off and cheesy laser shows would excite people who wanted to “bowl in the dark.” This type of alley was what I grew up going to during my teenage years that I mentioned above. When Sid and I visit Spokane, we sometimes bowl at a place that meets this characterization with my brother.
Why Go? You want to take your family out for a night of good, clean fun.
Classic Alley – You can identify one of these places even before you walk inside. As you approach the door, you can smell it. The scent of feet, sweat, and cleaner product will overwhelm you. Once you walk in, you will actually see it. A complete blast from the past, bowling alleys that have been around for three or four decades lack amenities but pack nostalgia. Dark and simple, these places have chipped balls, fading pins, and archaic scoring monitors. Believe it or not, the new era in bowling has failed to completely wipe these older places out. In fact, Sid and I have bowled in at least two of these alleys since we have been married.
Why Go? You are an avid bowler and want a no frills place to pursue your hobby.
Pumped up to bowl? Not me. Since I went yesterday I am good for a couple months. But if you decide to hit the alley tonight, make sure to throw a strike for me. Don’t Blink.