Bowling Choices

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.

We had a nice time at 810 last night.

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.

Sidney bowling at StrikeCity in Charlotte.

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.

This is me at Lilac Lanes in Spokane, one of the alleys built in the 1990s.

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.

Sid and I at a classic bowling alley.


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.

Sid’s Birthday Weekend in Charlotte

It didn’t even last 24 hours. To be exact, from the time we entered the parking garage at the Charlotte Epicentre to the time we exited it, we had clocked 23 hours and 10 minutes. Short but sweet for sure.

In honor of Sidney’s birthday this Wednesday, her and I took a brief weekend trip to Charlotte to spend a little time away from Myrtle Beach and to mark her milestone. We stayed at the Epicentre, a buzzing area with lots of fun things for people our age to do. This trip marked the first time I had ever spent actual time in the Queen City.

The Epicentre has one hotel in it, the Aloft Charlotte Uptown. The hotel is situated on top of the Epicentre, making you really feel like you are right in the middle of everything. A growing and modern chain, Aloft properties shy away from the traditional hotel lobby/hotel room look and go for something much more contemporary and social. The rooms are small with the bathroom and shower behind the bed but the fixtures/appliances, such as the shower and television, are top notch. We were on the tenth floor and had a view of Time Warner Cable Arena. The staff treated us really well and we killed some time today sitting on the snazzy lobby couches playing Connect Four.

This was our view from our hotel room. You can see some of the Epicentre and Time Warner Arena.

This was our view from our hotel room. You can see some of the Epicentre and Time Warner Arena.

After we checked in at around 2 p.m., we went out and walked around the Epicentre. An outdoor closed in entertainment area three stories high, the Epicentre is just one of those places that immediately makes you say, “Yeah, this is definitely the place to hang out.” We walked into a vibrantly colored establishment called the Tin Roof and sat down at the bar. While enjoying chips and queso and a couple rounds of drinks, we talked to the bartender and another employee about the area and learned a lot.

A look at a portion of the Epicentre.

A look at a portion of the Epicentre.

We left Tin Roof and went to the bowling alley in Epicentre, StrikeCity. Warning: This is not your typical bowling alley. StrikeCity is bowling meets clubbing meets sports bar. We signed up for a lane and then went to the giant bar situated behind the bowling action as we had about a 30 minute wait. Sitting at the bar watching people bowl gave me the perfect opportunity to scope out the area. Above the lanes were giant television screens tuned into ESPN. The light show was very sleek, not by any means a cheesy cosmic bowling type production. They only had 12 lanes and they were stacked close together. Our lane opened up and our server (called a “host”) immediately came over and introduced herself.

We had a blast bowling! I honestly had a lot more fun than I usually do. We made fast friends with the couple sharing our bowling ball return rack with us, Eric and Alia. StrikeCity sells these giant beer towers meant to share. We each went in half and purchased one to split between the four of us. When our bowling ended, the tower didn’t. We took the remainder of it to the bar and started to talk. It was there that we decided we wanted to go to the Charlotte Hornets-New York Knicks game that was about to tip off in about an hour.

Sidney bowling while Alia is laughing about something.

Sidney bowling while Alia is laughing about something.

We hustled the short distance to Time Warner Cable Arena that was right next to the Epicentre. We split up to purchase tickets from a scalper. After some dead ends, Eric called me and said he found someone with four tickets. Sidney and I met back up with him and Alia and I purchased two seats for $80. Excited, the four of us walked inside the arena.

Eric, Alia, Sidney, and I  (obviously excited) in Time Warner Arena going to our seats.

Eric, Alia, Sidney, and I (obviously excited) in Time Warner Arena going to our seats.

If I had to do Saturday night over again, I think I would have passed on the game. The star players for both teams, Kemba Walker and Carmelo Anthony, both didn’t play. The tickets the scalper sold us weren’t where he said they would be and we were nosebleed behind one of the baskets. The play itself was horrid. Reaction from both teams after the game centered on how sloppy the contest was. But on the bright side, Time Warner Arena is really nice and we did get Kemba Walker bobbleheads. It wasn’t enough to make us stay though…we left at halftime.

Some images from the game. It was cool to see an NBA game in Charlotte but probably wouldn't do it again.

Some images from the game. It was cool to see an NBA game in Charlotte but probably wouldn’t do it again.

This morning, Sidney and I enjoyed a bagel at Bruegger’s. We spent time at the pool and time in the hotel lobby. After we checked out of Aloft, we went to Studio Movie Grill and watched the 11 a.m. showing of “The Wedding Ringer.” Our theater experience was terrific, so unique and good in fact that I will devote an entire blog post to it tomorrow. The movie itself wasn’t bad either. After lunch at Five Guys, we headed back to Myrtle Beach.

Some low key hotel fun this morning.

Some low key hotel fun this morning.

I told Sidney a couple times that I would definitely go back to the Epicentre. The place is just so contemporary and fun. Minus the lights and gambling, the Epicentre had a little bit of a Vegas feel to it for me. I enjoyed my time in Charlotte and was happy to help ring in Sidney’s birthday week. Don’t Blink.