All across California, Western Bowling Proprietors Association sends pins scattering at a network of bowling alleys, each with its own personality. In addition to open bowl on automatically scored lanes, many locations host special events that heighten the experience with enhancements such as vibrant lights, lively music, and laser systems that do double duty protecting the alleys' diamond collections. The alleys also house refreshment facilities, pro shops, and diversions that range from arcade games to billiards.
The sound of crashing pins draws equally loud cheers from players at Ventura Bowling Center as their progress is tallied via an automatic scoring system. Arcade games and dartboards entice them to take a break from alleyways, while hunger draws them toward the snack bar. Meanwhile, a full onsite bar supplies players with enough bubbly soda and ice-cold beer to celebrate a big win or an impressive moonwalk made possible by a pair of smooth-soled bowling shoes.
Bowling is the great social equalizer—a common ground where grizzled undercover clowns, blue-collar English lords, LARPer librarians, big and tall lingerie models, hordes of hive-minded hipsters, and the other two social demographics that comprise America can unite in common cause and topple a gaggle of stuck-up, inanimate wooden pins. Brunswick has been a household name in this egalitarian pastime almost since the beginning, with a company history that dates back to the 19th century, providing classic American good times to all manner of patrons across the country. And with today's Groupon tying the room together, you'll get to play two games (up to a $10.98 value) in its hallowed halls wearing a pair of freshly disinfected bowling shoes (up to a $4.79 value).
At Jillian's, a colorful, 10-lane alley, a nightclub ambiance pairs with modern décor and ample entertainment to host parties. A restaurant sates between-set hunger pains with a menu of American eats such as hot wings, burgers, and pizzas. On Fridays and Saturdays, Jillian's hosts club nights, during which a sound system pumps music. Four billiard tables draw pool sharks, and guests can also enjoy an arcade of 84 electronic games between songs or bowling frames. For birthday parties, a private suite hosts up to 50 people who can play Wii games on a giant projector screen. The venue itself can accommodate anywhere from ten to 1,200 guests and also provides catering.
A friendly staff mans Pickwick Gardens' pleasant bowlery, where 24 well-maintained synthetic lanes treat clown-shoed families and friends to old-fashioned, no-frills pin punishment. Slap on some bowling shoes ($3 daily, $4 from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday) and challenge a chum to three-fingered skeeball at a time of your choosing (game prices range from $3 to $6, depending on time of day and week), or bust out the automatic bumpers (for ages 7 and under) and treat a wee one to a bout of life-sized pinball. Cosmic bowling lets grounded astronauts put a new spin on asteroid dioramas on Fridays and Saturdays starting at 7 p.m.
Strike seekers of all ages can perfect their delivery inside a 24-lane facility that boasts late-night hours as well as a drink- and dish-slinging bar. Quartets of pin punishers can slip on pairs of multicolored moonwalkers and enjoy 60 minutes of bowling bliss. After entering alter-ego aliases into the computerized scoring system, hurlers can settle into the lanes' lounge-like booths and sketch their game strategies. Optional bumpers keep the scoring-impaired from experiencing life in the gutter, and bowlers can perform celebratory dances on the recently refinished floors instead of atop cars parked outside.