If you've been bowling in Chicago, chances are pretty good you've been to a Chicagoland Bowling establishment. With member centers from the north to the south, the organization connects pin destroyers all over the city. The advantages of this network include tournaments that span the entire region, scholarship programs for talented youth bowlers, and a cornucopia of options for clowns who juggle bowling pins.
From the vintage Schlitz logo on the building's brick façade to the pinsetters scuttling about to manually clear and upright pins, Southport Lanes & Billiards embraces yesteryear's leisure sports with authentic charm. The bowling area, which is one of only 10 hand-set alleys left in the country, bears pencil-and-paper scorecards with the safety precautions: "If you see legs, don't bowl!" and "Don't take a nap on the lanes!" Green-felted billiards tables may be reserved by the hour, during which cues wage their one-sided war against a rack of colored balls. Above the long wooden bar, vintage paintings mix with flat-screen TVs illuminating half-pound Angus burgers, sandwiches, and salads, as well as draft and bottled beers, tallboys, and wine by the glass or barrel.
Brunswick Zone has been a trusted name in recreational pin pulverizing for more than a century, providing good times to patrons across the country. Friends and families season afternoons with a pleasant peppering of strikes, spares, and easygoing gutter balls under classic bowling conditions, or take the next bold step in ball-hurling evolution and engage in a round of cosmic bowling, where dancing lights, thumping tunes, and black-lit gear light up the full sensorium. At XL locations, game rooms beckon with nimble joystick workouts on classic and modern arcade games.
From bar crawls to street festivals, there's plenty of ways to meet new people in the city. There's also plenty of ways to get exercise, such as jogging along the waterfront or scaling a skyscraper in a gorilla costume. Cities and Sports brings both worlds together through seasonal sports leagues that are as much about winning and getting exercise as they are about socializing and having fun. After the games, players can hang out with their team members and meet new people at the league sponsor bar. During warmer months, the company organizes leagues at local parks and beaches for weekly rounds of softball, kickball, and volleyball. Then, when winter rolls around, it moves its operation indoors for properly sheltered sessions of dodge ball, volleyball, bowling, and basketball.
As the icy grip of winter tightened its grip around Boston, a group of buddies mourned the impending cold that, history had shown, meant they wouldn't see each other as often until the warmer months. To get around the problem, they decided to find a way to stay warm without sacrificing the fun of social activities. The solution: the cozy indoor setting and endless high-fives of bowling. Thus, in the winter of 2006, Better Off Bowling was born.
Originally a way for friends to keep in touch, the idea caught on and became a league-sized endeavor, spreading to new cities and close-knit crews around the country. Each season consists of six weekly games, during which teams compete in 90-minute matches to combine the four highest scores in a single game. Many participating alleys offer drink specials during the sessions, and Better Off Bowling hosts post-match hangouts with board games for teams to interact with each other and giddily fly kites over the ball returns' air vents.
A blazing neon bowling-pin sign calls passersby into the crimson-and-cream façade of Fireside Bowl, drawing them back through time into the '40s, when the alley was opened. Gleaming spheres devastate their wooden foes beneath brilliant wall murals and vintage accents, and a pool table and selection of turn-of-the-century video games captivate between frames aided by electronic scoring systems and pins set upright by very strong squirrels. Revelry revives itself in the low light of a vintage-style lounge, where suds flow smoothly into pints that glide along a gleaming bar. The guttural roar of stressed guitar strings sings out during occasional rock and punk shows at the alley, where league rollers build prowess alongside casual players on the shining hardwood.