The only sounds louder than balls smacking into pins at Midway Lanes are the groups of people cheering each other on. The bowling alley incites some friendly competition accented with high-energy tunes and a spinning disco ball. Beer pours freely from the bar, and chefs whip up daily specials that range from stuffed jalapeno burgers to pulled pork sandwiches. And on Sundays, the alley hosts Bingo and opens a bloody mary bar that provides guests with all the ingredients necessary to concoct their own mixed drink in a chilled glass.
Each facility in the family of Rockford-Area Bowling Centers enlivens the classic game of bowling with its own signature amenities. On Friday evenings, the staff at Don Carter Lanes temporarily extinguishes its warm, vintagey glow and replaces it with a dimly lit club atmosphere as DJs from 97 ZOK descend upon the alley, pumping out beats that mingle in the air along with a light and fog show. For supplementary entertainment, the Don Carter location also offers a gaming center, and the Park Lanes alley recharges guests with beer and deep-fried fuel at its onsite pub. The Cherry Bowl location keeps serious bowlers properly outfitted with a pro shop, saving them the hassle of paper-mâchéing their own heads to form makeshift bowling balls.
Open since the 1950s, B & B Park Bowl?the oldest bowling center in Loves Park?proves that some things stand the test of time. Owner-operator Butch Olson, a veteran bowler, has also played here for years, and he strives to make the alley a family-friendly destination. To that end, the eight Brunswick Anvil lanes boast 12-strike auto scoring systems, bumpers for the little ones, and rental shoes that start at toddler size 9. On the weekends, the lights dip low for glow-in-the-dark bowling. The onsite bar serves drinks as well as hot sandwiches and, on Friday nights, hearty dinner entrees.
A family-owned paradise of 10-pin punishment since 1972, the friendly atmosphere at Lancer Lanes promotes spirited competition for alley cats of all ages and abilities. Prospective strike pilots strap on their slick slippers and take to the lanes, guiding spherical saucers towards pin-shaped invaders on 1 of 24 hardwood runways. Bumpers are on hand to level the playing corridor for pint-sized players, while automatic scoring keeps track of points gained, aiding both arithmophobics and those just scared of pencils. While winter ushers in nightly leagues at 6 p.m., buyers who nab today's deal can redeem their Groupon during any open bowling hours, including glow bowling on Friday and Saturday nights.
Just beyond the clattering pins at Don Carter Lanes, the cooks at Shooter’s Bar & Grill slather chicken wings in sauces such as teriyaki and Cajun, and load custom half-pound burgers with ingredients that can include everything from cheese and onion rings to fried eggs and peanut butter. In addition to pastas and four-topping pizzas, they prepare eight leafy amalgamations, such as chicken caesar salads and taco salads. For dessert, they forge The Big Dipper, whose medley of brownies, ice cream, chocolate, caramel, whipped cream, hunks of Oreo and chocolate, chocolate Swiss Rolls, and cherries remains consistently visible above the 41-degree line of latitude.
Unlike most activities, bowling rewards you for knocking things over. Guests knock things over nightly at these indoor recreation centers in the south suburbs and DeKalb. Bowling lanes at all three locations facilitate relaxed family nights with automatic scoring and bumper options for groups playing with small children. Friday and Saturday nights, the lights dim for more glamorous glow bowling. Fog machines billow mist across the ground as laser and disco lights cast colorful patterns through the air. Every night after close, Kegel Kustodian machines brush over each lane to ensure consistent conditions for the next day of playing.
Each spot also keeps famished players satisfied with sandwiches, pizzas, and appetizers served at an onsite restaurant. The Burr Oak location entertains numerous galas at a 100-guest banquet hall, and in Oak Forest, the goods times move outdoors for summertime volleyball and bean-bag tossing at The Park.