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.
Throughout the week, Country Lanes offers open bowling hours and league opportunities for bowlers of all skill levels. In addition to indoor lanes, the alley welcomes outdoor revelers with courts for sand volleyball and horseshoes. The outdoor tiki bar keeps carousers stocked with cocktails and draft brews, and an indoor grill fires sandwiches, pizzas, and appetizers such as wonton wraps. A banquet hall is available for parties, and a teen glow-bowl league takes place on Fridays through the summer, allowing bioluminescent youngsters to bowl in their natural environment.
Single-seat Formula K go-karts sidle beside two-seaters on Kristof Entertainment Center's family-friendly driving track. After letting the wind tussle hair, friends and families compete on the 18-hole scenic miniature-golf course replete with challenging holes and flanked by waterfalls, fountains, and castles. In batting cages, baseballs and softballs hurl toward bat-wielders, and players send bowling balls careening toward pins across lanes during regular or cosmic bowling. Sports skills are further tested at seven billiards tables that leave ample opportunity for sinking in eight-balls, and the arcade's classic redemption games such as skee-ball facilitate fun and prizes. After exhausting all one's rounds of play, Kristof's Bar reenergizes visitors with Pepsi products and snacks while broadcasting sports on its many televisions.
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.
Within the cream-colored brick exterior of a century-old city building, Papa Luigi’s II marries an Italian restaurant with a bowling alley. Amid the wood paneling, wine-red carpet, and chandeliers of the dining room, taste buds can warm up with the house’s favorite appetizer—sicilian eggplant lathered in Papa’s special marinara sauce. Thin-n-crispy pizzas, which Papa Luigi’s II has been perfecting for 23 years, come loaded with canadian bacon or shrimp.
After meals, guests can adjourn to the newly remodeled, smoke-free bowling alley. Here, shining orbs hurtle down 10 lanes whose automatic bumpers forgive shaky aim, and an automatic scoring system lets bowlers tuck their personal mathematicians back into the trunks of their cars. Between rounds, players can refuel at a pub-style bar by tipping back chilled mugs brimming with imported tap beers and gazing at a trio of plasma televisions. Those seeking a new arena for competition can drop by the game room or rent the upstairs gym for shooting hoops.
League play, friendly outings, family birthdays—all happily coexist on Lakeside Lanes’ 32 lanes. Of these, 12 are equipped with bumpers for kids or adults who prefer to think of bowling as a giant game of billiards. After league play ends on Friday and Saturday nights, the music grows louder and black light bathes the lanes for cosmic bowling.
The attached restaurant, the Dockside Diner, isn’t particularly near any docks, but the “diner” part is more than accurate. A pair of sock-hoppers dance on the teal and purple striped walls, and chrome railings zip around a checker-tiled room where guests munch wings, burgers, and pizza. An arcade and game room adds more entertainment options with pool tables, darts, and video games.