Armadas of softball-sized red balls line the 10 alleys at Putnam Street Lanes, awaiting their turn to rocket toward the narrow, tapered pins characteristic of Worcester's own candlepin bowling. Computerized scoreboards keep track of obliterated pins, and score-boosting bumpers pop up upon request. During cosmic bowling, the center's neon walls alight with psychedelic effects to hypnotize the red balls into doing bowlers' bidding, be that picking up spares or retrieving a chocolate bar from the candy shop. Guests of legal age may bring their own alcoholic libations to enjoy as they imitate Fred Flintstone's famous strike celebrations or Queen Elizabeth's infamous gutter-ball tantrums.
Bowlers upend candle-shaped pins by hurling grapefruit-sized balls inside New Palace Lanes. Spanning two stories, the BYOB center plays host to corporate functions and birthday parties, with private party rooms where friends can slice ice cream cakes or devour them by diving in face first. Free Wi-Fi helps patrons research the origins of candlepin’s matchstick-like pins, and the facility’s big-screen TVs entertain bowlers between turns.
Joyous sounds reverberate off the walls at Mason Recreation Center, a decades-old entertainment emporium managed by a staff committed to keeping its guests entertained. Pins clatter on dozens of lanes designed for candlepin bowling, a variation on tenpin bowling that uses smaller balls and cylindrical pins that are not cleared away between frames so bowlers can hear their faint screams. The staff engineers the fun activities, hosting open bowling, overseeing league competition, and throwing birthday shindigs in private rooms. On several tournament-size tables, billiard balls clack against one another, and in the onsite arcade, video games bleep and purr like robots napping on magnets. In warm weather, the staff unfurls an 18-hole miniature golf course and opens an onsite sweets station that serves freshly scooped ice cream.
Time travel might not be possible yet. But that doesn’t mean you can’t turn back the clocks at Harvard Bowling Lanes, an old-fashioned alley offering 14 candlepin lanes, vintage decor, and the tactile joys of paper-and-pencil scoring. On Friday and Saturday evenings, the old-school facility does a complete 180, transforming itself into a futuristic cosmic bowling alley saturated in colorful lights and music. After any cosmic or traditional bowling session, the alley invites guests to continue the competition in a vibrant onsite arcade that, unfortunately, does not feature old-timey games such as hoop-and-stick and stick-without-hoop.
Boredom meets its demise at Acton Bowladrome, a multifaceted complex owned by a family that has been entertaining other families for more than 40 years. There, 16 synthetic candlepin-bowling lanes speed balls toward rattling glory as friends, leagues, and parties rack up high scores. Away from the smashing pins, the Bowladrome's onsite, ‘50s-style restaurant, Burgerdrome, takes taste buds on a ride through time with burgers, shakes, pizzas, and views of the alley from its polished counter, bright-red booths, and checkered floor. Those vintage vibes continue into the arcade, filled with titles such as Guitar Hero and Bed Monsters, and the Retrocade, where gamers swap quarters for classic-game play and the chance to beat the Fonz’s high scores.
Across nearly three-fourths of the United States, AMF Bowling Co. reverberates year-round as families, friends, and competitors send bowling balls in search of upright pins careening down slick lanes. The company first established itself as an industry leader in 1946, the same year the sport introduced automated pinspotters.
Today, more than 20 million bowlers annually make AMF their battleground for wars against pins. As the largest owner and and operator of bowling centers in the US, AMF locations offer high-tech scoring technology, a classic design, and a menu stocked with American-inspired classics such as wings, pizzas, burgers, and beer.