President of the International Candlepin Bowling Association, Ralph Semb presides over French King Bowling Center, which has been in his family for 53 years. The Center’s 16 lanes feature candlestick bowling, a 10-pin variation that utilizes taller, lankier pins and smaller balls that have not yet sprouted finger holes. The food court serves up burgers, pizza, and soda to bolster bowlers, and a video arcade provides an alternative to ball hurling. Neon bowling on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays lets guests experience what it would be like to bowl inside a lava lamp. Birthday parties for up to 10 guests include one hour of bowling followed by an hour-long party with pizza, french fries, soda, and ice cream. Each guest also gets quarters to feed hungry arcade games and toy dispensers.
Fun Time Lanes sends patrons back in time for candlestick bowling sessions that predate traditional tenpin rounds. After fitting feet into rental shoes, participants launch 3- to 6-pound balls down one of 20 polished lanes toward huddled masses of slim pins. Automatic scoring, ball returns, and cash prizes to pins that fall the fastest keep frames moving swiftly along. Glow bowl sessions awash vintage orbs and lanes in radiant neon hues every Saturday night during atomic bowl. During breaks, customers can stop fantasizing about marinating a duckpin and instead recharge at Fun Time Lanes' snack bar with bites of burgers, hot dogs, or chicken tenders.
At each bowling center, balls hurtle down smooth, polished lanes as LCD screens keep track of scores and shimmering party lights illuminate the faces of determined bowlers. After lacing up some slide-enabling shoes and clearing the gutters of deciduous pins, bowlers set their sights on toppling 10-pin clusters. Carpets bedecked with psychedelic swirls lead to shelves stocked with neon-colored balls, which proffer their pin-busting talents to bowlers of various sizes. Fingers can warm up by mashing buttons in an arcade full of entrancing video games or bench-pressing french fries at the onsite grill and pub.
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.