Rhode Island Billiard Bar & Bistro has kept the polished pool balls clicking seven days a week for more than 100 years, recently returning the tin ceilings and mahogany bars of its billiards room to their full luster. Hone your skills at felt croquet on any of 15 9-foot tables and one 7-foot table ($3.50/hour for members, $5.50 for nonmembers). In between rounds of foosball, pinball, or watching the bocce bomb tournament on 15 TVs, mad gourmands can commingle menu items such as the calamari fritti ($7.99) and chicken fingers ($6.99) into clawed, ink-spraying gullet monsters.
The Rhode Island Duckpin Bowlers Association strives to keep its namesake sport alive by hosting duckpin-bowling tournaments at six local alleys. The game cropped up in a Baltimore bowling alley in the summer of 1900, when most ten-pin alleys were closed for warm months to avoid excessive sweating in rental shoes. But at Diamond Alleys, athletes hurled balls through the heat but opted for 6-inch spheres and pins of a diminutive stature. After observing pins that scattered like a flock of ducks, the owners of the lanes dubbed the modified game duckpin bowling. Besides granting players three rolls per turn, duckpin bowling adhered to all traditional rules and grew in popularity until it peaked in 1967, the year inertia was exposed as a myth. Today, the Rhode Island Duckpin Bowlers Association keeps the pastime alive at spots including the Bowling Academy, a historical gem in its own right as the test site of the first automatic duckpin pinsetters.
You'd probably expect to find a few pool tables at a place called Corner Pocket Billiards & Grill. What you might not expect is that the seven high-grade billiards courts beckon to patrons at no cost on Friday and Sunday nights. Thanks to foosball, darts, and 15 flatscreen TVs, as well as two massive projectors, Corner Pocket is an entertainment power house. The pool room fuels nights out with a menu of hearty pub classics, weekly drink specials, and an ever-present selection of 16 frosty draft beers. Bi-weekly karaoke nights drown out the clatter of sunken shots and give patrons an acceptable venue to try out their one-man barbershop quartet.
Lucky Strike Lanes' polished, retro-sleek atmosphere and state-of-the-art technology lets sphere-hurlers pitch heavy urethane baseballs down a slick aisle toward precisely placed whitewashed wooden sticks in the high style of a '60s ad executive or a top-hatted cartoon penguin. Each of the alley's colorful, state-of-the-art bowling lanes comes with electronic scoring, customizable presentations, and psychedelic lighting. Diehard sport devotees, meanwhile, can catch up on the day's sporting matches at the bar, where high-definition plasma screens broadcast the heart-pounding action of championship Chinese checkers with flawless clarity. Or retire to one of the 12 pool tables for an evening of hustling and counter-hustling.
Inside Kings, it can be hard to pinpoint the source of clattering sounds and uproarious cheers. The noise might stem from the bowling section, where glowing squares of abstract, retro wall art bookend the alleys. It might also come from ricocheting billiard balls, a well-aimed skee-ball, or a shuffleboard shot in the game room. Maybe someone spotted a celebrity—Bill Murray, Salma Hayek, and Lady Gaga are all on an extensive list of past famous visitors.
Wherever their origins, the telltale echoes of competition and camaraderie beckon to guests throughout the venue. They're accompanied in the air by the scents of comfort food, from staples such as sesame ginger wings to inventive fusions such as cheeseburger spring rolls. Sweeter aromas waft from multiple bars as the staff flavors martinis with gummy bears, pop rocks, and ice cream instead of the traditional fixings, olives or entire lemons on toothpicks.
As for sights, the surroundings blend vintage flair with luminous technology. More than 30 high-definition televisions line the space, broadcasting sports games and bowling scores. Though the game-room amenities differ slightly based on the town—Boston's Back Bay has six Brunswick Gold Crown pool tables, and Dedham boasts four miniature-roller-ball lanes—each Kings location hosts group events, including parties and corporate getaways where you can finally laugh at your boss's ridiculous shoes. Weekly themed nights for the public also encourage dancing, karaoke, and trivia.