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.
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.
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.
In 1958, Ryan Family Amusements founder James A. Ryan opened a simple, eight-lane bowling alley, planting the foundation for a slew of entertainment centers throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island. At 10 locations, visitors enjoy a variety of arcade and skill games in addition to traditional candlepin, tenpin, or duckpin bowling. Every Friday and Saturday evening from 9 p.m. until midnight, bowling lanes take on an incandescent glow, allowing bowlers to experience futuristic entertainment without the inconvenience of rising jetpack-fuel prices. Bumper bowling is available for younger players, and an onsite concession stand refreshes responsible adults with glasses of beer and wine.
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.
Cape Ann Lanes entices pin topplers into its outer-space-theme environs with 20 sleek lanes and automatic scoring seven days a week. For two action-packed hours, don rental shoes to solo terrorize 10 pins, or bring along up to three friends, family members, or younger siblings dressed as bowling balls as backup. A cheesy pizza melts away competition-induced hunger, and a pitcher of icy soda keeps throats from asking uncomfortable personal questions of fellow lane occupants.