South Boston Candlepin challenges bowlers to take aim at pintsize pins during rounds of a New England–born variation on the traditional lane-based game. On the alley’s hardwood lanes, bowlers roll 2.5-pound candlepin bowling balls that lack the holes and molten centers of their 10-pin counterparts. Developed in 1880 by a Massachusetts bowling-alley owner, candlepin bowling tasks participants with dispersing crowds of pins that are thinner than standard 10-pin targets and weigh just a little more than the balls that hunt them. While honing curves and picking up spares, bowlers compete in 10-frame games until someone usurps victory or starts cooing to the tiny balls like they're infants.
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.
Sacco’s Bowl Haven was one of many candlepin bowling alleys the Sacco family opened in the first half of the twentieth century. Not much has changed since that day in 1939 when the alley first opened its doors: the lanes are still smooth and polished, and the pins are still neatly poised in clusters of ten. The only difference today is the presence of Flatbread Somerville, who took over the alley to ensure that the only rumbling in Sacco’s comes from pins, not stomachs. Their flatbread pizzas are made from 100% organically grown dough and then baked to a crisp in wood-fired ovens. Between frames, bowlers can feast on pies topped with smoked free-range pork shoulder, fresh organic rosemary, and organic tomato sauce made in a wood-fired cauldron, all the while toasting local draft beers to high-scores, good times, and shared shoe sizes.
Though Westgate Lanes has been open for more than half a century, you'd never know it from just looking at the Brockton institution, which benefited from a pre-Millennium face-lift in 1999. Today, all 62 lanes feature automatic scoring, new furniture, and modern lighting, which casts a celestial aura during prize-packed cosmic bowling on Saturday nights. Open 365 days a year, the facility swings open its doors to challenge sphere-flinging friends, leagues, and parties with frames of tenpin or candlepin, a variation of bowling that uses smaller balls and requires more concentration than teaching a mechanical bull long division. High-definition TVs orbit the center's 13 billiards tables, and, between competitive rounds, players can refuel fatigued fingers at Harry's Pub and Grill.
While lanes are available seven days a week at Timber Lanes, on Sunday mornings as well Friday evenings, 24 candlepin lanes glow under the colorful hues of cosmic lights. Subwoofers pulsate with popular music, and video screens display music videos that play in sync with the rhythm, causing pins to burst out into spontaneous break dancing. And when the alley's not hopping with cosmic excitement, it hosts leagues for children and adults and enchants bowlers of all ages with the classic melodies that swim through the air during moonlight oldies sessions on Saturday nights.
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.