All across California, Western Bowling Proprietors Association sends pins scattering at a network of bowling alleys, each with its own personality. In addition to open bowl on automatically scored lanes, many locations host special events that heighten the experience with enhancements such as vibrant lights, lively music, and laser systems that do double duty protecting the alleys' diamond collections. The alleys also house refreshment facilities, pro shops, and diversions that range from arcade games to billiards.
The thunderous roar of 240 pins toppling over could erupt at any moment inside Mission Hills Bowl. That's because the center is home to 24 lanes, each equipped with automatic scoring machines and optional bumpers. Open bowling sessions unfold daily, as do league games for adults, senior citizens, youths, and domesticated yetis. After the final frame, the staff keeps visitors rapt with billiards and darts in the bar, as well as a video arcade filled with classics such as air hockey. A snack bar supplies treats to celebrate strikes, while The Pro Zone helps improve forthcoming games with the sale of balls, bags, and shoes from brands including Brunswick.
The clatter of toppling pins resounds through the walls of the 89 locations of Bowling Centers of Southern California, which are scattered across Southern California, Nevada, and Hawaii. Each alley abounds with modern lanes and equipment, and many boast concession stands, lounges, and game rooms. The family-friendly centers host regular public bowling sessions and league tournaments. Many of the centers also host private birthday parties, which science has proven to be more fun than birthday parties covered by the paparazzi.
Bowling is the great social equalizer—a common ground where grizzled undercover clowns, blue-collar English lords, LARPer librarians, big and tall lingerie models, hordes of hive-minded hipsters, and the other two social demographics that comprise America can unite in common cause and topple a gaggle of stuck-up, inanimate wooden pins. Brunswick has been a household name in this egalitarian pastime almost since the beginning, with a company history that dates back to the 19th century, providing classic American good times to all manner of patrons across the country. And with today's Groupon tying the room together, you'll get to play two games (up to a $10.98 value) in its hallowed halls wearing a pair of freshly disinfected bowling shoes (up to a $4.79 value).
The score is tied 14-14. Only one more point is needed to win the match. The last player up takes a deep breath and gently rolls her bocce ball toward the small palina, the sphere that marks the target during each set. As her bocce ball softly knocks away a rival team's ball and comes to rest mere millimeters from the palina, she finally exhales, raising her arms to accept the onslaught of high-fives from her teammates and the congratulatory handshakes from the other team. Together, both teams adjourn to a local pub for drink and dinner specials that usually end with the construction of a solar-system diorama made from bocce balls and tater tots.
So goes another game of bocce in the Cali Bocce League, a highly social conglomerate of all ages, genders, and athletic abilities. Teams of 5–12 people take to local parks throughout eight-week seasons that conclude with playoff games. In addition to a trophy, gift certificates, and free admission to next season, playoff winners glean a prestigious 2-liter glass known as Das Boot, filled to the brim with beer or liquefied palinas. Occasional game cancellations due to inclement weather are posted online on Cali Bocce League’s Facebook page.
Each week, the 32 lanes at Pinz sparkle beneath the strobe lights and disco balls of Shake, Rattle & Bowl. When they’re not glowing or being incubated by confused chickens, the bowling balls can be hurled by visitors and league bowlers alike, rolling swiftly past the 10-foot video screens that line the alley’s far wall. Behind the scoring table, in the VIP billiard room, plasma TVs help to ensure that guests can play pool without missing critical sports moments or any commercials starring famous cats. And in the on-site arcade, players can enjoy more than 40 games including air hockey, skee-ball, and video bowling.