Each facility in the family of Rockford-Area Bowling Centers enlivens the classic game of bowling with its own signature amenities. On Friday evenings, the staff at Don Carter Lanes temporarily extinguishes its warm, vintagey glow and replaces it with a dimly lit club atmosphere as DJs from 97 ZOK descend upon the alley, pumping out beats that mingle in the air along with a light and fog show. For supplementary entertainment, the Don Carter location also offers a gaming center, and the Park Lanes alley recharges guests with beer and deep-fried fuel at its onsite pub. The Cherry Bowl location keeps serious bowlers properly outfitted with a pro shop, saving them the hassle of paper-mâchéing their own heads to form makeshift bowling balls.
Within easy walking distance from the swooping neon, thundering pins, and intergalactic bowling murals of Glo-Bowl Fun Center lies a tranquil restaurant complete with stone fireplace. In fact, it's in the same building: not content with just a typical snack bar, the proprietors created a full spread of meaty sandwiches, sweet-potato fries, barbecue ribs, and other classic American fare. On select nights, the open patio hosts laidback live music that never overwhelms conversation, and guests are welcome to tote their meals into the alley if a favorable bowling wind suddenly arises.
Rock River Lanes gathers groups for the time-honored pastime of repeatedly knocking over 10 pesky pins before celebrations bathed in frothy brews and pizza pies. At the lanes, groups will first equip their toes with specialized shoes, much like donning flippers to visit the aquarium's whale tank. With feet draped in smooth, alley-approved soles, groups can begin their pin pummeling. In two hours, bands of bowlers can sneak in several 10-frame games, sending balls twisting and tumbling down the lanes, pins clanging and clamoring around the pin deck. While championing the spherical side in the battle between pins and bowling balls, athletes can satisfy tummies by tackling slices of a one-topping pizza or indulging in a few glasses of performance-enhancing domestic suds from a pitcher.
A bowler since the age of 5, owner Jerry Morano spent his formative years watching his dad bowling with the guys. At the age of 20, Morano bowled his first perfect game and over his professional bowling career played a total of 26 perfect games and won five Professional Bowling Association regional titles. During that time, he was working for a major auto company and it was his dream to retire and own his own alley someday. That dream came true when he bought Liberty Lanes Bowling Center in 2008.
Morano quickly fell in love with the bowling alley’s 24 retro-style wooden lanes. As families and friends send balls careening toward the pins, an automatic Brunswick Frameworx system keeps score impartially and refrains from remarking on each bowler’s form. Between frames, bowlers can refuel at the snack bar, which serves french fries, pizza, and chicken fingers. At the bar, patrons can pair 16-ounce cans of Schlitz with games on three pool tables and two electronic dart machines.
Open since the 1950s, B & B Park Bowl?the oldest bowling center in Loves Park?proves that some things stand the test of time. Owner-operator Butch Olson, a veteran bowler, has also played here for years, and he strives to make the alley a family-friendly destination. To that end, the eight Brunswick Anvil lanes boast 12-strike auto scoring systems, bumpers for the little ones, and rental shoes that start at toddler size 9. On the weekends, the lights dip low for glow-in-the-dark bowling. The onsite bar serves drinks as well as hot sandwiches and, on Friday nights, hearty dinner entrees.