In the summer of 1980, more than a foot of water flooded CJ's Willow Bowling Center, warping the floors and ruining the equipment. But faced with catastrophe, owners Charlie and Jean Rayburn used the incident as an opportunity to outfit the alley with 16 new lanes and revamped scoring systems. Today, a second generation of the family runs the business with the same resolve that has defined it since 1955. On weekends, bowlers pummel pins amid the fluorescence of cosmic bowling lights, or stop by the snack bar to fuel up with pizza. At the pro shop, patrons can renovate bowling balls with resurfacing, hole drilling, and initial engravings, saving them from the hassle of having to carve their faces into the sides.
With dozens of lanes that boast auto-scoring capabilities and plenty of on-site amenities, the St. Clair and Bel-Air bowling centers set the standard for high-tech bowling. With feet comfortably ensnared inside a pair of bowling shoes, bowlers will be able to topple phalanxes of uppity pins with the perfect fusion of style, power, and grace—dazzling onlookers with the flashy footwork and skillful tosses of ice-skating pizza makers. To prevent premature conclusions to a night of merrymaking, 10 arcade tokens will extend the entertainment past your double bout of ball-hurling. At St. Clair, bowlers can select from 50 different lanes, and the Bel-Air facility is permeated with free Internet beams that can only be perceived by WiFi-enabled computers and tinfoil-hat-enabled heads. Food and beverages are available at both locations.
The rolling thunderclaps of scattering pins fill the air at Imperial Bowl, where sphere flingers hunt strikes and spares across 30 lanes set in an ultraclean, modern facility. As bowlers attempt to stay out of the gutter like a renegade raindrop, automated scorekeeping charts the current pin count, displaying all scores on a digital screen. Imperial Bowl complements its slick lanes with entertaining extras, including arcade games, pool tables, and cosmic bowling. The alleyway also hosts leagues for casual and serious competitors alike, and a full-service bar and concession area ensures ball-free hands remain filled with beers, sodas, and snacks.
Before hosting moviegoers, the 111,000-square-foot Moolah Temple was home to a colony of pigeons. According to Amy Gill, co-head of the 1913-built temple's restoration team in 2003, the birds were "living in every crack and crevice" among debris, peeling paint, and cracked floors. Thanks to the team's refurbishing, leather couches and love seats, as well as balcony and stadium seating, now adorn the bird-free theater. Moolah Theatre only boasts a single screen, but what it lacks in quantity is made up for in size: its 20-by-45-foot screen showcases everything from the latest Hollywood releases to midnight movie staples such as The Big Lebowski.
Like "The Dude," Moolah Theatre celebrates bowling with eight lanes at its in-house retro alley. Post-flick fun can also include playing billiards, blasting tunes on the StarLink Internet Jukebox, or burping arcade games that ate too many quarters. Some lucky residents even call these amenities home—besides the theater and bowling alley, Moolah Temple makes room upstairs for 40 luxury lofts.
At this 9-acre family fun center, orb-tossers young and old drive spheres down 32 glossy lanes, and miniature-golf enthusiasts putt their way around a desert-themed 18-hole course. Tepees, outcroppings, and an active waterfall cover the pint-size fairways and greens, creating a unique layout that was named Best Miniature Golf in 2011 by the Riverfront Times.
Nearby, nine batting cages hurl baseballs and softballs at varying speeds, and three sand volleyball courts await bouts of friendly competition. Overlooking the sandy courts, an outdoor deck invites guests to lounge in the sun with casual fare from the cafe. The indoor section pumps jukebox tunes as pool balls sink into the pockets of the billiards table or a passing kleptomaniac.
Every Saturday night, hip-hop, rock, and dance music pulsates throughout Show Me Lanes. The commanding soundtrack signals the beginning of cosmic bowling, whose games unfold amidst clouds of fog and rays of black- and laser-lights. During cosmic and regular games alike, balls hurtle down 24 lanes each equipped with automated scoring. Besides daily open-bowl sessions, Show Me Lanes hosts tournaments and leagues for adults and children. Cosmic bowling hours are Saturday from 9:30 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. year round, with additional Saturday summer hours from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.