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 value) in its hallowed halls wearing a pair of freshly disinfected bowling shoes (a $3.99 value).
If you've been bowling in Chicago, chances are pretty good you've been to a Chicagoland Bowling establishment. With member centers from 3700 N. Western to 12345 S. Halsted, the organization connects pin destroyers all over the city. The advantages of this network include tournaments that span the entire region, scholarship programs for talented youth bowlers, and a cornucopia of options for clowns who juggle bowling pins.
Brunswick Zone has been a trusted name in recreational pin pulverizing for more than a century, providing good times to patrons across the country. Friends and families season afternoons with a pleasant peppering of strikes, spares, and easygoing gutter balls under classic bowling conditions, or take the next bold step in ball-hurling evolution and engage in a round of cosmic bowling, where dancing lights, thumping tunes, and black-lit gear light up the full sensorium. At XL locations, game rooms beckon with nimble joystick workouts on classic and modern arcade games.
BowlBowlBowl.com boasts three ideal environments in which ball-slingers of all abilities can practice their pin-leveling. Groups of six or 12 old friends or recently assembled humanoids can embark on a two-hour orb-slinging outing through 20 frames of healthy competition and rapidly escalating one-upmanship. Each roller receives his or her own pair of rental shoes replete with soft, smooth soles to facilitate sliding into each stroke and executing celebratory moonwalks. Groups of up to six play in each lane, toasting spares and strikes with swigs of soda or socially lubricating suds while automatic electronic scoring keeps pin wreckage reliably tallied. After two hours of pin-pounding, patrons can saunter to Hillside or Classic Bowl’s Club 300, or one of Stardust Bowl's four lounges, which offer up new frontiers for friendly competition such as pool, darts, and bowling ball-imitation breakdances. Each location unfurls its own unique accouterment, whether it’s Stardust’s whopping 84 lanes, Hillside’s DJ booth and dance floor, or Classic Bowl’s outdoor patio and light-and-sound saturated Rage Bowling on Friday and Saturday nights. At every location, bowlers can watch multiple high-definition TVs and a full-service bar is often patronized by tired pins on their shift break.
Since its birth in 1949, The Alley, or at least the North Shore ground on which The Alley resides, has come full circle. During its earliest years, it was known as Mary Jane Lanes, a 10-lane bowling center that buzzed with family-friendly competition throughout the 1950s and '60s. That buzzing continued at a much louder decibel level during the 1970s, when Mary Jane Lanes became Minstrel's Alley, a go-to music venue rocked by the riffs of bands such as REO Speedwagon and The Ramones. In the 1980s, after crews restored its lanes and dug out all the burnt electric guitars embedded into its gutters, the building returned to its origins as a family-first bowling center. Today, The Alley has been updated with automatic scoring, projection TVs, and pool tables ready to accommodate guests of all ages. Every Friday and Saturday, though, The Alley detours back through the '70s, as live bands revive the facility's glory days during Rock and Bowl.
A trio of retro bowling alleys lures visitors into their distinctive confines for old-fashioned entertainment. Southport Lanes & Billiards exposes groups to waves of nostalgia with four lanes of hand-set bowling, making it 1 of only 10 remaining of its kind in the country. Outside of the bowling area, sleek wooden floors lead visitors to a line of pool tables, and an outdoor patio gives glimpses of the blooming neighborhood in warmer months.
Seven Ten Lounge, home to a bowling alley, billiard parlor, bar, and restaurant, envelops guests in the trappings of a bygone era. Art-deco motifs, vintage posters, and mahogany furnishings surround revelers as they lob a ball, aim a cue, or pity the defenseless pins. Local microbrews pepper the draft list with homegrown variety, and house-made fare elevates the menu past a typical alley nosh.
Hyde Park's Seven Ten Lanes not only exudes a similarly stylish décor, but also features gutter guards to contain errant throws by children or carnival musclemen with inner-ear imbalance.