Jeanne and her brother, John, smile as they look out over the 36 honey-hued lanes at Maplewood Lanes Bowling Center, where three generations of their family work and swap tales accumulated since the business’s inception in 1976. The center's crew presides over the lanes, helping young players lower automatic bumpers and robots compose love letters to scoring systems. Between frames, bowlers refuel in the bar and grill, which pours imported beers alongside hand-tossed pizzas. The sound of clinking glasses and scattering pins form a percussive soundtrack that drifts out to the patio, which is open year round thanks to radiant heat, fire pits, and fences that keep out tourists trying to see changing leaves.
Automatic scoring systems keep tabs on every strike and spare inside Mockingbird Lanes, where balls tumble toward 32 clusters of pins. Along with rounds of open bowling, the alley hosts seasonal leagues for men, women, youngsters, and senior citizens alike. During cosmic bowling every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening, the lanes glow with black lights and club-style lighting while DJs play upbeat tunes.
Beyond the bowling alley, Mockingbird Lanes houses its own pro shop, where technicians fastidiously repair malfunctioning gear or customized new equipment. After final frames, visitors can reenergize inside Laneslide Diner, whose cooks specialize in American classics such as philly cheesesteaks. Over in the Bird's Nest Lounge, meanwhile, bartenders decant libations amid six big-screen TVs, a billiards table, and an internet jukebox that plays hit songs in between recordings of dial-up modems.
Sempeck's Bowling & Entertainment throws open its doors and beckons fun seekers inside an expansive facility to steer go-karts down an indoor track, bob and weave in a two-story laser-tag arena, and bowl on lanes that transform into cosmic-themed extravaganzas every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. Inside the fun factory lies a video-game arcade equipped with skee-ball, crane games, and prizes for anyone who can slay the three-headed prize guard. After fierce competitions, high-definition TVs and frosty beverages await players in the Sparetime Sports Bar & Restaurant, an in-house eatery.
The moment the ball hits the pins, a small burst of thunder crashes down the lane, joining the bowler’s cheers. Another strike has been earned at Chop’s Bowl, a 12-lane bowling alley that offers novices the use of bumpers. On Saturday nights, strobes lights illuminate the lanes as guests partake in cosmic bowling, select choice tunes on a jukebox, and divvy up piping-hot pizzas and other snacks.
Throughout the week, Thunderbowl puts its signature twist on the classic game of bowling with a lineup of themed leagues and events. Orchestrated by the alley's staff, the league roster includes the Golden Agers senior league, the Ladies Night Out league, and the Have-A-Ball league, which comprises teams of one adult and one child. Events include a carnival day held in August, which includes revelry and a chance to win prizes. At Thunderbowl's snack bar, the kitchen crew fuels bowlers to prevent them from hiding marshmallows in the finger-holes of their bowling balls by crafting specialty burgers, pizzas, and sandwiches such as a patty melt with grilled onions and a chicken philly.