The sound of crashing pins draws equally loud cheers from players at Ventura Bowling Center as their progress is tallied via an automatic scoring system. Arcade games and dartboards entice them to take a break from alleyways, while hunger draws them toward the snack bar. Meanwhile, a full onsite bar supplies players with enough bubbly soda and ice-cold beer to celebrate a big win or an impressive moonwalk made possible by a pair of smooth-soled bowling shoes.
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.
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).
In bowling, the perfect strike requires a careful calculation of force, spin, and positioning—but Zodo's - Bowling & Beyond injects fun into the physics lesson with 24 gleaming lanes ready to take whatever you can throw at them, provided you've donned the proper fluorescent footwear (each rented shoe half-red, half-green).
Healthy competition and the joy of yelling 'strike!' are pretty entertaining all on their own, but Zodo's doesn't stop there—Glow Bowling's atmospheric touches include black lights, a live DJ, and fog. Twice-daily happy hours, wine by the barrel, 40 on-tap beers keep spirits high, and a menu of gourmet pizza, fresh salads, burgers, and more creative fare provide more sustenance than a feast of felled pins. Bowlers can also take a break for other games in the arcade.
At Jillian's, a colorful, 10-lane alley, a nightclub ambiance pairs with modern d?cor and ample entertainment to host parties. A restaurant sates between-set hunger pains with a menu of American eats such as hot wings, burgers, and pizzas. On Fridays and Saturdays, Jillian's hosts club nights, during which a sound system pumps music. Four billiard tables draw pool sharks, and guests can also enjoy an arcade of 84 electronic games between songs or bowling frames. For birthday parties, a private suite hosts up to 50 people who can play Wii games on a giant projector screen. The venue itself can accommodate anywhere from ten to 1,200 guests and also provides catering.
A friendly staff mans Pickwick Gardens' pleasant bowlery, where 24 well-maintained synthetic lanes treat clown-shoed families and friends to old-fashioned, no-frills pin punishment. Slap on some bowling shoes ($3 daily, $4 from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday) and challenge a chum to three-fingered skeeball at a time of your choosing (game prices range from $3 to $6, depending on time of day and week), or bust out the automatic bumpers (for ages 7 and under) and treat a wee one to a bout of life-sized pinball. Cosmic bowling lets grounded astronauts put a new spin on asteroid dioramas on Fridays and Saturdays starting at 7 p.m.