"Maine is Candlepin Country," reads Colonial Bowling Center’s back wall, and the slender pins standing in neat rows at the end of the alley certainly support this statement. Fortunately, the alley’s staff is much friendlier than the sneering musketeer painted on the other wall. When they aren’t outfitting players with flat-bottomed kicks or cheering on strikes, they pass out cheesy pizzas, fried appetizers, and soda pitchers at the food bar. Set a new high score on the arcade’s pinball machine between games, or check out the pro shop and splurge on a pro to bowl the next game for you.
Bowlers descend upon 20 prepped and polished lanes to partake in the New England tradition of candlepin bowling at 1-7-10 Bowling & Entertainment Center or Good Times Lanes. Candlepin bowling ups the ante on normal alley games, arming competitors with three smaller balls sans holes and mercy to hurl at thinner pins standing in the place of their curvy counterparts. After the devious pins are toppled, they are left lying in the pin deck for additional pummeling until the end of each player's turn before being swept off and reset. As bowlers glide their way through multiple challenging rounds in slick-bottomed footwear, arcade games jingle and flash in the background to distract pins that have developed human intelligence. Free bumpers help tykes eliminate discouraging gutter balls, and groups of six refuel by slurping from an included pitcher or 2-liter bottle of soda. Five TVs glow on the walls of 1-7-10, reflecting the pizzas served at Splitters Sports Bar and Grille.
For the past several decades, Bowl-O-Rama has been carefully tended to by the Genimatas family. Over its history, the alley has retained much of its original 1950s charm but, as co-owner Dale Genimatas says, "We are always updating and doing new things." Dale operates the alley with her husband and sister-in-law, who she says have been involved with Bowl-O-Rama their entire lives. Dale began working at the facility in 1979 and has since seen it grow to include a total of 28 candlepin lanes, computerized scoring systems, and a food-and-beverage kitchen where chefs bake hand-tossed pizzas and appetizers that include chicken tenders and cheese sticks. Throughout the year, the family hosts open-bowling hours and special events, closing only on Christmas Day to let the pins celebrate with their families. With each weekend comes the return of cosmic glow bowling, and each year brings annual fundraisers such as the Big Brothers Big Sisters Bowl-A-Thon. "It's a very electric environment," says Dale, reflecting on the scores of players and benefactors that come together each year to support the organization.
Cape Ann Lanes entices pin topplers into its outer-space-theme environs with 20 sleek lanes and automatic scoring seven days a week. For two action-packed hours, don rental shoes to solo terrorize 10 pins, or bring along up to three friends, family members, or younger siblings dressed as bowling balls as backup. A cheesy pizza melts away competition-induced hunger, and a pitcher of icy soda keeps throats from asking uncomfortable personal questions of fellow lane occupants.
In 1880, Justin P. White created candlepin bowling because he felt that traditional bowling wasn't challenging enough. Today, Leda Lanes continues this East Coast tradition, where bowlers clutch softball-sized balls before sending them down the lane toward tall, thin pins. Though the game is a throwback, the staff keeps things modern with state-of-the-art scoring systems at each lane. A concession stand provides snacks, while Kegler's Den Lounge provides libations to keep bowlers going till the next string.
South Boston Candlepin challenges bowlers to take aim at pintsize pins during rounds of a New England–born variation on the traditional lane-based game. On the alley’s hardwood lanes, bowlers roll 2.5-pound candlepin bowling balls that lack the holes and molten centers of their 10-pin counterparts. Developed in 1880 by a Massachusetts bowling-alley owner, candlepin bowling tasks participants with dispersing crowds of pins that are thinner than standard 10-pin targets and weigh just a little more than the balls that hunt them. While honing curves and picking up spares, bowlers compete in 10-frame games until someone usurps victory or starts cooing to the tiny balls like they're infants.