Bowlers gaze out at 24 synthetic lanes before picking up a pair of freshly sprayed bowling shoes, gripping a bowling ball, and letting it roll frame after frame. The sound of smattering pins and radio hits reverberate throughout Harley’s Simi Bowl as bowlers prepare for rounds by typing alter-ego nicknames into the scoring console. During Atomic Bowl sessions offered Friday–Sunday, neon lights flash onto darkened alleys, illuminating multicolored bowling balls and neon-clad decor. Bowlers can take a break from their lanes to snack on American cuisine at the Simi Bowl Café, watch sporting events on one of four HDTV screens, or play classic games in the arcade.
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).
The clatter of toppling pins resounds through the walls of the 89 locations of Bowling Centers of Southern California, which are scattered across Southern California, Nevada, and Hawaii. Each alley abounds with modern lanes and equipment, and many boast concession stands, lounges, and game rooms. The family-friendly centers host regular public bowling sessions and league tournaments. Many of the centers also host private birthday parties, which science has proven to be more fun than birthday parties covered by the paparazzi.
Each week, the 32 lanes at Pinz sparkle beneath the strobe lights and disco balls of Shake, Rattle & Bowl. When they’re not glowing or being incubated by confused chickens, the bowling balls can be hurled by visitors and league bowlers alike, rolling swiftly past the 10-foot video screens that line the alley’s far wall. Behind the scoring table, in the VIP billiard room, plasma TVs help to ensure that guests can play pool without missing critical sports moments or any commercials starring famous cats. And in the on-site arcade, players can enjoy more than 40 games including air hockey, skee-ball, and video bowling.
Lawn-bowling statistics don't dominate newspaper box scores, but the sport is hardly an unknown phenomenon. The game’s English roots stretch as far back as the 13th century, and today, lawn bowlers can be spotted in locales as distant as South Africa and New Zealand. Primarily a game of finesse, lawn bowling rewards teams of three for their accuracy as they read the manicured terrain and gently heft a three-pound ball toward a small, distant target.
Ever since Holmby Park Lawn Bowling Club was founded in 1927, it has embraced the social aspect of the sport, currently welcoming 120 members from the surrounding community. As the only lawn bowling club in the city of Los Angeles according to Westwood-Century City Patch, the HPLBC organizes matches across two separate playing fields, accommodating as many as 96 players at a time. The club loans equipment to new members so they can get a feel for the game before buying their own supplies, and instructors arrive in the late morning to dole out pointers and help newcomers learn the fundamentals. Plenty of benches and shaded areas allow players to relax in between throws or enjoy a quick refreshment before the next match.
At Jillian's, a nightclub ambiance pairs with modern décor and ample entertainment to host parties, catching the eye of Justin Bieber, who filmed the music video for Baby inside the colorful, 10-lane alley. An onsite restaurant and bar 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 dance floor pumps music to let patrons perfect their strike-celebration dances, Thursdays host karaoke for amateurs to take the stage and croon their favorite tunes. Between songs or bowling frames, four billiard tables draw pool sharks, and an arcade of electronic games gets virtual adrenaline pumping. For birthday parties or interventions with a friend who refuses to give up granny-style bowling, a private suite hosts up to 50 people who can play Wii games on a giant projector screen.
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.