Sacco’s Bowl Haven was one of many candlepin bowling alleys the Sacco family opened in the first half of the twentieth century. Not much has changed since that day in 1939 when the alley first opened its doors: the lanes are still smooth and polished, and the pins are still neatly poised in clusters of ten. The only difference today is the presence of Flatbread Somerville, who took over the alley to ensure that the only rumbling in Sacco’s comes from pins, not stomachs. Their flatbread pizzas are made from 100% organically grown dough and then baked to a crisp in wood-fired ovens. Between frames, bowlers can feast on pies topped with smoked free-range pork shoulder, fresh organic rosemary, and organic tomato sauce made in a wood-fired cauldron, all the while toasting local draft beers to high-scores, good times, and shared shoe sizes.
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.
Inside Kings, it can be hard to pinpoint the source of clattering sounds and uproarious cheers. The noise might stem from the bowling section, where glowing squares of abstract, retro wall art bookend the alleys. It might also come from ricocheting billiard balls, a well-aimed skee-ball, or a shuffleboard shot in the game room. Maybe someone spotted a celebrity—Bill Murray, Salma Hayek, and Lady Gaga are all on an extensive list of past famous visitors.
Wherever their origins, the telltale echoes of competition and camaraderie beckon to guests throughout the venue. They're accompanied in the air by the scents of comfort food, from staples such as sesame ginger wings to inventive fusions such as cheeseburger spring rolls. Sweeter aromas waft from multiple bars as the staff flavors martinis with gummy bears, pop rocks, and ice cream instead of the traditional fixings, olives or entire lemons on toothpicks.
As for sights, the surroundings blend vintage flair with luminous technology. More than 30 high-definition televisions line the space, broadcasting sports games and bowling scores. Though the game-room amenities differ slightly based on the town—Boston's Back Bay has six Brunswick Gold Crown pool tables, and Dedham boasts four miniature-roller-ball lanes—each Kings location hosts group events, including parties and corporate getaways where you can finally laugh at your boss's ridiculous shoes. Weekly themed nights for the public also encourage dancing, karaoke, and trivia.
Time travel might not be possible yet. But that doesn’t mean you can’t turn back the clocks at Harvard Bowling Lanes, an old-fashioned alley offering 14 candlepin lanes, vintage decor, and the tactile joys of paper-and-pencil scoring. On Friday and Saturday evenings, the old-school facility does a complete 180, transforming itself into a futuristic cosmic bowling alley saturated in colorful lights and music. After any cosmic or traditional bowling session, the alley invites guests to continue the competition in a vibrant onsite arcade that, unfortunately, does not feature old-timey games such as hoop-and-stick and stick-without-hoop.
Boredom meets its demise at Acton Bowladrome, a multifaceted complex owned by a family that has been entertaining other families for more than 40 years. There, 16 synthetic candlepin-bowling lanes speed balls toward rattling glory as friends, leagues, and parties rack up high scores. Away from the smashing pins, the Bowladrome's onsite, ‘50s-style restaurant, Burgerdrome, takes taste buds on a ride through time with burgers, shakes, pizzas, and views of the alley from its polished counter, bright-red booths, and checkered floor. Those vintage vibes continue into the arcade, filled with titles such as Guitar Hero and Bed Monsters, and the Retrocade, where gamers swap quarters for classic-game play and the chance to beat the Fonz’s high scores.
While lanes are available seven days a week at Timber Lanes, on Sunday mornings as well Friday evenings, 24 candlepin lanes glow under the colorful hues of cosmic lights. Subwoofers pulsate with popular music, and video screens display music videos that play in sync with the rhythm, causing pins to burst out into spontaneous break dancing. And when the alley's not hopping with cosmic excitement, it hosts leagues for children and adults and enchants bowlers of all ages with the classic melodies that swim through the air during moonlight oldies sessions on Saturday nights.