A League of Their Own
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23 Cool and Classic Bowling Alleys Across America

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A League of Their Own
highlandparkbowl/facebook

A League of Their Own

For many Americans, flashbacks of loud, smoke-filled bowling alleys are some of the most vivid, nostalgic memories we have. After all, in the late 1970s, more than 9 million of us were members of a bowling league. Then for a while there, however, it seemed like bowling might go the way of many other beloved hobbies and all but disappear. But, thanks in part to corporate bowling behemoths like Bowlero (which purchased AMF and Brunswick in 2013 and 2014, respectively, and added the Professional Bowlers Association to its acquisitions earlier this year, according to Bloomberg) and its practice of combining bowling with signature cocktails and other forms of entertainment to appeal to the masses, the sport is growing again. In fact, it's expected to generate $4 billion in revenue by the end of 2019. But Bowlero isn't solely responsible for bowling's resurgence: There are plenty of other companies and individuals keeping the spirit of strikes, splits, and gutterballs alive. From New York to L.A. — and plenty of places in between — here are 23 alleys across the U.S. where you can knock down some pins while, in most cases, knocking back a drink or two.

Related: Far-Out '70s Fads That Have Made a Comeback

Mahall's | Lakewood, Ohio
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Mahall's | Lakewood, Ohio

Mahall's opened in 1924 and, as its website states, has since "spent nearly a century partying." Its neon ball-and-pin sign beckons from outside, but once inside you'll find that Mahall's is much more than a place to knock down pins. This bowling alley hybrid is also known for hosting bands and comedians, serving up tasty fried chicken, and having friendly bartenders who craft creative (if pricey, according to reviewers) cocktails like Peanut Butter Tiki Time and Nothing Campari's 2 U. Between bites, sips, and listens, you can still bowl on Mahall's 20 lanes for $4 per game during open bowling and $20/hour on Friday and Saturday nights.

Holler House | Milwaukee
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Holler House | Milwaukee

Opened in 1908 and often lauded as the "oldest sanctioned ten-pin bowling alley" in the U.S., Holler House is housed in what looks like a non-descript residential home off Lincoln Avenue. Inside, in addition to two vintage lanes, where pins have to be set by players, there is a bar that Esquire named one of the nation's best in 2011. Decades of fun and funky paraphernalia cover the walls. As one Facebook reviewer put it, Holler House is, "Bizarre, but [in] a good way. Nothing else like it I've ever seen."

Rohman's Inn and Pub | Shohola, Pennsylvania
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Rohman's Inn and Pub | Shohola, Pennsylvania

Though built (and then rebuilt) in the 19th century as an inn, Rohman's four-lane bowling alley wasn't established until 1941 in the inn's upstairs former dining room. After ordering a drink at the bar, paying an hourly fee, and grabbing a ball, you can bowl to your heart's content without employee supervision. Just don't do it if you're feeling lazy — after pitching your ball down the lane, you have to retrieve it, reset your own pins, keep your own score … you get the point. It might sound a bit tedious, but Rohman's has a charm all its own, one that AtlasObscura detailed in a 2018 story, where the abiding impression is that Rohman's is rough around the edges — but a lot of fun.

Rock 'n' Bowl | New Orleans
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Rock 'n' Bowl | New Orleans

While this classic NOLA bowling alley moved into a new building in 2009, its legacy goes back to 1941, when Mid City Lanes, as it was then called, opened on the second floor of a commercial building. It's since had a long and storied history. In 1988, a new owner added a music venue downstairs and coined it Rock 'n' Bowl. Then tragedy struck in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina flooded the downstairs, causing severe damage. But, after it reopened a mere four months later, it became a symbol of New Orleans' fighting spirit. Though it's now in a new location, the former building's old murals have been reinstalled, and it retains plenty of its old-school retro charm.

Related: 26 Best Cheap Or Free Things To Do In New Orleans

Highland Park Bowl | Los Angeles
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Highland Park Bowl | Los Angeles

If bowling alleys could tell stories, Highland Park is the one you'd want to belly up next to at the bar. It was established during Prohibition, and the building it was in contained doctors' offices, a pharmacy, and a music store among other businesses. Patrons, the alley's website notes, "obtained legal doctor's notes for medicinal whiskey upstairs, then headed downstairs to fill the prescription at the pharmacy, which allowed permissible boozing and bowling." The music store acquired a live music permit in 1933 and "fulfilled yet another spirited layer of culture into the destination." In 2016, Highland Park reopened after a major overhaul that sought to uncover much of the vintage charm that had been eradicated through the decades. Chandeliers made from vintage pinsetters, antique pennants, and exposed mechanical pin machines are just some of the many details that make this place about as cool as a bowling alley can get.

Van Nest Lanes | Bronx, New York
Louis I./yelp

Van Nest Lanes | Bronx, New York

Van Nest is rife with the mod yellow-, turquoise-, and orange-hued stylings of the 1960s and '70s, especially ball returns that seem like something straight out of The Jetsons. Some unfamiliar patrons aren't always enthused that they have to keep score with a pencil and paper, but others know that it's just part of Van Nest's charm, and the friendly folks behind the counter will help jog your memory for how that whole scoring thing works. Noted one Yelp reviewer: "The ally itself looks like it was frozen in time from 40+ years ago. Guy at the desk was super chill and friendly. Place was super clean despite being really old ... lanes worked well and beers are cheap. Perfect find and best ally in NYC I've been to."

Dickey's Lanes & Lounge | Cleveland
Allison F./yelp

Dickey's Lanes & Lounge | Cleveland

Built in 1915, this joint didn't become Dickey's until 1946, when owner George Dickey's parents bought the place. Dickey was 14 then; he's nearing 90 now, and still runs the eight-lane bowling alley with the help of mostly family. Through the years, Dickey's has seen poker and billiards in addition to 10-pin, but it's all bowling and bar now. Yelp reviewers note that it's a "true Cleveland institution" and "Americana at its finest." Another storied bit of its history? The automated pinsetters, installed in 1970, came out of baseball great Mickey Mantle's Texas bowling alley, says Dickey.

Linbrook Bowl | Anaheim, California
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Linbrook Bowl | Anaheim, California

Opened in 1958, Linbrook is a bowling alley that combines retro cool with current technology, without losing any of its vintage charm. Its allure starts with a neon exterior sign that alerts Linbrook's patrons to an impressive 40 lanes inside and, of course, cocktails, as well as modern features like electronic scoring and monitors that even allow bowlers to take a "selfie" of sorts. Per-game prices are reasonable, starting at $3, and patrons can also visit the Kopa Room bar (with nightly karaoke Wednesdays through Sundays), or the old school arcade room with pinball machines and an air hockey table.

Related: 31 Bars With Arcades That Are Worth Your Quarters

Bowlero Christown | Phoenix
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Bowlero Christown | Phoenix

Inside, Bowlero Christown is all modernized — you wouldn't believe it was built decades ago if you hadn't first seen its exterior, which is what lands this joint on the "cool and classic" list. Opened in 1958 as 300 Bowl, the building's design is a classic example of Googie design, which takes its inspiration from the space and atomic ages. With its sharply exaggerated roof lines, this bowling alley is considered one of Phoenix's prime examples of mid-century modern architecture. Inside, most of that personality has been wiped away, but there are still a few examples of vintage touches, including atomic chandeliers and neon signage.

Bowlero Lanes & Lounge | Detroit
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Bowlero Lanes & Lounge | Detroit

Though it shares a name commonality with the previous entry in our list, this Motor City bowling alley has no affiliation with the Bowlero Corp. Indeed, the owners of Bowlero Lanes, built in 1957, appear to have made every effort to retain as much of its retro charm as possible during a recent renovation (it reopened in August 2019). To that end, it has a slick, '60s- and '70s-era vibe that makes heavy use of orange tones and mod furniture — what its new owners call a "rumpus room-inspired" bowling alley. In addition to 16 lanes, Detroit Bowlero offers a vintage arcade, cocktail lounge, live DJs and bands, and karaoke every Tuesday.

Pinewood Social | Nashville
Kristina S./yelp

Pinewood Social | Nashville

Pinewood Social | Nashville Though like others on this list, Pinewood Social didn't open decades ago — for the record, it opened in 2015 in a renovated historic Nashville building — its six lanes were salvaged from an old Indiana Bowl-O-Rama location, and the developers complemented those with vintage ball returns and scoring tables. Pinewood Social's cool cred is evidenced in the celebrities who've stopped by — Taylor Swift and Reese Witherspoon among them — and its reputation as a Nashville bucket-list destination where you can, yes, bowl, but also eat breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner, drink a craft cocktail or coffee bar drink, sing karaoke, swim, play bocce ball, check out the patio Airstream … you get the idea.

Bryant Lake Bowl | Minneapolis
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Bryant Lake Bowl | Minneapolis

Dating back to the 1930s, Bryant Lake Bowl was reimagined in 1993 when now-former owner Kim Bartmann decided to open an unpretentious, dive bar-esque drinking establishment where patrons could also bowl, catch a live show or play, and have a bite to eat. Bartmann sold the place last year to an employee, Erica Gilbert, who'd worked at BLB for 12 years. Gilbert told the Star-Tribune that her only plans were to update some seating. "I'm not doing anything to it. It's perfect the way it is," she said.

Action and Atomic Duckpin Bowl | Indianapolis
Tiffany B./yelp

Action and Atomic Duckpin Bowl | Indianapolis

Located inside a refurbished historic building that also houses an inn, theater, bar, game room, and more, these two bowling alleys represent two different eras: the 1930s and 1950-60s. Action opened in 1928 as a bowling alley and billiard hall on the fourth floor of the Fountain Square Theatre Building, which closed and was gutted in 1957, then remained vacant until 1993. Restored as an original 1930s era duckpin (meaning shorter, fatter pins) bowling alley, Action has eight lanes of duckpin bowling, a vintage billiard table, and a cafe. In the basement level of the same building is Atomic, outfitted with authentic mid-century equipment, with furnishings to match. The alleys give off very different vibes, but both are worth a visit.

The Spare Room | Los Angeles
The Spare Room

The Spare Room | Los Angeles

Housed in Hollywood's Roosevelt Hotel, which opened in 1927, The Spare Room represents itself as a "gaming parlor and cocktail lounge," and the former part of that equation includes two vintage bowling alleys that are open and adjacent to the latter. The bowling here isn't cheap — $100 per hour, you can split that with up to five other bowlers — but you can also play backgammon, dominoes, mahjong, cribbage, and a handful of board games, as well as grab a bite to eat and order something from the creatively named cocktail menu (Pisco Inferno or Figgy Pop, anyone?).

Rock-N-Bowl | Detroit
The Majestic

Rock-N-Bowl | Detroit

The Garden Bowl, one of the oldest continuously operating bowling alleys in the U.S., is part of Detroit's Majestic Theater, which itself is on the National Registry of Historic Places. It opened in 1913 with 10 lanes on the first floor, and 12 more lanes were added on the second floor in 1926. Today, it's been renamed Rock-N-Bowl, and visitors will find the lights off, mirror balls twirling, smoke machines smoking, glow-in-the-dark lanes gleaming, and a live DJ spinning tunes — no doubt quite a bit different from the bowling alley of 100 years ago. Another change? You can only bowl downstairs — the upstairs is now where patrons go to dance and shoot pool.

Ken-Cliff Lanes | Ardmore, Oklahoma
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Ken-Cliff Lanes | Ardmore, Oklahoma

How does a bowling alley that opened in 2011 claim to represent "the golden age of bowling?" Well, this version of Ken-Cliff has a predecessor, one that began in 1958 when brothers Kenneth and Clifford Johnson opened a bowling alley in this south-central Oklahoma town. That alley closed in 1976 but was resurrected earlier this decade, still in the spirit of the original, with vintage equipment and design, which includes refurbished AMF 82-30 pinspotters, Magic Circle ball returns and telescores, Streamlane masks, and traditional wood lanes (with vibrant turquoise gutters). The owners like to say that "the good old days are still here" — but if your good 'ol bowling days included smoking and drinking, this is not the joint for you. Ken-Cliff is a smoke- and alcohol-free establishment.

Olde Line Lanes & Kitchen | Lincoln City, Oregon
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Olde Line Lanes & Kitchen | Lincoln City, Oregon

Inside an ordinary-looking building just a few hundred feet off the Oregon coast is Olde Line Lanes, a wonderland of vintage nostalgia. There are only eight lanes, so you might have a wait to get your 10 frames in, but in the meantime you can order from the kitchen's impressive menu, which includes pizza, fried chicken sandwiches, hand-cut fries, and nachos. Or grab an old-fashioned, vodka gimlet, or, if you're feeling fruity, a spiced rum daiquiri. You could also just wander around and marvel at the decor: wood paneling, vintage lamps and furniture, and just enough kitsch — served up in accessories like mirror-ball bowling pins — to make you feel like you've stepped back into a simpler time.

Riverside Lanes | Colusa, California
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Riverside Lanes | Colusa, California

Some bowling alleys retain that retro-cool charm because of neglect; others go all in on keeping things as vintage chic as they can. The latter describes Riverside Lanes, which retains its old-school cred through wood lanes, above-ground ball returns, neon beer signs, pinball machines, and, on select days, 1950s and '60s tunes and old black-and-white movies on the telly. Patrons come for the nostalgia, but according to many, return for the friendly service and the cheeseburgers.

Garage Billiards & Bowl | Seattle
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Garage Billiards & Bowl | Seattle

Part sports bar, pool hall, and bowling alley, this popular 40,000-square-foot spot in the Emerald City's historic Auto Row neighborhood features both upstairs and downstairs bowling lanes. Opened in 1996, Garage was recently acquired by AMF's Bowlero division, which says it plans to make no changes to the spot's "vibe" and "authenticity," other than perhaps opening the historically 21+ establishment up to all ages during certain hours.

Silver Dollar Saloon | Philipsburg, Montana
The Ranch at Rock Creek

Silver Dollar Saloon | Philipsburg, Montana

There are probably not many bowling alleys in the U.S. where you're about as likely to spot a moose or bald eagle as you are to throw a strike, but this four-lane bowling alley inside the Silver Dollar Saloon at The Ranch at Rock Creek's Silver Dollar Saloon is one of them. Located in this tiny eastern Montana town of around 1,000, the resort's bowling alley is just one of many things you can do to keep yourself entertained. There's also a private movie theatre, pool tables, karaoke, shuffleboard, darts, board games, and more — and those are just the indoor options.

Sacco's Bowl Haven | Somerville, Massachusetts
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Sacco's Bowl Haven | Somerville, Massachusetts

Sacco's offers "old-fashion candlepin bowling paired with great organic flatbread," and it's probably a pretty safe bet that only one of those things was available when it opened in 1939. For those unfamiliar, candlepin bowling is a tradition in New England and Canada's Maritime provinces. Balls can be held in the palm of the hand, and the pins are much more pillar candle-like in shape. Sacco's only accepts lane and dinner reservations for parties of eight or more, but it does keep three or four lanes for walk-in parties. Lanes are $30 per hour, and patrons say the flatbreads alone are worth the visit.

The Alley | Charleston, South Carolina
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The Alley | Charleston, South Carolina

With its huge TVs and selection of menu items like boiled peanuts, nachos, and a slider menu with eight different choices, The Alley, which opened in 2012, has the vibe of a sports bar in many ways. But it's also known for its retro 1970s decor, eight bowling lanes, vintage arcade games like Frogger and Pac-Man, and a 40-foot bar made from recycled alley wood. Sure, go for the 10-pin, but make sure to order something off the menu, too: The Alley has been called one of the Top 25 Fried Chicken Spots in Charleston, and its Vermont burger, served with white sharp Vermont cheddar, Applewood smoked bacon, granny smith apple, arugula, and Vermont maple mayo, was named one of the town's best burgers.

Saratoga Lanes | St. Louis
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Saratoga Lanes | St. Louis

Billing itself as a place with "bowling the way it used to be," Saratoga Lanes claims to be the oldest of its kind west of the Mississippi and is another alley listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Maplewood neighborhood it's in also offers a bit of nostalgia, as locals like to say it's "somewhere between Mayberry and Metropolis." Opened in 1916, Saratoga has eight lanes of bowling upstairs, and has pool tables and a limited bar selection, as well. Patrons often comment on the vintage vibe Saratoga has going for it — mostly in a positive way, but note that smoking is still allowed here, too, and that's an old-school choice not everyone is thrilled with.