Bowling in Boston

Filed in Things To Do by on May 5, 2009 1 Comment

Nothing like a rainy day to make you wonder where to go when going out means heading indoors. A retro favorite is always bowling.  The question is – do you go old school New England style with candlepin bowling or Fred Flintstone style with ten pin bowling?


A bowling tutorial
Candlepin is the small balls, with the thin pins (thus the candlepin name).  You get 3 rolls of the ball for each turn, take two turns at a time, and have the advantage of the fallen pins to help you knock down the ones still standing. It is a New England tradition that, at last check, was only found in our strange little cluster of 6 Northeastern states.

Ten Pin, on the other hand, is played with those big-ass balls with three holes in them, with the shapely Betty Boop style pins (curvy). You get two balls for each turn, take one turn at a time, and the fallen pins get swept away after each roll down the alley.  For the upscale bowling spots in town, this is the style of bowling they choose.

Where to bowl
Lucky Strike Lanes – Part of a national chain started in Hollywood, California, Lucky Strike is an upscale, nightlife-oriented take on bowling which takes the sport out of the gutter, so to speak. Locally, it is part of the Fenway landmark location of Jillian’s, long known as an adult playground having housed an indoor roller skating rink, miniature golf, high end interactive arcade games and billiards in the past.  Billiards are still around, along with 22 lanes of 10 pin bowling, all stacked on top of a Tex Mex restaurant and nightclub, Tequila Rain. Location: 145 Ipswich St., at the corner of Lansdowne St, Boston;

Lanes and Games – Lanes and Games is the down and dirty bowling you remember from your youth. The only thing that’s changed is your Uncle Charlie can’t have a lit cigarette hanging from his mouth as he sends the perfect strike down the lane. With 34 candlepin lanes and 20 ten pin lanes, along with a small room of arcades and a bar on the second floor, its a great place to gather with a big group of goons and spend the afternoon. Location: 195 Concord Turnpike, Rt 2E, Cambridge;

Boston Bowl – Ten pin bowling made its debut in New England at Boston Bowl in 1959.  And, if you take a trip over to their web page, they have the newspaper clipping to prove it.  Fifty years later they offer 30 ten pin lanes, 14 candlepin lanes, billiards, games and even the Deadwood Cafe and Brewery.  Open 24 hours, there is never a bad time to get your game on at this just south of downtown Boston institution.  Location: 820 Morrissey Blvd, Boston;

South Boston Candlepin – This location is much like the hundred of bowling spots you’ll see throughout New England towns and suburbs.  Parents teaching their kids how to roll the ball down the lane between their legs, the afternoon leagues whooping it up for their annual $5 trophies, kids birthday parties with cake and I-screams and a guys night out as competitive as if they were out on the field. It’s a piece of Americana, within the carpeted walls of the bowladrome. Location: 543 E Broadway, South Boston; 617.464.4858

Milky Way Lounge – I would be remiss if I did not mention the Milky Way Lounge here.  For many they are the quintessential a-typical bowling experience with an eclectic mix of nightclub, bar, restaurant, open mike, live entertainment and yes bowling, all mixed into one.  But alas, they have moved and the lanes have not gone with them.  They do have skeeball and a billiards table arriving in May – so you can still get your bowl on, ala Chuck E. Cheese style. And, truth is, lightweight skeeballs are probably the safer choice in the hands of alcohol induced Bostonians anyhow. Location: *NEW* 284 Armory Street, Jamaica Plain ;

The good thing – is that with either type of bowling, or whatever locale, you can ask for the kiddie bumpers to block off the gutter so you might actually have a chance at having your ball meet up with those taunting pins.


Julie Salickram is a contributing writer/blogger for Follow her at

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