An American pastime gets a makeover in New York City, where a recent bowling boom has transformed traditional alleys into quirky—and at times unexpectedly chic—entertainment destinations. From upscale dining and VIP lounges to hip rock shows and burlesque performances, NYC bowling alleys offer far more than the familiar 10 frames and nachos. (Don't worry, Lebowski lovers: there are still plenty of classic, BYO-polyester-shirt spots, as well.) With loads of options throughout the City for all tastes and budgets, it's time to knock down some pins.
Lucky Strike Lanes & Lounge
624-660 W. 42nd St., 646-829-0170, Midtown West, Manhattan
Opened in 2008, Lucky Strike is a far cry from your childhood bowling alley. Here, cocktail waitresses serve fancy drinks to patrons who chill out on sleek leather and velvet couches while nibbling on Asian chicken skewers. Each of its 26 lanes comes equipped with state-of-the-art scoring technology and flat-screen monitors. Billiards fans will find 10 pool tables, while high rollers can enjoy bottle service and, if available, a premium VIP suite that comes with four private lanes and its very own bar. $9.95–$11.95/person/game or $55–$75/lane/hour; shoe rental: $5/pair.
61 Wythe Ave., 718-963-3369, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
When it opened in a former ironworks foundry in the summer of 2009, Brooklyn Bowl, the first LEED-certified bowling alley, became an instant game-changer on the Williamsburg scene. As a dining destination, Brooklyn Bowl brought lauded Blue Ribbon fare to the neighborhood, serving a menu of gourmet comfort food like fried catfish, brisket with mashed potatoes and the “Really” Sloppy Joe. For music lovers, the site's 600-capacity concert space—which attracts up-and-comers and bigger names like Talib Kweli and Deerhunter—has taken its place as one of the borough's premiere music venues. And for partiers, the bar showcases the best in Brooklyn-made beers, evoking a warm sense of inebriated local pride. Oh, and if you're not too distracted by the food, shows and brews, bowlers can enjoy a game on one of the spot's 16 lanes. $40/lane/hour or $50/lane/hour; shoe rental: $4/pair.
110 University Place, 212-255-8188, Greenwich Village, Manhattan
Spread over two sprawling floors, Bowlmor, a Union Square institution since 1938, recently updated its look (think retro spaceship), 42 lanes (for neon glow-in-the-dark bowling) and menu (a more inventive take on classic bowling fare—try the spinach-and-artichoke fondue or the barbecue pulled-pork sliders). The place gets busy on Monday nights, when, thanks to its Night Strike special, $24 gets you unlimited bowling and shoe rental from 9pm to 1am. After a game or two, head upstairs to Carnival, Bowlmor's new Coney Island–themed nightclub, where contortionists, jugglers and sword swallowers perform amid carnival games and burlesque dancers. Monday–Thursday: $11.95/person/game; Friday–Sunday: $12.95/person/game; shoe rental: $6/pair.
2116 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., 3rd fl., 212-678-2695, Harlem, Manhattan
Located on the third and fourth floors of an unassuming office building, Harlem Lanes fuses classic bowling with hip uptown style. Bowlers wait for their turns on cushy leather couches while enjoying first-rate comfort food (a full rack of barbecue ribs and jerk chicken wings at a bowling alley!) and grooving to contemporary R&B and hip-hop jams. Celebrate your strikes (or lament your gutter balls) in the VIP lounge or upstairs sports bar while catching professional sports games on flat-screen TVs. Weekend DJs get your body moving, and nightly specials keep your wallet happy. One of the best deals is on Thursday night, when a $10 cover gets you beers, shoes and games, all for one (yes, one) dollar each. Monday–Thursday: $6/person/game; Friday–Sunday: $8.50/person/game; shoe rental: $5/pair.
200 N. 14th St., 718-387-3585, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
With imported machinery, '60s and '70s furniture from Midwest alleys, old trophies and seemingly antique beer ads, The Gutter succeeds at capturing bowling kitsch for the irony-loving Williamsburg crowd. With only eight lanes, the wait for a game can get long (especially on weekends), but with a stellar selection of mostly local microbrews and fully stocked liquor shelves, the spacious and homey bar room—a popular neighborhood destination in its own right—is a pleasant spot to spend some downtime. Monday–Thursday: $6/person/game or $30/lane/hour before 8pm, $7/person/game or $40/lane/hour after 8pm; Friday–Sunday: $7/person/game or $45/lane/hour; shoe rental: $3/pair.
1 Bouck Ct., 718-336-6700, Gravesend, Brooklyn
Sure, posh lounges and mod cuisine make for an only-in-New-York night of glitzy bowling, but sometimes you're just looking for a low-key, low-budget place to practice that pesky 7-10 split. For some old-school bowling at old-school prices, head to Shell Lanes, where 10 frames will set you back as little as $3 (and sometimes just $5 for two hours of bowling bliss). And if you haven't scored your own games since the '80s, fear not: in addition to being affordable, Shell Lanes also offers automatic-scoring technology. $3–$5.50/person/game; shoe rental: $3.50/pair.
Ball Park Lanes
810 River Ave., 718-665-5800, South Bronx, Bronx
Just down the block from Yankee Stadium, underneath the elevated 4 train, hard-core bowlers, neighborhood teens and, of course, decked-out Yankees fans go for strikes of their own at Ball Park Lanes. Crowds tend to storm the alley around game time, but Ball Park's astounding 50-lane spread accounts for generally short wait times. And with beer prices as low as $5 (or just $3 during the off-season), you can afford to throw back a few rounds before (or after) hitting the game.
$3.50–$4.50/person/game; shoe rental: $2/pair.
30-05 Whitestone Expwy., 718-353-6300, Flushing, Queens
Can't fall asleep at 2am on a Tuesday? Go bowling. Bored at noon on a Sunday? Bowl. To ensure that New Yorkers can scratch that bowling itch whenever they like, Whitestone Lanes in Flushing is open 24/7, 365 days per year. State-of-the-art scoring, a classic snack bar and an $18 all-you-can-bowl special (Monday and Tuesday nights or Saturday and Sunday mornings) only sweeten the deal. $4.50–$7.50/person/game; shoe rental: $4.50/pair.
Rab's Country Lanes
1600 Hylan Blvd., 718-979-1600, Old Town, Staten Island
If you prefer a family-friendly joint to some of the City's swankier alleys, Rab's Country Lanes in Staten Island could be your ideal hangout. One of the few remaining bowling alleys in the borough, Rab's Country Lanes' black-lit Cosmic Bowling nights, daily open bowling (to avoid time conflicts with league bowlers), oozing-hot Gennaro's pizza and lounge complete with pool tables, darts, karaoke and the like provide a bowling ambience that's far more classic than hipster. For the future pro-bowler in all (well, some) of us, Ray Laursen's on-site pro shop will equip you with all the accoutrements of a Professional Bowlers Association champ.
$5–$5.50/person/game or $17–$32/lane/hour; shoe rental: $3/pair.