The sound of wood crashing, the smell of beer, the sight of ugly footwear. What’s not to love? Tots and octogenarians alike can send the pins flying, and you don’t have to bring your own ball to pretend you’re a pro. Even as Xbox and Netflix try to colonize us, bowling alleys are thriving. Here are seven that are scoring strikes.
AMF Mar Vista Lanes conjures The Big Lebowski (think faded blue-and-tan decor, a glass-walled greasy spoon, and a mirrored cocktail bar that serves White Russians). Don’t let the old-timey vibe of this 1958 alley fool you: The lanes are consistently oiled, and the scoring equipment is state-of-the-art. It’s so popular with leagues that casual bowlers may have trouble getting in on weeknights. » 12125 Venice Blvd., Mar Vista, 310-391-5288.
The Lucky Strike chain is high on swank, but bowling feels like an afterthought. At Pasadena’s 300, the game itself—not just the furniture—has gone upscale. A sizing guide helps ensure you get the right ball. Shoes were delivered to our booth, as were signature drinks and tasty finger foods that included sliders, shrimp skewers, and Vietnamese summer rolls. Music videos play on projection screens, and the private 300 Club—with seven lanes and a separate bar—can be rented out for parties. » 3545 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, 626-351-8858.
The threadbare carpet, warped ceiling tiles, and ever-present Christmas garland (less festive come July) at All Star Lanes have seen better days. Still, there’s something glorious about nailing a spare to the piped-in strains of Johnny Cash and Buddy Holly. Like any good dive, the Eagle Rock institution attracts local cool kids, and the bar has a vibrant karaoke stage. » 4459 Eagle Rock Blvd., Eagle Rock, 323-254-2579.
Lindsay Lohan and Justin Timberlake are among the celebrities who’ve patronized Pinz. But this is no velvet-rope affair. The massive arcade includes two air hockey tables, pinball machines, and more than 80 virtual shooting, kicking, flying, and arm wrestling games. “Rock N’ Bowl” nights feature loud music and pulsing floor and ceiling lights (as if the paparazzi flashes aren’t enough). » 12655 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-769-7600.
Bursting skyward through a sea of suburban stucco, the pyramid roof of the outrageously Googie Brunswick Covina Bowl marks the height of the ’50s craze for the sport. Fifty lanes, endless banquet rooms, a billiard hall, cocktail lounge, video arcade, and even a beauty parlor line the catacombs of this Egyptian-themed garden of the bowling gods. » 1060 W. San Bernardino Rd., Covina, 626-339-1286.
Little Bit Country
The horseplay at the nearby L.A. Equestrian Center is part of the down-home spirit at Pickwick Bowl. The 24 lanes, small arcade, and top-notch pro shop (score a bag, ball, and shoes for $120) are in a larger recreation complex that boasts an ice rink and wedding-ready gardens. Worn wood paneling covers just about every surface, but the dated decor radiates wholesomeness. The veteran staff might just call you “darlin’ ?” as they hand over your shoes. Different leagues, including senior, disabled, and youth groups, compete almost every day of the week, and Thursdays draw a full house for $1.50 games. » 921 W. Riverside Dr., Burbank, 818-845-5300.
The Montrose Bowl—a survivor from the Roosevelt era—is the oldest operating bowling alley in Los Angeles County. Behind its original glass-block-and-tile facade are eight lanes booked most nights for parties and filming, with limited hours for open bowling. The ten-stool diner, which serves up fried chicken and bratwurst, has a gallery of signed photos of celeb patrons from Wolfgang Puck to SpongeBob SquarePants. If the orange-and-turquoise interior looks like something out of Pleasantville, it is. The 1998 movie about life in a ’50s sitcom world was filmed there. » 2334 Honolulu Ave., Montrose, 818-249-3895.