Nothing says "Summer American Pastime" (for those who live in a desert) like series of cool lanes, a couple of beers, and a shiny bowling ball.
Get past your fears of sharing foot diseases through decade-old rented shoes and your urges to use hand sanitizer after every attempt to knock down a couple of pins -- this sport's meant to be a little grungy. And if you go home hearing anything other than the echoes of falling bowling pins in your ears, you're likely doing it wrong.
Phoenix is home to a range of bowling alleys -- some old, a few new, and one long-forgotten. Here are a couple of places to bowl a strike.
5. AMF Squaw Peak Lanes Real bowling alleys have a little grunge to them. They're not too slick, not too clean, cavernous but friendly -- the kind of place where Walter and Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski might feel comfortable bellying up to the bar and knocking down some pins, where the pizza, fries, and wings are just-right greasy and the beer is good and cold. We think the Dude would approve of the lanes at Indian School and 30th Street.
We think he'd like the fact that on a Saturday night, the feel is more small-town than big, and you can find some actual teenagers, unplugged from their electronic devices and communicating with each other directly over a game. We think he'd like the Sunday-morning bowlers -- the little boy and his grandmother who come almost every week, the single dad herding his offspring -- and especially the raucous Thursday-night bowlers, including a bunch of arty types.
But, hell, we've introduced this place enough. In the immortal words of Walter Sobchak, "Fuck it, Dude, let's go bowling."
4. The Gold Spot Last summer, we dragged local photographer Dayvid LeMmon to one of his favorite abandoned spots across Central Avenue from the Westward Ho. Together, we were determined to find evidence of The Gold Spot.
The Gold Spot closed about 1950, and the cellar and buildings above were sold to the city, which supposedly blocked off the tunnels from the Westward Ho. Today, we're told, there isn't much left underground -- just a few painted grooves in the floor where the old lanes used to be and a piece of a wall mural of a bowling pin. Above ground, the glass bricks in the sidewalk still illuminate the space where bowlers (and, decades later, late-night partiers, including DJ Ariel) used to hang. You might still be able to pry a brick up and peek downward, and when the light's just right, you just might make out a lane or two. (Check out our findings right here.)
3. Christown Lanes From its retro angular roof to its neon lights, Christown Lanes looks like a throwback to bowling's 1950s heyday. But once inside, the 48 shining synthetic lanes designed to enhance the "hook and spin" bowler's game boldly proclaim that Christown is still at the forefront of the Valley's bowling renaissance.
The ultra-clean alley sports new carpet, spotless restrooms, and a snack bar. Even better: non-smoking lanes. But there is also plenty of room for getting rowdy at the pool tables in The Legends nightclub featuring karaoke on Friday nights.
The lanes host regional Professional Bowlers Association tournaments and the popular Strike Force Tour, and have leagues for kids to seniors. It's rock 'n' roll time on Friday and Saturday at 10:30 p.m. when black lights and strobes enshroud the lanes for Extreme Bowling ($14 for two and a half hours, including shoes). Reservations are recommended.
2. Let It Roll Bowl This still-charming, vaguely futuristic building was designed in 1960 by Ralph Haver-influenced Pierson Miller Ware and Associates, a well-regarded architecture firm. It opened in 1962 with 32 lanes and a coffee shop that served a heaping plate of biscuits and gravy for 35 cents and packed in a crowd for the Friday-night fish fry.
The former Northgate Bowl (which became Sunset Bowl sometime in the '70s) is a Sunnyslope fixture and looks the same (from the outside, anyway) as it did way back when. Even the wacky light-up sign with its pop-out letters is the same one erected in 1962, although new owners overhauled the interior in the '90s, adding lanes, a computer scoring system, a video arcade, a daycare, and a pro shop. But these improvements only make bowling at Let It Roll all the more fun for the whole family.
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Lucky Strike joined the local bowling alley league last August and has since spoiled us with 12 lanes, two bars, and billiard tables -- as well as a few upgrades. Think less dank carpet, cigar stench, and creepy rental shoes and more DJ action, plush seating, VIP party space, and full-restaurant service.
The 18,000-square foot bowling lounge at 50 W. Jefferson, is be open from 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Make sure to follow dress code and bring your ID after 9 p.m., when the place goes 21-and-over.