While these U.S. alleys aren't that old, they've got plenty to please nostalgia-seekers
Action Duckpin Bowl in Indianapolis originally opened in 1928
You won’t find fancy equipment and computerized scoreboards beamed above your head at America’s best old school bowling alleys, Bud.
Though you might find real guys named Bud, who actually know how to keep score with a pad and pencil.
To connect you with bowling’s classic days, here are 13 of our favorite throwback bowling alleys in the United States.
Rohman’s Inn and Pub (Shohola, Pennsylvania)
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, what was once the Shohola Glen Hotel is now Rohman’s Inn and Pub.
Inside, the four-lane, manually-operated bowling alley dates to 1941, complete with wooden folding seats for game spectators, a jukebox and original wooden lanes.
There are no machines to reset the pins between turns, so bring your own pinsetter or hire one at the alley for $5 per hour.
Much of the old hotel building’s basement bar dates back to the 1800s. The historic hotel welcomed celebrity guests including Bette Davis, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, as Shohola and its surrounds were once the setting for a number of silent films.
Rohman’s Inn and Pub, 103 Rohman Road, Shohola, Pennsylvania; +1 570 559 7479
Action Duckpin Bowl (Indianapolis, Indiana)
Originally opened in 1928 as a 10-pin bowling alley with young boys as pinsetters (rumor has it actor Steve McQueen was one), Action Duckpin Bowl offers a quasi-museum experience. Walls showcase vintage bowling photos, ads, historic awards and memorabilia.
The alley was closed in the ’50s, then reopened and restored in the 1990s to resemble a 1930s-era duckpin bowling alley, which features smaller balls and pins.
After finding the alley’s vintage neon sign, ride the valet elevator up to the fourth floor, where eight plywood lanes and 1930s wooden hand-scoring tables greet you.
Reservations are recommended due to the venue’s small size.
The basement houses Atomic Bowl Duckpin, a 1998 venue decked out with ’50s and ‘60s equipment.
Holler House (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
Holler House is a Milwaukee bowling alley and tavern built in 1908.
Before playing a game on the country’s two oldest certified bowling lanes, you’ll need to call owner Marcy Skowronski so she can send one of the local boys over to reset pins (you’ll be doing your own hand scoring, though).
Holler House is also a great local spot to imbibe, and during Prohibition went undercover as a soda parlor.
Quirky extra: Holler House has an expansive signed bra collection hanging from the ceiling.
The Spare Room (Los Angeles)
The Spare Room itself is a newer addition, but the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel that houses the clubby gaming lounge opened in 1927.
The first Academy Awards ceremony was held at the hotel in 1929 and Marilyn Monroe was a regular guest in the ’50s.
To fit with the hotel’s storied past, a Gatsby-esque bowling alley and lounge were added in 2011, complete with restored lanes dating back to early Industrial America.
While you’re waiting your turn, gather around cocktail tables set with backgammon and chess boards and savor table-side absinthe service.
Bowling costs $100 per hour for up to six people.
Rock ‘n’ Bowl (New Orleans)
At first you’ll think you’ve entered a church, with Mother Mary robed in blue and white lighting the entrance.
Turn the corner and the scene changes with a 22,000-square-foot dance floor with bar and bowling.
Opened in 1941 under the name Mid City Lanes, the venue retains its old school feel while also offering live music.
After being destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, Rock ‘n’ Bowl was relocated and decked out with features from the original location, like tables crafted from the original lanes, an original ball return and scoring table, a replica of Mid City Lanes’ neon logo, and, on the quirkier side, Tom Cruise’s and Archbishop Philip Hannan’s bowling shoes, who both played here.
Boutwell’s Bowling Center (Concord, New Hampshire)
Boutwell’s Bowling Center in Concord, New Hampshire, is dedicated to the challenging game of candlepin bowling – a version of bowling popular in New England and Eastern Canada with thinner pins and smaller hole-less balls.
Opened in 1959, Boutwell’s has been in the same family since 1972. The retro venue features shag carpet walls spelling out the bowling alley’s name, red-and-blue rental shoes, 1990s scoring screens with dancing bowling pins and an arcade with 1980s games (PacMan, anyone?). There’s also a 1970s-style lounge with fake wood paneling, swiveling Captain’s barstools and PBR on draft.
Boutwell’s Bowling Center, 152 North State St., Concord, New Hampshire; +1 603 224 0941
Roseland Cottage (Woodstock, Connecticut)
Touted as the country’s oldest surviving indoor alley, the 1846 Roseland Cottage bowling alley is no longer open for play, but the National Historic Landmark does offer tours.
The bowling alley is located in a carriage barn adjacent to a Gothic Revival cottage built as a country retreat for New York dry goods merchant Henry Chandler Bowen.
The alley was visited by numerous presidents, including Ulysses S. Grant, who is known for lighting a cigar when getting a strike and getting scolded by then-owner Bowen, who didn’t allow such indulgences on his property.
What you’ll see today is a yellow pine plank alley, very much the same as it appeared to President Grant in 1870, with original wooden bowling pins and a variety of different sized bowling balls, all made from lignum vitae, or iron wood.
The ball return relies on gravity, and an off-center roll will still result in a gutter ball.
Paul’s Bar & Bowling (Paterson, New Jersey)
Although Paul’s Bar and Bowling had their upstairs made over in an episode of “Restaurant: Impossible,” the original four downstairs lanes from 1929 remain unchanged.
The family business was opened by owner Paul Awramko’s grandfather, also named Paul.
He was in the ice business and wanted to pair bowling with “kold” beers, the atypical spelling paying homage to the family’s Polish ancestry.
Pins were manually reset until 1967, when they got the original “Crown” series of Brunswick automatic machines, still in use today. Other vintage features you’ll find include above-level ball returns, Blatt plastic orange and gray benches from 1967 and artistic veneer slats shielding lights above the lanes.
Lower Columbia Bowl (Astoria, Oregon)
You may recognize this bowling alley from the opening scene of the famous cult film, “The Goonies,” where Chunk smears pizza on the window.
Originally built in 1946 as a car dealership and garage, it was turned into a bowling alley in 1956. Hand-painted murals of Astoria and the Columbia River on the alley walls pay homage to the town’s working waterfront.
Visitors can have a bowling ball custom fit by the same pro who has worked there for 39 years and pick out old-school bags and shoes. Sign the Goonies guest book, and check out the maps on the wall, showing all the places from which bowlers have traveled.
Lower Columbia Bowl, 826 Marine Drive, Astoria, Oregon; +1 503 325 3321
Bryant-Lake Bowl (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
The building housing Byant-Lake Bowl opened as a Ford garage servicing Model Ts in 1926.
In 1936, it began its life as a bowling alley, and at one time was owned by Minnesota Bowling Hall of Famer Bill Drouches.
A giant red and yellow neon sign greets visitors who bowl on vintage lanes complete with hand-scoring, above-ground ball returns, historic photos and a (friendly) resident ghost.
Several employees say they’ve spotted an apparition of a man in bib overalls and a white T-shirt walking across the lanes.
It’s believed the ghost was a mechanic who was crushed by a car during the days when the alley was a garage.
There’s also a cabaret theater, or you can chat with Roger Engmark, who’s been working at the bowling alley for 30-plus years.
He allegedly inspired the line: “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” in Semisonic’s “Closing Time,” as the band used to hang out at the lanes.
To bowl on a budget, try “Cheap Date Night” Mondays from 6 p.m. to midnight, where $28 gets you two entrees, a bottle of wine or bucket of beers, and a round of bowling.
The Garden Bowl (Detroit)
One of the country’s oldest active bowling centers, The Garden Bowl was built in 1913 with a bowling alley on the first floor and a billiards room on the second. Pin setters lived in nearby Michigan Avenue flophouses.
Today, the focus is on enhancing the retro vibe with art. Look for wall murals and pins painted by local artists and DJs spinning indie and alternative tunes. Plus, bands like the White Stripes and Modest Mouse have graced the stage suspended above the neon-glowing lanes.
The Garden Bowl, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; +1 313 833 9700
Holiday Lanes (Heber City, Utah)
The set of numerous Hollywood flicks – some of which include “A Home of Our Own” and “Truth or Consequences N.M.” – and a favorite hangout of celebrities like Robert Redford and Tom Brokaw during the Sundance Film Festival, Holiday Lanes in Heber City, Utah, is surprisingly glitz-free.
Open since 1962 and run by the same family since 1964, the family-friendly bowling center features original ball returns and pin machines as well as the “Big Will,” a cheesy never-frozen double beef burger named after owner Phyllis Christensen’s father.
Phyllis’ classic malt is made with the same hand-mixing machines used in the 1960s.
Solvay Recreation Alleys (Syracuse, New York)
Solvay Recreation Alleys opened as a family business in 1923, when it was converted from an auto garage into a then six-lane bowling alley in Syracuse, New York.
Today the alley has 14 lanes, and owner John Zollo is one of 14 children who each had their own lane growing up.
This laid-back “Cheers”-style spot lets patrons behind the bar to grab what’s needed, leaving the money in the register.
On some weekday mornings, seniors who were once pin boys at the alley share tales of being hit by bowling balls.
It’s as if inflation never touched Solvay.
The alley offers three games with shoes for $10, as well as $1 days during the summer and off-seasons, where everything from food to games to shoes is $1.
Solvay Recreation Alleys, 1737 Milton Ave., Syracuse, New York; +1 315 488 8072