I’m a bowling alley purist. I want my bowling alley to smell vaguely of stale beer and cigarettes, even though smoking indoors has been banned for years. I don’t need loud music and light shows, just serve me a pitcher of light lager with plastic cups.
I want to feel like I could turn around at any moment and see The Dude sipping on a White Russian.
I’m sure many of y’all feel differently, so it’s a good thing that we’ve got a varied bowling scene here in Charlotte. Based on my experience of bowling in leagues and friendly games around the city, here’s my ranking from old-school to trendy:
Since George Pappas’ Park Lanes closed a few years back (more on that later) this is about as old school as you’re going to get in the city limits.
I joined a league at this place when I first moved to Charlotte. It keeps it simple. No frills, but clean and nice. They’ll serve you a light lager, but it might be in a fancy glass.
Fun fact: In that one league I bowled in, I won $100, making me officially ineligible for NCAA competition.
— John Johnson (@JohnJohnsonAV) September 5, 2015
You pretty much know what you’re going to get with an AMF center. I’m pretty sure I bowled at this place at some point growing up, in a state tournament or something, maybe? (Yeah, I was super cool in middle school.)
Like University, this one’s updated just enough to not feel like a dive, but nothing too fancy. Lace ’em up and roll.
Business in the front, party in the back
— NC’s Finest… (@_InYourDreamz_) July 9, 2015
This place is sneaky huge. I went there one night to do some midnight bowling and there was a line to the door. I thought, “Dang, not gonna get to bowl tonight. This stinks.” But there are approximately 1,321.5 lanes in this place.
There are lanes on either side of the main room and a whole separate back room with another set. Plenty of space. And they have the blasting music and cool stuff like that for midnight bowling. Party.
This one is in the Epicentre, which should tell you everything you need to know about it.
From the Yelp reviews: “It’s a bowling alley but it freakin’ looks like a club. … The lanes were so cool I even did a random moonwalk.”
(1) 10 Park Lanes
A photo posted by CharlotteFive (@cltfive) on
I LOVED George Pappas’ Park Lanes, what 10 was before it got all fancy. It was the perfect old school bowling alley, plastic cups and all. I loved bowling in leagues there. Now it’s totally different.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. TEN Park Lanes has a lot going for it: Great bar, cool outdoor area, TVs. Notice none of those things have anything to do with bowling.
It’s a cool bar that just happens to have a bowling alley.
*I didn’t include Piedmont Social House because, even though it has 12 lanes, it feels even more like a bar that just happens to have bowling lanes. I tried to keep it traditional. I told you, I’m a purist.
Photos: Charlotte Observer file; Robert Lahser/Charlotte Observer
Corey Inscoe is editor of CharlotteFive and started bowling in leagues in elementary school. Follow him on Twitter @CoreyInscoe.