Bowlmor Lanes NYC & Other Mega-Alleys
Indoor winter activities in New York City during which you can laugh and get loud AND eat and drink AND are equally fun and appropriate for all ages? Well, there's bowling and, um… bowling in NYC! Seriously, if you're looking for something different to do with a crowd after work, or a place to take the kids during February break, there are a number of new and new-ish (and old but recently renovated) bowling mega-alleys which put as much–or more–emphasis on the party as they do on the sport. They're not cheap, but with the right crew, they can be a blast.
Bowlmor Lanes Times Square
Simply put, this place is nuts. Located in the former New York Times building, just steps away from Times Square proper on 44th Street, this newest addition to the Bowlmor Lanes empire is 90,000 square feet–two floors, many bars and restaurants, 50 lanes in all!–of over-the-top, New-York-City-themed bowling madness. The vast space is broken into mini-worlds, each tricked out to resemble a (tourist's vision of a) NYC neighborhood, or iconic place or thing.
Central Park, world, for example, has grass sprouting between bowling lanes. The Art Deco lanes are designed as an homage to the Chrysler Building. And Times Square land features classic 1970s peep-show-esque signage (don't worry: it's all completely SFW). Also at Bowlmor Lanes, Times Square: the Subway (think: graffiti); the Andy Warhol room (which apparantly have the only black lanes on the planet); and the throwback Prohibition land, "hidden" behind a hat store.
The food, served either alley-side or at one of several NYC-themed lounges, restaurants and bars (as in the Tribeca VIP room, etc.), is via David Burke, including the mini-taco tree, pictured below. Important note: Bowlmor Lanes Times Square doesn't post their prices online, but we've heard that the opening "special" was $72 per hour, per lane (!), plus shoe rental, and the food and drinks can't be cheap, so we advise you call ahead. For more information, please see the Bowlmor Lanes Times Square website.
Bowlmor Lanes Union Square
Compared to its uptown cousin, the "classic" Bowlmor Lanes, just south of Union Square on University Place, seems almost understated… and that's WITH all the loud music, lively bar scene, packs of NYU kids, big-screen TVs everywhere, blacklit bowling lanes and neon pins. Of course, during the day the bowling in NYC place is more family-friendly, and they're currently renovating the upstairs Carnival club, so the velvet rope scene outside at night should be considerably lessened through the winter. That said, this place is popular for a reason–they have solid specials, including $24 bowl-all-night sales and such–so don't be surprised if you have to wait for a lane… or that you'll have fun at the bar during said wait. More info at the Bowlmor Lanes Union Square website.
The third of the multi-purpose party space/bowling alleys in NYC that we visited was, as befits its Williamsburg address, by far the coolest. In a good way. Brooklyn Bowl is housed within a gorgeous, 19th-century Iron Works factory on a somewhat desolate stretch of Wythe Avenue, a few blocks from the Bedford Avenue L stop. The concept here is a little different than the Bowlmor Lanes model: in addition to bowling (there are 16 suitably high-tech lanes), and food (from the always-reliable Blue Ribbon, AND reasonably priced), Brooklyn Bowl also functions as a full-fledged concert venue/dance club, with, for example, recent and upcoming performances by the varied and sundry likes of Roots, Bustle in Your Hedgerow, Slick Rick, DJ ?uestlove, and the Beatles Complete on Ukulele. Lots more info about Brooklyn Bowl, including a menu and a complete calendar of upcoming shows.