With the Lebowski Fest coming to DC on September 28-29, we’re sure you have bowling on your mind. These days you can bowl on your iPhone, your Wii, and a number of other technological devices, but some days you just want to get out there and have the whole experience. Perhaps you’ve already thought of hurling a ball towards ten pins as your preferred indoor activity during the upcoming winter season, or even – Dude! – joining a bowling league.
Well, lucky for you, the DC area has a plethora of options for getting your bowl on.
Keep it casual
Maybe you’re not looking to get into a serious relationship with bowling just yet. Maybe you want to date before you marry. Lucky Strike in Chinatown and Strike Bethesda are high-end options for an occasional bowl. The pricier-than-most food and drinks accompany the bowling prices, but when all’s said and done, it’s a classy – and still affordable – affair for a great night out. On the opposite end of the spectrum, GW’s Hippodrome offers cheap, cheap, cheap – no frills – bowling. And, while not always possible, moving your bowling extravaganza out of the city and out of the way of a metro guarantees a more “authentic” experience. — See below for more details on US Bowling (VA), Bowl America (VA) and Marlow Heights Lanes (MD).
Create a competition out of it
If you’re looking for a little more intensity (ready for your second date with bowling?), organize a competition for you and your friends. Send out an Evite, set up the teams, and use printyourbracket.com to lay out the competition. Heck, get t-shirts if you feel so inclined.
Bowl in the dark
Clearly only appropriate for your third date… Well, for most of us anyway. Turn down the lights, let the music roar, and just enjoy the old-school fun. On Friday and Saturday nights from 9 p.m. – 2 a.m., US Bowling in Alexandria lights up the lanes. Bowl America lights up the pins, rolls out the fog, and beams on the lasers Saturdays from 10 p.m. – 1 a.m. It’s a little further out of the way than Comet Ping Pong, but sometimes you just need to mix it up.
Join a league
Or, do it right and join a league. Different leagues have varying levels of commitment (you probably don’t have to buy a ball if you’re not ready), but t-shirts, beer, and cheap entertainment sound like enough to get me off the couch on any given day. (Yes, I enjoy being a cheap date.) While this list is not all inclusive, it should give you a general idea of where to begin your search for the best bowling league in town.
The best deal, by far, is the Arlington Athletic and Social League (playaasl.com) winter league. Sign ups begin in November, and the league starts play in January. The lanes are at Bowl America in Alexandria (off Edsall Road), which I have to love for its no frills, retro-style frozen pizza selection (the way bowling should be!). As you might expect, your $350 team registration fee for 6 regular season games gets you a t-shirt, shoe rental and a chance to come up with your awesome team name. That comes down to about $50 per person, and under $10 per game (again, cheap, like bowling should be!). I guess my one complaint is that 6 weeks just might not be long enough.
U.S. Bowling, at 100 South Picket Street in Alexandria, has rolling, open enrollment in legit bowling leagues – just show up at 6:30 p.m. (well, maybe a little early if it’s your first time) on a Wednesday or a Thursday night. Sign up at the front counter to pay a one-time $20 fee to join the U.S. Bowling Congress, and then pay $20 a week. The weekly fee includes ball usage, but shoes are a discounted $3.00/week. There’s no website for U.S. Bowling, but they’re helpful over the phone: (703) 370-5910.
The bowling leagues at Marlow Heights Lanes in Temple Hills, Maryland are on Sundays at 6:00 p.m. To sign up, arrive at 5:45 and speak with the secretary, Niko. You probably won’t regret it. While not as savvy over the phone, their website leads me to believe that their leagues have great perks. This fall there was a $500,000 prize tournament… (I think that’s reason enough to at least give it a TRY!). And make sure to ask if this AMF bowling center is participating in the Breast Cancer Awareness League. There’s nothing like DC folks to support a cause!