The 8 Best Bowling Alleys In Chicago
By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 10, 2014 7:00PM
According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago, the history of bowling in the city dates back to the 1850s and grew rapidly throughout the remainder of the 19th century. By 1910, Chicago was home to 230 bowling alleys. Bowling leagues sprouted everywhere within the city limits. Newspapers sponsored bowling leagues and handicap contests, notably the Sun-Times' "Beat the Champions" tournament. Local television stations looked to bowling as easy programming during the early years of the medium.
The number of bowling alleys today is a far cry from that 20th century boom period, and the sport these days is mostly seen as recreational and a good excuse to have a couple beers and goof around. The bowling alleys that remain are mostly throwbacks to that era, from Skyway Bowl in Jeffery Manor to Habetler Bowl in Jefferson Park, from the Far West Side to the Loop, there are still bowling alleys where you can rent shoes, grab a ball, and roll.
The eight bowling alleys we selected represent our favorites in town. Let us know your picks in the comments.
Diversey River Bowl (Photo credit: Justin Carlson)
Diversey River Bowl
Diversey River Bowl may not have the same history as many of the alleys featured on this list, but what it lacks in old school charm, it makes up for in an all-around solid bowling experience. If you grew up in the suburbs this alley will closely resemble where you had your 8th birthday (especially on cosmic night) or where you and your high school friends hung out when you were bored, but that’s not a bad thing. It feels new and draws a large crowd ranging from families to couples, and even some serious league players. This place can get packed but there are plenty of lanes and they are reasonably priced, especially if you go with a large group. As an added bonus, you can drown your sub-100 pin game sorrows with the fully stocked bar and surprisingly good pizza. — Gina Provenzano
Diversey River Bowl is located at 2211 W. Diversey Parkway.
This West Lawn alley is a family-friendly establishment, located in a neighborhood that remains home to a plethora of corner bars. It’s also one of the cheapest alleys in town. Mondays feature $1 games. Tuesdays are $10 all you can bowl. If you’re playing hooky on a Friday, Lawn Lanes offers $2 games from 8 a.m. until noon. —Chuck Sudo
Lawn Lanes is located at 6750 S. Pulaski Rd.
Waveland Bowl (Photo credit: John Sadowski)
The largest bowling alley in Chicago offers 40 lanes, each with automated scoring, and cosmic bowling nearly every night of the week. The facility is kid-friendly with cosmic kids bowling nights and programmable bumpers. The space hosts a variety of bowling leagues from youth to seniors. The lanes are well-maintained, the food serviceable and, if rolling rocks isn’t your thing, there are plenty of pool tables available. Kick back and let the computers do the scoring. —Chuck Sudo
Waveland Bowl is located at 3700 N. Western Ave.
Southport Lanes & Billiards (Photo credit: Stephanie Barto)
Southport Lanes & Billiards
About as far away from the Brunswick model as you can get, the charmingly retro Southport Lanes & Billiards is really more a tavern than a bowling alley. Although there have been major renovations and expansions, it dates back to 1900 as a brew house, with the four bowling lanes added in 1922. Yep only four lanes. And no automatic pin-setting here. It’s all done manually by “pin boys” (no mention of “pin girls,” but it may be a gender-neutral title). There are also six pool tables, a solid menu of pub grub, and a decent selection of craft beer, with four-ounce servings available if you want to try something new without committing to a full pint. The only downside? It’s almost always busy, so with only four lanes, you better reserve yours ahead of time. — Joel Wicklund
Southport Lanes & Billiards is located at 3325 N. Southport Ave.
Timber Lanes (Photo credit: Justin Carlson)
Timber Lanes is more like a neighborhood bar with a few bowling lanes added for ambiance. Only eight lanes grace this cozy bowling alley. But the beer is cheap and the rental shoes are ugly so it’s got all the bases covered. And you’d better know how to keep score with a pencil and paper, because there is no automatic scorekeeping at Timber Lanes. It could use a better jukebox, but it’s tough to get it all in one bowling alley. League play is available and they do a nice job with children’s birthday parties, too. — Casey Moffitt
Timber Lanes is located at 1851 W. Irving Park Rd.
Lincoln Square Lanes (Photo credit: Spencer Goodwine)
Lincoln Square Lanes
Once one of the funkier bowling alleys in Chicago, a 2013 renovation brought the nearly 90-year-old establishment into the 21st century with a modern sports bar and craft beer menu while preserving what made the bowling lanes unique, like hand scoring, a tin ceiling, and the Abe Lincoln mural that runs across the alley. Specials include 50-cent games and shoe rental on Monday nights, and $2 games and shoe rental on Tuesdays. —Chuck Sudo
Lincoln Square Lanes is located at 4874 N. Lincoln Ave.
Mont Clare Lanes (Photo credit: Roberto41144)
Mont Clare Lanes
This west side alley has a certain turn-of-the-20th century vibe about it, befitting its location. It’s a bowling alley crossed with a banquet hall. The food reflects the banquet hall feel, with menu items like Buffalo shrimp, veggie platters, Santa Fe egg rolls and popcorn chicken on the menu. With 32 lanes available, Mont Clare can host anywhere from a small game to bigger leagues. —Chuck Sudo
Mont Clare Lanes is located at 2957 N. Harlem Ave.
Seven Ten Lounge (Photo via Seven Ten Lanes Facebook page.)
Seven Ten Lounge
Hyde Park has a dearth of entertainment and nightlife options, but that is slowly changing and part of the foundation involves this bowling alley near the University of Chicago campus. Opened in 2002, Seven Ten Hyde Park holds eight vintage bowling lanes, surrounded by an Art Deco decor and nine pool tables, if the lanes are packed. Seven Ten Lincoln Park also has eight lanes and the advantage of being located next to Atlas Brewing Co., in case the lounge, lanes and pool room are crowded. —Chuck Sudo
Seven Ten Lounge Hyde Park is located at 1055 E. 55th St. Seven Ten Lounge Lincoln Park is located at 2747 N. Lincoln Ave.