For the Fashion-Conscious
Designed to look like an upscale canoodling den, complete with a restrictive dress code, shimmering orange and gold couches, and a VIP room with a private bar and four separate lanes, the six-month-old Lucky Strike brings a bit of the Bungalow 8 mentality to bowling. Not that it’s without a sense of humor: The mammoth main alley is graced with Big Lebowski–style neon signs, and the bar ledger includes Cookie Shooters, soft chocolate-chip cookies with a shot of milk. On Monday nights after 8 p.m., $22 buys unlimited bowling until close. $10–$12 per game; $5 shoe rentals; 624–660 W. 42nd St., at Twelfth Ave.; 646-829-0170.
For Seventies Nostalgics
More of a beer bar than a true alley, the Gutter expertly (if ironically) channels the sport’s proletarian spirit. The eighteen-month-old bar, fastidiously decorated with bowling trophies and beer-brand lamps, is packed most nights. Take a deli-style number when you get there and be prepared to wait an hour or more for one of the eight lanes to open up. Once you do get to bowl, don’t expect a League Night experience: The black-and-white scoring system may malfunction, and you’ll be practically tripping over the group next to you. $6–$7 per game; $3 shoe rentals; 200 N. 14th St., nr. Wythe Ave., Williamsburg; 718-387-3585.
For Food-, Beer-, and Audiophiles
Even without the Blue Ribbon restaurant, live-music stage, and local-beers-only bar menu, Brooklyn Bowl would be an exemplary place to play. When it opens sometime in May (they’re just waiting for final city permits), the alley will offer digital scoring systems, a rainbow array of never-used bowling balls and shoes, an energy-efficient pin-pickup system, and eight HD screens showing anything from classic B-movies to the rock (or possibly burlesque) act going on right behind you. $30–$50 per hour; $3 shoe rentals; 61 Wythe Ave., nr. N. 11th St., Williamsburg; 718-963-3369.
For Limited Attention Spans
Frequented mostly by NYU students, the massive 42-lane alley doubles as a dizzying party complex. The sheer number of stimuli—neon pins, Technicolor balls, red-light-framed lanes, frisky waiters—makes bowling almost beside the point. If you are here to bowl and only bowl, the roomy, crescent- shaped booths will help you stay (somewhat) focused on the pins. Or just give up and go dancing upstairs at Pressure, a rowdy nightclub with a 60-foot arched air bubble for a ceiling. $9.45–$12.95 per game; $6.50 shoe rentals; 110 University Pl., nr. E. 12th St.; 212-255-8188.
Leisure Time Bowl
For Time-Killing Commuters
Otherwise known as “that bowling alley inside the Port Authority,” Leisure Time (soon to be renamed Frames) is undergoing a much-needed—and so far quite successful—renovation. Though it’s still pretty dark (watch out for foot-fouls!), the alley no longer feels dingy. The 26 lanes are surrounded by leather booths and attended by a good-looking wait staff serving everything from Big Apple–tinis to eleven-pint towers of beer. There’s even a nightclub in the works; it’s scheduled to open by the end of the year. $6.50–$9.50 per game; $5 shoe rentals; 625 Eighth Ave., nr. 40th St.; 212-268-6909.
For Future PBA Members
So what if you’ll never come close to bowling that titular 300? The Chelsea Piers alley treats everybody like a pro-in-the-making. Staffers escort bowlers to get shoes, give ball fittings using a “smart ball” that determines the ideal weight and finger size, and deliver the equipment right to the lane. League players and groups of kids can get plenty of practice in during the day, but at night the alley goes a bit more disco. Buy your first engraved ball at one of the city’s only pro shops, and have postgame drinks in the Loft, a lounge overlooking the entire alley. $8–$11 per game; $6 shoe rentals; Pier 60, 23rd St. nr. West Side Hwy.; 212-835-2695.