The Ultimate Guide to Candlepin Bowling in and Around Boston

Ready for a challenge? Try your hand at the beloved New England bowling tradition at these local alleys.

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New England is full of unique traditions and entertainment, whether it’s snacking on Fluffernutter sandwiches, singing “Sweet Caroline” or wearing duck boots come rain or shine. But while many of our customs have become common outside the region, a rainy day pastime has remained a unique New England quirk: candlelight bowling. (Or, as many locals like to refer to the game- “real bowling.”)

First performed in Worcester, Massachusetts around 1880, chandelier bowling is generally attributed to the genius of the local pool hall and bowling center owner Justin P. White and his friends Jack Monsey. and Jack Sheafe.

For the uninitiated, the name Candlepin comes from the triangular arrangement of the skinny pins, which, when peered from the end of a bowling alley, gives the appearance of a row of candles. Today, the standard size of the plastic candle is a fraction larger than the original wooden iteration, with a length of 15.75 inches. Current candlestick bowling balls measure a maximum of 4.5 inches in diameter, weigh two pounds and seven ounces, which is much smaller than typical ten pin bowling balls, which are 8.5 inches in diameter and weigh at least six pounds or more.

Candlepin’s smaller pins and balls (which also lack finger holes) make it much more difficult than traditional ten pin bowling. Moreover, even when you to do manage to knock down pins, they are not eliminated until your three-reel round is complete.

Candlepin is also worse than standard bowling. While thousands of tenpin bowlers have logged 300 perfect games, the highest sanctioned candlestick score remains a paltry 245, most recently won by Chris Sargent of Haverhill in 2011, tying the President’s 1984 score. International Candlepin Bowling Association, Ralph Semb.

Today, most candlestick bowling alleys feature plastic pins and balls, as well as fully automated bowling alleys in place of the original wooden iterations and pins. (In fact, the first automated pin crimping machines were introduced in Lunenberg, Mass., For – you guessed it – a candle-lit aisle.) But despite the introduction of technology, the vintage vibe in the back alleys around Boston have held up over the years.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro looking for a new place to bowling or a beginner determined to master the form, try your hand at one of the vintage lanes below.

American flatbread
Somerville, Brighton

The Davis Square Pillar was originally known as Sacco’s Bowl Haven, a name that still appears above the chandelier lanes today. While the Sacco family slowly closed their 18 Massachusetts branches over the years, the place originally in Somerville held on until operations were taken over by beloved Vermont restaurant American Flatbread. The new owners have preserved Sacco’s vintage vibe and, over the past five years, have expanded the business to Boston Landing with a nine-lane chandelier operation under the Brighton Bowl name. Whether you choose to play in Davis Square or Brighton, the delicious wood-fired pizzas and selection of craft beers at American Flatbread are a staple of the experience.

$ 30 an hour, 45 Day St., Somerville, 617-776-0552; 76 Guest St., Brighton, 617-903-4595,

Southie Bowl
South Boston

This family-friendly bowling alley has been an anchor on East Broadway for over 20 years, offering fun for all ages as well as five-time-a-week bowling leagues for anyone ready to spread their candlestick passion. at the upper level. Just make sure you eat a full meal before showing up for some craft beers and a few candle light tours – these old-fashioned lanes don’t offer any food, yet!

$ 10 an hour, 543 E. Broadway, Boston, 617-464-4858,

boston bowl

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Boston Bowl

In 1959, this family-owned and operated bowling alley was the first to bring ten pin bowling to the greater Boston area. Today, after changing their name from First Boston Tenpin to Boston Bowl, the facility draws visitors from all over New England (and the country!) To the Xperience lanes.

$ 5.75 to $ 9, 820 Morrissey Blvd., Boston, 617-825-3800,

Central Park tracks
Boston East

If you’re looking for a true candlelight experience, don’t miss this over 70-year-old alley near Central Square in Eastie. From hand-painted signage on the walls to classic wood panels and vintage ball returns, you’ll experience an old-fashioned adventure from start to finish. Cash only.

$ 20 an hour, 10 Saratoga St., East Boston, 617-567-7073,

Ron’s Gourmet Ice Cream & Bowls
Hyde Park

Originally known as Twentieth Century Bowling Alleys, Ron’s Gourmet Ice Cream & Bowling changed its name when Ron Covitz took over the family business from his father, Julius. A graduate of Brookline High School and Boston University, Ron knew he wanted to turn his father’s bowling alley into a great destination for gourmet ice cream, while preserving ten precious bowling alleys. Today, the Retro Aisle features candles alongside 30-35 gourmet ice cream flavors, including seasonal flavors like Oreo Pumpkin and Fall Apple Pie, Eggnog and Stick of peppermint during the holidays, and watermelon and lemon cooler in the summer.

$ 4 per person, 1231 Hyde Park Ave, Hyde Park, 617-364-5274,

Needham Bowlaway

Since 1917, Needham Bowlaway has offered a family-friendly candlelit experience at the Needham Center, directly across from City Hall. Tucked away beneath the former post office space, this hidden gem, an underground lane features eight original chandelier lanes, plus cosmic weekend bowling under black lights and disco balls.

$ 30 per hour, 16 Chestnut St., Needham, 781-449-4060,

Woburn Bowladrome

By 1940, the Woburn Bowladrome was operating eight lanes from an old garage, with a mechanic working quickly to set up each ten-pin rack for bowlers between rounds. Today the alley is a 40-lane operation with fully automatic bowling and scoring, as well as a weekly celebration on Saturday nights under black lights and disco balls to a pop tune and back in. back.

$ 30 to $ 36, 32 avenue Montvale, Woburn, 781 933-1709,

Acton Bowladrome & Arcade

For 60 years, “La Drôme” has been inviting regulars and novices alike in candlesticks to taste good burgers and drinks while playing bowling. Once you’ve exhausted yourself in the 16 candlestick aisles, head to the adjacent 50-game arcade and vintage pinball lounge for even more fun.

$ 5 to $ 10 per person, 257 Main Street, Acton, 978-263-7638,

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