Is there anything greater than bowling as a fun indoor family activity when the weather is less than cooperative? We recently found out about a different type of bowling that’s even better for young kids – duckpin bowling. It’s an old sport, and there aren’t that many duckpin alleys left, but there is one in Danbury, Conn.
Danbury Duckpin Lanes originally opened in 1955, and much of this 16-lane bowling alley remains happily, unapologetically, unchanged. You’re not going to see oversized video screens blasting music overhead, and there aren’t any “glow-in-the-dark” evenings. In my opinion, that’s what makes it so great. It’s simply bowling.
Like traditional bowling, duckpin bowling is played with 10 pins. The 10-frame game is played on a standard-sized lane, but everything else, from the pins to the balls, is smaller – making it perfect for younger kids. The balls are less than five inches in diameter, about the size of a softball, with no holes for little fingers to slide out of. You just grip the ball and release. My kids usually complain that traditional bowling balls are too heavy, but these are just right. The ball’s light weight is also something to consider if you want to bring grandparents along to play.
While there are still 10 pins, each player gets three tries to knock them down during their turn, which works well for easily-frustrated kids who need that extra try to make some progress. These lanes are charmingly non-automated, so the only bumpers blocking the gutters are made of something resembling PVC pipe. The balls were returned to us from the pit deck by nothing more than the force of gravity on a sloping ball return.
Posted signs say that kids have to be at least 4 years old to play. My 10-year-old daughter brought two friends with her to play. Once we settled in at our lane, they took over, playing and scoring entirely on their own. I got to watch, take photos and sip my coffee.
Duckpin bowling has been around more than 100 years, and the sport is said to have originated in Baltimore. There’s a lot of the “good old days” vibe going on at Danbury Duckpin that I found really appealing. The authentic stuff like the avocado green dial phone on the wall, the black and white tile floor, and the turquoise painted scoreboards made me smile. Sitting on the glittery Formica benches and listening to the 50s music playing in the background set the mood even more.
Prices are determined by the amount of time you spend on the alley regardless of how many people play. There’s a minimum of $16 for 30 minutes. One hour costs $22, and two hours $34. My daughter’s group played two games, which lasted 90 minutes. Shoe rental is $1.50 per pair.
There are a few arcade games to play after you bowl, including Ms. Pac-Man. A small snack counter offers chips, cookies, candy and drinks. If your children are really into duckpin bowling, there’s a kids league on Saturday mornings, for age groups 7-12 and 13-17. There’s also a private party room with an additional six lanes.
Frequent contributor Traci L. Suppa writes about travel, parenting and family life. WordS
Duckpin is a type of bowling that’s fading into obscurity. There are only about 60 duckpin bowling lanes left in the United States, since the equipment is no longer manufactured. Most duckpin alleys today are in Connecticut, Maryland and Rhode Island – none remain in New York State. For more information on the sport and a list of the remaining alleys across the country, check out duckp
Danbury Duckpin Lanes
7 E. Hayestown Road, Danbury, Conn.
Devon Duckpin Bowling, Milford, Conn.
Highland Bowl, Cheshire, Conn.
Woodlawn Duckpin, West Haven, Conn.
Johnson’s Duckpin Lanes, Hamden, Conn.
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