Milwaukee’s always been a bowling town. Take it from the reporter who just may hold the record as the longest-serving Bowler of the Week columnist in the history of The Milwaukee Sentinel.
But the sport has had its ups and downs, and the days of every neighborhood boasting at least one – and often multiple – bowling centers, are gone. And Milwaukee’s title as bowling capital of the world waned when the American Bowling Congress moved its headquarters from Greendale to Texas.
However, Milwaukee remains a great place for bowlers and you can find a wide range of houses here that offer league bowling, night bowling, jumping bars, game arcades, mini bowling and more.
Here are nine unforgettable places to rent some shoes in Brew City ...
1. Bay View Bowl
2416 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 483-0950
(Photo: Bay View Bowl Facebook)
Bay View Bowl is one of just a handful of surviving neighborhood bowling houses. It’s bigger than the old corner tap alleys, but with 12 lanes, smaller than the bigger bowling centers that were all the rage in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It hosts lots of league bowlers and a bar that has been a neighborhood hangout for years.
2. Bluemound Bowl
12935 W. Bluemound Rd., Brookfield,
(Photo: Bluemound Bowl)
Open bowling every day and one of the best spots in town for league bowling, too. Bluemound Bowl also hosts bumper bowling for kids (and me) and parties, too. And check out the bar in the photo above.
3. Falcon Bowl
801 E. Clarke St., (414) 264-0680
A vintage Milwaukee classic, this long-lived neighborhood tavern and bowling alley is a remnant of Riverwest’s Polish heritage. The lanes in the basement are thought to be among the oldest in the country, built sometime around the dawn of the 20th century.
4. Highland Lanes
5830 W. Vliet St., (414) 774-2166
(Photo: Highland Lanes Facebook)
This Washington Heights center, which opened in 1960, has just eight lanes, making it one of the more intimate of the city’s bowling houses. Get there at 5 p.m. for easy lane access, as leagues typically kick off about two hours later.
5. Holler House
2042 W. Lincoln Ave., (414) 647-9284
(Photo: Dori/Wikimedia Commons)
Opened by "Iron Mike" Skowronski as Skowronski's in 1908, Holler House, on the South Side, has two lanes – the oldest sanctioned alleys in the country – nestled into the basement. There is really nothing that compares to bowling here. Human pinsetters are a nod to tradition.
6. JB’s on 41
4040 S. 27th St., (414) 281-8200
In a similar vein to Pinstrikes – though without the theaters – is JB’s on 41, in the old Olympic Lanes on 27th Street. JB’s boasts state of the art lanes, plus food, a bar and a game arcade.
7. Koz’s Mini Bowl
2078 S. 7th St., (414) 383-0560
(Photo: Koz's Mini Bowl Facebook)
Dollar for dollar, mini bowling – aka duckpin bowling – is the most fun of all, and Koz’s is THE place to do it. Call ahead and plan to arrive early if you want to bring your kids, because this is a corner bar and so as the evening progresses the less appropriate it is for little ones. But that’s OK, too, because adults love duckpin bowling, too. As at Holler House, pins are set by people, not machines.
8. Landmark Lanes
2220 N. Farwell Ave., (414) 278-8770
Landmark Lanes has earned its name over the decades. With three bars, a clanging and ringing arcade and a full bowling center, Landmark is the place for East Side bowling. Most fun is the Cosmic Bowling, on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m.
9. Punch Bowl Social
1122 N. Vel R. Phillips Ave., (414) 204-7544
(Photo: Punch Bowl Social)
With a kitchen, a bar, board games, foosball, billiards and more, Punch Bowl Social – in the Fiserv Forum entertainment block – is also a great place to roll a few frames.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.