For a long time, Milwaukee was considered the bowling capital of the nation. Our German founders brought the game with them, and we are home to some of our country's oldest bowling alleys. The Holler House on Lincoln Avenue, for example, was opened in 1908, and is the oldest certified bowling alley in the United States.
Despite this proud history, for many of us millennials who bowled mostly in the nineties, the mere mention of the sport brings to mind dimly lit alleys and the stale smell of smoke.
So when I brought my family to JB's on 41 on a recent Saturday evening, and was greeted by their retro, funky sign out front, I expected to leave wanting to immediately wash all of our clothes.
But I was pleasantly surprised to find a bright, modern facility complete with leather seats and contemporary decor. And there was no icky smoke smell, either!
Indeed, JB's on 41 (formerly Olympic Lanes) is one of the city's most innovative bowling alleys, situated on on the South Side of Milwaukee.
They recently completed a renovation of their luxury bowling section, Suite 41
. Dare I use the term "chic" or "swanky" to describe a bowling alley? Suite 41 features 10 private lanes with customized cherry colored wood, leather couch seating, and colorful streaming lights.
The huge flat screen televisions flipped between sports, "Thomas the Train" and other family favorites. The music was upbeat, energizing, and perfect for a party. The two birthday parties in Suite 41 that night were enjoying their pitchers of soda, pizza and appetizers, and one woman even sipped on a glass of rose wine.
Most notably, the place was packed with families. Kids as young as two years old were actually bowling, with the help of portable ramps and bumpers.
But what my five year nephew and two year old son liked even more was the colorful game room with flashing lights and exciting noises. They raced on motorcycles, tried their luck at fishing out stuffed animals, and played a little basketball. At the end, they traded in the tickets they had earned for candy, toy dinosaurs and squishy balls.
By the time we left, the kids had gotten all of their energy out and we had created some fun new memories together. JB's on 41 indeed offers a more comfortable, modern bowling experience. But at the end of the day, it really offers good old-fashioned family fun.