Bowling is a surefire family activity in any travel destination, especially when bad weather derails your outdoor plans. But did you know there are different varieties of the sport? On a recent rainy day, I took a day trip with my two kids to Danbury, Connecticut to try duckpin bowling at Danbury Lanes. Now we’re raging fans!
The main reason is because duckpin bowling is perfectly suited for kids. Everything, from the pins to the balls, is smaller than traditional bowling. The balls are less than five inches in diameter, and don’t have finger holes. They can be held with one hand — or two small hands.
Like traditional bowling, duckpin bowling is played with ten pins. You play ten frames, but during each frame, you have three chances to knock them down instead of two. At Danbury Lanes, you are charged by the amount of time you play, not by the number of ten-frame games you play. These lanes are charmingly non-automated, so the only bumpers blocking the gutters were made of something resembling PVC pipe. The balls were returned to us from the pit deck on a sloping ball return by nothing more than the force of gravity.
My 8-year old daughter enjoyed it so much more than any regular bowling game, when she usually complains that the ball is too heavy. Like Goldilocks, she found this place to be “just right.”
Duckpin bowling has been around more than 100 years, and I had never heard of it. Danbury Lanes was built in the 1940’s, and re-built after a fire in 1955. Not much has changed since then, and in this case, it’s a good thing. I was thoroughly charmed by the glittery Formica benches forming semi-circles around the scoring tables, the black and white framed photos of past league champions hanging on the walls, and the turquoise shelves holding the leather bowling bags for local regulars.
Where can you find a duckpin bowling lane? There are only about 60 left in the United States, since the equipment is no longer manufactured. The sport is said to have originated in Baltimore, so you’ll find alleys there and in other parts of Maryland. There’s a concentration of duckpin bowling alleys in Connecticut, as well as Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Beyond the mid-Atlantic and northeast states, a few alleys can be found in Indiana, Oklahoma, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. See Duckpins.com for a list and more information about the sport.
— Traci L. Suppa
Traci L. Suppa drags her small-town family to see a quirky array of the world’s largest, longest, or tallest things, and blogs about it at Go BIG or Go Home.