Although bowling is such a fun summertime activity, I rarely think about doing a post on a bowling alley in the summer because I’m always trying to squeeze in as many outdoor activities as I can while the weather is warm. Bowling alleys can be covered in the winter months when it’s freezing outside and beaches/parks/splash pads/farmers’ markets/mini golf courses/zoos/playgrounds/amusement parks/ponds/ice cream stands are not an option.
However, seeing as last weekend was Father’s Day, I thought I would let my hubby weigh in on our choice of outing. And wouldn’t you know it, he picked bowling! Then, when I went online and saw that select bowling centers across the country (including many right here in CT!) participate in the summer-only Kids Bowl Free program, well, I knew that I had to make time for a few games with the family…and blog about it, of course 🙂
So this week’s adventure takes us to Spare Time in Vernon, CT.
Since I wasn’t sure how popular this place would be on a Saturday, we wanted to try to get there pretty close to opening, which is 9:00am. We were up and getting ready to walk out the door by 9:30 at the latest. Well, two unexpected conference calls with hubby’s work later and we didn’t even make it out of the house until almost 10:30. But thankfully, we still didn’t have any problems getting a lane when we finally arrived around 11:00.
Spare Time Vernon is very easy to locate. It’s situated on Talcottville Road, which is one of the main roads in Vernon with lots of other businesses, restaurants, etc.
There is a giant sign and a giant parking lot.
Next door there is a restaurant that you can also order food from while you are bowling. But more on that later.
Once inside, we went straight to the counter where we got our bowling shoes. You don’t pay until you’re all done, so you just pick up your shoes and they assign you a lane.
If you follow our blog, you know that my kids’ first bowling experience was with duckpins. This would be the first time they would actually use a full-sized bowling ball, and I was a little nervous about that. Turns out I had nothing to worry about. I actually think that the bigger bowling balls were easier for them to play with!
For one thing, we found some very lightweight bowling balls here.
Back at the lane we set up our scoreboard. Another fun feature of this bowling alley is that you can set it up so that only the family members who want bumpers (those things on the side of the lane that prevent the ball from going into the gutter), get bumpers. It’s totally automatic and when it’s their turn, the bumpers will pop up.
On the other hand, I had no excuse to use the bumpers for myself (as opposed to our last bowling outing where they were fixed on the lane for everyone), so I braced myself for some pretty terrible scores 🙂
As a side note, you have probably noticed those giant screens at the end of each lane. They are playing music videos continuously. As far as I can tell, all the videos are kid-friendly (not really for kids–although my boys were thrilled to hear a few Kidz Bop numbers–but no inappropriate visuals in them).
The kids got started with the classic kids’ technique: roll it between the legs.
They weren’t doing too badly like that. The big guy even got a strike!
Before too long, we spotted this funny-looking thing on the lane next to us.
If you follow us on Facebook (and you should!), you might already know–thanks to our super smart readers–that this is a ramp to help little kids bowl. Genius!
With this thing, even a toddler could be competitive here 🙂
As it turns out, I probably should have used that thing too. That is a poor score.
As we started our second game, the kids were getting hungry (it was lunchtime, after all). We took a look at the (extensive!) menu. Basically, there is a restaurant next-door, and you can order anything off that menu at the snack bar and have it brought out to your lane. If there isn’t a menu at your table, you can snag one at the snack bar.
Once we’d settled on some items, I went over to the snack bar to place our order.
I then had a very sobering moment when I realized that a person born in the year I graduated from high school is now legally able to drink alcohol (which they also serve there, by the way). My high school diploma is legal drinking age! How did that happen?!
Anyway, I wanted to drown my sorrows in an ICEE, but decided I’d probably regret it later. On the other hand, despite the sugary content, I thought our first official outing of summer vacation called for ICEES for the kiddos. They were appreciative (and quiet, for a change).
We were having so much fun bowling that before we knew it, the food had arrived.
Why is it so hard to get one decent picture of these two lately???
We finished up our third game for which, I am sad to report, I scored even worse than the first two. But A for effort, right? Plus, since I didn’t get to use the bumpers this time, I can play it like I wasn’t really bested by my 3-year-old (unlike at the other place where I was legitimately beaten by him).
We couldn’t leave without a spin around the arcade. It’s a really fun arcade! With a swipe card system that makes it easy to play games and keep track of the tickets that you win (everything gets loaded on the card automatically– like magic!), and lots of unique, kid-friendly games.
There is also a dino-themed laser tag. We did not try this activity on our visit, but the screens outside let you see what is going on inside. That was neat to watch!
After we’d exhausted our card funds, we stopped in the prize shop to see what we could claim with our tickets.
Now, you might be saying to yourself: hey, wait a minute, I thought she was going to tell us how our kids could bowl for FREE this summer. Well, yes! I have not forgotten.
Through the Kids Bowl Free program, you can register your little ones at any participating bowling alley (like this one!) and they can receive up to two free games each day. That’s right! You can come back as many days as you want all summer long. Now, different places have different stipulations. For Spare Time Vernon’s program, Kids Bowl Free is good on any weekday (M-Th all day, Friday until 6:00pm). Bowling shoe rentals are not included. The program runs from May 8th to August 31st (for 2017).
I registered my kiddos today and it was super easy. You just fill out a short online form (choose from many different bowling centers around CT and across the country!) and then you will be emailed coupons each week to use at the bowling alley you have selected (they will have your kids’ names on them so don’t get any funny ideas about trying to copy them and share them with others–just tell your friends to sign up their kids too! It’s FREE!).
There’s is also an option to pay a small fee (about $30) to sign up adult members of your family (anyone over age 15) so they can get two free games each day too. Incidentally, I declined this offer initially, and then it presented me with a coupon code to get 25% off that fee if I purchased it within the next few minutes– so if you’re interested, decline it first and see if you get a lucky code too 🙂 You can always go back and purchase it regular price if you don’t.
So hopefully I’ve convinced you (along with myself) that bowling really is a quintessential summertime activity, even if it does take place indoors (hey- that air conditioning will be awfully nice come July!). And really, bowling is one of those rare family activities where all ages can enjoy themselves equally. I think hubby had just as much fun as the kiddos. And what more could you ask for when it’s Father’s Day? 🙂
Find other Spare Time locations here.
Fri & Sat: 9AM-1:30AM
Prices for bowling:
OPEN BOWLING: $5.00 per game/per person
$35 per hour/per lane in VIP Suite Friday 5pm-Sunday5pm
SHOE RENTAL: $4.00
WEEKEND LATE NIGHT/SPARE TIME AFTER DARK: $18 per person
Visit this page to check out their weekly bowling specials (discounted rates).
KIDS BOWL FREE ALL SUMMER (weekdays only). Visit this page for more info and to sign up.
Stroller Friendly: YES
Coffee Mug Friendly: NO
Baby Changing Station: YES; in the restroom near the front entrance (the one in the arcade did not have a changing station).
Food for Sale: YES; full menu of food (and drink) items. Entire menu can be purchased at the snack bar and eaten at the table near your lane.
Outside Food Allowed: I didn’t see any signs prohibiting it, but I’m going to guess no since they serve food.
Cash Required: NO
Dress Code: Remember to bring/wear socks for those bowling shoes!
Age Recommendations: All ages! Seriously, if your kiddo can walk, he/she can have fun here. Special bowling equipment (aka the bowling dragon) makes it possible for even your littlest bowlers to have fun!
Evening/Weekend Hours: YES
Discounts: See this page for their special offers. Kids bowl FREE all summer! See here for details.
Birthday Party Venue: YES. See here for more information.
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