Next on my list of “do you really live in LA if you haven’t been to these epitomes of gentrification at its finest” is… Highland Park Bowl!
Located in Northeast Los Angeles, Highland Park is a historic, yet trendy hipster enclave with smatterings of culturally authentic restaurants and eateries. The entertainment options here are top-notch, and you’re sure to find great night-life and diverse experiences near the centrally located York Blvd. and Figueroa St. One of my favorite spots is the Highland Park Ebell Club, which frequently boasts small, but excellent, productions of world-renown operas. The Pacific Opera Project (POP) has even staged a “hipster” version of Puccini’s La bohéme. If that doesn’t scream fun, then I don’t know what does.
Within walking distance of the Ebell Club is a delicious pupuseria and, you guessed it, Highland Park Bowl! Here are my reflections about LA’s oldest bowling alley:
- I went on a RARE rainy LA day, and spent a couple hours in a warm and welcoming space that was not my bed
- The interior is beautiful and is reminiscent of similar Prohibition-era themed speakeasies in LA
- It doesn’t feel like a grimy, stinky bowling alley…it’s bowling with class and sophistication
- The cocktails are fun, delicious, and old-timey. The beer selection was pretty good
- Kids 21 and under are not allowed after 8pm (I consider this a pro)
- It is a small bowling alley with 8 lanes. Reservations are recommended, if not practically required, to make sure that you don’t have to wait a couple hours for a lane to open up
- The food is decent, but not great. The menu is pretty much designed around medium-sized pizzas to facilitate eating slices mid-bowl
- Parking is tough in the area and is paid (either metered or on a flat-rate lot)
- The experience is not cheap without a large group – see below
Price: Pricing really does vary depending on the day and time. The cheapest time to rent a lane for one hour is for $25 on Saturdays from 11am-4pm, but be prepared for larger crowds. Peak times (late afternoon and evenings) have an hourly lane rate ranging between $50-$70, and late nights (until 2am) outside of Fridays and Saturdays are $40 for an hour. Reservations come at $20 a pop. Shoe rental is $5 per pair. Since up to 8 people are allowed per lane, this may be a better outing to do with a group of friends.
Is it worth it? I’d say yes, as long as you’re aware of the cons and don’t set your expectations through the roof. The ambience is really neat and the idea of pinky-finger-up bowling is hard to resist. The old-fashioned mechanisms for the pins and ball-return are super cool to watch on their own. But, like any retro experience in a neighborhood like Highland Park, expect crowds and steep pricing.