When you live in New England and you hear the word ‘bowling,’ there’s usually been no debate about what that means. Around here, bowling is traditionally assumed to mean candlepin, whereas elsewhere the default is ten-pin. (We generally specify ten-pin as “big ball bowling.”) And there are historic reasons for that bias; candlepin began in this region in 1880, when Justin “Pop” White invented it in Worcester, Massachusetts, and it became the de facto local way to play the sport thereafter.
All that said, the retro-cool appeal of the big ball bowling has fueled a resurgence in its popularity in recent years, and you’ll now find a smattering of hip and often design-conscious alleys that combine ten-pin with a smorgasbord of other entertainment (sometimes including candlepin, too) often with notably trendy dining options, to boot.
So what are the main differences between candlepin bowling and ten-pin? In candlepin, each player uses three balls per frame rather than two, and the balls are much smaller (each ball weighs only as much as one candlepin) and they have no holes. The pins are also thinner and don’t get cleared between balls during each player’s turn. All of that makes candlepin pins harder to knock down, so most bowlers consider candlepin a lot more challenging than ten-pin, and therefore superior. The truth of that is the subject of much debate and, of course, depends largely on whether you grew up in New England or not.
Bolos in Brunswick
Part candlepin alley and part cantina, Bolos splits the difference between those equally enthusiastic about eating and playing. Each lane can accommodate up to six bowlers (reservations are by the half hour, and can also be made online in advance). Meanwhile at the watering hole-cum-kitchen, you’ll find friendly locals in for the tequila-loaded cocktails, Latin-inspired eats like roasted corn and poblano fritters and quesadillas, and a popular kids menu.

WHAT: Bolos Kitchen, Cantina & Candlepin
WHERE: 7 Dunlap St., Brunswick
HOURS: Sunday-Wednesday, 11am- 11pm; Thursday-Saturday 11am-midnight.
INFO: 207-725-5241, bolosbrunswick.com, @bolosbrunswick on Facebook and Instagram

Yankee Lanes
Kids delight in the Galactic bowling here, while grown-ups go in for the leagues and 32 lanes (with ten-pin). Every Friday night there’s karaoke from 7pm till 11pm, and local bands every Saturday from 7pm till 11pm—both are found, along with all sorts of other revelry, in the on-site bar-eatery, Bumpa’s Bar & Grille.

WHAT: Yankee Lanes
WHERE: 276 Bath Rd., Brunswick
HOURS: Mon., 4pm-10pm; Tues.-Thurs., 9am-10pm; Fri.-Sat., 9am-12:30am; Sun., 12pm-10pm
INFO: 207-725-2963, yankeelanes.com, @yankeelanesbrunswick on Facebook

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