Looking to try your hand at candlepin bowling? As the home of this historic sport, New England has some great spots to get you started.
By Ian Aldrich
Jan 18 2022
New England’s primacy in the sport of candlepin bowling is clear. It all started here in 1880, when Justin “Pop” White, a bowling lane owner in Worcester, Massachusetts, invented the sport, which today remains part of the regional culture. No surprise, then, that the best candlepin alleys are located in New England.
Candlepin differs from standard (and, non–New Englanders might try to argue, superior) tenpin bowling in significant ways. The balls are smaller, players roll three balls per frame as opposed to two, and the pins are thinner. For those reasons, candlepin fans contend, the sport is more difficult. The International Candlepin Bowling Association has a robust website that details the sport’s history and how to play it.
Ready to get rolling? Read on for some favorite candlepin bowling alleys in New England.
Non–New Englanders and regional natives can unite at Boston Bowl, which features both tenpin and candlepin bowling. Even better: It’s open 24 hours.
Considered the second-oldest candlepin venue in the country, this eight-lane favorite has first opened in 1906, just a quarter-century after the sport got its start. Check out a history of the center in this recent Yankee story.
Located in New Hampshire’s Seacoast region, Dover Bowl is a popular destination for both kids and adults. Twenty-two tenpin lanes and four brand-spanking-new candlepin alleys are the centerpiece of this entertainment haven, which also features a restaurant, video games, laser tag, bumper cars, and a bar. The bowling lanes are computerized and include automatic scoring.
Completely rebuilt after Tropical Storm Irene ripped through Vermont in 2011, North Star features six lanes and is located on Route 100, an iconic sightseeing road that cuts through the heart of the state and is a favorite among leaf peepers.
Opened in 1950, the Big 20 has played host to three world championships and in 1980 became Maine’s first candlepin center inducted into the Candlepin Hall of Fame.
When Yankee editors want a candlepin fix, this is where they go. Located just down the road from the magazine’s headquarters in Dublin, Bowling Acres features 10 lanes, a small arcade, and a grill that also serves pizza and bar food as well as pitchers of cold beer.
Don’t think bowling can go highbrow? Think again. This bowling center opened in 2016 and includes bocce lanes and a restaurant menu that goes beyond typical bar food, with offerings such as fish tacos and steak frites.
Got a favorite candlepin bowling alley that didn’t make the list? Let us know!
This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated.