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Let’s go duckpin bowling in Indianapolis

This past weekend my family and I took a jaunt down to Fountain Square to go duckpin bowling. Have you ever heard of such a thing? We hadn’t until we moved to Indianapolis but apparently it has been around for over a century!

In 1900 Baltimore, Maryland bowling was usually an indoor/winter sport. Some of the bowlers thought it would be fun to change the size of the pins to match the size of the smaller balls. That change made the ability to get strikes and spares pretty slim so instead of getting two throws per turn, each bowler would now get three with a score of ten only happening if it took all three balls to knock them down. Whew. Still with me?


Duckpin bowling became uber popular in the 1920s {I hear Babe Ruth was a HUGE fan!} and alley locations grew along the east coast. From New England all the way down to Georgia, Americans were having a blast with these smaller pins.

Duckpin Bowling Indianapolis _ Indy's ChildA little history lesson: The Fountain Square Theater building once housed The Fountain Square Recreation bowling alley and billiards hall on their fourth floor. It opened in 1928 and was a hotspot in town until 1957 when it closed. In 1993 it was gutted and transformed into what is now known as Action Duckpin Bowl. The remodelers transformed the space into a 1930s style duckpin bowling alley with amazing views of downtown – and what a good job, too! It looks just as I would expect something from that era to be and I could really feel the history in the building.

Upstairs has been restored as an original 1930s era duckpin bowling alley known as Action Duckpin Bowling. It has eight lanes of duckpin bowling, a vintage billiard table and seating for 110 people in the cafe area. Then Atomic Bowl Duckpin is located in the lowest level of the building and is furnished with authentic 1950s and 1960s equipment. You’ll also find a jukebox, billiard table and cafe that seats 90.

Duckpin Bowling Indianapolis _ Indy's Child

Speaking of history, that’s probably enough for your lesson today. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

When we arrived for our 4pm bowling time, we were met in the lobby by confused bowlers. TIP: Look for the sign next to the elevator for the location of your reserved lane because there are lanes both upstairs and downstairs.

My husband has been duckpin bowling before but this was Ro, Finn’s, and my first time. We weren’t quite sure what to expect but let me just say that seeing ropes on the pins was a surprise! It was cool for the kids to see “the old fashioned” way of removing pins from the lane. The lanes also seemed shorter than what we’re used to today but maybe that’s just because everything is so open. Even the ball return is visible – it relies on speed and gravity to get the balls back up to the landing area. A word to the wise: Watch your fingers!

Duckpin bowling Indianapolis _ Indy's Child

You’re probably wondering if this type of bowling is family friendly. I’d say yes, this is a game that everyone in the family can play. Most of our time was spent hitting balls into the gutters to knock out the kids balls, but it was so enjoyable watching their excitement while bowling. The tiny duckpin balls are the perfect size for little kids! At what age did you first take your kids bowling?

MORE INFO: Action & Atomic Duckpin Bowling is located at 1105 Prospect Street, Indianapolis. Walk-ins are welcome but not always guaranteed a spot. Price is $35/hours. Hours of operation vary. Call {317} 685-1955 or {317} 686-6006 or check the website for more detailsSpecial thanks to IC Insider Shelly Bergman for also contributing to this piece with both information and photography!





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