As a family, we sometimes struggle for inspiration on things to do at the weekend, especially at this time of year. Soft play is out, obviously. Too cold and soggy for the park with a walker-in-training. Can’t face an epic long drive to the zoo / coast / farm. One child too little for the cinema…struggling, again.
So recently, since having the children, we have rediscovered the fun of ten pin bowling. When I say the fun, I’ll be totally honest, I’m pretty rubbish at it…but I am a huge lover of seeing my kids discovering new experiences, having a blast, and getting the whole family out of the house to enjoy something together, whatever the weather, away from the TV…oh, and also, NOT COOKING TEA.
We were invited by Hollywood Bowl to their Rochester bowling lanes on our doorstep in Kent to check out what is on offer for families like us. I knew the girls would love it, and the idea of doing something different really appealed to us too, so we didn’t hesitate to accept the offer.
The last time we took Tigs bowling, Dangermouse was a tiny newborn, sleeping in the pram. I did ask whether she might be too little to join in, at 16 months, but in fact, it was a bit like a giant baby sensory room and she had the time of her life dancing to the music, clapping and pushing the balls down the ramp. We did have to be super careful that she didn’t follow
us Mr G (Daddys girl) as we bowled!
The venue in Medway Valley Leisure Park used to be a Super Club – where I spent many a Thursday, Friday, Saturday night once upon a time, along with the rest of the sixth form. Ha, how things have changed – for me and the building. I thought I might get flashbacks of years gone by, seventies discos and cherry WKDs, but the inside bears no resemblance to it’s previous life. It’s been decked out really smart with a fifties American feel, yet with all the modern touches (tablets on each lane for set up).
Nowadays you don’t have to wear bowling shoes – handy for avoiding toddler wrestling…but I’m a bit of an old romantic so I went old school.
Before we’d even got to our lane the girls had hustled balloons and we were greeted with a warm hug from a friendly mouse…and I don’t mean our Dangermouse. Tigs was in her element. You know how much kids love a giant stuffed animal…
The kids (and big kids) got stuck in to the bowling straight away, whilst we were served drinks straight to the lane. The staff were all so friendly with the kids, helpful with the setup, and prompt in sorting out our order. You can eat at the lane if you like, but we decided to stretch out the afternoon and eat afterwards.
In case you were wondering, small children can use a ramp to get the heavy ball down the lane. As long as you can encourage them give it a little push, they can bowl. You can opt in or out of side bars with each player too, so really, they can’t go too wrong. They will also, probably, thrash all you grown ups.
We took a mid-game break to get involved in the free face painting that was going on, another massive hit with the girls. The game was swiftly resumed with a spotty dog in place of Tigs.
Two games was probably a bit over optimistic for the age and attention span of the mini-Gs, so we cut the second game short half way through and headed to grab some food. You can eat in either the diner area, or if you’re lucky and they’re free, a pretty funky booth. (Our luck was in.)
The American diner themed menu was perfect for the setting – it was burgers and fries all round for the grown ups, mini burgers for Tigs and a mini spag bol for Dangermouse…although I think she had other ideas when she spotted Mummys chips…
The girls (and Dad) gave a massive thumbs up to the authentic Milkshakes, served in those gorgeous little glass bottles…while Mum enjoyed a fruit cider to celebrate a dinner she didn’t cook.
The food was great quality and reasonably priced, we would definitely eat at the diner again next time. It made the trip a real American experience, and was totally hassle free. I could have easily burst into a Grease 2 track at any moment.
The facilities were perfectly set up for families – parent and child parking right outside the door, excellent baby changing facilities, and my personal favourite – a spotlessly clean high chair. There seemed to be loads going on at the Hollywood Bowl – check out the website for special themed days and events.
All stuffed, the perfect end to the trip was a bit of time in the arcade. Drawn in by the flashing lights, we watched Daddy wipe the floor clean on Pacman, and go on an awesome Star Wars Game (if you like that kind of thing). I was happy with a little flutter on the 2p slot machines. The girls were over the moon that Daddy won enough tickets in his Pacman glory moment to each pick a prize to take home as a souvenir.
So all that’s left to tell you is who won the bowling? Well, ironically, for the first time in ages, our daughter seemed to forget her obsession with winning. So I will too.
We were invited to enjoy a complimentary experience at Hollywood Bowl in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Well, apart from the ones that are my husbands / kids’…but I can vouch for them.