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Authentic Massachusetts candlepin bowling can be found in the basement of the Wyoming Civic Center right here in Cincinnati. For nearly 70 years, it's existed as one of few candlepin alleys outside of New England and it is one of the last in the Midwest today. Bowling in the alley can only be done by renting out the space ahead of time. The Civic Center with the alley is located at 1 Worthington Ave, Wyoming, OH 45215. / Image: Phil Armstrong, Cincinnati Refined

Wyoming Has One Of The Oldest, Most Unique Bowling Alleys In The Entire Midwest

Massachusetts is nowhere near Cincinnati. In fact, its closest town, West Stockbridge, is a staggering 750 miles away from our downtown. Even flying to it at mega-fast jet speeds takes over three hours. The Queen City and the Bay State have little in common, geographically or otherwise, so it’s hard to compare the two in any real capacity.

But Cincinnati has one very specific, obscure, special link to Massachusetts, and it absolutely bowled me over when I realized an authentic slice of New England lay just beneath Cincy suburb soil.

Cincinnati has (queue dramatic music) a candlepin bowling alley underneath the Wyoming Civic Center!

“Woah, now! Calm your liver. You’re talking nonsense! Did you mean ‘10-pin’ bowling alley?”

Negative. We’re talking real deal, Worcester Mass candlepin bowling, the likes of which are rarely found outside of New England. In fact, this is one of the last remaining candlepin bowling alleys in the entire Midwest, and it's unlike the traditional bowling alleys you've been to.

IT'S A 7-10 SPLIT

10-pin bowling is your standard three-holed ball, ten-pin game found in nearly every neighborhood in Cincinnati and the rest of the U.S. It doesn’t look like it on the surface, but candlepin bowling is actually a very different game than the bowling you’re used to (unless, you know, you’re a Southie reading this at the Dunks on Dorchester and Broadway).

Without going into minutiae about the intricacies of the game itself, the five main things that differentiate candlepin bowling from 10-pin bowling are:

  1. The pins are thin and straight, unlike the elongated pear-shape with which you’re familiar.
  2. The grapefruit-sized balls are the weight of one pin and lack finger holes.
  3. You get three chances to knock all the pins down instead of two.
  4. The pins aren’t removed between rolls and you use the downed pins to knock over the others.
  5. No bowling shoes allowed. You play in your socks.

THE UNDERPINNING CANDLEPIN

The candlepin alley in the basement of the Wyoming Civic Center was erected in 1948 and featured “pin boys” who would manually reset the pins for players. In the 1960s, machinery made pin boys obsolete, and the alley has since played host to candlepin leagues, birthday parties, work outings, and other various events over the course of its nearly 70-year lifespan. And unlike a standard bowling alley, it must be reserved ahead of time.

Though it has seen improvements over the years, it still largely exists as a time capsule ready for you and your friends to rent it out.

Don’t believe me? Check out the gallery of photos for yourself and you’ll see why this unique little gem in Wyoming is a solid strike for your next get together.

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The Wyoming Civic Center is located at 1 Worthington Ave, Wyoming, OH 45215. If you're curious about spending an evening at the candlepin bowling alley, check out their rental information.

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