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Steampunk Bowling in Los Angeles

The City of Angels is home to two (two!) bowling alleys with steampunk aesthetics

Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Highland Park Bowl

Photo: Wonho Frank Lee

Los Angeles is known for its beaches, freeways, and movie stars. But it also has a distinction that’s not mentioned in tourist guides or promotional literature. After extensive research and consultation with the Google Machine, we are prepared to recognize the City of Angels as the undisputed* Steampunk Bowling Alley Capital of the World.

That’s because L.A. has not just one, but two bowling alleys that can reasonably be described as “steampunk.”

Exhibit A is Highland Park Bowl, a few miles northeast of downtown. Billed as the city’s oldest bowling alley, it opened in 1927 as a multi-use facility that included doctors’ offices. This was during the Prohibition era, and customers would visit a doctor to get a prescription for medicinal whiskey. They could fill the prescription at a pharmacy conveniently located downstairs, and then go bowling.

In 1966, a new owner gave the bowling alley a mid-century facelift, using paint, wall coverings and dropped ceilings to conceal the original design. Later, the lanes were hidden behind a curtain and the bowling alley became a live music venue.

The 1933 Group took over the property in 2015 and revived it as a vintage bowling palace. They removed the mid-century elements, exposed the bow truss architecture, and repurposed some of the original pieces: Pinsetters became chandeliers, and old bowling machines are now bar shelves. They also uncovered a mural from the early 1930s that now serves as a backdrop to the lanes.

Highland Park Bowl is located at 5621 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90042. 1933 Group also operates two Sasquatch-themed bars in the area: Bigfoot Lodge in Atwater Village and Bigfoot West on the Westside.

Lucky Strike Live

Photo: Lucky Strike Entertainment

That’s all impressive, but a single location does not qualify a city to be the Steampunk Bowling Alley Capital of the World. So we give you Exhibit B, Lucky Strike Live in Hollywood.

Opened in 2003, Lucky Strike Live was the first location in what’s now a family of 21 boutique bowling alleys across the U.S. It’s one of several in the group that’s also a live music venue (hence the “Live” in the name). This one was consciously designed with a steampunk aesthetic (it says so on the website).

This location also possesses some Hollywood history. Fans of The Big Lebowski, the 1998 Coen Brothers film, will recall that much of it takes place in a bowling alley. Those scenes were shot at Hollywood Star Lanes, which closed in 2002 and was demolished shortly thereafter. The owners of Lucky Strike purchased Lane #7 from the old bowling alley and used it to construct the bar.

Lucky Strike Live is at 6801 Hollywood Blvd. (corner Highland) in Los Angeles.

See more of these bowling alleys in the photo gallery below.

*We’d love to hear about other steampunk-themed bowling alleys, but we doubt that any other city can claim two. Use the contact form to let us know.

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