I just braved a birthday party with 12 ten year old boys on Friday night at Bel-Mark Lanes in Ann Arbor. Surprisingly, it was great fun. We love Bel-Mark lanes because there are always plenty of light balls, lots of lanes and helpful staff, plus you can eat while you bowl and they have great pizza!
The earlier the better. Bel-Mark is a popular place with a significant group of league bowlers, so if you want a little more space and guaranteed no waiting, go on a Saturday early afternoon or Sunday morning. Sunday mornings from 10-noon, bowling is 1/2 price. If you must bowl in the evenings, Monday night is league free and the other nights leagues start between 6 and 6:30; however, there are still plenty of open lanes.
Ask for what you need. They have great bowling options for even young kids including light balls, bumper lanes and ramps to help them roll the ball straight. I also enjoy that there is plenty of seating and table space per lane.
Breathe Easy. There is no smoking. I love that.
Enjoy the new. They are in the process of renovating the bowling alley so a lot of what you see is nice and new and a small area is still under construction. We found things to be clean and well kept.
Get Crazy. If you want to leave the kids home, there is "Techno Night Thursday" starting at 10pm with a DJ.
Check the specials. Bel-Mark often has specials on food, drinks, and bowling. Check the specials before you head out.
Order food. It is rare that I want to eat anything served at a bowling alley, but their pizza is surprisingly good and filling (It does take about 20 minutes to cook). For 14 boys plus 2 parents we only needed 3 large ones (I did bring a some carrots and ranch dip to give them at least one serving of vegetable :). I have heard that their other food is pretty good too.
Plan a party. Parties at Bel-mark are easy and enjoyable. The staff is attentive but not intrusive. They happily make sure everyone has the correct shoes and a ball that works. You stay in one spot, so you can actually bowl almost 2 full hours. We took a break after our first game to eat pizza, drink soda and have dessert then bowled a second game. It was nice that the kids could keep snacking on food, then get up to bowl when it was their turn. I liked that I could keep an eye on everything.
They allow you to bring in your own cake and party favors and there is refrigerator space if you need it for your dessert. I would recommend a party there for kids (boys or girls) ages 7 and older and plan no more than 5 kids per lane with one adult per lane to keep things moving. Be sure to let them know the time you want your pizza out, not ordered...we had some very hungry boys!
Govern yourself. There is plenty of staff at Bel-mark but they are not intrusive. They allow the families and kids to have a good time together. Even the boys that seemed to wander a bit were just fine and no one was bothered by our boisterous group of excited pre-teens. It's obvious it is an establishment dedicated to a good time.
If you go.
Parking. Free, easy and plentiful.
Labels: Ann Arbor, Birthday Parties, Bowling, Indoor Fun