A Local’s Journey Through the Best Bowling Alleys in St. Louis

best bowling alleys st louis

Once, while killing time before our flights from Austin, Texas, my friends and I went to a bowling alley.

Filled with a hangover from a wedding, more soda than is legally allowed outside of the continental US because there were free refills, and a confidence borne from nothing but a selective memory, I had picked up the bowling ball, strolled to the lane, and, with a smile over my shoulders, told my friends, “Try not to fall in love with me when you watch this.”

I immediately got a gutter ball. I ended up with like eight points the whole game.

The game ended, the plane took me and my shame out of Texas, and I’ve been on a redemption arc ever since.

These are the best bowling alleys that I’m Rocky-style training at here in STL.

Map of the Best Bowling Alleys in St. Louis

Best casual atmosphere: Shrewbury Lanes

This is the first place I went post-humiliation in Texas. My reasoning was simple: start somewhere where the stakes were low and the vibes were gentle. This place is my first choice bowling alley in the city for new groups of potential allies in my quest for absolution.

Shrewbury Lanes is full of character, with affordable lanes and three dollar drinks. And, most importantly, there is a jukebox. I cannot have a training session without queuing up some motivational tunes.

Serving the STL community since the 60s, this is a must stop if you’re looking for a fun, casual evening. There’s walk in, reservation, all you can bowl, party bowling — I mean, what more can you ask for out of a bowling alley?

My favorite hang out: Saratoga Lanes

I am, at my core, the daughter of a working class man. (I am also working class, but that sounds less dramatic.) One thing that makes Saratoga Lanes special is, beside it’s old timey feel, it’s eight lane, non-electrical scoring, and rooted sense of community? It was originated by and for the working class citizens of STL.

Opened in 1916, Saratoga Lanes was the only alley in STL to survive both the Prohibition and the Great Depression. It was also one of the first alleys in the country to allow women’s leagues and proudly holds to its original roots of being a casual, open place for people to gather.

Though ownership has passed hands a few times in the over 100 years since they first opened, Saratoga remains a place where anyone who comes in feels like friends — and yes, they have compared themselves to Cheers.

  • Address: 2725 Sutton Blvd A, Maplewood, MO 63143
  • Website: Saratoga Lanes

Best retro alley: Pin Up Bowl

Okay, so imagine you’re me. Scorned, humiliated, humbled to my core — and desperate for a montage scene. That’s the mental space that I found myself in when, determined and afraid, I stumbled into this retro bowling alley.

Decked out with pin up girl memorabilia and retro decorations, this alley is right on the loop (the Delmar Loop is the kind of place where you can wander around for record stores, food, bars, thrift stores, and more — the perfect kind of location to just stumble into a cool bowling alley).

So with the lowest weight bowling ball I can scrounge up in one hand and their signature cocktail, the Hemingway Daiquiri, in the other, I was so ready to show the world — aka the three friends I’d dragged with me and the smattering of strangers, who were most likely WashU kids — that I was a true bowler.

This time, I scored sixteen. To quote my best friend that night — “Woah, pal. That could have been way worse!”

Pin Up Bowl is the perfect place to have a fun cocktail, some delicious food, and spend just a few bucks to have a great night with your pals.  (Or train mercilessly for a hypothetical rematch.)

  • Address: 6191 Delmar in The Loop, St. Louis, MO 63112
  • Website: Pin Up Bowl

Most history: Moolah Lanes

If there’s nothing else I love in a place, it’s a dramatic backstory. And this place — wow, it has been so many things.

Built in 1912 as a meeting place, it was built by the Moonlah Shiners. It was used as a junior high and then repurposed as a movie theater. Now, it holds strong as a bowling alley and bar, and the whole place is steeped with a history that you couldn’t make up.

There’s a quaintness to this alley, as well. It’s never too packed, a hidden gem in the center of the city, and the staff is always available and kind. Though it’s harder to get lost in the crowd while I’m training, everyone was so nice when I accidentally tried a new technique and bounced the ball two lanes over, destroying a perfectly peaceful evening for a family of four.

If nothing else, go to this location because I owe them the reparations from having to hear those kids scream.

  • Address: 3821 Lindell Blvd #2, St. Louis, MO 63108
  • Website: Moolah Lanes

Best cocktail menu: Flamingo Bowl

Joe Edwards, the owner of Flamingo Bowl, is close to being a household name for many St. Louisians. The owner of several well-known establishments like Blueberry Hill, the Tivoli, the Pageant, and even the above listed Pin Up Bowl, Edwards is no newcomer to owning and running a killer business.

Flamingo Bowling, located in downtown St. Louis, features a robust menu of food, cocktails, beers, and more. The alley is one of the larger ones on this list, with plenty of space for groups of all sizes, including private parties.

Knowing this, it’s no wonder that I planned for my redemption night here at Flamingo Bowl. With dangling flamingo earrings, a bowling shirt reminiscent of the one worn in Twilight, and a year of daydreaming about my championship moment, I invited my friends to what I lied about being a casual evening out. We bowled here under the guise of friendship, but all the while redemption and revenge burned through me.

I got third place out of five. I celebrated with a round of specialty cocktails and the staff politely congratulated me on my “incredible” score. This place will always be a sign of my hero’s journey. I highly recommend the I Just Blue Myself punch-vodka cocktail.

  • Address: 1117 Washington Ave, St. Louis, MO 63101
  • Website: Flamingo Bowl