What’s to Love: Simply stated, this is one of the nicest bowling alleys you’ll ever visit in the greater Portland area. I haven’t been to all of them, but Grand Central is head and shoulders above most of the ones I’ve visited. Your family will certainly enjoy the leather couches, tables and food service right at your lane, upstairs game room, and cleanliness of the entire establishment.
We’ve visited Grand Central Bowling at least five times over the past year, and it never disappoints. Generally, we visit on a Saturday or Sunday morning right when it opens, and we have much of the place to ourselves. The front desk quickly sets us up with shoes, a six-pound ball for our youngest, sets up the automated bumpers for our kids, and sends us on our way. Within minutes, we are at our lane and bowling.
One thing you’ll notice right away is how new everything looks. The new look and feel of Grand Central is a direct result of a 14 million dollar renovation that happened in 2008. The floors, carpeting, bathrooms, balls, computer stations, ball returns, etc., everything, is so nice! When I first visited, I thought it was too nice for families, and that my kids would destroy everything including their couches. However, over several visits, it’s become apparent that Grand Central is a family place.
Recently, they’ve added a bunch of new games upstairs, which is a nice diversion from bowling.
Caveats: Like most bowling alleys, there is a fairly prominent media component. Televisions are mounted in every lane, and large video screens are also part of the landscape. If you’re not into video games, at least they’re upstairs and totally separate from the bowling lanes.
My only complaint while visiting Grand Central happened due to what was on the television mounted in our lane. Our kids were transfixed with some news show that was highlighting some rather violent images. I simply asked our server to change the channel to something more appropriate, and it was taken care of immediately.
Distance from Portland: Inner SE on Morrison between 8th and 9th! Here is a link to their directions.
Recommended Ages: Bowling is a great activity for the whole family. If a kid can push a ball down a launcher (as little as two years), they can bowl! Around five years is when they can start to throw a six pound ball down the lane. Do whatever works for them! Bowling should be fun.
Parental Stress Factor: For the most part, I’ve always had a very relaxing time bowling. While it can get a bit loud with music
Physical Difficulty: Just like any physical activity, if you don’t do it very often, your body will punish you after the fact. You’ll probably be a bit sore from bowling. Make sure you have a ball that’s not too heavy, and your focus is more on technique than sheer power. If your kids are using a ball launcher, it makes sense to go with a heavier ball than they’d normally use.
Family Fun Factor: Bowling popularity has been up and down, but it remains one of the great family activities in my book. Certainly, it has stood the test of time, and it always has held a certain magic with me. I think it’s just the destruction of rolling that ball and seeing it smash the pins. Then, seconds later, your ball magically appears right before your very eyes! Brilliant!
Pet Friendly: N/A
Weather Considerations: Excellent activity for a rainy day, but frankly, we’ve enjoyed cooling off on some hot summer days as well.
Insider Info: While it seems to good to be true, all summer kids can bowl free, and adults have a special rates as well. Through the months of June, July and August kids under the age of 15 receive 2 free games of bowling before 5pm. This program is designed by bowling centers to give back to the community and provide a safe, secure, and fun way for kids to spend time this summer. Register here https://www.kidsbowlfree.com/center.php?alley_id=6148.
If your child has an interest in bowling, you may want to get them involved in their “youth league.” Here is some information directly from their website about the league:
“The Grand Central Youth Bowling League starts on September 14th! Reserve your spot by signing up today! Kids ages 6-13 will compete every Saturday at 10am from September 14th – November 2nd, 3 players per team & $9 per person, per week. League members will enjoy free shoe rentals, bowling discounts and special offers along with 2 free games of league play every Saturday!” Click here for more information.
Family Tips: For small children, I recommend using a metal ball launcher. These things are a great invention where you put the ball on the top of the launcher, and your child just pushes it off toward the pins. Also, when checking-in, make sure to tell the attendant that your kids will need bumpers. Gutter balls are no fun with kids!
If you’re hungry, the salads are really good. My kids have enjoyed several of the items on the menu including the wings, noodles, and sliders. My recommendation is to get there right when they open. I have to admit to feeling a bit self conscious when bowling; thus, the fewer spectators the better!
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Golfing at The Children's Course on July 19th, 2009
Vancouver Lake Park on August 15th, 2013
White River Sno-Park (West) on January 30th, 2014