Colonial Bowling Center (6601 Jefferson Hwy., Harahan, 504-737-2400; www.colonialbowling.net) opened in 1963. Forty years later, the family-operated business is still bustling with bowlers.
When I arrived at the alley on a Thursday morning, the parking lot was packed, even though it was not what most consider a peak bowling time. This is testament to the sport's continued popularity, which owner Chuck Ferrara attributes to its ability to bring people together in competitive play.
"It's an activity families can do together," Ferrara says. "It's not one-sided; [people of] any ability can come bowl and have fun."
Colonial Bowling is home to many leagues with members that range in age and ability. Bowlers can join leagues for women, adults, seniors or kids. Ferrara says the leagues are great for those who enjoy friendly competition.
There also are leagues for children who want to learn how to bowl. Ferrara and two of his managers give lessons at 8:30 a.m. on Saturdays. After an hour of lessons, children are placed on teams.
"We give free lessons to bring them up, because that's going to perpetuate our sport," Ferrara says.
Both Ferrara and his wife Gwen enjoy getting to know their faithful patrons. Many bowlers have frequented Colonial Bowling for years and have become like the Ferraras' extended family. The Ferraras also enjoy catering to the special needs community, including groups from ARC of Greater New Orleans.
"We enjoy our special needs groups," Ferrara says. "They are just so excited and enjoy [bowling] so much."
The alley is equipped with 12-strike automatic scoring on 32-inch flat screen TVs, a game room, lounge and pro shop. A chef is on staff to prepare foods like eggplant parmesan for customers who want an alternative to the bowling alley's pizza. Colonial Bowling Center hosts corporate events, tournaments, birthday parties and weddings.
There are specials like late-night bowling from 9:30 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, when bowling is $17 per hour per lane. Bowling is half price ($12 per hour per lane) Sunday mornings.
"Rain or shine, hot or cold, you can come bowl and feel comfortable," Ferrara says.