Savvy Mom: Bowling and Lunch at Elsie's

Day two of summer vacation dawned, grey and dozens of degrees colder than the record-breaking heat earlier in the week. In typical fashion, my five and seven-year-old sons celebrated our change in routine with combat. The instances of crying spiked unpleasantly. On a warmer day, despite the lack of sun, we’d go to any of our nearby parks, including the public gem that is the Jim Lupient water park. But the chill plus the threat of rain pointed toward something indoors, so we went bowling at Elsie’s.

During the summer, Elsie’s has a great special: Two hours of bowling, including shoes, for up to five people for $19.99. They’re also one of the kid-friendliest places around, with a big selection of small shoes, raised bumpers for the lanes, six-pound bowling balls, ramps for aiming the ball, and electronic scoring on LCD monitors. If you go around lunchtime, you can order food to your lane. They have a good selection of kid items for $3.99 that come with a side of fresh fruit or baby carrots, and a few à la carte items like buttered noodles or mac and cheese for only $1.99. For grownups, there’s a wide selection of appetizers and sandwiches. I’m partial to the BLT with homemade, thick-cut chips. We went with friends last week and were able to have lunch between two entire games. I was able to relax and talk with a friend while the kids largely entertained themselves.

The summer special also is a good way to celebrate a birthday. At $19.99 per lane of five kids, it’s one of the most reasonable party options around, especially in bad weather. On sunny, not-too-hot days, you can follow it up with a short walk over to Dickman or Boom Island park for cake.

It’s good to call Elsie’s ahead, as they have leagues on some days and limited availability. But in general, they’re open and happy to help squirrelly kids get their penchant for throwing things out for a few hours. At the end of the day, our outing proved its merit again—my boys were sound asleep by 9:30 that night, and slept late the next morning. This was our first trip to Elsie’s this summer, and I’m sure it won’t be our last.

Elsie’s Bowling Hours: 10 to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 10 to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. 729 Marshall Street NE, Mpls., MN 55413. 612-378-9701,