As parents of a three-year-old and an infant, few things are as rare and as precious to my wife and me as an outing without the kids. I’m sure any parent can relate; you have to squeeze as much juice as you can from that fruit whenever it falls in your lap.
So when a Friday errand brought the two of us to Middletown, we decided to make a date out of it. That brought us to Mid County Lanes and Entertainment, after someone recommended it. I’m glad they did.
My wife, Katy, and I are not bowlers, so we weren’t initially expecting much from the day. But I’ll admit—as we opened the doors, and the scent of polish hit my nose—a wave of nostalgia, of birthdays and teen hangouts past, came over me. And who doesn’t love those uniquely “bowling alley” animations that play on the TV scoreboard when you strike or rack up a gutter ball? (You can bet we were mostly the latter.)
The bowling alley itself was open, inviting and up-to-date. Which is all to say, if you want to spend an afternoon bowling, Mid County lanes was a great option to do it. But that’s just the start.
Katy and I had exhausted our meager bowling talents after one game (and next time, we’ll ask for bowling bumpers earlier in the day). No offense to Mid County or any other bowling alley, it’s just, well, we suck at it, and one of us (me) recently had rotator cuff surgery, so repeatedly chucking bowling balls isn’t the easiest thing in the world. And after her tenth gutter ball, and a score that didn’t quite break triple digits, my wife had also gotten her fill of the lane.
Turns out, that’s where the “and Entertainment” part of Mid County Lanes and Entertainment really shines.
Behind two double doors, the center boasts an arcade that made my 90s kid heart soar. Rows of arcade cabinets, prize machines and even Skee-Ball lanes stand ready for players. Humming lights, discordant electric jingles and bright lights from dozens of machines resonate throughout the air. A giant Connect Four machine commands one wall, a kids’ play jungle on another. On one end of the arcade, there’s a carnival ride, laser tag and … holy crow, literal bumper cars. On the other end, a ticket prize wall just begging to be plundered.
At Mid County Lanes, nostalgia hits the present, with fantastic results. In the past, I’ve re-visited beloved arcades from my youth (at various boardwalks or indoor play centers), only to see my youthful memories shrunk by the scope of being an adult—Were there always this few games?
Mid County Lanes boasts an arcade today that, as an adult, still feels like the grandeur of my youth. It’s large, bright and fun. A place to throw up your hands, kiss twenty bucks goodbye, and just dive into the experience. Katy and I dove in headfirst, she to the Skee-ball machines, me to a motorcycle racing game. We found ourselves giggling and laughing at the unique antics of the Mario Kart machines (a delightfully different and more chaotic version than on your home Nintendo), and I admit we sunk a majority of our time at a Halo shooting video game.
This was the highlight of our little date. While we didn’t get to do everything (so no laser tag or bumper cars, sadly) but we still enjoyed a good hour in the arcade, eventually wrapping up with a stuffed animal crane prize, and a very excited discussion over when our son might be old enough to have a birthday party there.
That wasn’t the end, however. Overlooking the lanes is a private lounge with darkened glass, glowing furniture around a fireplace, and an enticing door. Asking after it, we were led inside to the extremely cool lounge. Tucked away from the action, we got to enjoy some VIP time plucking at board games and taking the vibe in. There is the karaoke room, stocked with songs and soundproof. We ended our date putting it to the test, taking turns belting out David Bowie, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga. Some of us did better than others, but no one was running out of the lanes screaming by the time we exited, flush-faced and smiling, so I suppose the soundproofing does work.
When we bid Mid County Lanes adieu to once again pick up the mantle of responsible parents, we found our heart a bit lighter, our attitudes much relaxed … and perhaps a willingness to make the next visit a family affair.
Find Mid County Lanes and Entertainment at 875 N. Broad Street Middletown, Del., and online at midcountylanes.com.
Bay to the Beach: Byways is a regular column in which we explore interesting places and projects on the Delmarva Peninsula. Videos and more photos at baytobaynews.com/bay-to-the-beach-byways