StrikeOuts Bowling and Entertainment is officially open at Orlando Fashion Square, so I took it upon myself to give it a spin this past weekend.
The first thing you notice is that this is unlike any other bowling experience you’ve ever had. For one, it’s located inside a mall. I know there are those who question placing a bowling alley in the middle of a mall, but I think it will work.
It’s located next to the food court and across from the theater, so its location makes sense as it’s in the middle of everything. Malls want to be known as more than shopping destinations and therefore are putting more emphasis on entertainment, community and special events. A family may or may not go to Orlando Fashion Square just to bowl. But it’s another reason to visit and if you do one, be it bowling or shopping, you’re likely to do more. Same goes for the theater.
In fact, I went on a Sunday night right as the mall was closing. The activity level inside StrikeOuts increased and kept mall-goes inside longer to spend more money. StrikeOuts is open until 11 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and until 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. With food like cheeseburgers and wings, a bar, arcade games, and milkshakes, there’s more than meets the eye here (more on that later).
Before I digressed, I was mentioning how different this is from your run-of-the-mill bowling establishments. When you initially arrive, you notice it doesn’t have that bowling-alley smell. Granted, it is brand-new as of this writing, but it’s still worth noting. It goes hand-in-hand with how clean the place is.
Upon seating at your lane, you notice that this is a very comfortable bowling experience. I can’t say I’ve been to all the bowling alleys in and around Orlando, but my experience has been that of hard, uncomfortable chairs that don’t conform to your body at all. At StrikeOuts, you’re sitting on cushy, (I’m guessing) vinyl chairs and couches. It’s a definite upgrade from what I’m accustomed to.
The bowling itself is what you expect. You’ve got your scoreboard with cartoon animations that correspond to how many pins you knocked down, which also supply tips on how to hit a spare. There are 12 bowling lanes.
As far as differences, it goes back to the fact that you’re bowling at a mall. I don’t expect we’ll see the hardcore bowlers or any clubs starting up here, so it’s nice knowing you’re around like-minded people who may not be great bowlers and just want to have a good time. I remember as a kid when this expert bowler wouldn’t leave me alone giving me tips. (“Just let me play, dude, I’m not trying to go pro.”)
Like I mentioned earlier, there’s also a bar. It’s located on the left side of the lanes and is behind glass, so if you’re watching the game while enjoying a cold one, it’s not obnoxiously loud. It’s also nice when you’re bowling because when you’re not rolling your ball, you can peer through the glass wall and watch sports, the news or whatever happens to be on TV. Also in this area are your dining tables and billiards. It’s through this area that you can also enter and exit the mall which connects to the roof of the parking garage for easy access.
To the right of the lanes is another glass wall through which mall passersby can watch the action and perhaps get inspired to bowl themselves.
I did have some food after I bowled a couple games: hot wings and a basket of fries. The prices for wings are higher than I think they should (in reference to the size of the wing and price points at restaurants like Gators Dockside), but they were definitely delicious. And the hot sauce is actually hot, so there’s that. Honestly, the prices for everything else on the menu is what you would expect to pay at any eatery in a mall food court, which is awesome. In addition to wings and fries, they also make cheeseburgers and hot dogs.
In addition, StrikeOuts features a variety of arcade games. What’s funny is the space that StrikeOuts and the games occupy was formerly an arcade in the 90s. I remember playing Mortal Kombat II for the first time there, as a matter of fact.
The mix of games include first-person shooters, skeeball and pop-a-shot basketball. You purchase a game card at the kiosk that you’ll swipe at each game you want to play. The appropriate number of credits will be deducted from your card.
Even as an avid arcade-goer, I saw something I’ve never seen before: for the games that reward you with tickets which you can redeem for prizes, instead of printing them, the game loads them on your card. In the transition of all things going digital, this was one I was not expecting.
Overall, I think the concept will reap the mall and its visitors benefits. It’s a great family offering at a mall that is rebranding itself as a family and entertainment destination — not just a place you buy stuff at. It’s just one piece to a bigger puzzle that continues to take shape.
Share your thoughts on StrikeOuts in the comments below, and keep it here at Orlando Mall Guide for all the latest news and updates as it relates to the ever-changing Orlando Fashion Square.