The thermometer says 7 degrees.

"Cold Temps, More Snow" is the headline teasing the TV news.

The gang is bored and restless and needs a winter diversion.

How about bowling?

Missoula’s Westside Lanes and Fun Center was hopping last Saturday with Missoulians searching for a cure for cabin fever. All 36 lanes were busy much of the day, and sometimes the waiting list for an open alley was 10 groups deep, according to Pro Shop operator Jeremy Covert.

Sunday, too, saw a steady stream of families with youngsters, teens and their buddies, and grandparents with grandkids, all hoping to shake off winter doldrums.

Haven’t been bowling for a while? It’s a good season to try it again.

Westside Lanes and Fun Center has a big array of arcade games — Zombie Snatcher, Cyclone, Whack’n’Win, Space Invaders Frenzy are just a few — a casino and, for adult beverages, a lounge with popular nights of karaoke.

But it’s the bowling that brings most people in.

During evenings and weekends, lanes rent for $24.99 an hour, and up to six people can bowl per lane. Or pay by the game — $4.09 or $4.29 per game, per person, depending on age (youth and seniors pay less). Renting shoes is $2.89 per person. Weekday bowling is cheaper, and there are specials throughout the week, such as Two Dollar Tuesdays ($2 per game, per person; $2 shoe rental; $2 goodies from the snack bar and lounge).

The bowling alley has bumpers that are programmed to go up when kids 10 and younger are bowling, which keeps the ball out of the gutter. And the smallest bowlers — some as young as 2 — can use the alley dragons scattered around: These big plastic dragons create a chute that directs the ball down the alley. Little arms aren’t strong enough to push the ball to get it moving, and the dragon helps.

One of the best deals of the week is on Sunday morning. Bowling is free from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. (two games per person; shoe rental still applies), and the snack bar offers breakfast from 8 a.m. to noon.

In fact, Westside’s breakfast menu is a deal all week long. Breakfast is served until 11 on weekdays, until noon on Saturdays and Sundays. Here’s a sampling of what’s available:

• Breakfast Special No. 1: One egg, two slices of bacon, hash browns and toast for $3.49

• Breakfast Special No. 2: One egg, two slices of bacon and a pancake for $3.49.

• Pancakes: Two buttermilk pancakes, an egg and choice of ham, bacon or sausage for $7.49.

• Chicken Fried Steak: Beef steak with Southern breading, fried and topped with country gravy; two eggs, hash browns and toast for $8.79.

• Omelet: Hash browns, toast and choice of any three items: ham, sausage, bacon, cheese, olives, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, taco meat or salsa for $9.99.

There’s a breakfast burrito, English muffin sandwich, bowl of oatmeal, and a diced ham and scrambled egg breakfast too, and kids eat for under $3.50 off the kids’ menu.

If later bowling is more to your body’s clock, the snack bar has a traditional bowling alley grill menu after breakfast. Appetizers, pizza, sandwiches, chef salad, house soups and more than 10 burgers are available, including these popular choices:

• Super Nachos with seasoned beef, cheese, tomato, onion, olives, sour cream and salsa for $9.99.

• Angus Slider burgers for $8.99.

• Soup-and-San Special: A whole sandwich of turkey, ham, roast beef or tuna, with a large bowl of house-made soup for $8.79.

• Lite Bite Special: Half a sandwich, cup of soup and fresh fruit for $5.99.

• Westside Black & Bleu burger: Grilled Angus patty with blackened spices and crumbled bleu cheese, for $9.99.

• Texas Burger: Bold Texas BBQ sauce, thick-cut bacon and cheddar cheese for $9.99.

• Bowl of chili with cheese and onion for $4.99.

• Milkshakes for $3.

Kids have their own menu, with all of their favorites: chicken nuggets, mini burgers, mini corn dogs, grilled cheese and PB&J, served with a small soda and fries, tots or apple sauce for $3.09-$4.59. For a snack, kids can munch on their own Lil’ Nachos.

On Sunday, Hattie Heffernan of Missoula was at Westside celebrating her seventh birthday by bowling with her mom and dad, Trish and Corey Heffernan, brother Brennan, 2, and little sister Ryann, 5.

Hattie ended her first-ever bowling game with a 68, aided by the bumpers. Her sister and brother used the dragon chute, too.

She thought it was so fun she wanted a second game — a chance to up her average before heading out into the frost of the day.

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Mea Andrews was a Missoulian reporter and editor for 27 years, covering food, art and Missoula County growth and development before leaving the paper. She is now retired.


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