George Bernard Shaw said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
A boardgame café, pinball arcades, bowling centers, axe throwing, and escape rooms found either in or near Charlotte County will help you embrace youthfulness through playing.
1 AXE THROWING AT TJ’s HATCHET HANGOUT
The sport of axe throwing is what it sounds like, throwing an axe at a target. It dates back centuries but axe throwing venues, where you pay a fee, is a 21st century concept. It is believed the first venue was founded in Ontario, Canada, in 2011. Soon after, venues started opening across Canada and the United States. Southwest Florida’s first axe throwing facility opened over the summer in Cape Coral and is called TJ’s Hatchet Hangout.
“The wood is for holding and metal is for cutting,” one of the “axeperts” told beginners giving the sport a try on a Saturday evening. The wood he was referring was the axe handle.
“There is no reason to touch the head of the axe,” he added while pointing to the axe’s bit, which is the cutting edge.
TJ’s Hatchet Hangout has four bays with two throwing lanes each. Before throwing, participants receive an orientation and instruction on how to safely and properly do it. Newbies are told to hold the axe with two hands overhead and aim for the bullseye on a large wood target. If they feel comfortable after several throws, they can try throwing using one hand.
Wood targets are sprayed down with water to minimize the size of splinters and chunks gouged out. A target may last a day or two, or depending on use, they may be changed out every couple of hours.
The facility is a member of the World Axe Throwing League and hosts league competitions during the week. It is open to the public Friday through Sunday. Participants must be at least 18 years old to play Fridays and Saturdays. Sundays are family days where children 12 and older with a legal guardian can throw. Although alcohol is available for sale, the axeperts keep an eye on all throwers to ensure everyone is throwing safely.
Other axe throwing facilities in the area include Axe & Bull Indoor Axe Throwing in Sarasota and opening later this fall in North Port is The Axe House.
2 PLAY AT GAMES AT TABLE TALK SRQ
Almost immediately upon entering Table Talk SRQ in Bradenton, I noticed something peculiar for the modern world. Families and friends sat at respective tables and over boardgames, they were having verbal conversations and making eye contact with one another.
“Is there Wi-Fi?” I asked one of the owners. I suspected the answer.
No, there is not, and that is part of the purpose of this boardgame café, to reconnect people by using old fashion communication skills and putting the smartphones away. Playing boardgames with younger members of the family teaches them verbal communication skills and how to interact with other people. No internet access also means no online console games are in the facility.
Desiree Ramey and Rachael Sawyer are the owners behind the game establishment that opened in September. For about a year they planned the cafe and collected more than 400 board games. For $5, visitors enjoy unlimited game play all day. Even easier on the budget, children 10 and younger are free with a paying adult. Games range from old school favorites as Monopoly, Candyland and Risk to more recent ones as Catan, Pandemic, and Ticket to Ride. Their website lists the growing gameboard library. After 8 p.m., those 18 years and older have access to games appropriate for adults, such as Cards Against Humanity.
Snacks such as gummy bears, goldfish crackers, and pretzels are available for purchase along with sandwiches, desserts, and light bites. Sodas, energy drinks, beer, wine, water and coffee are for sale, too.
3 BOWLING AT HEADPINZ ENTERTAINMENT CENTER
It has been years since I last bowled and I am not sure why. Port Charlotte is home to two fantastic bowling alleys, Treasure Lanes and Bowland, both perfect for leagues, family-friendly parties, and just because occasions.
Treasure Lanes offers specials including Unlimited Bowling for $9.99 plus tax, per person on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 p.m. to close. Shoes are included. Friday and Saturday evenings are Cosmic Bowling night complete with black lights, fog and party lighting.
Bowland offers specials like Extreme Glow Bowl every Friday and Saturday night. The lights are turned off and the lasers, club lighting, and music videos turn on for a memorable time. Bowlers are encouraged to wear neon and truly become part of the experience.
HeadPinz Entertainment Center in Fort Myers is part of the Bowland family and is a level up from traditional bowling. Fun options for adults and children are laser tag, ropes course, virtual reality rollercoaster, gaming area with more than 40 video games, and an outstanding bowling experience. Along with 16 regular lanes, HeadPinz in Fort Myers offers a VIP area with string machines on the lanes, Pinboyz Bowling, and HyperBowling.
Pinboyz is a throwback to the 1920s. Pinboyz stand the pins up and return the balls rather than relying on machines. A scorekeeper tallies the score. This area includes paintings and artifacts from the International Bowling Hall of Fame. According to Curtis Stavich, HeadPinz General Manager, Pinboyz was recognized by Bowling Industry Magazine in 2015 for having the best boutique in the world for bowling centers.
HyperBowling combines traditional bowling and gaming. QubicaAMF, a bowling equipment provider, introduced HyperBowling to the industry in 2017. The game includes bumpers in the gutters, electronics, lights, sensors and futuristic user interfaces to create an unforgettable experience and in Southwest Florida, HeadPinz in Fort Myers is the only place to find it. Stavich promises more exciting features are coming soon.
Nemo’s Sports Bistro serves delicious food fitting any occasion. Pizza, handcrafted burgers, grouper tacos, and Cajun shrimp white cheddar mac and cheese are some of the reasons to dine here.
4 UNLOCK ESCAPE ROOMS IN NORTH PORT
Are you a good problem solver under pressure? Then an escape room experience is up your alley. For 60 minutes you and your team are locked in a themed room and together, you use clues to solve puzzles to escape. Charlotte County is home to three escape rooms, two managed by Escape Rooms Unlocked, with one in Punta Gorda and the other in the Port Charlotte Town Center. The other, called Escape Port Charlotte, is in Port Charlotte. Escape Rooms Unlocked has a North Port facility, too. Escape rooms are ideal for families, corporate team building events, date night, and those looking for an indoor adventure.
5 PINBALL AT NICE GUYS PIZZA
Pinball games date to the early 1930s and still draw crowds to the arcades. Beef ‘O’ Brady’s in Punta Gorda and Millennial Brewing Company in Fort Myers are popular spots for pinheads but Nice Guys Pizza in Cape Coral is the hotspot.
“Pinball is a perfect hobby for me. When you are playing you cannot focus on anything but keeping that little silver ball in play. Lose focus for a second and your turn is over,” Mitchell S. Austin of Punta Gorda told me when discussing his passion for pinball, and added, “It is like meditation, all the stress and normal worries of life melt away.”
Austin and his daughter compete Tuesday nights in the pinball league at Nice Guys Pizza. The restaurant is small yet holds a dozen machines. It has a hipster, eclectic vibe and is known for stellar food and creative cocktails. On the restaurant’s exterior western wall is a funky and weird mural by artist Jake Kelly.
The Punta Gorda resident enjoys the social aspect of pinball, saying, “There is a kinship among players, people form friendships over their love of the game.”
Opportunities to play in and near Charlotte County are endless. If you have not tried any of these, roll the dice and take a chance on a good time.