Lonely Planet Writer

Fancy trying competitive axe throwing? Fast becoming America's fun new pastime

Getting together with friends for a movie or game of bowling just became a little more mundane. Now, thanks to Philadelphia’s Urban Axes, indoor competitive axe-throwing is the exciting new entertainment in America.

Philadelphia is home to this new American pastime. Image by Urban Axes

Co-founder Krista Poll was inspired to open Urban Axes — the first of its kind in a major U.S. city — after attending a friend’s birthday party while living in Toronto. “My immediate reaction was, ‘this is awesome! Why don’t we have this in America?’” So Poll introduced the idea to a group of friends, and Urban Axes (located in the city’s Kensington neighbourhood) was born. “We all firmly believed that everyone loves throwing axes, they just don’t know it yet,” she tells Lonely Planet. “The fact that people love it after they’ve tried it isn’t a big surprise, but we weren’t sure we would be able to convince people to give it a try.” But they did convince people, and the pastime that might initially raise eyebrows (“throwing axes?”) has proven to be wildly popular, with an outpost now open in Austin, Texas and ten new locations slated for 2018, including one in Baltimore, Maryland in February. While the Philadelphia location is BYOB, Poll says the practice is safe. “The arenas are designed for safety, with fencing on the sides, above, and in between throwers,” she says. “Also, we don’t allow alcohol inside in the arenas, it must be kept behind the bar areas where people are able to observe.”

Axe-throwing with friends. Image by Urban Axes

Groups of up at least six to eight people can book a time slot for a tournament-style session, wherein there’s one coach for every two people throwing. Before beginning the tournament, participants get safety instructions and one-on-one practice, with tips on stance and technique, from the coach. Throwers take turns, with points awarded when the hatchet sticks in a ring or the bullseye on the wooden target. Ellen Gilroy recently celebrated her 28th birthday with a group of friends at Urban Axes, and though she came in last place, the Philadelphia resident says she had a blast. “Drinking and axe-throwing — what more could you want?” she says. “The coaches are awesome and helped me a ton, as I’m not the best axe-thrower. I can’t wait to go back.”

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Urban Axes doesn’t allow spectators, and axe throwers must be at least 21 years old. Rates start at $35 per person.