Before we start, I need to get something out of the way.
Last week I told you I was going to check out Urban Axes in Philly.
Last week I said I had a feeling I’d be pretty good.
I was not. I was the 2nd worst one in our group of ten.
I had a blast at Urban Axes this past weekend. We went Friday night as part of my buddy Eric’s bachelor party celebrations. I went into this experience thinking I’d really like throwing axes for two hours on a Friday night, yet it still managed to exceed my expectations.
I’d read about a few ax throwing bars before, however I learned this weekend that Urban Axes is the first competitive ax throwing venue in the United States. That’s awesome. It may just go up on my list of reasons Pennsylvania is cool. Urban Axes is located in Philly’s Kensington neighborhood,. It’s located in the kind of warehouse that gentrifying neighborhoods love to throw things in, and though Kensington still retains a ton of realistic Philly charm, make no mistake that the Northern Liberties/Fishtown bourgeoisie is coming. There’s a few brand new townhouses directly across the street, and I spotted two handlebar mustaches and several cans of PBR in the general vicinity.
While Urban Axes does have some walk-in hours during the week, in general it’s the kind of activities you get a group to do. Lanes are reserved for 2.5 hour time slots, and require a group of 8 or more on weekends, and 6 people during the week (they also have weekday leagues forming). I appreciated that Urban Axes is a 21 and over facility. Ax throwing is a decidedly adult activity.
I was impressed by Urban Ax’s efficiency. They have you sign a quick waiver upon arrival, and then you go over to the front desk to confirm what group you’re with. Each group gets one batting-cage like throwing area, divided into two lanes, with a stump in between, where your two axes are stuck, as well as a coach who provides instruction, ensures everyone follows all the safety rules, and coaches you in the best way to throw your ax. Behind each throwing area, is a table for food, and a communal fridge you share with the group next to you, where you can place any beverages you bring. Urban Axes doesn’t serve any food or booze, but has a BYOB policy, and we also ordered some pizza.
After some instruction, the ax throwing consists of two rounds. The first is a round robin style tournament, where you individually compete with as many other people in your group as time allows, for the highest score. I did pretty well my first go around, hitting inside the score zone almost every time. It went swiftly downhill from there. My first instinct was to blame the amount I’d been drinking. Most of the group arrived to the bachelor party around 6, after work. I however, had taken the day off, and took Eric out for lunch around 3. We started the party then. The problem with this M.O. is that Eric did the best out of everyone. So I’m going to blame the 1-2 punch of me being a very uncoordinated person, and me being someone who gets frustrated easily. Ax throwing required concentration, and a certain finesse. Once I started doing poorly, I was unable to use either of those things, and then the frustration set in, and I just became a mess. It strangely reminded me of golf in that way. Still, I had a blast throwing, and watching everyone else throw.
The second round is an elimination style tournament to crown the ultimate champion. What’s fun about this, our coach pointed out, is that often times those, who like myself, were demoralized into doing poorly during the round robin, rose from the ashes to win the entire thing. I did no such rising, but a few people in our group did, and Eric, who dominated the round robin tournament, was not in the final two. Did I enjoy seeing my good friend taken down a few pegs at his own bachelor party? YES.
The two and a half hours flew by, and like I’ve said, I couldn’t have had more fun. I want to get a group together to do this ASAP next time I’m in Philly, and I’d really like to explore the bars in the immediate vicinity. They looked seedy in the best ways. We ended up going down to the corner of Girard and Frankford, and then speaking of seedy, ended our night at a strip club in Port Richmond. That’s something you cannot un-see.
Fun fact, Pennsylvania has a Western PA Ax Throwing Venue as well, and there’s another not too far off in Jersey.