With seven axe-throwing spots, Pittsburgh is hitting the mark on this trend.
The axe-throwing phenomenon began in Canada about 10 years ago, though it arrived in Pittsburgh about a year ago, local business owners said.
There are some similarities among Pittsburgh’s axe-throwing venues: The premise of the game — it’s kind of like a big version of darts. At each, an instructor — an axepert, if you will — will explain the game before you begin. It’s best to book online, though many do accept walk-ins when possible.
But each has carved a niche in the market, offering everything from cosmic axe-throwing to trivia. Here’s what you need to know about those local establishments before you go toss deadly metal weapons through the air in the name of fun.
- Homestead (145 E. 8th Ave.)
Tucked in a century-old bank building, Ace Axe Throwing promises “immersive entertainment,” owner Joe Deasy said.
“People in Pittsburgh are looking for something to do. For awhile you only had limited options — food, movie, bowling. … With axe throwing, it’s another form of entertainment — what I like to call it is ‘immersive entertainment.’ You’re actually doing, not just watching it,” Deasy said.
Guests are welcome to bring food and drinks — and there’s even free beer thanks to a monthly partnership with a local brewery. Right now, for example, East End Brewery is on tap.
Deasy emphasizes that axe-throwing suits a variety of ages — everybody from kids to grandparents.
“To people who are intimidated by it: Women are actually better than guys. They don’t throw too hard, and they listen when we give instructions,” Deasy said.
The building is also home to Escape Room Pittsburgh, which Deasy opened before launching the axe-throwing business.
“We’re a one-stop shop. You’ve got the escape room. You’ve got axe throwing. We’ve got VR opening this week. It’s a night out.”
- $20 per person for a one-hour walk-in session
- $30 per person for a two-and-a-half-hour group event
- Millvale (2 Sedgwick St.)
- Mt. Lebanon (1689 McFarland Road)
The Millvale location of Lumberjaxes is the largest in the area, and it’s served 30,000 people since opening a year ago, owner Corey Deasy said (yes, he’s related to the other Deasy in this article — they’re cousins, though they run their axe-throwing businesses separately).
Axe-throwers can play games like Tic Tac Toe and Around the World, games the axe-throwing instructors there invented where players have to hit certain parts of the board.
In addition to traditional axe-throwing, Lumberjaxes also offers cosmic axe-throwing, with black lights, fluorescent targets and even a DJ.
Guests can bring beer and wine — but there is a strict one-drink-per-hour rule.
Deasy sees the sport as approachable for all.
“It’s kind of an equalizer,” he said. “You could be a super jock, and you can get beat by pretty much anyone. Your Grandma could go in and beat you at this.”
With its axe-throwing trailer, Lumberjaxes can even bring the sport to corporate retreats, family reunions, conferences, weddings, or birthday parties.
- $20 per person for a one-hour walk-in session
- $35 per person for a two-and-a-half-hour group event
- Baldwin (5024 Curry Road)
- Homestead (172 East Bridge St. in the Waterfront)
- Ross Township (4780 McKnight Road)
Throw Axes exercises both brawn and brains.
For its “Trivia and Axes” game, think of a Trivial Pursuit board projected onto the target. Players aim for a category and then answer a question on that topic, said Melissa Redman co-owner of Throw and IQ Escape.
For word game fans, there’s also a game called “Scraxle,” a twist on Scrabble. Instead of picking the letters from a bag, players aim at letters on the target hoping to hit the letters they want, then play Scrabble as usual.
For those looking for traditional axe-throwing, Throw runs bowling-style matches, rather than elimination-style tournaments, so everybody gets the chance to continue playing, Redman said. She recommends trying this first before playing trivia or Scraxle.
Throw opened its first standalone location on Sept. 20 in the Waterfront. It’s BYOB and BYOF (food). In connection with IQ Escape, Throw also operates satellite axe-throwing at locations in the North and South Hills.
“I think people are looking for forms of entertainment that aren’t just a happy hour or a movie,” she said. “This is something that they can engage with each other all at the same time of doing something completely different.”
- $20 per-person for a walk-in session
- $80 per target with up to four players
- Hempfield Township (6781 State Route 30)
This Westmoreland County axe throwing spot takes its name from “Valhalla,” described as Viking heaven in Norse mythology, a place where fallen warriors go to train for battle at the end of days, owner Alicia Metz explained.
In the local version of Valhalla, people from ages 8 to 81 can try their hand at axe throwing. The venue regularly hosts parties, events, and date nights, as well as axe-throwing leagues.
“Anyone that comes here has gotten the hang of it in about 15 minutes. It’s a really level playing field and anyone can do it,” Metz said.
Axe throwing, with its necessary hand-eye coordination, offers a way for people to get off of their devices and play something interactive, she said.
“It’s just taken off as a sport. You don’t expect to be so good at it,” she said. “It feels so good whenever you sink that blade into the wood. You feel awesome and (it’s) totally empowering.”
- $20 per person for an hour
- $35 per person for 2.5 hours