6 of the Best Drive-In Movie Theaters That Still Exist
Do you have a record player at home? Hit up thrift stores on the weekend for vintage bargains? Tote around a Polaroid camera? No doubt about it: Retro revivals are big these days. But when it comes to blasts from the past, the drive-in is really where it’s at.
Because (not that we’re biased or anything) what’s cooler than rolling up to a big-screen theater on a summer night with a few friends, some fresh air—maybe even some snacks brought straight to your window? Since the founding of the very first drive-in (Park-In Theaters in Camden, NJ, which opened to the public in 1933), the invention quickly became a staple of summertime entertainment. More followed shortly after: As the number of drivers in the U.S. soared, so, naturally, did the number of drive-ins. At their high water mark in 1958, more than 4,000 were found across the country.
Though there aren’t nearly as many around these days, the drive-in is far from extinct. (It’s true!) For a dose of summertime Americana and movies al fresco, we’ve rounded up six of the best drive-in movie theaters around the country. Goodbye, stale popcorn smells and that kid who keeps kicking your seat; hello, screenings under the stars.
Drive up, tune in, and chill out—funnel cake in hand—at Becky’s Drive-In. Photo courtesy of Becky’s Drive-In.
BECKY’S DRIVE-IN, WALNUTPORT, PA
Becky’s Drive-In has been a Pennsylvania favorite since its founding back in 1946. These days, though, the facilities are perfectly modern: first-run movies are shown across two screens, visitors tune into the sound via their car radios, and sloped parking ensures everyone has a view. Then there are the concession stands… Save room for funnel cake, which contributes to the theater’s fun-fair vibe.
Coyote Drive-In is worth the trip for the epic snack bar alone (but the double feature doesn’t hurt). Photo courtesy of Florian Seyfert.
COYOTE DRIVE-IN, FORT WORTH, TX
Not all drive-ins are retro. Case in point: Fort Worth’s Coyote Drive-In, which opened in 2011, and has quickly become one of the city’s coolest hangout spots. Alongside the movies, the Coyote Canteen’s menu is an additional draw, given that throwback faves like banana pudding can be found alongside Texan staples like Frito pie and churros. Best of all, every ticket buys you a double feature: Each night, Coyote screens two movies back-to-back, with a handy 10-minute intermission snack break in between.
Located in New Jersey—the bona fide home of the drive-in—Delsea stands for history while feeling like today. Photo courtesy of Delsea Drive-In.
DELSEA DRIVE-IN, VINELAND, NJ
Not only is Delsea the only drive-in in New Jersey, it’s the only drive-in in the state where the drive-in was invented. Though the theater was dormant for a long stretch, it’s attracted steady crowds since reopening in 2004—which can perhaps be chalked up to the fact that it shows double (even triple) first-run features at prices that’d make a traditional movie theater balk. Then there’s the thoroughly 21st-century menu, which features grub like teriyaki chicken with edamame and an extensive selection of gluten-free dishes.
Park next to car-side speakers for a Ford-Wyoming Drive-In experience in surround sound. Photo courtesy of ryankeberly/Flickr.
FORD-WYOMING DRIVE-IN, DEARBORN, MI
The Ford-Wyoming Drive-In may not be the fanciest in the world, but boy, it’s got atmosphere. (Get a load of its vintage sign and those bright yellow car-side speakers.) The theater hasn’t undergone much of a facelift since its start in 1950, so if you want a passport back to that decade (minus the modern flicks across nine different screens, natch), this is your best bet.
Shankweiler’s may be the oldest drive-in theater in the U.S., but it doesn’t feel that way—it feels like it’s had the most time to get it right. Photo courtesy of Mike Kerick/Flickr.
SHANKWEILER’S DRIVE-IN, OREFIELD, PA
Opened just one year after the whole drive-in concept was patented, iconic Shankweiler’s has the distinction of being the oldest continually operated drive-in theater in the country. Happily, it’s also one of the best drive-in movie theaters in the country. Celebrating its 82nd season this summer, the theater’s new digital projection ensures you have a clearer picture than ever.
Movie-goers at West Wind Solano can trade seat belts for picnic blankets on warm nights. Photo courtesy of West Wind.
WEST WIND SOLANO DRIVE-IN, CONCORD, CA
One of the best drive-in movie theaters in the Bay Area, the West Wind Solano Drive-In lets guests enjoy the films from inside their vehicles or on lawn chairs and blankets outside. (Given that the weather here is nice most of the year, that’s a tempting proposition.) And, because this is California, get ready to chow down on some totally legit burritos while you watch. Popcorn, schmopcorn.
What drive-ins are your favorites? Have any memorable drive-in moments or tips? Share them in the comments below.