The Best Drive-In Movie Theater in All 50 States, and What to Pack
This is but one installment of 37 Things a Man’s Gotta Do This Summer, our annual compendium of everything worth seeing, doing, eating, drinking and generally making time for in your neck of the woods between now and September. Stay tuned all month for more.
Some would say we’re experiencing the golden age of movie theaters.
In order to compete with Netflix, chances are there’s a cinema near you offering handcrafted cocktails, gourmet concessions and experiences that transcend your run-of-the-mill megaplex.
The problem with this perspective is that these types of venues existed long before streaming: they’re called drive-ins.
Before you ask, yes: those Grease-immortalized date-night spots are still trucking along all over this great land. And before the hip movie houses du jour were even a twinkle in the spectacled eye of well-funded cinephiles, these American institutions were hosting (literal) fields of well-appointed moviegoers.
Their concessions of choice? Anything they could fit on a portable grill or in a cooler. Their seating? Car seats or any number of camp chairs. Their experience? Well, let’s just say nothing beats a new Star Wars flick under the stars.
To make it as easy as possible to experience these relics of Americana, below you’ll find the ultimate drive-in packing list (complete with canned cocktails, for those who won’t be driving, and for theaters that allow outside food and drink) and where to find the best drive-ins in almost all 50 states.
The Drive-in Packing List
The Cooler: YETI Tundra 65
YETI is the all-around gold standard for coolers, what with their “Fatwall” design keeping things frosty with two inches of insulation and the rotomolded construction keeping it from collapsing when you need to use it as an extra seat. But this particular size (42 cans) is the perfect mix of holding enough to last your group two or three movies without taking up too much space.
The Canned Cocktail (for non-drivers): Cutwater Spirits
From the grapefruit Tequila Paloma to the Three Sheets Rum & Ginger, the folks at Cutwater have something for you, your lady and to swap with the group next to you who are grilling three types of brats.
The Chair: Kelty Low Loveseat
What’s better than putting your arm around your lady in the front seat of a drop-top? Pulling a veritable collapsible couch out of the trunk (without a pesky stick shift between you).
The Grill: Primus Kuchoma
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous (and the drive-in allows them), pack this simple gas grill. You won’t have to worry about making a mess in your vehicle, so when you’re sick of popcorn after Infinity War, go ahead and grill some veggies before Solo.
The Sweatshirt: Todd Snyder + Champion Retro Terry Pocket Sweatshirt
When the temps go down with the sun, grab a comfy, colorful pocket sweatshirt from the backseat. They’ll keep you toasty and help your friends spot you coming back from the bathroom in the dark.
And the Best Drive-In in (Almost) Every State
Alabama: The Blue Moon Drive-In Theatre, Gu-Win
Alaska: While there were a few drive-ins in the state, all have closed.
Arizona: West Wind Glendale Drive-In, Glendale
Arkansas: Kenda Drive-In, Marshall
California: South Bay Drive In Theatres, Imperial Beach
Colorado: Mesa Drive-In Theater, Pueblo
Connecticut: Mansfield Drive-In, Mansfield
Delaware: Like Alaska, Delaware is a drive-in desert.
Florida: Silver Moon Drive-In, Lakeland
Georgia: Starlight Drive-In Theatre, Atlanta
Hawaii: No more drive-ins on the islands.
Idaho: The Spud Drive In, Driggs
Illinois: Harvest Moon Twin Drive-In, Gibson City
Indiana: 49’er Drive-In Theatre, Valparaiso
Iowa: 61 Drive-In Theatre, Delmar
Kansas: Boulevard Drive-In, Kansas City
Kentucky: Judy Drive-In, Mount Sterling
Louisiana: None left. You’ll have to cross state lines.
Maine: The Saco Drive-In, Saco
Maryland: Bengies Drive-In Theatre, Baltimore
Massachusetts: Wellfleet Drive-In Theater, Wellfleet
Michigan: Cherry Bowl Drive-In Theatre, Honor
Minnesota: Vali-Hi Drive-In Theatre, Lake Elmo
Mississippi: Iuka Drive In, Iuka
Missouri: 66 Drive-In Theatre, Carthage
Montana: Silver Bow Twin Drive-In, Butte
Nebraska: TK-Starlite Drive-In, Neligh
Nevada: West Wind Las Vegas Drive-In, Las Vegas
New Hampshire: Northfield Drive-In Theatre, Hinsdale
New Jersey: Delsea Drive-In Theatre, Vineland
New Mexico: Fort Union Drive In, Las Vegas
New York: Overlook Drive-In Theatre, Poughkeepsie
North Carolina: Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre, Henderson
North Dakota: The fifth and final drive-in-less state.
Ohio: Field of Dreams Drive-In Theater, Liberty Center
Oklahoma: Winchester Drive-In Theater, Oklahoma City
Oregon: 99W Drive-In, Newberg
Pennsylvania: Shankweiler’s Drive-In Theatre (the oldest in America), Orefield
Rhode Island: Rustic Tri-View Drive-In, North Smithfield
South Carolina: Highway 21 Drive In, Beaufort
South Dakota: Roy’s Black Hills Twin Drive-In, Hermosa
Tennessee: Malco Summer Quartet Drive In, Memphis
Texas: Coyote Drive-In, Fort Worth
Utah: Redwood Drive-In Theatre, West Valley City
Vermont: Sunset Drive-In, Colchester
Virginia: Hull’s Drive-In Theatre, Lexington
Washington: Blue Fox Drive-In Theater, Oak Harbor
West Virginia: Meadow Bridge Drive-In, Meadow Bridge
Wisconsin: Stardust Twin Drive-In Theater, Chetek
Wyoming: American Dream Drive In, Powell
Now, plug all those into Google Maps and you’ve got the Great American Drive-In Road Trip.