While movie theaters today are attempting to hang on to relevancy with heated and cooled seats, cocktail bars and unique programming, nothing can compare to the experience of a good old-fashioned drive-in. A symbol of mid-century America, drive-in movie theaters peaked in the mid-1900s but can still be found today across the state of Texas. Some of the best are throwbacks to the past, while others take a more modern approach, with top-quality audio-video setups and bars slinging drinks and snacks outside the popcorn and soda mainstays. So turn off Netflix, get off your couch and mix it up with a trip to the six best drive-in theaters in Texas.
Coyote Drive-In is open daily, showing double features on its four screens, so you’ll always find something to watch, including all the new releases. Arrive early and post up at the Canteen, which serves beer and wine, plus burgers, sandwiches, thin-crust pizzas, hot dogs and pretzels. If you need something during the show, order via the app and a staff member will run it to your car so you don’t miss any of the action. Or ask for one of the s’mores kits, and you can roast marshmallows over the on-site fire pits.
Blue Starlite debuted in 2010 and remains one of the most unique drive-in theaters in Texas. The boutique operation sets up screens in multiple locations around the city and only takes in 15 to 40 cars per showing, so the experience is more intimate than most. Tune your radio dial to the set frequency, or borrow a radio from the check-in desk, and load up on snacks. In addition to concessions like popcorn and candy, Blue Starlite also sells hot dogs and donuts.
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Open for nearly two decades, Galaxy has expanded from three to seven screens, moved from film to digital, is open daily and now has two snack bars. Catch all the same films you’ll find in regular theaters, but at a lower price, and enjoy them in your car, or outside on a lawn chair or blanket. Shovel a few appetizers (popcorn and candy) into your mouth, then go for heartier fare like nachos and pizza.
Moonstruck is located east of downtown and looks onto the city skyline, so you’ll get a full view of Houston behind the screens. It shows two films each night, with a mix of first-run and classic movies, using 4K DLP projectors on its 60-foot screens, so the quality is like what you’d experience indoors at your typical theater. Moonstruck also has concessions, beer and wine, or pick up dinner via the rotating assortment of food trucks parked nearby.
Lubbock and New Braunfels
Across its two locations — one in Lubbock and one in the Hill Country town of New Braunfels — Stars & Stripes shows new releases in comfortable settings. There’s a patio and a kids’ playground, so you can arrive early to hang out before the show starts. And the ‘50s Cafe sells burgers, sandwiches, pizzas, chicken wings, nachos and other favorites. Order online for pick up, or get snacks delivered straight to your car.
Brazos Drive-In opened in 1952 and has remained in continuous operation ever since. The historic theater still lights up screens on Friday and Saturday nights, where cars gather to watch the latest films. Concessions are simple but reliable, and include popcorn, candy, nachos, hot dogs, sodas and coffee.
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