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The coolest drive-in theaters in America

There's something so liberating about watching a movie from the comfort of your car. Unlike "luxury" seating at modern multiplexes, you don't feel like you're sharing a couch with complete strangers. And unlike traditional auditorium seating, you don't have to scrunch your legs every time the person in the middle of the aisle needs to use the bathroom.

Drive-in theaters have been a staple of our pop culture diet since the first drive-in opened in Camden, New Jersey on June 6, 1933. Originally called "park-in theaters," customers paid $0.25 per car and $0.25 per person, but never more than a dollar per group. The concept exploded in popularity after World War II, with around 5,000 drive-ins dotting the landscape from the late 1950s to the early 1960s. Drive-in movie theaters didn't exactly go extinct in the years after, but the multiplex rose to far greater prominence. Today, there are fewer than 400 drive-in movie theaters still operating in the United States — but they're all worth checking out. Ready to plan your next road trip? Here are the coolest drive-in theaters in America!

Get your kicks on Route 66 at the Tulsa hangout from The Outsiders

The Admiral Twin drive-in has been an institution in Tulsa, Oklahoma ever since it opened in 1951. Located just off of historic Route 66, the Admiral Twin is pure Americana on two big, beautiful screens. In addition to being an essential stop on any Route 66 road trip, the Admiral Twin is also a must-visit for fans of Francis Ford Coppola's classic, The Outsiders. Based on S.E. Hinton's beloved novel, The Outsiders is set in Tulsa in the 1950s and tells the story of the rivalry between the rich "Socs" (pronounced so-shis) and the poor "Greasers" (on account of the grease in their hair). Key scenes take place at the Admiral Twin, and it remains a place of pilgrimage for fans of the book and movie alike.

Though a fire burned down the original wooden screens in 2010, Tulsans only had to go two summers without their beloved drive-in, as the Admiral Twin was rebuilt with a steel screen in 2012. Stay gold, Admiral Twin!

Play. Eat. Drink. Repeat.

How awesome is Four Brothers Drive In? Their website's URL is playeatdrink.com. Playing, eating, and drinking are a few of our favorite things (also movies) so yeah, don't mind if we do! Four Brothers Drive In opened in Amenia in upstate New York in 2015, and for five years has been the perfect weekend getaway for NYC-dwellers looking to escape the city. Four Brothers is just a two-hour trip from the heart of Manhattan and is totally worth it. 

Calling itself a "boutique theatre," the drive-in mixes retro flourishes with modern flair, like cultural indie films, and "Throwback Thursdays," where they screen old-school films, usually including an '80s classic. Want something more eclectic than buttered popcorn and a Coke? Four Brothers offers locally sourced food, including rice pudding, salmon burgers, Nutella shakes, affogatos, and a full craft cocktail menu. But Four Brothers is way more than a movie theater. They boast an EV charging station, food trucks, mini-golf, and even Hotel Caravana, an airstream trailer you can rent overnight. Truly, they live up to their own URL.

The largest drive-in in the world is in Dearborn, Michigan

The Ford Drive-In in Dearborn, Michigan has a massive presence in its community — literally. The Ford Drive-In claims it is the "largest drive-in in the world." A bold claim to be sure, but this mammoth facility has the footprint to back it up. The Ford Drive-In features five screens and a 1,700 car capacity on a massive plot of land that could be a small city unto itself. But the behemoth operation, which opened more than 70 years ago, wasn't always so big. The theater opened with just one screen, then expanded to nearly ten under new management. After years of population decline in the Detroit area, the theater decided to scale back, but still houses five huge screens. After so many decades, employees can rattle off tales of everything from R-rated in-car dalliances to a whole lot of truly spectacular costumes. The Ford Drive-In has been making a big impact on Michigan moviegoers for generations, with hopefully many more to come.

"Film never dies" at the Mahoning Drive-In in rural Pennsylvania

Most drive-in movie theaters show first-run flicks. But most drive-in movie theaters aren't the Mahoning Drive-In. Founded in 1948, Mahoning's tagline is "where film never dies," and they back it up with weekend-long festivals focused on films other than first runs of the latest Avengers, Fast and the Furious, or Star Wars film. Zombie Fest screens cult horror films over three nights, while the Universal Monster Mash shows classic monster flicks like Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolf Man. You can even camp out ... if you dare! 

More broadly themed events include Bite Night, which shows classic 35mm prints of Jurassic Park and Jaws, and Second Chance Weekend, which features critically panned flicks that bombed at the box office, but still deserve love. There's even Christmas movies in July! Video game Movie Night, Rocky Balboa Bash, Superman Super Show ... It's a cinephile's paradise. If all of this doesn't get your movie-lover's heart beating, they also have the biggest CinemaScope screen in Pennsylvania, and offer an exclusively retro 35mm film program that is presented reel-to-reel via original 1940's Simplex projectors. You might not be able to go back in time and watch a movie at a drive-in during the 1950s, but visiting the Mahoning Drive-In just 80 miles northwest of Philly comes pretty close.

The Blue Starlite brings boutique experiences to Texas and Colorado

You don't need a MBA to know that if you're going to open a business, it helps to have a slogan. The Blue Starlite opened in 2009 with a doozy: "The world's one and only mini urban boutique drive-in movie theater." Okay, so that's a bit of a mouthful, but The Blue Starlite backs it up at its two year-round theaters located in Austin, Texas and Round Rock, Colorado. 

While lots of drive-in movie theaters try to pack in enough cars to film a stunt scene from The Fast & The Furious, The Blue Starlite offers a more intimate experience, with four areas holding no more than 200 people total. Their newest addition, Drive-In Alley, holds only 14 cars. In addition to first-run features, The Blue Starlite has annual traditions, like screening horror films in October and Christmas films in December. The theater also shows "childhood favorites," and even did a Burt Reynolds film festival. So how successful has The Blue Starlite's boutique drive-in experience business model been? So successful that they can no longer claim to be the "one and only" ones to do it. Since the concept has taken off, their new tagline is "Austin's premiere boutique drive-in movie event space." Good adjustment, Blue Starlite.

This upstate NY spot is a drive-in indie theater

The Greenville Drive-In keeps things wonderfully simple. The drive-in theater's home of Greenville, New York is a spacious 3,700-person community located in the Catskills — the perfect sort of place to take in the beauty of nature and cinema alike. Though it opened in 1959, the Greenville Drive-In is not your typical 61-year old. It's more like your vegan hippie grandma who brews organic tea, lives off the grid, and brags about her compost pile. 

Local is the word here, as the Greenville Drive-In sells locally sourced food and beer, and even has its own beer garden. Brewmasters are even invited to come discuss their beers before showings. As far as movies go, the Greenville Drive-In shows popular classic films, mainly double features of '80s and '90s favorites. However, the theater also likes to "partner with emerging filmmakers to provide them with a space to screen and discuss their work." So basically it's a hip, neighborhood indie movie theater combined with an old-school drive-in, in a truly gorgeous part of the country. Sounds like it's worth the trip.

This magical drive-in helps keep Austin weird

Doc's Drive-In describes itself as "Austin's Most Magical Drive-In Movie Experience," which is appropriate because the theater pretty much combines everything we love about Austin. While Doc's is technically located in Buda, Texas, about 15 miles southwest of Austin, the theater has embodied Austin's lovably weird spirit since it opened in 2018. The two screens pair popular first-run films with two-for-one classic combos: Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade and Twister, Risky Business and The Megetc. Okay, then. Keep Austin Weird, right?

Doc's concessions are as eclectic as their movie combos. Texas' capital is known for its barbecue and Tex-Mex, so naturally Doc's Drive-In serves delicious pulled pork sandwiches for smoked meat lovers, chips-and-salsa for Mexican food lovers, and nachos with shredded brisket for folks who love both. There are also fancy hot dogs, waffles, and the on-site beer-and-wine bar Mama Merlot's. Put simply, Doc's makes your local multiplex's Milk Duds and Icee machine seem sad in comparison. Does this sound like a place you'd never want to leave? Good thing you can also rent a movie-themed tiny house at Weewok Village right next to Doc's Drive-In. Is this heaven? Nope, it's Doc's!

The South Bay Drive-In is the best of SoCal

The South Bay Drive In is a picture-postcard image of Southern California, masterfully mixing the drive-in movie scene with all that's wonderful about the beach. Located in San Diego, South Bay Drive In lets you watch a movie just a stone's throw away from the Pacific Ocean — the Imperial Beach Pier is only three miles away. Every major movie theater has surround sound, but in how many can you can watch a film backed by the lapping of the waves? And thanks to San Diego's year-round warm weather, South Bay Drive In has no off season, and is open seven days a week, all year long, showing movies even during the rare times it rains. The South Bay Drive In has been a part of the community since opening in 1958, and gives back to it too by hosting a swap meet for local vendors three times a week.

The Wellfleet offers a taste of New England

For nearly 63 summers, New Englanders have sat in their cars and watched movies under the stars at The Wellfleet Drive-In. The Wellfleet Drive-In opened in 1957 and is the last of its kind in the Cape Cod area, located less than a two-hour drive from Boston, Massachusetts. While the Wellfleet Drive-In serves your standard movie theater concessions like popcorn, candy and soft drinks, this is New England, so you can also order oysters as well. The Wellfleet Drive-In has become the centerpiece of a bustling entertainment complex: There's a mini golf course, a flea market, and several restaurants serving beer, breakfast sandwiches, hard ice cream and soft-serve, and root beer floats. Besides first-run showings, the Wellfleet Drive-In also shows retro classics. Mini golf, ice cream, flea market finds, shellfish, and the salt breeze of Cape Cod — could there possibly be anything better?

Bengies boasts the biggest movie screen in America

Bengies Drive-In makes your standard IMAX screen look like your smartphone. Seriously: It boasts the biggest movie theater screen in the whole country, at a colossal 52 feet high and 120 feet wide. So if you watched Avengers: Endgame and thought, "This is great, but I really wish Thanos' nose was the size of my car," then Bengies is the place for you. 

Located in Middle River, Maryland, less than a half-hour drive from Baltimore, Bengies has served moviegoers in the mid-Atlantic region since 1956, right in the middle of drive-in movie culture's peak in popularity. In fact, you can take a trip back in time, as Bengies screens classic cartoons and vintage trailers in between showings. While many drive-in theaters are known for double features, Bengies does triple features on weekends — but what else would you expect from America's biggest theater? Speaking of big, you better bring a huge appetite too. Bengies serves craft sodas, egg rolls, hot dogs, burgers, donuts, cotton candy, and even pickles on sticks.

"America's Most Beloved Drive-In" is in Mendon, Massachusetts

While some drive-in movie theaters claim to have the biggest screen, the most screens, or the widest assortment of concessions, the Mendon Twin is more straightforward with its brand tagline. The Mendon Twin says it is "America's Most Beloved Drive-In!" and to be honest, we admire the boldness. Located in Mendon, Massachusetts, less than an hour's drive from Boston, the Mendon Twin has been serving moviegoers in the middle of Massachusetts since opening in 1954. The Mendon Twin has become a New England institution during its 66-year run, and shows two first-run features a night on the two biggest screens in the state. For those with a taste for nostalgia, Judi's Snack Bar is decorated in a retro fashion, while Ernie's Ice Cream window serves those with a sweet tooth. For the past six years there's also been Pop's Beer Garden, with six beers on tap, wine by the glass, and a fire pit, all on a 5,000-square foot patio that offers a view of screen one. It's classic, forward-thinking, and a whole lot of fun, all at once. 

The Fairlee is a sleep-in movie theater

You've heard of a drive-in movie theater, but what about a sleep-in movie theater? The Fairlee Motel & Drive-In is all of the above, and then some. Founded in 1950, this establishment is one of the oldest drive-in theaters on our list, and it resides in the quaint New England town of Fairlee, Vermont. With a population just hovering around 1,000 residents, Fairlee is hardly anyone's idea of a metropolis, but the Fairlee Motel & Drive-In is a local attraction that even much larger cities can't claim. It shows first-run films on a nice-sized screen, with a concession stand that includes all-American favorites like burgers, hot dogs, mozzarella sticks, and ice cream. But here's the kicker — the Fairlee Motel is on the same property as the drive-in theater, so you can watch the screen from your room. They pipe the sound in and everything. Are you the type who likes to watch movies in bed? Well, imagine that, but much bigger!

The Blue Fox is a 13-year old kid's dream

The Blue Fox is the drive-in movie theater you would have opened when you were in sixth grade. For one thing, you can catch the latest first-run movies on the giant drive-in movie screen. For another, during the weekends you can also race go-karts on the quarter-mile track and play arcade games. Is your inner child jumping for joy yet? But wait, because it gets better. The concession stand serves Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, 50 types of candy, and enormous mugs of soda. And when we say enormous, we mean it: At The Blue Fox, they are called Really Big Mugs and you can choose between 64-ounces and 100-ounces. Your dentist will hate you, but it's so worth it. 

Founded in 1959, the Blue Fox is located less than two hours northwest of Seattle in a town called Oak Harbor, Washington, on Whidbey Island. Which is appropriate, as The Blue Fox kind of sounds like Peter Pan's island Neverland, where you never have to grow up.

The Coyote Drive-in is worth howling over

This coyote is most certainly not ugly. Located in Fort Worth, Texas, the Coyote Drive-In is a Texas-sized, four-screen, drive-in movie theater. Bored by the movie? Not a problem. The Coyote Drive-In is on Panther Island, located on the Trinity River in Fort Worth, Texas: It's surrounded by gorgeous views one could gaze at for hours. 

The menu is almost as expansive as the sights. Choose from pizza, hot dogs, and Tex-Mex classic Frito pie, or get fancy with the Cordon Blue sandwich. The drink menu is even more impressive, with a long lineup of local beers, red and white wines, and even a craft cocktail called the Infinite Monkey Rose. Our advice? Come hungry and thirsty. There are also playgrounds, and a canteen that often features live music. It's entertaining, relaxing, satiating, and fun for the whole family, deep in the heart of Texas.

The Swap Shop in Florida needs its own zip code

The Swap Shop in Fort Lauderdale, Florida should have its own section in the Guinness Book of World Records. It has 14 screens, which is the most screens of any drive-in theater in the entire country. It also has the largest daily flea market in the entire world, with pretty much whatever you can think of spread across 88 acres of space, making it almost as big as the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. And if that wasn't enough, the Swap Shop also has a giant video arcade and a free Ferrari museum as well. We were a little caught off-guard by the Ferrari museum too, but are totally down for it all the same. 

You don't have to have an expensive Italian sports car to enjoy the drive-in experience though. With 14 screens to choose from there's pretty much something for everyone, including new releases, recent favorites, and classic movies like Jaws. The Swap Shop shows movies seven days a week, 365 days a year, rain or shine, for only $7. With prices like that, you'll have plenty of cash left over to snag something spectacular at that flea market.

The oldest drive-in theater in America

When you visit Shankweiler's you're not just enjoying a drive-in movie — you're getting the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of American history. Okay, so it might not be the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. or Gettysburg just two hours southwest, but for pop culture junkies and movie lovers, it's pretty darn close. Located in Orefield, Pennsylvania, just an hour north of Philadelphia, Shankweiler's opened in 1934, making it the first drive-in in Pennsylvania, and the second drive-in ever, after the Park-In Theater in Camden, New Jersey. Founded in 1934, Shankweiler's is also the longest-running drive-in theater on this list — and in the entire United States!

Shankweiler's is no old fogey, however. America's oldest drive-in movie theater is still going strong, and has been showing first-run movies for 86 years running. As far as snacks go, there are your standard movie theater concessions like popcorn and nachos, as well as some fair food like funnel cakes, Polish water ice, and even BBQ. So Shankweiler's is basically like visiting the grandparent who lets you eat and watch whatever you want. Nice!

Be one with nature while watching a movie

The Falconwood Drive-In movie theater is located in Omaha, Nebraska on a wide-open, pristine 26-acre park that encapsulates the beauty of the Midwest. While it calls itself a drive-in, you don't need a car as walk-in patrons are also welcome. Before the sun goes down, enjoy a game of sand volleyball, badminton, horseshoes, or even ride a vintage Ferris wheel. When the stars come out, enjoy one of the latest new releases, or catch a contemporary classic, like Die Hard or the OG The Lion King

If you show up late and miss out on a parking spot, no worries. Just be sure to bring a blanket so you can watch the movie from the park. Or better yet, pack a tent and spend the night under the stars for an extra $10. There's also the 6,000-square foot lodge and 3,000-square foot patio, which is becoming one of Omaha's most popular spots for weddings and special events. Getting married at a drive-in movie theater? Uh, yeah! Falconwood Park also hosts the Hullabaloo Music Festival every summer, welcoming national touring acts, as well as up-and-coming artists. 

The Harvest Moon is powered by wind

The Harvest Moon drive-in movie theater is unlike any other. Located in Gibson City, Illinois, a little less than two hours south of Chicago, the Harvest Moon is the world's first drive-in movie theater powered by wind. That's right: This Great Plains-based drive-in can brag about being the greenest movie theater on this list. The Harvest Moon made the switch in 2009, proving you can be sustainable and still show moviegoers a great time. 

The Harvest Moon drive-in features two screens which show new releases for the price of $8 per adult. The menu is pretty spectacular too. Besides a vast selection of traditional movie theater snacks, there's also the Burger Barn, which serves a Pony Shoe sandwich. What's a Pony Shoe, you ask? If you're not from Illinois, you may have never heard of it. The Pony Shoe is a smaller-sized portion of the Horseshoe sandwich, an Illinois tradition which originated in Springfield, and is essentially an open-faced cheeseburger with french fries served on top. Honestly that might be worth the trip on its own. If you're looking for good eats, great flicks, and a green movie-going experience, the Harvest Moon is a win-win-wind.