There isn’t much left of historic Americana. The scenic routes are less traveled in favor of the speed and convenience of interstate highways, and some of the best local shops and eateries have been lost to big chains.
It sounds cliché but it’s true – many of the simple pleasures our parents and grandparents enjoyed just aren’t around anymore. But tucked away in rural America and sometimes even hidden in the city, we can find a magical venue that gives us a nostalgic glimpse into the past – the drive-in theater.
What makes drive-ins so magical?
What’s so special about a drive-in? It’s nothing more than an outdoor movie theater, right? While in theory, the movies are the same, the experience couldn’t be more different. The chance to watch a movie in your own car is a fun throwback to a simpler, slower, more innocent time. It’s classic, it’s personal, and it’s been a staple in this country for nearly a century.
There are still some gems along Historic Route 66, and the 66 Drive-In, located in the heart of the Midwest, is one of the more notable stops along this classic road. This vintage drive-in feels like a time machine into decades past and shows double features every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night.
This three-screen theater in eastern Connecticut draws crowds from miles away, as one of the only vintage drive-in theaters in the state. Some of the best and oldest drive-ins originated along the east coast, but few are left standing today. Luckily, Mansfield Drive-In Theatre & Marketplace is one of them.
Admiral Twin is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year and still stands tall, literally, as one of the best movie theaters in the city of Tulsa. Its twin screens tower a mighty nine stories which give viewers plenty to see as it shows feature films every weekend.
Drive-ins aren’t just for charming rural towns. A few big cities are lucky enough to boast some of the best drive-in movie theaters in the country. Bengies of Baltimore has authentic retro style and plays features through the night on its 6,240 foot screen – the largest in the U.S. – while moviegoers tune in on their FM radios.
Located outside of Detroit in Dearborn, the home of Henry Ford, the Ford Drive-In is the perfect homage to the American automobile industry. It bills itself as the largest drive-in in the country and can accommodate up to 3,000 cars at once during its double features. Located just outside Detroit, this is one of the very best ways to celebrate classic America.
Dallas, Oregon may not have the Cowboys, but it does host one of the best drive-ins in America. First opened in 1953, Motor Vu is loved for its big screens and feature films, but possibly most for its delicious concessions, since it serves some of the best pizza in the state.
Wheel-In Motor Movie
Port Townsend, Washington
In business since 1953 and one of just five drive-ins left in Washington State, the Wheel-In is so beloved that nearly 500 fans stepped up in 2014 to crowdfund the theater’s transition to digital projection. Now outdoor cinema lovers can keep on enjoying movies under the stars, at this sweet little theater nestled in the tall pines.
Photo by: Jack Pearce