I have wonderful memories of going to the drive-in movies with my family as a child. My folks would place our tiny lawn chairs on the tailgate of the truck and we felt on top of the world! Sometimes we would meet up with my aunt and uncle and the adults would take one truck bed and the kids got the other. It was our own private show!
Sadly drive-in movies are few and far between these days. I get it, I do. People like air conditioning and plush seat that tip back with cup holders and nachos. But there is something about a drive-in movie that sticks in a child’s memory.
Lucy for us there is a drive-in movie theater about an hour from us. They are few and far between, but they still exist. If you look hard enough I bet you can find one too. And find one you should! The memories are well worth the time it takes to get to one. Not to mention, most play double features, so you get your money’s worth. Our family of four was just $28 for TWO movies. In a regular theater we would have paid over $75 for the four of us to see these same two first run movies!
My hubby wasn’t all that thrilled when I brought up the idea of taking the kids to the drive-in this summer. You see it doesn’t get dark till well after the country kids’ bedtime, but since hubby was on vacation, and we never go anywhere because of all the critters, he finally agreed. I think he realized this was something I really wanted them to experience and that it meant a lot to me to give them this memory. Let’s face it, by the time they have children of their own, there probably won’t be any drive-ins left.
If you have never been to a drive-in, you really do, drive in and sit in your vehicle to watch a movie. To be honest though, very few people actually sit in their cars. If you don’t have a pick up truck, take a few lawn chairs and sit in front of your car. The whole feeling of watching a movie outside is what it is all about!
Unlike the “good old days” where there were speakers on stands, modern drive-in theaters have the movie playing over the radio. You can either leave your windows down or use a portable radio which you can rent for a couple bucks. Trust me, when the movie starts, you will hear it from all sides in surround sound because everyone has their radios up.
You can still be comfortable!
Make sure you get to the drive-in with plenty of time to spare. Yes your going to have to wait for the movie to start, but you need to set up. It’s kind of like mini camping. You can put a twin mattress in the bed of your truck and really sack out under the stars. This is perfect for little ones who might not make it through a double feature. We just took a bunch of blankets and pillows and a few lawn chairs to keep everyone comfortable. Bring a blanket or two extra for the adults too. Once the sun goes down it can get a little brisk.
Take bug spray! Remember you are outside and most likely in a rural field somewhere. There will be a bug or two. We sprayed up as soon as we arrived and really weren’t bothered. We had one or two mosquitoes near midnight, but other then that, we were good.
Pack some snacks
While most drive-in theaters are mom and pop kind of places that really only make money off the concessions stand, some will allow you to bring things in with you. And trust me, during two movies your children will be eating nonstop. Heck ours started chowing before the first movie even started! While it is good to support small family business, your children will eat through your wallet by the end of the first movie. You have been warned, so bring plenty of cash.
We had a cooler with drinks because our kids drink non stop and I really don’t like paying for water and they were not going to suck soda for four hours. We also brought some non junk food like cheese sticks and fruit to combate the sugar intake. Check with your drive in BEFORE you bring in anything. Some drive-ins have a strict no outside food policy and will kick you out (without refund) if you are caught.
If your kids get board waiting, they can always go run around in the grass under the screen. Some drive-in even have little playgrounds just to keep everyone entertained till night falls. Of course you COULD have a conversation, something that seems to be interrupted by screen time so much these day.
Let the fun begin
Once the movie starts, relax. Let your kids be kids. Yes, they are going to talk during the movie. You are outside, it’s okay. The night we went there really weren’t that many vehicles and we were all spaced out pretty good. It is not like an indoor theater where you are stacked on top of each other. Let the kids talk, laugh louder then normal, heck even do a few laps around your car to burn off extra steam. Trust me, no one will care cause their kids will be doing the same thing….. Being kids, enjoying staying up late and watching a movie on a really big screen.
Make sure you hit the bathrooms during the intermission for the second movie. If you have really little ones, try to park close to them if you can. Let your kiddos take their shoes off and cuddle down. It’s not like an indoor theater where there is the “no shirt, no shoe, no service” rule. Pop the shoes off and curl up in those blankets! Heck, when we went, half the kids there were already in their PJs. Pretty smart thinking when the movies didn’t get over till after midnight.
I was impressed that both our boys made it through both movies. Of course all that fresh air and the late hour caught up to them seconds after we hit the road for home. It was almost 2 am when we finally got home and to be honest, I don’t think our littlest was aware of his body walking into the house. Of course they slept till almost noon, but it was so worth it to give them this memory they can cherish well into adulthood. And I know it made an impression on them because they keep asking when we can do it again!
Things to think about
It’s just common sense that smaller cars park towards the front and taller vehicles park near the back. Some drive-ins have color coated parking because some folks just don’t seem to get it. Make sure you take your vehicle size into consideration when picking a spot.
Some drive-ins allow pets, not just service dogs. Of course you need to keep them on a leash and pick up their waste, but now Fido can join the family for a show!
Most drive-ins still allow smoking. Be aware. Most smokers are courteous enough to move to the end of the row before lighting up, but you should know it is a possibility. Of course if you are a smoker, make sure you check the rules on when and where you can smoke.
Know how your vehicle lights work and how to turn them off! Most new cars have lights that stay on for certain periods of time after the vehicle is stopped. Others have interior lights that remain on while there is a door or hatch that is open. Make sure to read your vehicle’s manual and know how to turn all of these off once the movie starts.
And most important of all…. it is easy to see inside of cars. Some people forget this fact and seem to think no one can see what they are doing inside their car during the movie. So for those of you who might be “romantically inclined” the drive-in is not the time or place.