You Should Definitely Take Your Kids To The Drive-In
Get Ready For A Night Your Kids Will Remember Forever!
Drive-In movies are one of the best things about summer. If you're lucky to live anywhere near one, you should definitely plan on bringing your kids to a Drive-In and sharing this old-fashioned experience with them. I mean, what's not to love? Movie food, pre-show activities and/or entertainment, being outside on lovely summer nights, wearing your PJs... The list goes on. This article has some great tips for going to the Drive-In and making fun memories with your kids.
Why should I bring my family to the Drive-In?
The first Drive-In theatre opened in 1933 and became a huge part of the American Experience during the 1950's. At one point, there were over 4,000 throughout the US. These days, that number is down to around 330 and Drive-Ins have become something of a treasure. Only 5 states don't currently have a single Drive-In (Alaska, Louisiana, Hawaii, North Dakota, and Delaware) so most of us are lucky to have one we can visit - even if it means a road trip. There is something uniquely special about watching a movie at the Drive-In. In some ways, it's less about seeing a movie and much more about the experience: being outside on a warm summer night, eating burgers and pop corn, kids playing flashlight tag with their friends while wearing their PJs in public. In June there are lightening bugs and in August you might catch the Perseid meteor showers. And laughter; lots and lots of laughter. It's an experience that just makes you feel grateful that you were able to share it with the people you love!
So you've decided to go to the Drive-In, you know what movie you'll be seeing and what time it starts. Now what? Make sure you check out their website and/or social media pages to find out if they have pre-show entertainment. Drive-In parking spots are general admission, so lots of families plan on arriving early and lots of Drive-Ins offer fun activities or entertainment to help pass the time. I've seen playgrounds, concerts, miniature golf, inflatables, magicians, and more. But don't worry if your area Drive-In doesn't offer pre-show fun and you don't want to get stuck with antsy kids for 2 hours. I've hardly ever had a bad parking spot and when we've been in places a little far away from the screen we've been able to pack up our stuff and set up in front of the first row of cars - picnic style. Drive-Ins are very flexible places to spend an evening!
What's their food policy? This info is sure to be on their website as well. Some places will let you bring in whatever you want (except maybe alcohol or glass bottles), other places allow you to bring in food but they'll charge a fee for the privilege. Some places have great restaurants on site, and all will have a snack bar of some sort.
Will you stay for the second show? Did you know that you can see two (sometimes even three) movies at the Drive-In for one price? Yes, it's true! You don't get a discount for seeing just one, but you're free to leave after the first movie if it's too late, you have a longish drive, or you just don't want to see it. I recommend deciding before you go what the plan is so that your kids are on the same page and don't freak out if they discover they're missing a film.
Bring some rope or a bungee cord. What?? Yes, you read that right. If you'll be going in your mini-van or SUV and want to sit in the back to watch the show you should bring something to tie your hatch down so that it doesn't fly up past the top of the car. Why? Because you don't want to be the jerk that blocks the view for the people in the rows behind you.
Speaking of vehicles: It's not unusual for Drive-Ins to have general guidelines for parking. Cars get to park closer to the screens (since they're smaller) and mini vans, pickup trucks and SUVs are further back. You can ask the attendants when you pull up to purchase your tickets.
Packing up the car for an evening with your family isn't rocket science, but you do need to keep some things in mind. How long will you be at the Drive-In before show-time and how will you spend it? What's the temperature going to be once the sun goes down? Will you eat dinner there, have a picnic, or snacks only? Where will everyone sit? We usually let our kids and their friends put on their PJs (with regular shoes - we don't want them traipsing all over the Drive-in and then wearing their slippers in the house!) and pack blankets and hoodies for once the sun sets. Folding chairs for all are stowed away because even though people say they want to sit in the back of the minivan it doesn't always work out that way. Flashlights! Don't forget to pack up a few for trips to the bathroom, searching for the Oreo that fell out of someone's hand and shoes at the end of the night. Yes, they will probably be stewn around both in and out of the car. Sure, you could use your phone, but kids have way more fun with flashlights and it won't cost you $900 if they drop it. Bug spray is another little thing that you should include in your packing. On a buggy night people will look at you like you're a hero when you pull out a bottle and ask if anyone would like a spritz!
When you get to the Drive-In they'll tell you which channel to tune your radio to in order to receive the sound from the movie. Some people have success using battery-powered radios to boost the sound to those sitting outside, but we've only needed it when we watched the movie picnic-style in front of the screen, away from our car. We also use one when we take the vintage convertible which only has an old AM radio! The TuneIn Radio App says it can be used at the Drive-In, but we've never personally used it.
Be a good neighbor to the other movie goers and turn off your engine and all the lights. You can listen to the movie through your car speakers by engaging the batter power but not turning the ignition completely on. We've never had any trouble with our battery, but if you're worried about it, bring a portable jumper or cables along with you.
What Are You Waiting For?
Every summer my husband and I look forward to bringing our kids and their friends to the Drive-in and every year stuff gets in the way and the next thing we know school starts in 5 minutes and we have to go to the Drive-In PRONTO, BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE! Don't be like us! Go early, go often, and go with all the best people in your life!
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Helena Robin is President and CEO of the Robin family. She coordinates and executes all family operations including (but not limited to) communications, transportation, management, catering, maintenance, troubleshooting, and cultural development. Her Executive Team comprises a Husband/Creator of Chaos and three unpaid interns.