Drive-In Movie Theaters
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Grab a parking spot at one of these cinemas under the stars—Reinvented for a new generation

By Anna Fader

If your mental image of a drive-in movie theater is a scene from American Graffiti, you need to update your memes. Forget those sprawling old-school lots down some little-used road on the outskirts of town. Now urban—and even guerrilla—automobile-friendly theaters allow cinema lovers to enjoy this pasttime in a modern way. The newest trend is the mini drive-in. And the great news for Chevrolet Spark owners? The smallest cars get to park up front!

These intimate metropolitan open-air theaters include Los Angeles’ Electric Dusk, which sets up in a dowtown rooftop parking lot, and Austin’s Blue Starlite, which accommodates only 45 cars at its film studio location.

Here are a few more must-visit drive-ins that are redefining this tradition for a new generation of families.

Delsea Drive-In Theatre
Vineland, New Jersey

New Jersey is where it all began 80 years ago, and Delsea is the only one of the state’s old-school sites to make it into the twenty-first century.

Full Moon Drive-In
San Diego, California

A San Diego middle school becomes a digital retro drive-in by night, with an area for socializing and preferential parking for classic cars.

Cascade Drive-In
Chicago, Illinois

Chicago’s favorite spot for outdoor movies provides a BBQ for cooking up your own concessions.

Family Drive-In Theatre
Stephens City, Virginia

Virginia’s classic theater attracts Washington, D.C., hipsters and families whose children love the playground.

Santa Cruz Guerilla Drive-In
Santa Cruz, California

The organizers behind these pop-up gatherings are aiming to reclaim public space for the greater good with movies that are always free and promote good karma.

Hyde Park Drive-In Theatre
Hyde Park, New York

Hyde Park Theatre (along with its sister cinema-under-the-stars in Poughkeepsie) is the closest classic drive-in to Manhattan, and it’s protected by the National Park Service.

Bengies Drive-In Theatre
Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore boasts the country’s largest outdoor movie screen, so no movie is cropped—ever.

Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre
Wellfleet, Massachusetts

Cape Cod’s only drive-in is a perfect retreat after a day at the beach, with 18 holes of mini-golf for a before or after activity.

If none of these options is near you, check for a comprehensive database of outdoor big screens, past and present. Alternatively, join the wave of movie lovers starting their own drive-in experiences at MobMov. You can use this website to stay informed of guerrilla screenings in your area or to find out how to turn your own car into a source of mobile movies.

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Anna Fader is the founder and editor-in-chief of Mommy Poppins, the ultimate travel blog for families in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut.