Drive-In Theaters are a Michigan Summer Treat

The drive-in movie is still alive in Michigan – and a ton of fun for kids and adults alike. It’s good to know a few tips to make the most of your time out, though, because there are some things that make a night out at the drive-in much different than your typical cinema.

We’ve found area drive-ins for your next summer adventure, as well as all the tips you’ll need for making the most of your evening.

Six West Michigan (and Beyond!) Drive-In Theaters

Sadly, Danny Boy’s in Ionia is gone. That was a beloved drive-in movie theater in West Michigan. Thankfully, we have some others to choose from!

Cherry Bowl Drive-In | Honor, MI (Benzie County)

This historic landmark has been an “Up North” Tradition dating back to the ’50’s.

In addition to showing movies on a big screen, Cherry Bowl also offers 50’s style mini-golf and has a wonderful playground.

Muskegon Getty Drive-In | Muskegon, MI

The Getty Drive-In has been around since 1948 and today is owned by the same people that own Celebration Cinemas. This theater boasts FOUR giant outdoor screens. You’ll find concessions and a kids’ play area here, too.

Capri Drive-In Theater | Coldwater, MI

Since the summer of ’64, the Capri Drive-In Theater has been a fun, safe, clean and memorable family destination. This theater has 2 screens, a full snack bar and affordable prices.

Getty Drive In - Shelia Johnson

Image courtesy of local mom and blogger Sheila Johnson from Eat2Gather.

Sunset Drive-In Theater | Hartford, MI

Sunset Drive-In has been entertaining west Michigan since 1948. Affordable concessions and a playground plus special offers such as a military discount. No outside food or drink is allowed.

5 Mile Drive-In | Dowagiac, MI

Built in 1961, 5 Mile is the sister theater of Sunset. Affordable concessions and a playground plus special offers such as a military discount. No outside food or drink is allowed.

US 23 Drive-In | Flint, MI

Open 7 nights a week, rain or starlight. Affordable concessions, outside food is discouraged.

What to Expect at a Drive-In Movie

Fun at a drive-in starts well before the first credits roll. Depending on the theater, you’ll usually have different outdoor play options. Some people will get there as early as possible and eat a late dinner at the drive-in.

Danny Boy Drive In Theater

The Show Starts at Dark

Drive-in movies don’t start until after the sun goes down, so that means the start time of the movies will sync with sunset times. You’ll want to check the showtimes at your theater before you leave.

You Get Two Movies for the Price of One

It’s typical for drive-in theaters to have double-headers. The trade-off for getting two movie tickets for the price of one is that the second movie can start very late (starting around midnight at times) so be sure to figure this into your plans.

What to Bring to a Drive-In

Your Vehicle and Seating Choice Matters

There are a few different ways you can situate yourself for movie viewing:

  • Pull into a parking spot and watch from the front seat. Only those in the front will be able to see, though. It’s not the best option if you have kids along.
  • Back into your spot if you have a truck, SUV, or van. Open the back hatch or make a bed in the truck bed and cozy up.
  • If you don’t want to sit in a vehicle for the show, bring comfortable lawn chairs, pillows, and blankets to sit on.

Danny Boy Drive in Movie Michigan

Cool Parents Bring Glow Sticks

Completely optional, of course, but bringing glow sticks is a ton of fun for the littler kids. You might also consider bringing bubbles and other outdoor activities for before the show.

Plan for Cool Nights and Insects

Even the hottest days can have cool summer nights. Add to that a lakeshore location and you could be in for a chilly evening. Bring blankets, sleeping bags, jackets and other items to keep you warm.

Also, bring insect repellent. Bugs come out at night, even in places you’d be surprised to find them. Bring this along and you’ll have no trouble with the little pests.

Snacks are a Must

When it comes to food, drive-in theaters offer concessions AND allow you to bring in your own food as well. Bring a pizza if you want to! But check the rules of your specific drive-in before heading out.

Danny Boy's Drive In Movie Michigan

Jumper Cables are Handy

Most people will listen to the show’s audio by tuning their car’s radio station to the theater’s channel. Do this for long and you may find your car battery dead. This is really common and people are usually ready to give your car a jump-start, but it can help the process to have a set of jumper cables in your trunk (hey, maybe you could help someone else in need!). The theaters are typically ready to help out with jumping a car if needed.

Have you been to a drive-in movie recently? Where did you go? Any tips to share?

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