As the weather warms up and winter becomes a distant memory, you may have to deal with a few different emotions. First, you’ll probably be wishing you’d splurged on a new air conditioner and/or that weekend beach vacation. Next, you’ll probably remember a much simpler time, when squeezing in as much fun playing outside before it got dark was the only anxiety of the summer. Summertime, when the living was truly easy.
Drive-in theaters are not only a perfect remedy for that sense of summertime nostalgia and longing, they’re also a fun way to make a weekend, a date, or time with the family special, no matter the season. These 18 Californian drive-in movie theaters need to be on your bucket list, but should take top priority as summer approaches.
1. Skyline Drive-In, Barstow, California
As one reviewer wrote, this place is full of “fond, childhood memories,” but despite the nostalgia factor, still shows current films. Check out Skyline’s current double features by heading over to their Facebook page.
2. Vineland Drive-In, Industry, California
CBS Los Angeles dubbed Vineland a major “retro” throwback and one of its best drive-in movie theaters in the Los Angeles area, complete with quirky characters and showings seven days a week, all detailed on Vineland’s website.
3. West Wind Capitol Drive-In, San Jose, California
San Jose’s family-owned West Wind Capitol Drive-In is a self-proclaimed “American phenomenon,” which has included the usual popcorn, candy, and new features since 1952. And as one reviewer wrote, “Can't beat a place that allows you to bring your dog to a movie.” Gotta agree. To decide which film you can take in with your doggo, check out this drive-in’s website and Facebook.
4. West Wind Drive-In, Goleta, California
Not to be confused with the aforementioned San Jose location, this theater also allows viewers from a different part of the state a few hours of family fun for only $8.25 for adults and $1.75 for kids ages 5-11. Under five? Totally free. Head over to their website or their Facebook for more deals and details.
5. Paramount Drive-In Theatres, Paramount, California
It’s paramount that you hop in the car and take a trip to this drive-in ASAP. Ok, not ASAP, but as soon as a new movie hits theaters. For the latest at the Paramount Drive-In, check their showings online or on Facebook.
6. Van Buren Drive-In Theatre, Riverside, California
Whether riding by van, car, or truck, Van Buren welcomes all film fans and movie buffs and includes a swap meet for all of those who’d rather be shopping. For more details on the shopping AND the showings, head over to the Van Buren Drive-In Theatre’s website or Facebook page.
7. West Wind Sacramento 6 Drive-In, Sacramento, California
No matter which direction the wind is calling you, West Wind may be the best win when it comes to picking a drive-in in the Sacramento area. Reviewers advise arriving early in order to secure a perfect view. Check out when you’ll need to be there and where you’ll need to park by heading to the West Wind Sacramento website.
8. West Wind Solano Theater, Concord, California
Kids four and under are always free at this drive-in, so it might be time to skip “Fifty Shades” and pack in your younger sibs or your favorite kids, grab the blankets, and check out a movie for a low rate. If you want to make sure you’re seeing a PG-13 or under movie, the theater schedule is available on their website.
9. Mission Tiki Drive-In Theater, Montclair, California
If the movie gets boring, there’s a beautiful view of the rolling hills and towering mountains just behind the screen that might serve as a little extra excitement. The location is definitely two thumbs up. For more details on contests, prices, and showings, check out the Mission Tiki website.
10. Rubidoux Drive-In Theater, Riverside, California
Ok, so you don’t exactly know how to pronounce the name of this Riverside drive-in joint. That’s not what’s important. What’s key here: seven days a week of showings, rain or shine. What more is there to say besides to head over to their website or their Facebook page?
11. South Bay Drive-In Theatre, San Diego, California
Endorsed by the San Diego Travel Authority, this “old-fashioned tradition” since 1958 boasts a popular swap meet on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays and a fully-stocked snack bar. To pick your movie (or your snack), peruse the South Bay Drive-In website.
12. Sunset Drive-In, San Luis Obispo, California
One reviewer called this classic drive-in “the last of its kind” while another said their child actually enjoyed the old-fashioned advertisements that play before movies. Feel the nostalgia by scrolling through their Facebook for photos, reviews, and showings.
13. Madera Drive-In Theatre, Madera, California
Unfortunately, this drive-in closes during the winter. Come May, the doors are reopened and new features are shown. Consider it a perfect way to spend your summer. Their schedule is available online.
14. Lakeport Auto Movies Drive In, Lakeport, California
This drive-in also closes during the winter, but during the summer it boasts “movies under the stars.” If nature’s not your fave, then movies next to a Jack In The Box should entice your taste buds. Once spring has sprung, check their roster of films online.
15. Electric Dusk Drive-In, Los Angeles, California
Oh, and just in case movies under the stars or tucked into rolling hills aren’t your thing, this drive-in features a view of the Los Angeles skyline just beyond its screen. To enhance the wow factor of the city’s setting, Electric Dusk offers showings of vintage blockbusters. Find out what’s playing at Electric Dusk online or on Facebook.
16. Santee Drive In Theatre, Santee, California
Sorry credit card addicts, this one’s truly old-fashioned, aka cash only. Just chalk it up to the nostalgia factor. Luckily, their showings, modern and new, are available on their website or on their Facebook page.
17. Smiths Ranch Drive-In Theater, Twentynine Palms, California
This theater, located close to the scenic Joshua Tree, earned rave reviews for its prices, its location, and its quality. It’s open on weekends, so cancel your plans right now and head over to their website or Facebook page for a list of what’s playing.
18. Hi-Way Drive-In, Santa Maria, California
Because it’s your way, the highway, or the way to a drive-in that also features new releases and a flea market. Score some vintage finds, indulge in some much-needed nostalgia, and check out a movie at Hi-Way. To find out what’s playing check out their Facebook or go online.