When someone mentions “drive-in” to you, do you think of fast food, or gargantuan screens in front of rows of parked cars, playing B-grade horror or sci-fi flicks?
The relics of a bygone era, the drive-in theater still exists, just not in abundance anymore. Any drive down backwater rural roads these days may reveal the abandoned hulks of these once-great date destinations, their towering screens ripped and dark, the listening posts a mute testimony to the heyday of ‘courting’ and hanging out. (And if you don’t get what I mean, just watch Happy Days on TVLand and you’ll get it.)
The drive-ins that survive today do so out of a mix of nostalgia and determination. And the fact that these days, ‘retro’ is the new style. But even so, drive-in theaters are disappearing. Going to a drive-in is an experience like no other. Doesn’t matter how old you are. Pack up the kids in the minivan or SUV and head out for a double (or triple!) feature, snacking on your own healthy foods or nosh on typical fast-food fare from the refreshment stand. Ticket prices are usually per person but at a much cheaper rate than today’s urban theaters, so a family of four can check out two movies for the price of one person’s ticket at your local cineplex.
And if the weather’s nice, all the better.
Sadly, there’s only two drive-ins in operation near DC. If you go, it’s going to be a small production, requiring a car ride of at least an hour. But the experience is well worth it. Besides, it’s something radically different than the usual fare these days, but still has appeal to all ages.
So break out the cooler with the soda and snacks, and head out to one of these two regional drive-ins for a great romantic evening or family night out:
Bengie’s Drive-in (410.687.5627)
located at 3417 Eastern Boulevard in Baltimore County, Maryland
Recognized by Maryland as one of its official state “treasures,” Bengie’s has the largest screen on the East Coast – measuring 120′ wide and 52′ high. Double features are a rule, and often have triple features on weekends.
Family Drive-in (540.665.6982)
located on Route 11, off the Stephens City exit on I-81 in Virginia
This drive-in still sports a playground up front for the kids. It’s Virginia’s only remaining “twin” with two screens. It’s considered the closest to the DC area and can handle nearly 500 cars.