Sadly, the drive-in movie theater is going the way of the dinosaur, set to become another piece of America’s “Happy Days” past destroyed by giant, new, air-conditioned, plush-seated movie theaters located in shopping malls. There’s something charming about the drive-in: a place to have a first kiss, share a soda or cuddle under a blanket. And how else can you watch a movie outside while grilling with family and friends? There are still a few of these classic theaters left, so make sure you get out this summer and catch a flick from the comfort of your own vehicle.
11260 Hudson Blvd. N.
Lake Elmo, MN 55042
Vali-Hi Drive-In is about as classic as you can find. The 50s-themed fun in the concessions area will make you feel like you’ve stepped onto the set of “American Graffiti.” The enormous screen waits until the sun goes down, so there is plenty of time to take advantage of the $1 hot dogs (every night), or set up a grill, kick back and do it tailgating style. Three movies are shown back to back, making it one of the best deals you’ll find. And whether you stay for just one or all three, you’re sure to have an old-school good time at Vali-Hi.
24257 Riverside Drive
Long Prairie, MN 56347
This small-town theater opened in 1956, and while it still maintains the charm of that bygone era, the theater knows how to compete in this tech-crazy modern world. For example, check its oft-updated Facebook page to find out what’s on the menu. There are plenty of concessions to enjoy, and as tickets are only $6 for adults, you’ll have plenty of extra cash for popcorn, nachos, pizza… whatever you feel like on a warm Friday or Saturday night. You can plan a weekend trip to the theater and find all sorts of entertainment besides Hollywood movies, including “fright night” weekends of scary movie classics, car shows and even a Jimmy Buffett Concert every now and again.
28264 Minnessota Highway 22
Litchfield, MN 55355
Another classic theater in Minnesota, Starlite has bucked the trend of dying drive-ins, closing in 1982 and reopening after 15 years in 1997 to become one of western Minnesota’s premier movie destinations. Roomy and comfortable, with space for vehicles of all types, and with multiple screens showing all of the latest movies, from romantic comedies to kid-friendly animated movies, a movie night at this classic drive-in is sure to keep everyone in the family happy.
Related: 5 Classic Moms In The Movies
Minnesota Highway 1
Warren, MN 56762
Since the 1970s, Sky-Vu has been committed to providing movie theater fun to new generations. It takes more than just a smile and popcorn to withstand the Netflix and indoor theater era, and Sky-Vu proves it can be done. One big thing that helps is a second-to-none snack bar that serves up such comfort food as a Shorty’s Valley famous BBQ Sandwich with a secret BBQ sauce that will not be revealed, and Marilyn’s Chili Cheese Dog, aka “The Bomb.” Of course, there is plenty of popcorn and cotton candy as well. With good food filling your stomach, a good movie glowing on the screen ahead and good company all around looking to capture the magic of movies, this is a truly memorable summer experience.
Verne Drive In
1607 S. Kniss Ave.
Luverne, MN 56156
Tagged as “A Blast from the Past,” the drive-in theater in Luverne, Minnesota is exactly that. You don’t need much more than room to park and a big screen showing the the latest movies, and the setting is quiet, serene and even peaceful. Relax and let the worries of the work week fade away. Then the movie starts up, the enormous screen flashing the new “Spiderman” movie, and all of a sudden the wonderment of cinema returns and you’re in the middle of the action. You can order pizzas from the concessions stand that will be delivered right to your car window, so there won’t be any break in the action when it’s time to refuel.
Adrian Schramm is a resident Saint Paul writer with a passion for all things local. Through his work with Saint Paul Almanac and Minneapolis Examiner at Examiner.com, as well as in the kitchens of bars and restaurants around town, he has discovered what truly makes the Twin Cities tick.