10 Tips for Seeing a Drive-In Movie with Kids

What to bring, what to do and how to maximize the fun of visiting a drive-in movie theatre with your family.

Going to a drive-in movie theatre is a memorable experience. There’s just something special about staying up way past your bedtime, snuggling in your vehicle, and watching a movie under the stars with dozens of other families. If you’ve never been, it’s definitely something to add to your family’s spring or summer bucket list! 

To make the most of your drive-in movie theatre experience, it helps to be prepared. Here are 10 tips for visiting a drive-in movie with kids, so you and your family can be comfortable and have as much fun as possible.

Toys to Play with Before the Movie Starts

Almost all drive-in theatres recommend getting there at least an hour before showtime, in order to get settled in your parking space. This means that you will have some down time before the movie starts … with nothing to do. Some drive-in theatres have playgrounds for kids, but it’s good to pack your own entertainment anyway. Glow-in-the-dark balls and frisbees, a portable cornhole or horseshoe set, and activity books will keep kids entertained before (and sometimes during) the show. It’s also a good idea to pack a tablet or portable DVD player in case a kiddo loses interest in the movie early.

Lawn Chairs and Other Places to Sit

Sure, you could sit in your car and watch the movie. But vehicles get hot in the summer, and your family might want to move the party outside. That’s where lawn chairs come in handy. Chairs, sleeping bags and picnic blankets are all great things to bring to the drive-in, and make it easy to watch the movie outdoors.

Portable Radio

Drive-in theatres require you to have access to FM radio in order to pick up on the movie’s sound. You can use the FM radio in your vehicle, but there are some down sides to that. One is that it can drain your vehicle’s battery. The other is that you’re confined to your car in order to hear the movie. Bring a portable FM radio with you to the drive-in to save your vehicle’s battery and allow you to watch the movie outside of your vehicle if you want.

Insect Repellent and a Mosquito Net

Let’s be honest: The Midwest in the spring and summer is a bug fest. Be prepared and pack some insect repellent, and use it liberally. The bugs especially like to come out when the sun goes down, which is also around the time your family will be settling in to watch the movie. If you have a little one in a stroller, think about bringing a mosquito net to drape over the stroller.

Blanket, Pillows and Snuggly Things

The Midwest likes to play games with us. A hot day will turn into a cool night faster than you can say, “Where is my Snuggie?” Bring blankets, sweaters and pillows with you to the drive-in, just in case the night temperatures start to fall. Snuggling in the backseat of the car with a warm pile of blankets is much more memorable than shivering and being cold in the same backseat.

Pajamas or Comfortable Clothes

Drive-in movies typically start at dusk, which can be around 9 p.m. in the Midwest. Then, some drive-in tickets are double features, so you might leave the theatre well after midnight. (Although, you don’t have to stay for both movies!) Chances are, your kids will be up way past their bedtime and will probably fall asleep at some point. Dress your kids in pajamas, or bring them with you to change into, to make the transition from the car to their beds just a little easier.

Extra Cash for Concessions

Some drive-in theaters will allow you to bring your own food, and others won’t. Check with the drive-in theatre you’ll be visiting for their food policies before you go. In either case, it would be wise to have some extra cash on hand in case your family gets a sudden urge for popcorn or Milk Duds. Part of the fun of watching a movie outside of your home is indulging in theatre snacks!

Plates, Napkins, Wet Wipes and Water Bottles

Whether or not your drive-in theatre lets you bring in your own food, bringing extra plates, napkins, wet wipes and water bottles will make everyone’s life easier and more enjoyable. It’s dark, everyone is excited to be out past their bedtime … surely, someone is going to spill something or make a mess. Having wet wipes on hand will allow you to clean those spills and messy hands easily. Bringing your own water bottles also makes it easier to figure out which bottle belongs to who, and you can refill them when you need to.

Flashlights and Glow Sticks

The walk from your vehicle to the drive-in restrooms, at night, is a long one. Pack a flashlight or two so you can find your way to the restrooms or concession area easier. Outfitting your kids with glow sticks or glow necklaces is also a handy way to keep track of them when the sun goes down.

Jumper Cables

If you listen to the movie through your vehicle radio, just know that it will drain your vehicle’s battery. Dead batteries happen more often than you’d think at a drive-in, so be prepared by bringing a set of jumper cables — either for you to use, or to help out someone who might need them. One way to reduce the use of your car’s battery is by bringing a portable radio so you don’t have to use your vehicle. If you must use your vehicle’s radio, then turn off all of the interior lights in your vehicle to reduce the battery drain.

Do you have any other tips for visiting the drive-in theatre with kids? Let us know in the comments!


Drive-In Movie Theaters Around Southwest Ohio

Dixie Twin Drive-In

6201 N Dixie Dr, Dayton, OH 45414

Opening April 2, 2021

Holiday Auto Theatre

1816 Old Oxford Rd, Hamilton, OH 45013

Opening mid-April, 2021

Starlite Drive-In Theatre

2255 OH-125, Amelia, OH 45102

Opening May 7, 2021

Hollywood Drive-In Theatre

1538 Cedar Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45224

No opening date announced yet. Check here for updates.

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