Once nostalgic and COVID-safe, drive-in movie theaters have experienced a deserved resurgence over the years, including throughout the Chicagoland area. For those opposed to overcharging popcorn or overcrowding indoor packed theaters (thanks, Tom Cruise). Outdoor and drive-in movies offer similar cinematic wall and communal experiences. Grab the latest Marvel romp, minimizing the risk of exorbitant prices or catching the latest Omicron version.
Holdouts still going strong in ‘Burbs’
In and around Chicago, al fresco movies offer family-friendly options. However, drive-in theaters have dwindled since their heyday in America. Some holdouts are still going strong in ‘burbs, and cheap double amenities deserve mini road trips and old-school concessions like cash-only candy and hot dogs. Meanwhile, if you want to flaunt picnic blankets and BEO snacks, Chicago has plenty of outdoor movie experiences throughout the summer throughout the city. Whether you’re looking for an all-American blast from the past or a casual neighborhood in the park. Here are the best outdoor and drive-in movie theaters near Chicago.
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Drive-in movie theaters in nostalgia
In keeping with the nostalgia tradition, drive-in movie theaters have been set away from the hustle and bustle of modern urban life. Known to be particularly rare relics in quiet suburbs surrounded by some kind of forest and/or plain. While that’s certainly true for most drive-in theaters, one venture is zigging against the Zaggs in the heart of Chicago. Chitown Movies is a full-blown drive-in movie theater in Pilsen, a mural-clad neighborhood on the adjacent southwest side. The theater is surprisingly huge for a city, with plenty of room for 10 rows of cars. All on one giant screen to feature single features such as Shrek, The Sandlot, and the hottest Chicago film ever, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. We do.
Neon-Clad Jukebox & Vintage Arcade Game
From neon-clad jukeboxes and vintage arcade games to old-school radio rentals and movies to listen to. The McHenry Outdoor Theater feels authentically preserved in time. Open since the ’50s, not much has changed at this sprawling drive-in complex north of downtown. That includes its affordable double features and its casual dining provisions. From hot pretzels and hot dogs to the kind of nachos that come in cheese. As neon as the jukebox. The movies start at sunset, and include back-to-back blockbusters like Lightyear and Thor: Love and Thunder.
A vast meadow in the far western suburbs
Set on a sprawling meadow in the far western suburbs, there’s something extra peaceful and rustic about the Route 34 Drive-In Theater. Unlike many drive-in theaters, which are usually located on gravel or dirt. It is more comfortable to sit outside on a lawn chair in a grassy area. Or the children have to run around before sunset. The cash-only property opens at 6:30 p.m. on weekends, with back-to-back movies starting in the evening. On any given week, features can include DC League of Super Pets. This is followed by a whiplash pivot to Twister—a film in which a scene with a drive-in movie theater is blown to bits.