PLEASE NOTE: This post was written in 2017, and while it should still give you a good overview of the experience, it may also contain some outdated information. Please be sure to visit their website for the most up-to-date information, especially about things like schedules & pricing.
The Southington Drive-In goes way back. All the way back to 1955 actually. Today it’s run entirely by volunteers and benefits many local non-profit civic organizations. And it makes for a fantastic summer evening outing!
A movie at the Southington Drive-In has been on my summer wish list for several years, actually. But I didn’t know that much about it and was a little worried about how my very young kiddos would do there (gee, if only there was a blog out there that would have given me all the details… 🙂 ). But this summer, with my kiddos nearing ages 4 and 7, I thought it was time to give it a try.
The gates open at 6:00pm, but the movie doesn’t actually start until sundown. And by that they mean actual sundown. Which was around 8:30 on the evening we attended. But I would still recommend getting there close to 6:00 because the parking spots fill up pretty fast (if you do come later, don’t despair, there are areas where you can park and walk into the Drive-In– just don’t forget to BYO chairs!). Either way, admission is CASH ONLY.
Once past the booths, there will be plenty of parking attendants who will direct you to a parking space. It’s really important that you follow their directions to make sure all the cars get in there in an orderly fashion and park in a way that maximizes the number of available spots. If you are attending with friends in another car, follow them in and let the attendants know so they can park you next to each other. Also, you’ll probably want to back into the parking space (like all the savvy drive-in devotees) so the rear of your car is facing the screen–that way you can hang out in your trunk while you watch!
So now I bet you are saying to yourself, okay, the movie doesn’t start until 8:30 and I have to arrive around 6:00, so what the heck am I supposed to do with my family for 2+ hours??? Yes, my friends. That was my moment of panic as well. But fortunately, there are plenty of distractions.
For starters, you can eat! There is a food truck serving hamburgers/turkey burgers/giant hot dogs/fries– all kinds of family-friendly food.
There is also a huge pavilion with lots of picnic tables that are great for gathering around. You can bring your own dinner and/or snacks if you prefer.
After dinner, it was time for a visit to Nana’s Ice Cream truck for some dessert.
After treats, we decided to take a stroll around and see what else was happening. The kids enjoyed running around in the wide open field and climbing on the fence. Many families had brought lawn games, frisbees, soccer balls, even board games and cards to entertain themselves.
There was some “official” entertainment as well– a fella there to occupy the kids with fun activities like capture the flag games and water balloons (you may want to pack an extra set of clothes if your kiddos might be interested in that).
If you want to leave the premises (on foot only; once you park your car you can’t leave with it again until you’re ready to exit for the night), you can get a hand stamp at the main entrance or the back, walk-in entrance.
We took a stroll past the athletic fields. We saw a really nice playground nearby too. It looked like it could possibly be connected to a school. I don’t know if it’s a playground that the general public has access to, but if any of our readers have the answer to that question, I’d love to know! Would be really wonderful to have a nearby playground to bide some time while waiting for the movie 🙂
Fortunately, we didn’t have much more time to bide, so we headed back towards the pavilion to collect some very important movie snacks.
Shortly after we arrived at the Drive-In, there was a brief rainstorm (which we waited out under the pavilion). So later, while we were enjoying the shakes, we were also treated to this spectacular sighting.
You’ll be happy to know that there are real restrooms located in this pavilion as well. I would suggest making your initial pit stop well ahead of showtime because the line can get long (there are also several porta-potties around the back in case you have a pressing need). But then once the movie started it seemed to thin out.
With the sun going down behind the screen, it was time to head back to the car and get set up for the main event.
People get really creative when decking out their car trunks and truck beds for the movie– pillows and comforters, futon mattresses, lawn chairs, bean bag chairs, blankets, etc. People also brought folding tables and put out food and snacks (there is no grilling allowed and alcoholic beverages are prohibited). I suddenly felt very underprepared with just a couple of camp chairs 🙂
One other thing I wish I had thought of was to bring a radio. I had assumed people would use their car radios to listen to the show’s audio (tune to 89.9 FM to hear the audio), but at showtime it suddenly occurred to me that that’s an awful long time to use your car’s battery to run the radio, right? Luckily for us, a group nearby had a boom box that they generously placed in a central location so that many of us could hear. The pavilion also has speakers, so if you park near that structure you will be able to hear the movie through those. But my advice would definitely be to bring a battery-operated radio with you so you’re not at the mercy of other drive-in goers…or AAA when your car won’t start later!
At first I had entertained thoughts about staying for the first part of the movie and then heading home early if the kids were fading, but once I saw how closely the cars are spaced (and how many people had set up tables and chairs and lawn games that would have to be moved if we were to try to pull out the car), I realized we were in this for the long haul 🙂
I will be honest and warn you that there may be A LOT of commercials and other promotional messages (as well as some fun throwback TV ads!). I think that went on for 15-20 minutes before the actual feature started. My kids were happy to munch on their popcorn for a while, but as expected, about halfway through the film they decided to curl up in the back of our car and snooze for a bit. They did make a reappearance for the ending though 🙂
Despite the late night (it was after 10:00 when we left!), my family had a fantastic time at our first Southington Drive-In experience. And we weren’t the only ones with kiddos in tow. From toddlers to teenagers, kids of all ages were enjoying themselves (as were the grownups!). Happily, there are still plenty of viewing opportunities left this season (including Moana coming up this Saturday, July 22nd! How fun will that be?!).
Truly, this was one of my favorite outings of all time (and I’ve been on literally hundreds of outings for this blog). Every family should put this summertime activity on their to-do list! We can’t wait to make it a new summer tradition.
We’ll see you at the drive-in!
The 2017 season runs Saturdays from June 3 through October 28. Gates open at 6:00pm. Movie starts at sundown.
Southington Residents: $10/carload
Walk-ins: $2/person (with a $10 maximum per family)
***Each week a different town is selected for “neighbor night” and residents of that town pay the $10/car rate. See the movie schedule for details.***
Stroller Friendly: YES
Coffee Mug Friendly: YES
Restroom: YES; real restrooms are located in the pavilion with additional port-potties out back.
Baby Changing Station: NO
Parking: YES; you can drive in and park on the premises in front of the screen or you can park in an outside lot and walk in.
Food for Sale: YES
Outside Food Allowed: YES, but grilling and alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
Cash Required: YES (For admission and food trucks; the snack bar in the pavilion will take credit cards.)
Dress Code: Nothing special, but bring extra clothes if you think your kiddos may partake in water balloon activities 🙂
Age Recommendations: This will be a late night. We definitely saw some babies and toddlers there, but you may want to bring their jammies 🙂
Evening/Weekend Hours: YES
Discounts: None that we know of.
Birthday Party Venue: N/A
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