Minnesota Drive-In Movie Theaters

No matter what your age is, drive-in movie theaters make for a fun retro outing

Photo courtesy Michael Flippo

My very first drive-in theater experience was at Vali-Hi Drive-In in Lake Elmo last June, and I pretty quickly realized that I had been missing out on something amazing. The first sign was the long line of cars waiting to get into the park. My friend and I thought 20 minutes would be an adequate amount of time to show up, buy a ticket, and situate ourselves before the film—we were wrong. However, we got lucky and ended up getting two of the very last tickets for the night.

As we winded around the hundreds of parked cars looking for an open spot, we ooh-ed and ahh-ed over people’s set-ups. We were just planning on staying in our small car, turning the radio to the correct station, and enjoying our snacks. Other people went all out. Some had brought their pick-ups loaded with blankets and pillows in the bed. Some had their SUV trunks’ popped and stocked with plenty of snacks and coolers while they sat around on lawn chairs or picnic blankets. Adults grilled and visited while kids played yard games and waited for the movie to start.

The night we went was perfect weather, with clear skies and a warm breeze, and between the oldie music being played over the drive-in station and the giddy laughs of the kids having a good time right next to us, we decided that going to a drive-in movie theater was possibly the cutest, most genuinely uplifting summer activity someone could participate in. Whether you’re only planning to stay for the first feature (usually the most family friendly) or hoping to make a whole night out of it (literally—the movies sometimes go until 3 in the morning), one thing’s for sure—you’ll be glad you made the trip. Check out these three Minnesota drive-in movie theaters below and start planning for your own theater adventure.

Vali-Hi Drive-In

Located in Lake Elmo just 20 miles east of Minneapolis, Vali-Hi Drive-In sells adult tickets for $9.50 and children tickets (6-12 year olds) for $1 with kids 5 and under free (cash only!). And, besides showing three feature-length films, the drive-in also offers concessions and a video game arcade for theater-goers that come early.

Starlite Drive-In

Starlite Drive-In is located in Litchfield about an hour and a half west from Minneapolis. Although it’s a trek if you’re coming from the Twin Cities, this popular movie destination is located right off the highway, away from city lights, giving attendees an excellent view of the stars on a clear night. With two screens and two films at each, movie-goers can choose which features they’d prefer to see (note: switching screens between features is not allowed).  Admission for adults is $7, $3 for children 6-12, and free for children 5 and under.

Long Drive-In Theatre

If you’re up north by the Brainerd area (or hoping to make a visit sometime soon), Long Drive-In Theatre is only an hour away. For those in Alexandria, it takes even less time—40 minutes. Open since 1956, this theater not only provides two feature films but also camping (tent and RV) and a full-service fast food restaurant that is open all night long. Check the website for menu items and a tentative schedule for the summer. Anyone planning to come while Solo: A Star Wars Story is playing is invited to give their best Chewie impersonation for a chance of free popcorn, too.

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