Drama at the drive-in

Plan ahead for a fun, family outing


For many adults, going to the drive-in movie theater is a cherished memory. Perhaps you remember the crunch of the gravel as you walked to the concession stand or the echoing of the soundtrack in the night air.

But packing up a self-contained movie theater on four wheels can seem daunting. And going to a drive-in has become harder—many have closed to make room for new developments.

Still, there are a few drive-ins left in the Chicago area. To make it fun for the family, all it takes is some planning.

The first step is to find a theater. I found out about the Cascade Drive-In Theatre, 1100 E. North Ave., West Chicago, www.cascadedrivein.com, at www.Drive-ins.com. You can also check the showtime section of Chicago Parent Going Places at www.chicagoparent.com.

After you find a drive-in, the next challenge is finding a family-friendly movie. Most drive-ins understand this. If they have two screens, one often shows a family movie while the other shows a film for adults. At theaters showing a double feature on one screen, the more family-friendly movie is shown first. When my family went, “Batman Begins” was shown first, followed by “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”

Make sure you call ahead to check the movie schedule and times. If you’re headed to the Cascade, call (630) 231-3150.

Once you settle on a movie, think about supplies—kids are likely to get antsy, hungry and tired. 

Many drive-ins still have a green area in front—perfect for pre-movie playing. The Cascade’s green area was large enough for my four kids, ages 8 months to 13 years, to crawl around or toss a Frisbee. A baseball and glove, comic books or other games might also come in handy. And don’t forget bug repellent.

While there are many treats at the concession stand, it’s a good idea to bring your own food—especially if your kids are picky. In the case of my 4-year-old daughter, Sara, who does not like carbonated drinks, it was juice boxes, fruit snacks and animal crackers.

Bartlett mom Michelle Martino, who caravans to a drive-in every year with friends, suggests candy, blankets, brownies and cards.

Denise Deany, of St. Charles, has been going to the Cascade Drive-In since she was a kid. When she takes her four kids, ages 4 to 10, she brings popcorn, drinks, chairs, blankets and pillows (since this is a late-night affair, little ones are likely to get sleepy).

Inevitable spills require paper towels, wet wipes and a change of clothes. 

For the best view, arrive when the gates open. The first few rows are reserved for cars. The rest are for mini vans, trucks and SUVs.

Then pull out your animal crackers and juice boxes, sit back and enjoy the show. Karyn Bowman

Kids Eat Chicago

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