AT THE DRIVE-IN on National Drive-Thru Day

The American Drive-In invention was patent approved in May 1933 by the huge movie fan Richard Hollingshead. The first Automobile Movie Theatre later opened in June 1933. During the golden age of drive-ins between the 1950s and '60s, there were more than 4,000 drive-ins throughout the United States. Here's where they can be found across the world and celebrated annually today (24th July) National Drive-Thru Day.

Top Gun, Drive-In Movies, Edinburgh © itison

AT THE DRIVE-IN on National Drive-Thru Day

Today, we celebrate National Drive-Thru Day - which couldn’t be more timely. With the launch of many drive-ins and drive-thru’s here in the UK as we navigate our way into the long term impacts of social distancing, we look at the revival and innovations of drive-ins and even more drive-thru options around the world. Once a retro pastime, contactless interactions at the drive-in has become the norm for many businesses as they adapt and develop new ways to keep customers coming back. Spanning restaurants, classic cinemas and even wineries, we’ve pulled together our top drive-in picks. 

itison Drive-In Movies By The Sea ©itison

About National Drive-Thru Day

National Drive-Thru Day was started by Jack In The Box restaurant back in 2002 celebrating the appreciation for the availability of convenient meals that can be picked up from a vehicle.

It has been said that the first motorists were served from their cars, back in 1921. Jack in the Box restaurant opened its first location in 1951, in San Diego, California, selling hamburgers for 18 cents.


itison Drive-In Movies, Scotland

Since 2013 itison has welcomed over 200,000 people to there entertaining drive-in events. This summer they have organised more events from sing out loud musicals to feel-good favourites from the '80s and '90s.

This summer taking place on the beautiful shores of one of Scotland's National Parks - Loch Lomond. Find out more here.


Do It Theatre, Japan 

The drive-in theatre 2020 project ‘Do It Theatre’ first set up in the parking lot of the Oiso Long Beach resort in Kanagawa Prefecture, which used to have a permanent drive-in theatre, as a way to offer people a way to release health crisis-related tension. Today organisers have erected a permanent screen for drive-in theatre sightings to be enjoyed. In August Do It Theatre will also be holding drive-in theatre experiences at the Osaka Expo Memorial Park. The project was set up to provide those visiting with an unforgettable experience that contributes to the entertainment industry. For future screenings see here.

Expo Memorial Park, Osaka, Japan


Drive-in theatres in Colorado

Colorado is home to eight drive-in theatres each bringing a different charm. Tru Vu Drive-In is situated between State Highway 92 and the Gunnison River and offers visitors a chance to watch a movie away from the city lights and under the stars. The Blue Starlite Drive-In is a summer, pop-up drive-in theatre that’s nestled in the High Rockies of Colorado. It sits at 7,998 feet making it one of the highest, mobile drive-in theatres in the country. This drive-in only screens classic movies, such as Star Wars: A New Hope, Goonies, Back to the Future, The Shining and many more. The Holiday Twin Drive-In opened up to the public again on 1 May with social distancing rules in place. It is the last of its kind in Fort Collins situated near Horsetooth Reservoir offering stunning pre-movie views. See here for upcoming screenings.

Tru Vu Drive-In, Colorado

Seattle’s Best Burgers for Take-out, Drive-Thru, and Delivery

‘Fine dining is not what Seattle needs right now. Instead, we’re bringing the food to you’, are the very words from the restaurant owner at Canlis. Canlis is an award-winning restaurant in Seattle that usually serves $135 four-course meals. Amid the pandemic, it closed its dining room and created a drive-thru in its parking lot to serve $14 burgers. From rabbit sausage with grilled liver to burgers and veggie melts, Canlis also offers bagels for breakfast from the Bagel Shed and delivers ‘home-cooked’ dinners and bottles of wine.

Canlis Drive Through Burgers

LeMay – America’s Car Museum launches summer movies in Tacoma, Washington

ACM is a world-class automobile museum and internationally recognised destination for families and auto enthusiasts. The museum was created to celebrate America’s love affair with the automobile and show how it shaped society. Located in Tacoma, the strikingly huge 165,000-sq.-ft. The facility is re-opening its doors this summer for a series of drive-in movies and hugely in keeping with the museum's theme.

Drive-thru pie shop - Cover’s Apple Ranch, Tuolumne County, California

Apple orchards have long been a feature of Tuolumne County community culture and not far from the top tourist attraction, Columbia State Historic Park in Jamestown lies Cover's Apple Ranch. Famous with the locals for their Mile High Apple Pie amongst other delicious pies, apple desserts and fresh-pressed ciders, this family-run ranch also has a drive-thru for the time-poor visitor. Throughout the year a train runs on Saturdays through the working barnyard and orchard with trees, planted in the 1920s that still produce premium apple's today.

Cover's Apple Pie

Drive-thru diner - Sno Flake, South Lake Tahoe, California 

Nothing says California like a classic drive-thru diner. Check out South Lake Tahoe’s old-timey fast-food stand ‘Sno Flake’, known for its burgers, hot dogs, shakes and soft-serve ice cream cones. Don’t forget to order a side of their famous crispy onion rings. The joint has been open since 1961 and has been voted “Best Milkshake” by Tahoe Daily Tribune for the last seven years.

Sno Flake, South Lake Tahoe

Ski-thru Starbucks - Squaw Valley at Lake Tahoe, California

For those who fancy getting their coffee at 8,000 feet, this is just the place. In 2012, Starbucks opened its first-ever ski-in/ski-out coffee shop at Squaw Valley, one of North Lake Tahoe’s most popular resorts. Snow bunnies don’t even have to remove their skis or snowboards to enjoy their favourite Starbucks beverages and the spectacular mountain and lake views.

Ski-thru Starbucks - Squaw Valley at Lake Tahoe, California

The Walk-Thru Tree - Yosemite National Park, California 

One of Yosemite National Park’s most stunning spots is the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, located in Mariposa County. Located in the southern portion of Yosemite, visitors there will be able to walk amongst 500 mature giant sequoias, as well as take a special trip through the California Tunnel Tree. This giant sequoia had a passageway dug into it in 1895 to allow horse-drawn stagecoaches to pass through the tree. Today you can’t drive through it, but visitors can walk or bike through it!

Walk-Thru Tree, Yosemite

West Wind drive-in classic Americana movie theatre - Sacramento, California 

Sacramento, California’s state capital, is home to old-school drive-in West Wind, which has been family owned and operated from day one. After going back in time at the city’s Gold Rush Old Sacramento, visitors can continue with the history at the drive-in theatre, which offers old-school drive-in vibes. The Sacramento theatre features the largest digital projector available (so big it dwarfs the ones you’ll find in a typical walk-in theatre!), as well as audio boomed straight to your car stereo.

Drive-thru art - Greater Palm Springs, California 

Greater Palm Springs is a thriving hub for visual arts - both inside museums and galleries and outside. Thanks to  ‘Art in Public Places’ programmes in each of the nine cities that span the Coachella Valley, there are numerous murals, mosaics, fountains and sculptures to see.  Self-drive art tours are a great way to discover Greater Palm Springs’ cultural landscape for free and without leaving the comfort of your own four-wheels. Not to be missed include the Coachella Walls murals, Palm Springs bronze babies, Cathedral City’s Fountain of Life and Messenger of the Puul statue honouring the Cahuilla Indians in Palm Desert.

Wall Mural, Greater Palm Springs

I hope you have enjoyed reading and inspired to visit a drive-thru where you are. Have you been to a drive-thru or maybe you have a favourite? Let me know in the comments.

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