Just about any Texan will tell you — there’s nothing quite like the Texas sky, whether during the burnt orange sunset or the twinkling of the Milky Way overhead at night.
But at a time when it’s hard to find a summer outdoor activity that involves the whole family without breaking the bank, one tantalizing option remains.
A perfect way to enjoy summer nights is to take everyone — from grandma and grandpa to the young ’uns — to a classic drive-in movie. Says Larry Knight, a regular at the Brazos Drive-In Theatre in Granbury, “Nothing beats the drive-in movie experience,” and Texans throughout the years have concurred.
Reliving old memories and making new ones, families can explore historic Texas towns and kick back, drive-in style, with the most recent box office hits. Pro tip: make sure to have cash on you; most of the places really are a blast from the past, which means no credit cards are accepted. Tune in on the FM channel, recline the seats, and cozy up to an experience the entire family can enjoy.
The Last Drive-In Picture Show
Opened in 1950, the Last Drive-In Picture Show has withstood the test of time, providing entertainment to multiple generations through the years. Boasting that it’s a a family-friendly venue, the Picture Show is open seven nights a week and doesn’t show any R-rated films. And it’s affordable, too: a double feature of first-run movies for the whole carload costs just $5 on weeknights and $10 on weekends. You can pop down the tailgate, toss a blanket and some pillows in the back, and enjoy a few hours of entertainment while getting a glimpse of the endless Texas sky.
A Granbury institution since 1952, the Brazos Drive-In is an official historic city landmark. Not much has changed since its opening, as visitors can still watch movies on vintage 35-mm films — the kind used before digital media — and sit in their cars or enjoy a snack at the concession stand with the old metal chairs from back in the day. The Brazos is alive and well today, having come a long way since 2014 when a “Closed” sign marked the front entrance. The Brazos preserves the slowly dissipating drive-in culture your gram and gramps remember so fondly. For $20 per carload, grab the dog and the rest of the family and head out on a Friday or Saturday as dusk sets in to watch a double-feature on a warm summer evening. If the “real deal” experience is what you crave when it comes to Texas drive-ins, Brazos should be on your list of places to visit.
Big Sky Drive-In
“Everything’s bigger in Texas,” as the saying goes, and it rings true for Big Sky Drive-In. With Christie digital cinema projectors lighting up a 90-foot-wide screen, you can expect the quality to be top-notch. Leading the way in adapting to digital technology, Big Sky, along with Stars & Stripes Drive In in Lubbock, were among the first drive-ins to offer multi-screen, digital viewing technology to patrons.
Big Sky has changed with the times to meet the expectations of modern moviegoers while holding on to the old-time feel of the ’50s drive-in. If you want to go out but don’t have a bundle to spend, head to Big Sky on a Wednesday for “Poor Boy Night,” where all ages 6 and up cost just $5 for a double-feature. While you’re there, indulge in a Chihuahua sandwich — containing queso, jalapeño and beef — offered at the concession stand.
Straight down U.S. 287 about an hour east of Amarillo, you stumble upon the small Panhandle town of Clarendon, home to the Sandell Drive-In. One of the only drive-ins located in the Panhandle in the past 60 years, Sandell has that nostalgic feel everyone looks for when going to a drive-in movie — and a friendly atmosphere that’s hard to match. Not only do they claim to have one of the best vistas of a Texas sundown you’ll ever see, but you can chow down on some good ol’ homemade Texas chili and burgers while enjoying the latest summer blockbusters. Want a little extra something to do with the family? On June 16 Sandell hosts the Summer Carnival, an event to help local groups and organizations raise money. Following the carnival is a screening of Incredibles 2, so mark your calendars and head out to Clarendon to experience a double feature of carnival and drive-in movie.
Graham Drive-In Theatre
Here’s an old pastime updated to suit modern expectations. Watch the sun sink below the horizon while viewing the newest movies uninterrupted on a giant digital projector screen — won in a 2013 “Project Drive In” contest sponsored by Honda. With only about six percent of drive-ins still in operation, the theater is a throwback icon of sorts, with roots in the 1950s. Situated about an hour south of Wichita Falls in the western portion of the Palo Pinto Mountains, Graham is a small and historic town established just after the Civil War. You can step back in time and enjoy a heritage-filled experience while sipping on Coke floats, eating Frito Chili Pie and indulging in the latest cinematic offerings.
WesMer Drive-In Theatre
If you find yourself down in the Rio Grande Valley, be sure to catch a double feature at the WesMer Drive-In in Mercedes, about 40 minutes northwest of Brownsville. Opened in the late 1940s on the cusp of America’s drive-in boom, the WesMer offers a fun family outing. The cost per vehicle is $10 every day except Tuesday, when a carload is just $5. Along with affordable ticket prices, the concession stand offers classic fare — and nothing more than $6. The big red and yellow “WESMER” sign is itself a local landmark, and the setting offers a great chance to experience the timelessness of a drive-in movie under the wide open Texas sky at nightfall.