Drive-in theatres have a rich history in American culture. They ruled the 1950 and 1960 summers, and drive-in theatres in Chicago were no exception. Grease, the movie, had its own scene at a drive-in theatre. According to drive-ins.com, Chicagoland once had over 50 drive-in theatres within 70 miles or so from the Lake. Unfortunately, drive-in theatres have gone the way of the dinosaur. Out of those 50, there are only three left that can be considered part of the greater area of Chicago.
Best Drive-in theatres #1: Cascade Outdoor Theatre
28 W 741 North Ave.
West Chicago, IL 60185
This is one of the most popular drive-in theatres around Chicago. They are the only one to survive in the western suburbs. They opened in 1952 and have been going strong since. I remember going there when Jurassic Park first came out in the early 1990’s; seeing it outdoors under the night sky created such a great atmosphere. This is one of the larger drive-in theatres, as it fits around 1200 cars and is open from March until November. You can see their show times by clicking here.
Best Drive-in theatres #2: Mchenry Outdoor Theatre
1510 N Chapel Hill Rd.
Mchenry, IL 60050
The other two drive-in theatres are more of a hike; this one’s about 50 miles northwest from Chicago. It’s smaller than the West Chicago one, which might give you more of an intimate feel. This drive-in theatre is open from May until September, and you can see their movie times by clicking here.
Best Drive-in theatres #3: Keno Family Drive-In Theatre
9102 Sheridan Rd.
Pleasant Prairie, WI 53158
This is another one of the smaller drive-in theatres, with a capacity of 800 cars. It’s also the oldest of the three, opening in 1949. It is situated right off of the lakefront, directly north of Chicago, and operates from April to October. The same company owns both the West Chicago and Keno drive-in theatres, so the quality is just as good. They purchased the place in 2006 and made a few renovations to the concession stands.
You can see their show times by clicking here.
Unfortunately, drive-in theatres are an endangered species for the foreseeable future. If you are a fan of watching a double header of movies under the stars, I recommend supporting these places as much as you can. Also, to check out the history of Chicago drive-in theatres, take a look at drive-ins.com. They have a lot of great information.