Pilsen drive-in music box
Photograph: Kate Vogel, courtesy Music Box Theatre

The best drive-in movie theaters near Chicago

Watch a film on the big screen from inside your car at drive-in movie theaters in and around Chicago.

Zach Long
Contributor: Jeffy Mai

Over the past couple of years, Chicagoans have reconnected with the romantic summer tradition of the drive-in. While you can definitely grab some popcorn and still catch an outdoor movie in a park, a summer blockbuster at the best movie theaters in Chicago or even a cult classic on a Fulton Market rooftop, there's still something to be said for the feeling of pulling up to the big screen, setting up a tailgate-style spread with friends or getting cozy for a unique date at the drive-in. Whether you want to make the trip to McHenry or see a movie in a Pilsen parking lot, the best drive-in theaters near Chicago are worth checking out. Just make sure those windshields are clean.

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Drive-in theaters near Chicago

ChiTown Movies

Taking over a parking lot outside of the ChiTown Futbol complex, ChiTown Movies brings the drive-in theater experience to Pilsen. With admission charged by the carload, groups can park and take in blockbusters of years past and concert films projected on a big screen. Tune into the film's audio via FM radio and order concessions from the ChiTown Grille (delivered to your car). Pups are welcome to join the fun, too.

2343 S Throop St. $35 per car.

McHenry Outdoor Theatre

Dating back to the 1950s, this drive-in theater has survived through the decades—long enough to become one of the few remaining places dedicated to showing movies outdoors. Gates open no later than 6:30pm each day and tickets are first come, first served, but thankfully the McHenry Outdoor Theater has room for 350 cars. Movies begin at sundown and every night is a double feature of both classic and new films. There are concessions, restrooms and plenty of handwashing stations on-site.

1510 Chapel Hill Rd, McHenry, IL. $14 for adults, $8 for seniors/children ages 3-11.


49er Drive-In

Head across state lines to Valparaiso, Indiana for an evening of cheap double features. You can expect to see the latest blockbuster releases, as well as a mix of family-friendly films, at this longstanding drive-in. Hungry? There are plenty of concessions to choose from, including Italian beef, chili cheese dogs, hot buttered popcorn and funnel cakes. Just be sure to bring some bills because it’s cash only.

675 N Calumet Ave, Valparaiso, IN. $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 5-11.

Route 34 Drive-In

Out west in Earlville, this drive-in is located right off of (you guessed it) U.S. Route 34. The lot is grass so if you don’t feel like watching a film from your vehicle, you’re free to lay outside or bring a lawn chair to sit in. Should you need a bite to eat, the concessions are better than your average theater—the food is cooked to order and the popcorn is topped with real butter. There’s also an indoor pool table for killing time until the sun sets. Cash only.

4468 E 12th Rd, Earlville, IL. $10 for adults, $8 for seniors/children ages 4-12.

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