What’s better than a walk in the moonlight? A movie under the stars, of course! Drive-in theaters have a special cache all their own.
Although drive-ins across the country have fallen victim to urban sprawl and hard times, outdoor movies remain a much-beloved part of Wisconsin’s summer fun. Even in the age of multiplex and IMAX, several drive-ins still operate here.
So, pick a warm summer night, gather your family (or just your speical someone), grab a parking spot in one of the rows, settle in the front seat or wrap up in a blanket outdoors, crank up the sound system, and enjoy an outdoor movie experience Americans have loved for decades.
The Big Sky Drive-in – Wisconsin Dells
With twin full-sized screens, this is one of the liveliest drive-ins in the state. The theater offers first-run movies and the concession stand is known for its hamburgers.
Field of Scenes Drive-in – Freedom
With two screens, two snack bars and mini-golf, this theater is one of the largest outdoor movie venues in the state. A volleyball court and a basketball court round out the entertainment offerings.
Highway 18 Outdoor Theatre – Jefferson
This classic 1950s-style drive-in offers a single 90-foot screen. The lot holds 600 cars and features more than 200 restored speakers as part of the sound system. Highway 18 plays first-run movies, most of which are family-oriented. On-site attractions include a large playground, a bar and concession stand.
Moonlight Outdoor Theater – Shawano
The Moonlight screen was salvaged from another Wisconsin outdoor theatre and placed near the local indoor theater to create this drive-in. The Moonlight offers bleacher seating and plenty of space for pre-movie games and Frisbee throwing. A trademark “shack” serves everything from grilled food to pizza.
Sky-Vu Drive-in – Monroe
The Sky-Vu features FM stereo sound for movies shown on its sharp image high-reflective screen. The concession stand is full-service with pizza and burgers.
Skyway Drive-in Theater – Fish Creek
This family-owned theater with a 1950s flair offers classic speakers in the first four rows, as well as sound through your car’s FM radio. For an extra dose of nostalgia, cartoon advertisements created decades ago are still shown before the movie (yes, their concession stand still sells "Pic"!).
Stardust Drive-in Movie Theater – Chetek
A family-operated theater with space for 250 cars, the Stardust shows two new-release movies nightly for one ticket price. Patio benches near the screen are popular, as is a playground with a circus wagon kiddie ride.
Milky Way Drive-In - Franklin
A new addition to the drive-in movie scene, the Milky Way opened in 2020 just outside Franklin Field, home of the Milwaukee Milkmen baseball team. At the Milky Way, you get the classic drive-in experience with some modern touches. The 40-foot LED screen, for example, allows the drive-in to play movies during day with crystal clarity.
Note: Outdoor theater schedules vary widely, so make sure you check for season opening and closings at each theater. Rain also may affect whether your favorite drive-in is open on any specific day, so call ahead. Also ask about frequent-visitor and other discounts some of these budget-friendly theaters offer.
Looking for more along your summer evening road trip? Check out these restaurants worth the drive.