Drive In, Tongue Out: How to Take Your Dog to the Drive-In Movies

By: Kristen ArendtPublished:

dog friendly drive in movie

Drive In, Tongue Out: How to Take Your Dog to the Drive-In Movies

If you think of drive-in movie theaters as a retro relic from the “Grease” era, think again: The drive-in is making a comeback. And why not? It’s a relaxing way to take in both some fresh air and some pop culture, from brand-new releases to silver screen classics. And most importantly, drive-in theaters are often dog-friendly, making this an excellent summertime date night with your favorite furry friend.

So pack your pup’s travel bag, grab a ticket to a film in your (or your dog’s) favorite genre and get set up with the best seat in the house.

How Does This Drive-In Thing Work, Anyway?

If you’ve only ever seen a movie at the multiplex, the drive-in experience may seem a little mystifying. Here are a few answers to common questions about drive-in movies:

Q:What does the setup look like?

A:Most drive-in theaters have a big screen with a large open lot in front of it where cars park in rows. (Larger operations sometimes have two or more movie screens with dedicated lots for each.) Toward the middle or back of the space, you’ll usually find a concessions stand and restrooms. Your local drive-in might also have a playground where kids can play before the movies start, a designated space for dogs to relieve themselves, or other amenities.


Q:Do I have to stay in my car during the movie?

A:Not at all! Some people choose to watch the movie inside their vehicle a la Sandy and Danny, but others bring folding chairs and blankets to create a cozy space in front of or next to their car. If you have a pickup truck, you can back it into a parking space and watch from the comfort of your flatbed. It’s totally up to you.


Q:How does the sound work?

A:Many pet-friendly movie theaters pipe the movie’s sound in through your car’s FM radio. Others have portable radios for rent or speakers at the parking spot. You may want to bring a portable FM radio if you plan to sit outside your car or if you have a newer car with automatic headlights that won’t shut off when your radio is on. (Double-check that you know how to turn off your headlights before you hit the drive-in.)


Q:What if it rains?

A:Most drive-ins will continue to play in all weather, so be ready to cozy up inside your car with your dog if rain is in the forecast.


Drive-In Movie Gear for Pets and Parents

For your dog:

For you:

  • Portable chairs if you want to sit outside of your car
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Blankets and towels
  • Jackets, warm layers and rain gear
  • Bug spray
  • Cash/credit card to buy tickets and visit the concession stand or snack bar (Note: Some drive-ins are cash only; check before you go.)
  • A portable FM radio for sound if you plan to sit outside your vehicle, want to save your car battery or if your car has automatic lights that won’t shut off when the radio is on (Note: Some drive-ins rent portable FM radios if you don’t have your own.)

Drive-in Movie Safety Tips for Dogs

Not all dogs are suited to a night at the drive-in. Before you go, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my dog comfortable around other people, kids and dogs? Dogs who are anxious or not fully socialized can lash out when they feel threatened, which is dangerous both for your dog and those around you.
  • Can my dog relax for hours at a time? While you’ll be able to walk around with your pup during the movie, you might not have a great time if your dog keeps interrupting the film for playtime and attention.
  • Can my dog remain calm inside the car by themselves? Some areas, like the concessions or restrooms, may not be dog-friendly, so you’ll have to leave them behind to buy a snack or take a bathroom break. If your dog is unable to stay calm in your car by themselves, invite a friend or date along so one of you can be with your pup at all times.
  • Is my dog comfortable being out after dark? Some dogs get nervous after sunset, especially senior dogs who may not be able to see as well in low lighting. If that sounds like your pup, the drive-in might not be the best adventure for them.
  • Can your dog remain quiet during the movie? A barking dog can ruin a movie for the whole audience. Out of respect for your fellow moviegoers, dogs who are prone to barking, especially around new people and in new environments, should stay home.

If you answered yes to all the questions above, you’re on your way to a fun night at the outdoor movies. Next, follow these tips and tricks to keep your dog safe at the drive-in:

  • Do some test runs in advance. Practice by taking your dog on car rides and stopping for short periods in a busy parking lot. Along the way, watch to see how your dog reacts: Do they remain calm and well-behaved, or are they anxious, barking or overexcited? Only take them to the drive-in if they’ve proven they can remain chill and quiet in similar settings.
  • Use a dog seat belt or car seat. Your dog should be buckled in on your drive to the theater, as well as anytime you drive, just like every other passenger in your car.
  • Keep your dog leashed at all times. Even the best-trained dogs can react in surprising ways to new people, places and other pets. Keeping them leashed protects both their safety and the safety of others.
  • Consider your dog’s sensitivities to sound. If your dog is noise sensitive, skip loud movies like action/adventure films and opt for a genre that doesn’t have as many explosions.
  • Dress to be seen. A reflective collar or collar light will help other drivers see you and your dog if you need to walk around during the movie.
  • Monitor your dog for signs of stress. If your pup begins trembling, whimpering, barking or showing other signs of stress, it’s best to cut the night short and bring them home.

7 Tips for Dogs at the Drive-In

Lisa Sickles, CPDT-KA, CDBC, trainer and owner of WagWag Enterprises, suggests these tips to help pet parents make the most of their night at the drive-in with their dog.

1Make introductions early

The drive-in is already a big adventure for your dog—so many new people, new smells, and loud noises! Adding an unfamiliar person to your group might be more stressful than they can manage. So, if you plan on bringing a date or meeting up with other friends and their dogs, make sure your dog meets them (and likes them) first!

2Bring your dog’s essentials

To make sure that your dog has the best time at the drive-in, give them a comfy space to lie down. A favorite blanket, bed or mat from home will make them feel safe and cozy. It’s also a good idea to bring toys like frozen stuffed Kongs to keep them busy.

If it gets chilly after dark where you live, remember to pack extra warm blankets and perhaps even a dog sweater or jacket (in addition to one for yourself).

3Arrive early

This will help you get a good spot and set up before the movie starts. You’ll want enough time to set up any chairs or blankets you brought; swing by concessions to get some snacks for yourself; and give your dog a bathroom break before the movie starts.

4Be considerate of others

Avoid blocking other moviegoers’ views, keep your noise to a minimum, and turn off your car’s headlights as soon as it’s safe to do so.

5Know where your dog is and isn’t allowed

Most, but not all, dog-friendly drive-ins will allow your dog to sit outside with you. Most require that you do not bring your dog to the concession area. Some have grassy areas or designated spots where you can take your dog for potty breaks should nature call mid-movie. Call in advance, or ask at the entrance to find out where your dog is welcome.

6Clean up after yourself and your pet

It’s bad drive-in etiquette to leave empty cups, snack containers and other trash behind when you leave. And of course, don’t forget the poop bags!

7Put your dog’s comfort first

Be ready and willing to leave early if your pup is showing signs of being uncomfortable or unhappy. While many drive-ins offer two back-to-back movies for the price of admission, it might be best to skip the double feature on your first time unless you’re certain your dog can sit through a movie marathon.

Dog-Friendly Drive-in Theaters Across the U.S.

As of September 2021, there were 318 drive-in movie theaters across the U.S., according to the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association. We’ve highlighted some dog-friendly options below.
State
City
Drive-In Theater
State

Alabama

City

Leeds

Drive-In Theater

Grand River Drive-in

State

Alabama

City

Boaz

State

Alabama

City

Athens

Drive-In Theater

Cinemagic Theatre

State

Arkansas

City

Marshall

Drive-In Theater

Kenda Drive-In Theatre

State

California

City

City of Industry

Drive-In Theater

Vineland Drive-in

State

California

City

Lakeport

State

California

City

Santee

Drive-In Theater

Santee Drive-in

State

Colorado

City

Commerce City

Drive-In Theater

88 Drive-in Theatre

State

Colorado

City

Fort Collins

Drive-In Theater

Holiday Twin Drive-in

State

Colorado

City

Minturn

State

Connecticut

City

Barkhamsted

State

Connecticut

City

Mansfield Center

Drive-In Theater

Mansfield Drive-in

State

Florida

City

Dade City

Drive-In Theater

Joy-Lan Drive-in Theatre

State

Florida

City

Lakeland

State

Florida

City

Ruskin

State

Florida

City

Ocala

Drive-In Theater

Ocala Drive-in

State

Georgia

City

Blue Ridge

Drive-In Theater

Swan Drive-in Theater

State

Georgia

City

Tiger

Drive-In Theater

Tiger Drive-in

State

Georgia

City

Trenton

Drive-In Theater

Wilderness Theatre

State

Idaho

City

Rexburg

Drive-In Theater

Teton Vu Drive-in

State

Illinois

City

Belleville

Drive-In Theater

Skyview Drive-in

State

Illinois

City

Gibson City

State

Illinois

City

Litchfield

State

Illinois

City

McHenry

State

Illinois

City

Newton

State

Indiana

City

Bloomington

Drive-In Theater

The Starlight Drive-in

State

Indiana

City

Indianapolis

Drive-In Theater

Tibbs Drive-in Theatre

State

Indiana

City

Martinsville

Drive-In Theater

Center Brook Drive-in

State

Indiana

City

Rockport

Drive-In Theater

Holiday Drive-in

State

Indiana

City

Shelbyville

State

Indiana

City

Spencer

State

Indiana

City

Versailles

State

Iowa

City

Blue Brass

Drive-In Theater

Blue Grass Drive-in

State

Iowa

City

Newton

Drive-In Theater

Valle Drive-in

State

Kansas

City

Dodge City

Drive-In Theater

South Drive-in Theater

State

Kansas

City

Kansas City

Drive-In Theater

Boulevard Drive-in

State

Kansas

City

Wichita

Drive-In Theater

Starlite Drive-in

State

Kentucky

City

LaGrange

Drive-In Theater

Saurbeck Family Drive-in

State

Kentucky

City

Paris

Drive-In Theater

The Bourbon Drive-in

State

Maine

City

Madawaska

Drive-In Theater

Skylite Drive-in

State

Maryland

City

Middle River

Drive-In Theater

Bengies Drive-In Theatre

State

Massachusetts

City

Mendon

Drive-In Theater

Mendon Twin Drive-in

State

Michigan

City

Coldwater

Drive-In Theater

Capri Drive-in Theatre

State

Michigan

City

Darborn

Drive-In Theater

Ford-Wyoming Drive-in

State

Michigan

City

Dowagiac

Drive-In Theater

5 Mile Drive-in

State

Michigan

City

Flint

Drive-In Theater

US 23 Drive-in Theatre

State

Michigan

City

Frenchtown

State

Minnesota

City

Litchfield

Drive-In Theater

Starlite Drive-in Theater

State

Minnesota

City

Long Prairie

State

Minnesota

City

Luverne

Drive-In Theater

Verne Drive-in Theater

State

Missouri

City

Aurora

Drive-In Theater

Sunset Drive-in Theatre

State

Missouri

City

Cadet

State

Missouri

City

Carthage

Drive-In Theater

66 Drive-in

State

Montana

City

Billings

Drive-In Theater

Amusement Park Drive-in

State

Montana

City

Butte

State

Nebraska

City

Valley

Drive-In Theater

Quasar Drive-in Theater

State

Nebraska

City

Scottsbluff

State

Nebraska

City

Bellevue

Drive-In Theater

Falconwood Park Drive-in

State

New Hampshire

City

Hinsdale

State

New Hampshire

City

Milford

Drive-In Theater

Milford Drive-in Theater

State

New York

City

Amenia

Drive-In Theater

Four Brothers Drive-in

State

New York

City

Auburn

State

New York

City

Avon

Drive-In Theater

Vintage Drive-in Theatre

State

New York

City

Malta

Drive-In Theater

Malta Drive-in Theatre

State

New York

City

Brooklyn

Drive-In Theater

Skyline Drive-in NYC

State

New York

City

Glenmont

Drive-In Theater

Jericho Drive-in

State

New York

City

Greenville

Drive-In Theater

32 Greenville Drive-in

State

New York

City

Hyde Park

State

New York

City

Lockport

Drive-In Theater

Transit Drive-in

State

New York

City

North Hoosick

State

New York

City

Poughkeepsie

Drive-In Theater

Overlook Drive-in Theatre

State

North Carolina

City

Henderson

State

North Carolina

City

Kings Mountain

State

North Carolina

City

Tabor City

State

Ohio

City

Barberton

State

Ohio

City

Brookville

Drive-In Theater

Melody 49 Drive-in

State

Ohio

City

Chardon

State

Ohio

City

Ravenna

State

Ohio

City

Hamilton

Drive-In Theater

Holiday Auto Theatre

State

Ohio

City

Warren

Drive-In Theater

Elm Road Drive-in Theatre

State

Ohio

City

Wadsworth

Drive-In Theater

Blue Sky Drive-In Theater

State

Ohio

City

Dayton

State

Ohio

City

Tiffin

Drive-In Theater

Tiffin Drive-in Theater

State

Ohio

City

Middle Point

Drive-In Theater

Van-Del Drive-in Theater

State

Ohio

City

Mansfield

State

Oklahoma

City

Tulsa

Drive-In Theater

Admiral Twin Drive-in

State

Oklahoma

City

Shattuck

Drive-In Theater

El-Co Drive-in Theater

State

Oregon

City

Newberg

Drive-In Theater

99W Drive-in Theatre

State

Pennsylvania

City

Butler

Drive-In Theater

Starlight Drive-in

State

Pennsylvania

City

Walnutport

Drive-In Theater

Becky’s Drive-in

State

Pennsylvania

City

Brookville

Drive-In Theater

Moonlite Drive-in Theatre

State

Pennsylvania

City

Woodland

Drive-In Theater

Super 322 Drive-in

State

Pennsylvania

City

Gratz

Drive-In Theater

Sky-Vu Drive-in Theatre

State

Pennsylvania

City

Kane

State

Pennsylvania

City

Lehighton

State

Pennsylvania

City

Montgomery

Drive-In Theater

Pike Drive-in Theatre

State

Pennsylvania

City

Vandergrift

Drive-In Theater

Riverside Drive-in

State

Rhode Island

City

North Smithfield

Drive-In Theater

Rustic Tri-View Drive-In

State

South Carolina

City

Greenwood

State

South Carolina

City

Monetta

State

South Dakota

City

Redfield

State

South Dakota

City

Mitchell

Drive-In Theater

Starlite Drive-in Theatre

State

Tennessee

City

Athens

State

Tennessee

City

Camden

Drive-In Theater

Birdsong Drive-in Theater

State

Tennessee

City

Lewisburg

Drive-In Theater

Hi-Way 50 Drive-in

State

Tennessee

City

Maryville

State

Tennessee

City

Sparta

Drive-In Theater

Sparta Drive-in

State

Tennessee

City

Watertown

Drive-In Theater

Stardust Drive-in Theatre

State

Texas

City

Amarillo

Drive-In Theater

Tascosa Drive-in Theater

State

Texas

City

Austin

State

Texas

City

Buda

Drive-In Theater

Doc’s Drive-in Theatre

State

Texas

City

Ennis

Drive-In Theater

Galaxy Drive-in Theatre

State

Texas

City

Fort Worth

Drive-In Theater

Coyote Drive-in Theater

State

Texas

City

Graham

Drive-In Theater

Graham Drive-in Theatre

State

Texas

City

Hockley

State

Texas

City

Houston

Drive-In Theater

Moonstruck Drive-in

State

Texas

City

Lubbock

State

Texas

City

Midland

Drive-In Theater

Big Sky Drive-in

State

Texas

City

New Braunfels

State

Texas

City

Pflugerville

Drive-In Theater

The Globe Drive-in

State

Utah

City

Tooele

Drive-In Theater

Erda Drive-In

State

Vermont

City

Colchester

Drive-In Theater

Sunset Drive-in Theatre

State

Vermont

City

Bethel

Drive-In Theater

Bethel Drive-in

State

Virginia

City

Hadensville

State

Virginia

City

Lexington

Drive-In Theater

Hull’s Drive-in Theatre

State

Virginia

City

Stephens City

State

Washington

City

Bremergon

Drive-In Theater

Rodeo Drive-in

State

Washington

City

Oak Harbor

Drive-In Theater

Blue Fox Drive-in Theater

State

West Virginia

City

Chester

Drive-In Theater

Hilltop Drive-in Theater

State

Wisconsin

City

Chetek

State

Wisconsin

City

Fish Creek

Drive-In Theater

Skyway Drive-in Theatre

State

Wisconsin

City

Jefferson

Drive-In Theater

Hi-Way 18 Outdoor Theatre

State

Wisconsin

City

Wisconsin Dells

Drive-In Theater

Big Sky Drive-in Theatre

Follow these tips for your trip to the drive-in, and you might just find that a night under the stars at a dog-friendly drive-in movie is your new favorite way to spend a Friday night.
Expert input provided by Lisa Sickles, CPDT-KA, CDBC, trainer and owner of WagWag Enterprises; and John Stefanopoulos, one of the family members who helps manage the dog-friendly Four Brothers Drive-in located in Amenia, New York,

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By: Kristen ArendtPublished:

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