Looking for something different, maybe even something a little old school to do on a Friday or Saturday night? Here’s a great activity that’s perfect for a date night – it’s private, comfortable, and adds a touch of nostalgia with a throwback to a simpler time of life. Visiting a drive-in movie theater could be just the thing!
Drive-in movie theaters became a popular pastime in the 1950s and early 1960s. Believe it or not, there are still quite a few drive-ins located in and around Tampa for a night of nostalgic fun. You can watch from the car or set up chairs, but either way, it’ll be an experience to remember. Plus, you’ll be contributing to keeping the drive-in movie theater experience alive and well here in Florida. Some drive-in theaters allow you to bring your own food and drinks, a few do have restrictions so be sure to check the website before you visit.
Whether you’re looking for new releases, classic films, horror favorites, or family-friendly screenings, here are some great local spots to check out.
Drive-In Movie Theaters in Tampa Bay and Nearby
- Silver Moon Drive-In Theater
- Ruskin Family Drive-In Movie Theater
- Joy-Lan Drive-In Movie Theater
- Ocala Drive-In Theater
4100 New Tampa Hwy. Lakeland, FL 33815
At Lakeland’s Silver Moon Drive-In Theater, moviegoers can pick from two screens featuring a nightly double feature of different first run movies using your car’s FM radio. The concession area is stocked with affordably priced beverages (including beer!), popcorn and other snacks.
On a chilly night, you can even get hot cocoa. The Silver Moon also hosts a weekly swap shop during the day on Saturdays and Sundays. If you want to enjoy dinner before the show, head out early to visit Lakeland’s cool food hall, The Joinery. It’s about a 15-minute drive from the theater.
Admission is $7 per adult ($3 per kiddo ages 5 and up) and includes both movies.
5011 US Highway 41 North Ruskin, FL 33572
South of Tampa you’ll find the Ruskin Family Drive-In Movie Theater. Said to be the “last family drive-in” in the U.S.A, it’s been around since the hey-day of drive-in theaters in the 1950s. Admission grants you access to watch drive-in movies featured nightly on the drive-in movie theater’s single screen.
Their onsite snack bar menu boasts tasty items such as hot dogs, hamburgers, homemade chili, ice cream, popcorn, dill pickles, nachos, and more. There’s a $5 fee per car if you opt to bring in your own food and drinks (no alcohol allowed).
If you’re looking to do date night with the kids in tow, this family-friendly drive-in movie theater is your best bet. Admission is cheap and there’s even a play area for the kids. You can even bring the family dog; friendly pups on leashes are welcome to join in the drive-in movie experience. They also have clean restrooms and a clean parking lot.
Admission is $7 per person ages 9 and up, $2 for kids 5-8 years old, and free for kids 4 and under. Payment is cash only. Check out their Facebook page for updates, too! and, reminder, come early on weekends especially for the best spot!
16414 U.S. 301 Dade City, FL 33523
Since 1950, the Joy-Lan Drive-In Movie Theater has been providing a prime movie experience. At this Tampa Bay area drive-in theater, you can enjoy back-to-back flicks Wednesday-Sunday on the largest digital screen in Pasco County, just north of Tampa Bay. Joy-Lan is also the last remaining drive-in movie theater in the county, so keep the drive-in movie experience alive by paying it a visit. A concession stand serves up snacks including popcorn, hot dogs, pizza, soft drinks and more for nominal fees. Plan to arrive 30 minutes before showtime to snag a good spot and tune in to your local FM stereo for the audio.
Admission is $7 per adult and $3 per child ages 4-9 (kids under 4 are free)
4850 S Pine Ave, Ocala, FL 34480
If you’re looking to visit multiple drive-in movie theaters throughout the state, make the 1.5-hour trip north to Ocala Drive-In. Guests can choose from nightly double features on two separate screens, 7 nights a week, 365 days a year, rain or shine. Gates open one hour prior to the showing.
FYI: bringing outside food is not permitted at this drive-in theater so hit the concession stand if you’re hungry. You can pre-order food from their site for easy window pick-up. Well-behaved dogs on leashes are welcome here, too. Note: No alcohol allowed on the premises.
Admission is $6 per adult, and $3 for kids ages 6-12 (free for kiddos 5 and under).
Tips for a Drive-In Movie Theater Date
- Bring blankets and pillows from home for an extra comfy movie-watching snuggle session (especially fun on a chilly night!).
- Most theaters allow you to watch from the bed of a truck or back of an SUV.
- Turn your car back on in between movies if you’re worried about your battery running low. Most theaters have jumper cables in the event your battery dies.
- Snack bar sales largely keep drive-in movie theaters in operation. Spring for the popcorn and support the theater if you can.
- Always arrive early (30-45 minutes before showtime) to stake out your spot! Occupancy is usually first-come first-served basis. Trust us, you’ll want time to get situated, set up your car or chairs, and visit the concessions for essentials like popcorn and sodas.
- For drive in movie theaters with a second screen, you must choose one screen and stick to it. You won’t be permitted to move about from one screen to the other.
Looking for other outdoor activities? Check out a Day Trip to Historic Cocoa Village and Rockledge Gardens and 10 Great Spots to Go Kayaking in Tampa Bay for Labor Day.