Once warm weather hits, one of the things we always look forward to doing is going to the drive-in movie theater. We used to frequent Cascade Drive-in in West Chicago, but ever since moving we’ve found a closer alternative in McHenry – Golden Age Cinemas McHenry Outdoor Theater. Watching a movie under the stars with the family is an experience unlike any other, and it’s definitely one for your summer bucket list.

Our Experience:

When we visit the drive-in theater, we always try to arrive close to opening to snag a good spot.  We ended up ordering pizza from Buddyz in McHenry and zipped right over once it was done. We waited in line and paid the fee. (And yes, they accept credit cards!)

We were given instructions on where we would need to park. Smaller cars park by the silver poles which were obviously closer to the front, while larger vehicles need to park close to the red poles.

A blast from the past visiting McHenry's Golden Age Cinemas.

Once we were settled, we were ready to dig in and enjoy our pizza. Note to self: Bring extra plates and utensils if the restaurant runs out.

A blast from the past visiting McHenry's Golden Age Cinemas.

A blast from the past visiting McHenry's Golden Age Cinemas.

Tip: Although deep dish butter crust is delicious, it is definitely hard to eat. Next time we’ll stick with thin crust.

Afterward, the kids were ready to visit the concession stand for their tasty treats — ice cream and popcorn. Since it was the opening of Jurassic World, we thought it was really cool seeing a Jurassic Park Jeep.

A blast from the past visiting McHenry's Golden Age Cinemas.

After finally getting settled, the kids played in the van with their toys until the film started. After about 5 minutes into the film we heard snoring from one of our kids. Not surprising, since he’s notorious for falling asleep right away. Our youngest was able to watch about thirty minutes of the film until finally falling asleep, while our Jurassic Park fan stayed up the entire time.

Tips to enjoy McHenry Outdoor Theater:

  • Get there right when it opens for a prime viewing spot.
  • Bring dinner — pizza is usually our go-to.
  • Have the kids wear their PJs or bring them then change. You’ll be watching two movies and can expect to leave after midnight.
  • Bring bug spray.
  • Bring chairs and blankets.
  • If you have one, bring a radio to listen to the movie (or you can rent one. You can also tune your car to the radio station but that may drain your battery.
  • Read more tips in my Chicago Parent post.

Bottom Line:

I think every family should experience the drive-in theater at least once a summer. It makes for the best memories!

Nitty Gritty:

Website: http://www.goldenagecinemas.com/
Location:  1510 Chapel Hill Road, McHenry, IL 60050
Cost: $12 for adults; $6 kids 11 and under; $6 military
Food: Yes, they have a concession stand and you’re free to bring in your own food.
Crowded: Yes, it was pretty packed. We visited on a Saturday evening for the opening of new Jurassic World movie.
Bathrooms: Yes, they have bathrooms in addition to portapotties. The portapotties are reserved for women and children.

While You’re Here:

  • Get one with nature and visit Volo Bog.
  • Grab some fruits and veggies at Stade’s Farm & Market. On our last visit, we went strawberry picking,grabbed some donuts and strawberry lemonade then enjoyed it at the outdoor movie theater.
  • Get some chocolate and ice cream at Riverside Chocolate Factory. We have yet to make a visit, but we’ve heard great things about this McHenry sweet spot.
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