Check Out These Drive-In Movie Theaters Around South Florida
Just pull in, and pull out your popcorn.
Drive-in theaters have become the new craft-distilled hand sanitizer. No, they don’t all inexplicably smell like spring break tequila (though, that’s definitely a possibility). But they are a COVID-19 advent that seem to be popping up everywhere, from abandoned construction sites to Walmart parking lots. While many of these are one-off events, a number of spots around South Florida have regularly scheduled movies or frequent screenings -- and offer a fun, potentially wholesome alternative to our usual schedule of Miami weekend debauchery.
From Lake Worth all the way down to Florida City, you’ll find drive-ins broadcasting movie sound in English and Spanish right into your car. And allowing you to control the AC so you don’ t need to bring a sweater to watch the new Bill & Ted. Some have concessions, some have food trucks, some threaten to burn your feet if you leave your car. But all are outstanding options if you’re jonesing for a movie outside of your living room.
With the 17th Street Causeway bridge and the Intracoastal Waterway as a backdrop, this new theater at the Pier 66 Hotel is easily the most scenic drive-in setting in South Florida. Pull in just before sunset and watch the colors change over the swaying palms and Port Everglades in the distance, then hit up one of the copious food trucks for your in-movie snacks. FLIFF members get 50% off the $30 carload ticket price, with high-level members getting in free with an RSVP.
If like many South Floridians, you enjoy spending your Sunday perusing the produce stands and farms along Krome Avenue, the perfect way to end your long day of mango squeezing is with a nice double feature at the Florida City Cinema. Though this pop-up drive-in near the Walmart at the end of the Turnpike doesn’t do it every weekend, on select Sundays you can pay the $15 entrance fee for the first movie and get the second one free. This leaves you loads of extra cash to sample the food trucks parked onsite -- that is, if your car’s not already filled with produce.
Back before every vacant lot that could support a radio broadcast was opening up a drive-in, there was the Swap Shop. The funky flea market and Ferrari museum was the only place you could blaze up and watch Harold & Kumar on the big screen without security throwing you out. Now the often-mocked Swap Shop has gone from the butt of jokes to Friday night hotspot, relatively, one of the handful of drive-ins showing first-run movies with a legit concession stand. And, still, plenty of questionable aromas.
Lauderdale’s Swap Shop not Florida enough for you? Cool. Head the extra 45 minutes or so up the turnpike to Lake Worth where all the people you’ve read about walking alligators, misspelling tattoos, and sleeping with their high school teachers hang out on Friday. Like its Broward County counterpart, the Lake Worth Swap Shop also shows first-run flicks with a lot more trucks. That said, the concession stand is one of the cheaper ones you’ll ever encounter, so no need to transport Hefty bags of pre-popped popcorn across the county line.
There have been more than a few Fridays when you could probably leave your office in Doral and have time to watch Dumbo in your car before getting to the Palmetto. But now at least one Friday a month you can do it without having to also navigate traffic. Doral Central Park is hosting a monthly drive-in movie on the final Friday of the month, showing slightly longer animated flicks like Wonder Park and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Never ones to miss a chance at creating some childhood nostalgia, the folks at the Miami-Dade Fair and Exposition have transformed part of the fairgrounds into a drive-in movie theater, featuring older classics like Dirty Dancing, Grease, and Shrek. Though there are concessions at the drive-in, get the full fair experience by hitting up the fair food drive-thru nearby and gorge yourself on elephant ears, funnel cakes, and fried Oreos beforehand. And this time, you won’t even have to worry about yacking them up on the Gravitron.
Though the drive-in movies at Hard Rock Stadium have been evicted in favor of the slightly more disappointing and exponentially more expensive Dolphins, you can still get your outdoor movie fix at HRS in Fountain Plaza, where a big, socially distanced outdoor movie theater has popped up to keep the film train rolling. It’s technically more of a drive-to theater than a drive-in, where you’re welcome to bring lawn chairs and post up on the grass to watch classics like Jaws and Goonies. But for the full date-night experience, opt for the prix-fixe restaurant that offers a three-course dinner from Chef Dayanny De La Cruz in a private seating area.
This small-ish drive-in on Miami Avenue doubles down on its grade-school throwbacks, not only featuring movies that transport some of us back to our single-digit glory days of Goonies and The Mummy, but also telling all who plan to attend that “the floor is lava.” This is a reference to the theater’s rule prohibiting anyone from leaving their car for anything other than bathroom breaks. Though, if you’re starving, you can still order food delivery to your car from a number of local restaurants.
North Miami Beach
Drive-up movies are cool for cities that don’t have epic amounts of brilliant turquoise water and miles of twisting mangrove forests. For cities who do have those amenities, paddle-up movies make way more sense. That’s why Oleta River is starting its Movies on the Water series September 18, where you’ll conclude a 45-minute paddle through the park with a movie on the big screen in its beach cove. The first feature will fittingly be Finding Nemo, with more to be announced soon.
For years, Dezerland was known to many Miamians as “that enormous car museum with the Ninja Warrior course that we really should hit up next weekend.” But during the pandemic it has finally gotten some name recognition as a drive-in movie theater, of all things. And though it’s not currently running a regular schedule, it does host frequent one-off screenings, like it did with the recent opener for the Outshine Film Festival.
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