These Drive-In Movie Theaters around Syracuse are Full of Nostalgia
July 23, 2020
When I was a kid, I remember going to drive-in movies every summer. We’d put on our pajamas, pack up the car with pillows, blankets, and snacks, and head out for the night. My brother and I would fight over who got the front seat, but in the end it never mattered because it was just so much fun to be there! Over the years, several drive-in movie theaters have closed down and their parking lots have become overgrown. Flash forward to 2020 where activities are limited due to social distancing. The perk? Drive-in movies are making a comeback! There are a few local spots that have been in operation all along, but several new ones have also popped up this summer. So get your popcorn ready and check out these drive-in movie theaters around Syracuse!
PS – scroll to the bottom for a map of all theaters mentioned.
Never Been to a Drive-In Movie?
You’re missing out! Drive-in movies are not just full of nostalgia for those of us who went as children, they are also a ton of fun for first-timers. You get to enjoy the comforts of your own car, bring your own snacks, and set your own volume. Plus, you get 2-3 movies in one night!
Most drive-in theaters offer email newsletters of text reminders of each week’s features. Sign up to stay informed!
Here are some insider tips to help you enjoy your first drive-in movie:
Determine if you need to purchase tickets in advance. Given the pandemic and social distancing, many drive-in theaters are requiring visitors to buy tickets online. That allows them to control how many people attend.
Check if ticket price is per car or per person. It varies based on theater, so it’s good to know what you’re paying for!
Get there before dusk. The movie cannot start until it is dark enough, but arriving early gives you the chance to get a good parking spot and get settled for the evening. Keep in mind that trucks and SUVs can’t park in the first few rows. If you plan to sit in the back of your SUV, use string to tie the hatchback down so it doesn’t go over the roof of your car.
Find out how you will get sound. The old-school way is by using the metal speakers located on poles throughout the lot. Hang the speaker on your car window. These days most theaters now transmit the audio over the radio – so just set your car radio to the right station!
Be respectful of other movie-goers. Turn off your lights while the movie is in progress, and don’t make a ton of noise in your car.
Check if dogs are allowed. It would be super disappointing to bring your pup to the theater and then have to turn around because they aren’t welcome!
So what should you bring?
Bring your own snacks! While most drive-ins do have concession stands, I always like to bring my own. (Budget friendly and I get to have whatever I want!) I usually pack homemade popcorn, Twizzlers, and some soft drinks. Fresh baked goods are always a good option too!
Pillows and blankets are a must. Trust me on this one. One of the best parts of going to a drive-in is that you can get super comfy cozy in your car. Do it.
Buy screen windows for you car. That way you can roll the windows down and enjoy a breeze – without the bugs.
Don’t want to sit in your car? No worries! Bring a camp chair or blanket to put out in front of your car. Do not sit next to your car so you can stay socially distanced.
Finger Lakes Drive-In
1064 Clark Street Road, Aurelius, NY
The Finger Lakes Drive-In near Auburn is proud to be the longest continuously operating drive-in movie theater in New York state. Since it opened in July of 1947, Finger Lakes has been entertaining families for decades. Most evenings feature two movies.
Cost: $8 for adults (12+) / $4 for children / FREE for ages 4 and under Tickets available in person, cash or card. Schedule: Wednesdays through Sundays. Radio Station: 101.9 FM Concession Stand: Hot dogs, hamburgers, fried appetizers, popcorn, candy, and more. Car-side delivery also available. Stand closes 15 minutes into the second movie. Dog-friendly? Yes.
2475 NYS Route 48, Fulton, NY
Voted the best drive-in in Central New York, the Midway Drive-In has been a family favorite for years. Located in Fulton, the drive-in was opened in 1948. Sunday movies feature open-captioning for deaf and hard-of-hearing guests. To promote social distancing, cars should be parked in the middle of two speaker poles.
Cost: $9 for adults (12+) / $4 for children / FREE for ages 6 and under Tickets currently available ONLINE ONLY. Schedule: Wednesdays through Sundays. Radio Station: 87.9 FM Concession Stand: Pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, soft pretzels, popcorn, candy, and more. Dog-friendly? Yes.
POP UP DRIVE-INS
1155 Apulia Road, Lafayette, NY
Sitting on 100 acres of gorgeous upstate landscape, Arlington Acres is typically home to gorgeous barn weddings and other events. With the cancellation and postponements of most weddings this summer, Katie Jerome and her family have pivoted to showing movies on the side of the barn, on a screen built by their contractor.
Cost: FREE, but there is a suggested donation of $15 per car to help support the family business. RSVPs are required in order to control the number of cars in attendance. Schedule: Varies depending on schedule of private events.
Beak & Skiff
2708 Lords Hill Road, Lafayette, NY
Known for being the host of the Lafayette Apple Festival AND creating some of the most delicious distilled spirits around, Beak & Skiff is also hosting pop-up drive-in movies this summer.
Cost: $25 per car (1-8 passengers) Tickets currently available ONLINE ONLY. Schedule: Wednesdays. Radio Station: Information available on site. Concession Stand: 1911 hard cider, tomato pie, popcorn, nachos, and apple cider donut holes (yum!). Guests are asked to pre-order food online when purchasing tickets. Dog-friendly? No.
101 Pier Road, Ithaca, NY
Located in the new urban waterfront, City Harbor, Drive-In Ithaca has popped up this summer to give people a fun and safe activity.
Cost: $20 per car Tickets available ONLINE ONLY. Schedule: Thursdays through Saturdays. Radio Station: Information available on site. Concession Stand: Popcorn, candy, and soda. Can be purchased in advance when buying your ticket to save 10%. Or order online during the show and have it delivered to your car. Dog-friendly? Yes.
While many of us are still coping with the fact that the New York State Fair was canceled this year, Villa Pizza Fritte is providing some comfort. The famous fried dough makers have taken over the orange lots at the fairgrounds. Since June, they’ve hosted State Fair Food Fests with a few other vendors. They’ve also brought in a screen to show movies!
Cost: $20 per car Tickets currently available ONLINE ONLY. Schedule: Saturdays Radio Station: 87.9 FM Concession Stand: Fried dough from Villa, sausages from Gianelli, and more! Dog-friendly? Yes.
During the 1960s, at the height of the drive-in movie craze, New York state was home to over 150 drive-in movie theaters. While many of them have closed as the years passed by, here are a few others that aren’t too far from Syracuse.
Bay Drive-In Theatre
NY Route 26, Alexandria Bay, NY
Located just two miles outside of scenic Alex Bay, Bay Drive-In Theatre offers TWO screens and a creative snack bar menu. Of course there are the traditional items, but you can also find mac & cheese bites, calamari, and duck, bacon, & corn wontons!
Cost: $7 for adults (12+) / $5 military & seniors (65+) / $3 for children / FREE for ages 6 and under Tickets currently available in person (cash only). Schedule: Fridays through Mondays. Radio Station: 106.1 FM for Cinema 1 / 92.3 FM for Cinema 2 Concession Stand: Chicken tenders, hot dogs, hamburgers, fried fish, pretzels, nachos, fried appetizers, and more. Outside food not allowed. Dog-friendly? Yes, but discouraged.
Black River Drive-In
28035 State Route 3, Watertown, NY
Black River Drive-In was another creation during the heyday of drive-in movies in 1950. After several successful years, a fire led the theater to close for 20 years. In 2006, new life was brought back into the Watertown drive-in and it continues today. Like some other theaters, Black River offers open-captioning on Sunday nights.
Cost: $8 for adults (12+) / $3 for children / FREE for ages 6 and under Tickets currently available online or in person (cash or card). $2 military discount. Schedule: Nightly. Radio Station: 87.9 FM Concession Stand: Pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, popcorn, candy, fried appetizers, and more. Guests bringing their own food will be required to purchase a food permit. Dog-friendly? Yes, but discouraged.
2431 State Route 352, Elmira, NY
Can’t decide which movie to watch? Don’t worry, Elmira Drive-In provides you with two options! That’s right, there are TWO double features each night.
Cost: $9 for adults (12+) / $4 for children / FREE for ages 3 and under Tickets currently available online or in person (cashless preferred). Schedule: Nightly. Concession Stand: Pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken fingers, nachos, popcorn, candy, fried appetizers, and more. Dog-friendly? Yes.
Silver Lake Twin Drive-In
7037 Chapman Ave, Perry, NY
Located between Rochester and Buffalo, Silver Lake Twin Drive-In opened in 1949. Over the years a second screen and restaurant were added to the venue. Now,you can keep the family entertained all day with a mini golf course and mining activity, both located onsite. The arcade is currently closed.
Cost: $9 for adults (11+) / $5 for children / FREE ages 3 and under Tickets currently available in person only (cash or card). Schedule: Nightly. Radio Station: 106.3 FM for screen 1 / 100.1 FM for screen 2 Concession Stand: A full restaurant, Charcoal Corral, is onsite. The menu features hot dogs, hamburgers, hot & cold sandwiches, salads, sides, and roasted chicken. Don’t forget the ice cream! Dog-friendly? Yes!
The Unadilla Drive-In Theatre is a family owned operation located between Binghamton and Oneonta.
Cost: $8 for adults (12+) / $6 for seniors / $5 for children / FREE ages 3 and under Purchase your parking spot (driver’s ticket included) online. Additional passengers pay upon arrival. Schedule: Fridays through Sundays. Radio Station: 107.3 FM Concession Stand: Popcorn, pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, fries, nachos, candy, and more.
Cost: $7 for adults (12+) / $2 for children / FREE for ages 6 and under Tickets currently available in person (cash only). Schedule: Fridays through Sundays. Radio Station: 88.9 FM or 600 AM Concession Stand: Popcorn, hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn chicken, fries, nachos, candy, and more.
1520 W Henrietta Road, Avon, NY
Located just outside of Rochester, Vintage Drive-In stands out from the rest with its FOUR SCREENS, each showing a double feature. Keep in mind when you choose one screen, you cannot changes screens for the second film. (In a typical year, Vintage also has an arcade and mini golf course open for guests.)
Cost: $9.99 for adults (11+) / $5.99 for children / FREE for ages 4 and under Tickets currently available in person (cash only). Reserved parking spots are available online for $15. They do NOT include a ticket. Schedule: Nightly. Radio Station: Information available on site. Concession Stand: Popcorn, pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, steak sandwiches, fried dough, fried appetizers, candy, and more. Food orders must be placed by phone and paid with by card. Guests bringing their own food will need to purchase a food permit for $8. Dog-friendly? Yes.