A Night at the Drive-In: San Diego Outdoor Movie Theaters

Southern California's beautiful weather makes it the perfect place for outdoor movies.

Just the words “drive-in theater” evoke a sense of nostalgia and Americana of long-ago. There’s something enticing about watching a movie from the comfort of your car as the soundtrack is broadcast through your own personal sound system. If you’re a new parent, you can actually take your baby to the movies and not worry about disturbing anyone else. And while bench seats are no longer the norm, taking your date to the drive-in still makes for a romantic night.

San Diego’s beautiful weather makes it the perfect place for outdoor movies. If you’re looking for a fun and affordable night out, we’ve got two drive-in theaters nearby.

San Diego’s Drive-In Movie Theaters

South Bay Drive-in has three screens and each plays a double feature seven nights a week. The screens are themed, so there can be families at one, dates at another, and groups of friends at the third.

This drive-in theater first opened in San Diego in 1958, and the only time it closed was to upgrade the projectors to a fully digital system in 2013. Movies are $9 for adults and $1 for kids ages 5 to 9, which means a family of four can see a movie for $20 or less, depending on the age of the children. Credit cards are accepted and the 

Santee Drive-in has two screens and posts a double-feature on each every night. The feature is shown both at sunset and then after midnight, with a co-feature in between.

The price for adults and teens 13+ is $9, and children ages 5 to 12 are $4 each. Santee is cash-only. If your battery runs down, they have a portable jumper kit so you won’t be stranded at the drive-in…

Things to know before visiting San Diego Drive-In Theaters:

  • The audio is broadcast through FM radio, so make sure yours is working. Santee has loaner radios for a $20 deposit on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Sitting on the roof of your car isn’t allowed.
  • Nor is popping the hatch above the roof of your vehicle. Both block other viewers and that’s just not cool.
  • Please leave your pooch at home.
  • You can, however, bring snacks.
  • But you don’t have to, because they both have concession stands. Nachos, anyone?
  • You can bring chairs to sit on instead of your car, but keep them in your space.
  • No spot saving!
  • No booze or drugs. (Duh.)
  • If you’ve got a big vehicle, you’ll have a special place to park.
  • Get there early to make sure you get the best spot

An evening at the drive-in is a fun escape for dates, friends, and families. If you’ve got any tips for visiting the drive-in, or some favorite memories, please share in the comments!

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