Family Fun by Laura Churchill Duke: Drive-In – more than meets the eye

Published on June 30, 2014

Abbey and Nate Bartie of New Minas love going to the Valley-Drive in. Their mom, Tracey, recommends bringing activities for the kids to do to keep them from being bored before the movie starts. – Submitted


We are lucky to have one of the very few remaining drive-in movie theatres in the Maritimes. The Valley Drive-In is one of those unique experiences you must have at least once - and it’s also a great place to go with children.

I went to the Valley Drive-In a few times as a teenager before it went dark in the 1990s and again when it was reopened by the Lions Club. But, I had never gone with children. I worried would the boys would be up too late, they wouldn't enjoy it and we wouldn't be able to see. Boy, was I wrong!

There is a lot more to it, however, than just showing up, parking the car and watching the movie. I talked to some professional drive-in parents to get some tips about a family outing to the drive-in.

Although the movie doesn’t start until dusk (usually around 9 p.m.), you need to get there early. We arrived at 8 p.m. to stake out a good spot – although really, all spots are good spots! I didn't realize mini vans were in a section at the back while family cars in the front. This is because of the height differences.

How can children see in the backseat? The drive-in is designed with ramps - small raised inclines you park your front tires on. This raises the car up so children in the back can see. Apparently, some moviegoers choose their spot not by how close they get to the screen but by where the ramps work best for their vehicle. Some ramps are much more pronounced than others so it does take driving around to check them out.

“We back our mini van in backwards into the spot,” says Kristy Taylor. “Load the back with pillows, an air mattress and lots of blankets, and then open the hatch,” she says.

This way, you are watching the movie 'backwards' through the open hatch. She suggests bringing a piece of rope, like a bungee cord or skipping rope, to tie the hatch down so the door is not higher than the roof of the car blocking the view of people behind you. A Lions Club member may come around to measure, just to make sure.

“We take a mesh sheet (like from a gazebo) and tie it up over the opening to prevent the bugs from getting in,” explains Taylor.

Tracey Bartie takes her children, eight-year-old Abbey and seven-year-old Nate, to the drive-in for the fun experience of running around in pyjamas after dark and sharing a movie together. Bartie definitely recommends putting your kids in their pyjamas before you go.

“Mine always fall asleep in the car on the way home!”

What Bartie’s kids call the best thing about the drive-in, however, is the slushies. If you buy snacks, wait until the movie starts and the lineup is hopefully shorter.

Also bring a bag of entertainment supplies.

“Bring a soccer ball, bubbles or something that the kids can move around with before the movie starts to get the wiggles out,” Bartie says.

If you go early, the children will especially need something to keep them busy. There is a playing field and swing set in front of the screen so it makes a great place for the kids to run around and play soccer or Frisbee.

The Valley Drive-In features children’s movies every few weeks, so keep an eye on the schedule by checking their website or Facebook page. Some evenings are family nights with a bouncer or when kids can dress in themed costumes.

Going to the Valley Drive-In is something special I get to do with my sons because we get to snuggle under a blanket in the back of the van. Besides, in a few years, I know it won’t be me any more that they’ll be snuggling with!

Laura Churchill Duke ( remembers first seeing the Goonies at the Valley Drive-In as a child. She loves the drive-in just as much as her boys!