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Jefferson's drive in theater a trip well worth it


Here's some free advice: if you remember going to the drive-in as a kid and want to relive a piece of your youth, don't put it off much longer. When the 41 Twin, the last drive in theater in Milwaukee, came down to make room for future developments, it got a little harder to catch a movie under the stars. Now you'll have to make the 40-minute trip west to Jefferson, where fortunately, the High-Way 18 Outdoor Theatre, is alive and kicking.

It's pretty much exactly how you remembered it. Folks pile into the station wagon and enjoy a few movies under the starlight. Many of the families leave after the first feature, as the second movie usually ends well after 1 a.m. And even on the most crowded nights, there's plenty of room to see the giant 90x40-ft. screen. The theater lot accommodates a whopping 540 cars.

In the middle of the grounds sits the snack bar, with the standard trappings you'd expect: popcorn, hot dogs, candy, etc. There's a small playground in the front of the lot (yep, just like in "Grease"). You can tune in the movie's audio on your car radio, or if you're trying to be extra-retro, you can listen in on a speaker that attaches to your window.

And you can't really argue with the prices. At just $6 for adults, $3 for kids, you get two first-run films that start at dusk. There's no more romantic (or cheap) date out there, even if it's a bit of a schlep to get to the theater. Just hop on I-94 West, take the Johnson Creek exit (Hwy 26) south to Hwy. 18 in Jefferson. Turn right, and the theater is a few miles on your left. Movies and showtimes can be found at their Web site, highway18.com or by calling (920) 674-6700

Sadly, the number of theaters in Wisconsin has dwindled to just a handful. If Jefferson isn't your cup of tea, here's a list of the remaining drive ins still open for business:

Big Sky Drive-In Theatre
Hwy 16 and 127
Wisconsin Dells

Gemini Drive-In
Just off Hwy 12 and I-94
Eau Claire

Highway 18 Drive-In Theater
2 miles west of Jefferson on Hwy 18
Jefferson

Keno Drive-In Theater
Hwy 32 at 116th St.
Kenosha

Moonlight Outdoor Theater
Hwy 22
Shawano

Sky Vu Drive-In Theater
Hwy 69
Monroe

Sky Vue
Hwy 29 and CTY J
Wausau

Skyway Drive-In
Hwy 42
Fish Creek
(920) 854-9938

Starlight 14
Hwy 14 and CTY OO
Richland Center

For more about the history of drive-in theaters in Wisconsin, check out "Movies By Starlight: The Drive-ins of Wisconsin."

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