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Movies under the stars outside Kenosha.
Movies under the stars outside Kenosha.

Family date night: the drive-in

I've found that one of the coolest parts about having a child is that you can relive your own childhood memories through their eyes.

Earlier this summer, for example, I took my daughter strawberry picking for the first time. Saturday night, we went to her first drive-in movie.

I loved the drive-in as a kid, and back then, there were several to choose from. We usually went to the Starlite in Menomonee Falls, but sometimes went to the 57 Outdoor Theater in Grafton. Even, in my early 20s, I still packed a bunch of friends into a car and visited the now-demolished 41-Twin on South 27th Street.

Now, there are only two drive-in theaters within about an hour of Milwaukee, and until Saturday, I had only been to one of them. In the last decade, I visited the Highway 18 Drive-In in Jefferson several times, but not at all since my daughter was born.

Saturday, we gave the Keno Drive-in in Pleasant Prairie a try.

My impression: it's quite a bit more run-down than Jefferson. Pretty dumpy, even. But for an almost 4-year-old, this is not what she noticed. She told me she expected the screen to be black, not white, and she was surprised that SUVs and minivans parked backwards and people sat in their trunks. It's always fun to see how a child imagines an experience that's totally new.

Also different than Jefferson is that you aren't prohibited from bringing food and drink to the Keno. The dilapidated snack bar wasn't even that busy as patrons stuffed their faces with fast food and washed it down with bottles of beer. At the Highway 18, they make it very clear that no outside food is allowed. Prices are about the same, though: in Kenosha, it's $8 for adults, kids 5-11 are $4, and littler kids are free. In Jefferson, kids are $5.

The first-run movies at the two drive-ins are the same or similar. Both were showing "Brave" on Saturday for the first of the two features. We know our daughter would never make it all the way through the first movie, and with "Brave" finally starting at 9, frankly, we didn't expect her to see much of it at all.

But the excitement, bolstered by a little "special occasion" candy kept her awake until 10 p.m., when she declared it was time to go home. She fell asleep about 200 yards out of the theater. I certainly remember falling asleep at the drive-in and waking up in my own bed, too.

Next time, we'll drive the extra 10 minutes to Jefferson, which as I recall, is a nicer overall experience, and without the bright neighborhood lights behind the screen.

It's such a fun summer adventure, and I'm just happy the opportunity still exists to make the drive-in part of my daughter's memories, too.

Go, while you still can.


jjrakman | June 25, 2012 at 5:18 p.m. (report)

Here's a great website about Drive In Theaters all across Wisconsin.

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