Guide to the 6 Best D.C. Outdoor Movies and Drive-Ins

dc outdoor movies


It’s been a long spring and summer as we’ve sheltered in place to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but cooler weather is on its way and it’s time to catch up on some summer fun before the season is over. Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly flick or a date night movie and you want to maintain social distancing, D.C. outdoor movies or drive-in theaters are an exciting way to stay safe and spend time with family and friends. 

The Greater Washington, D.C. area — including Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware — is home to both drive-in and outdoor movie events to enjoy while adhering to COVID-19 guidelines. This guide will help you find some of the best locations in the region, and what to expect from an outdoor movie (in case you’ve never been to one).

Drive-In Movies Versus Outdoor Movies

The outdoor movie is a more recent concept. You can probably remember the first you heard about Bethesda Outdoor Movies and thought it’d be a cool idea to take a blanket and toss it on the ground to watch the latest film series or family-friendly movie. However, outdoor movies date back to the first part of the 1900s and was inspired by drive-in movies

On a beautiful night, you and your family, friends, or a date can spread a blanket on a soft layer of grass to watch a movie on a large outdoor screen. Some outdoor movies use the sides of buildings as a screen. A few tips:

  • It’s always a good idea to get there early to find a good spot. 
  • You need to bring a blanket or two, one for the ground and the other to wrap up in if it gets chilly during your movie. 
  • You can usually find a couple of food trucks nearby with a selection of gourmet treats or pack your own picnic dinner. 

Drive-in movies first became patented in the 1930s, but didn’t become really popular until the 1950s and 60s when the baby boomers flocked to the drive-in movies each weekend. Their popularity waned in recent years until the pandemic made them one of the only options for watching films outside the home. You simply find a parking space in front of the huge projector screen, tune into a provided radio station, and listen to the movie through your car speakers. 

D.C. outdoor movies

A few drive-in tips:

  • It’s always a good idea to get there early to find a good spot. 
  • Some drive-in theaters have concession stands but not all. You might need to pack a small cooler and snacks.
  • It’s a good idea to do your homework on concessions  ahead of time so you have your favorites to enjoy while you lay back in your seats and watch the film. 

Where to Find the Perfect Drive-Ins and Outdoor Movies in Washington, D.C. 

Whether you want to see the latest family-friendly movies or a romantic comedy for date night, there are many drive-in movies and outdoor movies in the area from Virginia to Maryland. Here are the most popular spots to catch a movie screening:

D.C. Drive-In Theaters

Park Up DC — Washington, D.C.

Broccoli City and Events DC has set up a drive-in theater on the RFK campus for a few months. You can watch movies on a 45-foot LED screen through October 31st, and the theater is offering double features of popular films like Moana, Black Panther, and the Men in Black. You can find tickets and showtimes online

Union Market — Washington, D.C.

Union Market has started hosting movie nights again with its popup drive-in. You can choose your movie — like 42 or The Avengers — and bring food with you or treat yourself to a snack from one of the food trucks or vendors. Reserve your tickets online before you go. 

Bengie’s Big Screen — Middle River, Maryland

Bengie’s offers a triple feature every Friday and Saturday night. This drive-in theater has the biggest screen in the United States. Its COVID-19 policy requires that you purchase tickets online for all showings (with a few minor exceptions). You can’t bring your own food to this drive-in, but it offers a concession stand with a full menu. 

Tysons Corner Center Drive-In — Tysons Corner, Virginia

When you’re done shopping at the Tysons Corner Center, stay for a family-friendly movie! You can find a spot in the parking lot and enjoy a movie starting in the middle of August. The event is taking up a donation of $10 or more with all proceeds going to a local nonprofit. You need to reserve your spot online to ensure a parking space. 

The Boro Tysons Movie Night — Tysons Corner, Virginia

In the parking lot across from The Boro, you and the whole gang can enjoy a family drive-in movie night. Take your family to your favorite movie series on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday nights. 

D.C. Outdoor Movies

Films at the Stone — Washington, D.C.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Foundation is hosting family-friendly movies on an outdoor screen starting at sunset or 8:30 pm this summer. You and your family can visit this historic site for Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr, then stay for an outdoor movie under the stars. You can even take the Metro to avoid having to park. 

Drive-in or outdoor movies can make for fun ways to break the COVID-19 boredom and have fun new experiences. The options are popping up all over the Greater D.C. area during the warmer months, meaning you can opt to socially distance in style while viewing a favorite film or catching up on one you missed. At DARO Apartments, we love sharing our knowledge of all the cool things there are to do in the Washington, D.C. area and beyond. Are you looking for a new apartment in the D.C. area? Contact us to speak with a leasing expert and schedule a tour today.

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