NC’s Oldest Drive-In is Alive, Well and Making a Comeback Just Outside the Triangle

Under an hour from the Triangle, you’ll find an open-air, watch-from-your-car, drive-in theatre that’ll put your MoviePass to shame. Head out to Henderson, NC, pull into the Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre and you’ll be treated with a retro evening full of classic concessions, cozy vibes and cinema under the stars.

Opened in 1949, the Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre is NC’s oldest operating drive-in and one of only six left in the state. One visit, and you’ll understand why this spot’s stood the test of time. 

Psst: only have a minute? Watch the video here.

photo: @captmattyn

They always play double features (two movies for the price of one!) and feature a rotating lineup of first-run flicks and classic cinema. Park yourself under a cotton-candy sky, snuggle up in a friend’s flatbed and stuff yourself silly with the butteriest popcorn known to man.  It’s perfect for a vintage date night, family field trip, dog-friendly excursion (yep, they allow dogs!) or wallet-friendly night out.

Never been? Not sure what to expect? Generally confused on the whole "drive-in” concept? We gotchu. 

A First-Timer's Guide to the Raleigh Road Drive-In

— Entry to the drive-in includes two, back-to-back movies and costs $8 per person. Only want to see one movie? Still $8. So, you may as well get the most bang for your buck by getting there early and seeing both flicks. Who knows? Christopher Robin could be your new favorite film.

— Come hungry. The concession stand is full of classic snacks ($2 popcorn is an obvious must), as well as heartier dinner fare and specialty items (we’re lookin’ at you, Oreo Churros). None of the food is over $5 so you’re free to feast like kings and queens. See the full menu here.

photo: @holapaolaharvey

— If you’ve got access to truck or hatchback, def bring that. Reverse into a spot and deck out the back for a seriously cozy, ‘gram-worthy movie-watching experience you simply can’t get at an AMC.

— You’re not going to be stuck in your car the whole time. There’s an intermission between the movies, which is the perfect opportunity to walk the grounds a stretch your legs.

— It’s kid and pet-friendly (pups even get an aww-dorable welcome treat). 

photo: @thor_thegolden_

— You can wear your PJs (and you won’t be the only one). Hey, a double feature plus a ~45-minute drive means this could be a late night. Embrace the urge to bunker down and be comfy AF. Tucked away and in the privacy of your own car, no one will be able to detect those flannel jammies anyway.

— The theatre opens at 7p Wednesday through Sunday (except for Saturdays when they open at 6p). The first movie begins after sunset when it’s dark enough to see the screen clearly. Movies run rain or shine, all year round. 

photo: @armsandlegs

What to bring:

  • Blankets, pillows, lawn chairs and anything else you need to cozy up

  • Bug spray and/or citronella candles because NC mosquitos don’t play

  • Cards, frisbees and other games to play while you wait for the sun to set or during intermission

What to leave at home:

  • Outside food + drink (NBD since their concession stand is 🔥)

  • Booze. Sorry, but cocktails and cars really don’t mix—get caught drinking or under the influence, and you’ll be promptly escorted out.

  • Coolers (given the first two bullets, what would you even have in there?)

photo: @myershousenc

NC’s Oldest Drive-In is Alive, Well and Making a Comeback Just Outside the Triangle
NC’s Oldest Drive-In is Alive, Well and Making a Comeback Just Outside the Triangle