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The Wellfleet Drive-In Theater: Cinema Al Fresco

The Wellfleet Drive-in Theater is the only drive-in left on Cape Cod. It has been operating continuously since the 1950s.

Kids dressed in pajamas clutching a big bucket of popcorn? Check. Bug spray at the ready, just in case? Check. Mom and dad delighting in a quintessential old-time family summer experience? Definitely.

Americans of a certain age will remember the exhilaration that came from spending a balmy evening at a drive-in movie. At their height in the late 1950s, there were over 4,000 outdoor theaters. Due to real estate costs and a host of other issues, that number has dwindled to fewer than 364 theaters. Lucky for us that the Wellfleet Drive-In Theater, on the Eastham- South Wellfleet town line, still is open, as it has been continuously since 1957.  It’s the only drive-in left on the Cape.

Its 100-foot-wide screen is massive by drive-in theater standards, and its throwback-to-the-50s mono speakers will either charm or annoy you. Fortunately, as an alternative, you can listen to the movie soundtrack through an FM channel on your car radio.

The theater features first-run double-features seven nights each week from late May through the weekend after Labor Day. The box office opens at 7 p.m., and the fact that they accept cash only reinforces the feeling that, for a few hours anyway,  the clock has been turned back more than 50 years.

An 18-hole mini-golf course, built in 1961 but reasonably well maintained, is on the premises. So is a snack bar and Dairy Bar & Grill, with burgers, pizza, onion rings, ice cream and candy.

I don’t want to call this an “entertainment complex” because that sounds too 21st-century, but it is a great place to unwind and unplug with your family, and have fun whiling away a starry summer night.

(Photograph: ho_hokus via Flickr)

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