Back in the day, drive-in outdoor movie theaters were a popular destination for date night, family outings, or just a nice, relaxing evening with friends out underneath the stars.
Pack up the kids, the car, add a few snacks and drinks, maybe a couple of soft pillows, and watch a double-feature on the giant screen from the comfort of your own vehicle, with the sound coming via individual speakers designed to hang from a slightly rolled-down window.
At one time, there were an estimated 4,000 drive-ins throughout the United States, and nearly 400 in Texas, more than any other state.
That popularity peaked in the 1950s and ‘60s, especially in rural areas, but started to decline during the 1970s, and according to www.driveinmovie.com, there are now a total of 18 drive-ins still open across the Lone Star state.
One of those is right here in Central Texas — the Last Drive-In Picture Show in Gatesville, county seat of Coryell County, located 30 minutes north of Killeen along State Highway 36.
Billed as one of the oldest remaining drive-ins in the state, the theater first opened in 1950. It went through several name changes through the years, and received its current title in 1989. Along with the outdoor drive-in, a walk-in cinema was added in 1972 at the same location.
The drive-in is open every day except Christmas Eve. Admission is $10 per carload, and all movies — which start at 9 p.m. — are family-friendly, with no R-rated films shown. Digital sound is available through each vehicle’s FM radio. A snack bar with a full array of popular movie theater food and drinks is available, and the indoor theater offers matinees Saturday and Sunday and daily matinees during the summer.
For more information, contact the drive-in at 254-865-8445. It is located at 2912 S. State Highway 36.
Other local summer attractions include:
Summer Fun Water Park, 1410 Waco Road in Belton, features multiple water slides, a lazy river, large swimming pool, and pavilions for parties. The park is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 1 to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Admission prices: adults, $16; children three to 12 years old, $13; non-swimmers, $7; and seniors, free. The park offers discounted rates for admission after 3 p.m., and Sunday admission is $13 for all ages. Summer Fun also features teen and adult nights throughout the summer. Go to summerfunwaterpark.com for more information.
The Killeen Family Aquatics Center, 1800 E. Stan Schlueter Loop, includes a 10,360 square foot multi-use pool, a lap pool, bathhouse, three water slides, kid’s play area, shaded rest areas and more. Day passes range from $5 to $8 based upon age, with kids 3 years and under always free. The center is open Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 6:30 p.m.
Hancock Springs Free Flow Pool is one of the last free-flowing spring-fed pools in Texas with water staying at a cool 72 degrees no matter how hot it gets outside. The spring is at Hancock Park, Highway 281 South in Lampasas. Adult admission fee is $3.50 per day and seniors and children are $2.50. The pool is open Thursday-Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m.
Belton Lake Outdoor and Recreation Center, at the intersection of North Nolan Road and Cottage Road, has a number of activities for families to enjoy. Camping sites, picnic pavilions, horseback riding trails, hiking, mountain biking, as well as a man-made beach complete with a downhill water slide and more are available. Military patrons pay $3 per car; all others are $10 per vehicle. Visit hood.armymwr.com for more information.