Top 5 Coolest Drive-Thru Events in America

If there is one thing we can thank the pandemic for, it is the re-emergence of drive-thru experiences. Going out and about safely helps stave off the quarantine cabin fever, and now you can have fun from the comfort of your car. Events have been popping up all around the globe; Brazil featured a drive-thru art gallery, and a German town transformed their annual Christmas market to be COVID-safe.

America in particular has a long-standing history of drive-thrus (starting with the opening of the first drive-thru restaurant in 1921). Don't worry, though — this won't be a list of your local fast food restaurants. These are exciting, unique events sure to put a smile on everyone's face! So let's get exploring.

1. Virginia Drive-Thru Safari Park

Natural Bridge, VA

an elk standing in a field

Elk | Getty

No matter what age you are, feeding an elk or deer a bucket of grain through a car window will put a smile on your face. At Virginia Safari Park, the animals are free to roam on 180 acres. The zoo is set in the breathtaking Shenandoah Valley and has had their drive-thru open since 2000. Cars drive along a three-mile path, but watch out — there might be a sleeping rhino in your way!

When masks are a thing of the past, you could opt to ditch the car for the walk-through featuring exhibits with giraffes, tigers, kangaroos, penguins and more. As the recipient of the Best Safari Park award from USA Today, the Virginia Safari Park is sure to delight the whole family.

2. The Museum of Wonder

Seale, Alabama

Butch Anthony at work in his museum, surrounded by oddities and wonders

Butch Anthony in his workshop | The Museum of Wonder

If you're one for odd curiosities, The Museum of Wonder is for you. It's a little difficult to describe, so this is what the founder says:

The Museum of Wonder is a modern-day cabinet of curiosities filled with art, artifacts and found or gifted objects including the world's largest gallstone and an actual footprint from Sasquatch!

The maker of the museum, Butch Anthony, started when he was a young teenager in a one-room log cabin. As he crafted his skills, popularity and interest grew. In 2014, Butch opened "The World's First Drive-Thru Museum," which is made out of shipping containers. Pretty cool, right?

Butch is a self-taught contemporary artist whose art has been featured in shows from Charleston to London. The drive-thru museum features a rotation of his works and interesting finds, some of which you may be able to purchase. The museum is open 24/7 on the side of U.S. Highway 431, so go check it out!

3. America's Oldest Operating Drive-In Theater

Orefield, Pennsylvania

A couple with their arms around each other sit outside watching a drivethru film

A couple at a drive-in theater | Getty

This is for those who like history and a good show. Shankweiler's Drive-In Theatre opened in 1934 and is the oldest drive-in theater that is in operation today. The place has survived a hurricane and various states of disarray. Current owner Paul Geissinger was hired part time in 1971 and has since renovated it to its state-of-the-art glory.

Spring 2021 will be their 86th season running, with movies showing mid-April through September. Masks are required, most likely because you just can't stay in your car when you smell popcorn at the snack bar. If you've already had the joy of going, make sure you sign their online guest book to share the memories!

4. Christmas in Color Light Show

South Jordan, Utah — Morrison, Colorado — Federal Heights, Colorado — San Dimas, California — Shakopee, Minnesota — Garden City, Idaho

a tunnel of lights with rings of gold, purple and blue

Tunnel of lights | Getty

Christmas lights are a classic holiday activity, okay? There is something so magical about getting lost in a sea of glowing lights, and Christmas in Color gets it right. They have locations in five states, all of which are sure to please! Dial in to the radio station in your car and watch as the lights flash and dance in perfect synchronization with the music.

When you buy tickets for a Christmas in Color drive-thru, you're also bringing cheer to someone in need. A percentage of proceeds go to support Make-A-Wish Foundation, an incredible non-profit that gives joy to kids with critical illnesses. Start the countdown to Christmas and enjoy the pretty pictures on their Instagram until it comes!

5. Autumn's Finest View: Blue Ridge Parkway

Asheville, North Carolina

a view of the Blue Ridge Parkway with bright fall leaves

View above Blue Ridge Parkway | Getty

We're cheating a little here, but if you've been, you know it's worth it — the National Park Service even calls it "America's favorite drive." Asheville is home to many wonders, including America's largest home, Biltmore. The fresh mountain air is a treat any time of the year, but witnessing fall arrive is a particularly special event.

There are several different routes to take, but any one of them will give you a brilliant view. Enjoy the colors fly by or stop and sit a while. It's a great background for the occasional selfie-taker or a money shot for that one friend who has a drone. Just make sure you know what to do if you encounter a black bear!

As the "longest road planned as a single unit in the United States," Blue Ridge Parkway has a detailed and documented history. UNC Chapel Hill put together a virtual journey through the years called Driving Through Time for you history buffs. We at Advance personally like any of the photos having to do with cars, like this one featuring an old-style gas station and coffee shop combo.

If none of these attractions are near you (or if you don't feel like taking the drive), don't worry; drive-thru events are popping up more and more right now. Check out your local news outlet for information on fun and safe community experiences or maybe consider starting one yourself!

Have you been to one of these drive-thru experiences or have a different one you'd recommend? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Last updated March 15, 2021