Jefferson, WI: Cars, corn dogs, canoodling
The most reliable way to summon up a care-free, car-centric America in all its sunny optimism is to hit the drive-in. Anything fun that can be done (see movies! eat corn dogs!) will be more fun in a set of wheels. With fewer than 400 drive-ins left in the country, though, it's easier said than done.
Set your GPS, then, to Jefferson, Wisconsin—about 40 minutes from Milwaukee—where you'll find a charming legacy of the Annette Funicello era on Highway 18. This drive-in (why the 'outdoor theater' name, anyway?), which had a four-decade run before closing in 1994, was reopened in 2000. Thank you, nostalgic boomer Lee Burgess, for doing it and keeping the place's bones intact.
That means: 90-foot screen (take that, iPad!) and speakers on poles in the first few rows just like the old days. Volume up? Pull the speaker box through the driver's-side window. If you don't score one of those retro speakers for the sound, you can tune into your car's FM station, use a boombox or an iPod with an FM receiver. Warning: combining the technologies of all these different decades could cause an anomaly in the time-space continuum.
Back to the future, there's a playground where the kids can let off some energy before the movie starts. Bucket-seat potatoes can load up on snacks like burgers, nachos, pizza, popcorn, and cotton candy (there were no food police back in the day). A full-service bar is available on weekends.
Highway 18 always shows a double feature, which makes your $8 for adults something of a bargain. The first movie starts after dusk; depending on when dusk is, the second flicks starts late in the evening when Wisconsin can get downright chilly. Bring blankets and do what drive-ins were made for: snuggle up with your honey.