If you’re old enough to remember drive-in movies, you understand the energetic feeling you get when watching a film outside a traditional movie theater. The fresh summer night air wafts through your clothes. The excitement of staying up late in anticipation. Don’t forget the memories of the first (or fifth) time you see a classic film. Together they create an experience you’ll never forget. This summer the whole family can get that nostalgic feeling, or experience it for the very first time, watching outdoor cinema in Bellingham and Whatcom County.
Know Before You Go
We take outdoor movie nights seriously. You have many movies and several locations to choose from. At each, you can expect food and art vendors, kids crafts, opening live music, dance or circus performers and even a few nonprofit booths at these hopping family-friendly events.
Plan to arrive early to place your blanket in your favorite spot. Check the schedule in advance to see if other festivals or events precede the screening. Bring snacks and drinks or plan to wander and sample nearby businesses. Bring and wear layers. Temperatures can dip after the sun goes down, especially when the screen is near the water. You don’t want to be forced to leave early if you get too cold. Above all, bring some friends and plan to make some lasting summer memories.
Below are at least three places you can catch an outdoor movie this summer. Our apologies if we’ve left anyone out.
Rooftop Cinema at the Parkade
Pickford Film Center’s Rooftop Cinema at the Parkade, with help from donations and sponsors, presents their annual outdoor summer film series in July and August in downtown Bellingham! The event is held on top story of the Commercial Street Parking Garage. The community gets into it, so you can expect a real party with live music, food, drinks, and the best 360 views of the city and Bellingham Bay. Depending on the film, there could be karaoke, a dance party, circus performers or costume contests before the film. You can reliably find a beer garden, wine and cider and a range of food trucks and vendors.
You should definitely plan to arrive early and watch the gorgeous sunset over Bellingham Bay. Last year I tried to see the very popular Napoleon Dynamite but was turned away because they’d exceeded their capacity. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and entry is FREE, but donations are accepted toward the independent theater Pickford, a community gem. They recommend bringing a blanket or chair and a friend. Your blanket will sit on the ground of a parking lot, so you might also consider a foam or other pad if you have it as well.
You’ll find free parking on floors one through four of the parking garage or free on-street parking after 5 p.m.
Pickford is Bellingham’s independent film theater so they choose their films carefully. This summer they’ll present:
- Friday, July 12 – Selena
- Friday, July 26 – Do the Right Thing
- Friday, August 9 – Scream
Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema
As if you needed another excuse to visit the adorable village of historic Fairhaven, they offer live entertainment and outdoor movies at the Fairhaven Village Green in Bellingham each Saturday night from June 22 through August 24, 2019. Now in their 20th season, you can expect live music and dance, vendors, activities and raffles before each film.
You bring your own seating and only blankets are allowed on the grass closest to the screen. There is limited space for chair seating available. The start times vary because the time of sunset varies over this 10 week season so check their Facebook event listings for the latest details and to find out who will be performing before the movie.
I’ve seen several movies here with my family over the years. I always arrive early to set out my blanket and then wander through nearby Village Books or take the kids to nearby Sirena Gelato as an extra special treat. When the kids were younger they would dance with their friends to the band of the evening. We’ve also won prizes donated by local businesses.
You can see the sun set over Bellingham Bay from the Green. It can get chilly later in the evening because of the nearby water so be sure to bring warm socks, hats and gloves to keep you cozy in the night.
If you plan to attend opening night of outdoor cinema on June 22, reserve that whole weekend for the Whatcom Cultural Arts Festival running that whole weekend in Fairhaven. There you’ll find diverse art, music and dance from a range of cultures represented by Whatcom County residents.
Mark your calendar now for these free family-friendly films:
- June 22—Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
- June 29—Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
- July 6—Top Gun
- July 13—Bohemian Rhapsody
- July 20—Mary Poppins Returns
- July 27—10 Things I Hate About You
- August 3—Jurassic Park
- August 10—How to Train Your Dragon 3
- August 17—Grease
- August 24—The Princess Bride
Hot Thursday Nights in Lynden
Now in its third year, Hot Thursday Nights is much more than just an outdoor movie night. Its a full evening of family-friendly fun. The evening begins with a Night Market full of vendors open from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. between 3rd and 4th Streets in adorable downtown Lynden, WA.
Just minutes from the Abbotsford/Sumas border crossing, you can also listen to live music from a variety of performers across the street at Jansen Art Center on Front Street. On July 25 you can hear Scrub Hubner, also known as the Human Jukebox. August 1 will feature guitarist and vocalists The Rewinders (formerly Terry Palmer and Friends) who cover the Classic Rock hits of the 70s. August 8 will showcase Chuck Dingee and Sharon Mason who perform classic rock, folk-rock and other fun tunes.
Downtown Lynden also has performances by the Infinity Dance Company, led by Christie Peetoom and Line Dancing led by Charlene Lenn planned for you. August 1 you can also do beer tasting on Front Street for Hops Down Front.
Movies start just after sunset, usually between 9 and 9:30 p.m. This summer start your weekend early on Thursday night in Lynden with these films:
- July 25—Coco
- August 1—E.T.
- August 8—Three Wishes
In Bellingham and Whatcom County you can have movies and the outdoors at once. Mark your calendar and plan your evening, weekend or week-long visit now for a full outdoor cinema experience this summer. And plan to arrive early to watch the sun set while you try new foods and watch live entertainment before the show. The whole family will experience the unique, nostalgic feeling of the drive-in movies of days past.