The Drive In restaurant in Taylors Falls

Minnesota's Best Drive-Ins for the Perfect Summer Road Trip

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Stop at The Drive In for burgers, root beer and a round of mini-golf

Minnesota's Best Drive-Ins for the Perfect Summer Road Trip

By Lisa Meyers McClintick

Old-fashioned malts, a frosty mug of root beer, hot dogs oozing with chili or ketchup, and a twisty ice cream cone with a perfect curl on top can only mean one thing: It’s drive-in season in Minnesota.

Most drive-ins opened in the mid-century period when post-war, automobile-loving America embraced any excuse to go out cruising and cool off. Today, these family-run drive-ins offer a tasty slice of Americana.

Typically open April to October, many drive-ins also host cruise nights when classic car owners show up in restored Pontiacs, Buicks and Fords with their rocket-inspired chrome work, flashy curves and vintage colors.

Now that you know the history, be sure to stop at any of the following longtime favorites on your next summer road trip.

  1. Wagner's Drive-In, Brooklyn Park
    Wagner's Drive-In, Brooklyn Park

    Whether you're craving house-made burgers, hearty soups, fried chicken or root beer floats, Wagner's Drive-In has you covered. Started back in the early 1970s as a delivery lunch service for car sales businesses, Wagner's maintains its strong relationship with car enthusiasts through the Wag-Niters Car Club, a weekly Monday night cruise and car show.

  2. Gordy's Hi-Hat, Cloquet
    Gordy's Hi-Hat, Cloquet

    With its checkered floor and red stools, Gordy's Hi Hat has beckoned travelers with battered fish and hand-packed burgers laden with onions since 1960. Diners can order sides such as cheese curds and homemade onion rings, big malts and lighter fare like the strawberry salad with poppy seed dressing.

  3. Dairyland, Fergus Falls
    Dairyland in Fergus Falls


    Dairyland, Fergus Falls

    This bright-red restaurant with gingerbread-and-gingham charm has drawn customers for more than 50 years with broasted chicken, a trio of burgers stacked on French bread and ice cream classics including banana splits. “Take a bite of our popcorn chicken and a fried cheese curd at the same time, and it’s a little bit of heaven,” says owner Jean Connelly. She and her husband, Pat, still have the old intercom from their earlier days of carhop service.

    For an extra treat, visit on a Wednesday night when a colorful parade of classic Chevys, Buicks, Pontiacs and Fords rumbles into the parking lot to make it feel like the 1950s again.

  4. Tip Top Dairy Bar, Osakis
    Tip Top Dairy Bar, Osakis

    Tip Top Dairy Bar has been a seasonal staple in Central Minnesota since 1955, serving cowboy burgers, pizza burgers and hot dogs with sundaes, banana splits, shakes and slushies like the “Jen,” a mix of orange, cherry and Mountain Dew. Eat indoors or take it to Lake Osakis, just a few blocks away.

  5. The Peppermint Twist, Delano
    A pink drive in restaurant in Delano

    Kids love the pink and whimsical Peppermint Twist in Delano / Lisa Meyers McClintick

    The Peppermint Twist, Delano

    Highway 12 drivers can’t miss this playfully pink drive-in painted with teddy bears and now in its third decade. Toddlers and preschoolers romp through fenced-in areas with a wooden train, wishing well and games. Don’t miss the signature fresh raspberry shake. Plan B? Peppermint.

  6. Sue's Drive In, Pierz
    Sue's Drive In, Pierz

    This landmark drive-in from 1965 cooks up sizzling burgers and bacon supplied by another locally loved business, Thielen Meats. Located about 15 miles east of Little Falls and Highway 10, Sue's Drive In has become a traditional detour for northbound vacationers.

  7. The Drive In, Taylors Falls
    The Drive In's giant Root Beer sign in Taylors Falls

    The Drive In's giant root beer sign / Andrew Parks

    The Drive In, Taylors Falls

    A giant mug of root beer on a pole out front guarantees you won't miss this gathering spot where carhops bring juicy burgers and frosty mugs of homemade root beer to your vehicle. Bonus: 18 holes of mini-golf on site, plus hiking at Interstate State Park less than half a mile away.

  8. Ginny’s Drive-In, West Concord
    Ginny's Drive-In

    Ginny's Drive-In

    Ginny’s Drive-In, West Concord

    If you’re craving tasty made-to-order burgers and malts, visit Ginny’s Drive-In in West Concord. This adorable spot also serves up chicken drummies, loaded fries, cheese curds and frozen treats. Malt flavors range from classic favorites such as chocolate and vanilla to more surprising options, including banana ripple, black cherry and even bubble gum. Ginny’s is open seasonally and hosts car shows in the parking lot during the summer.

  9. Earl's, Roseau
    Earl's, Roseau

    The cheery red-and-white exterior of this local favorite has welcomed diners since the 1940s. The staff still hand-patties its burgers, and makes homemade potato salad, coleslaw, chili, ribs and even deep-fried gizzards.

  10. Minnetonka Drive In, Spring Park
    Minnetonka Drive In, Spring Park

    After taking a scenic drive around Prince's favorite lake, visit the Minnetonka Drive In for great food with a heaping side order of nostalgia. The decorations at this 1960s-era institution scream vintage, but the online ordering process is thoroughly up-to-date. This drive-in is located just off the Dakota Rail Trail, so bring your bike and burn off your meal with a ride along the waterfront.

  11. Lakeview Drive Inn, Winona
    Lake View Drive Inn

    Lake View Drive Inn

    Lakeview Drive Inn, Winona

    Lakeview Drive Inn, on the scenic shore of Lake Winona and within view of the Mississippi River bluffs, earns the designation as Minnesota’s most historic drive-in. This beloved summer gathering place has been flipping burgers for locals and travelers since 1938. Carhops still take orders for the half-pound Sugarloaf Mountain burger, bison and elk burgers, pork fritters and brats accompanied by frothy, frosted mugs of homebrewed sarsaparilla “Sno-Cap” root beer.

  12. Barney's, Waseca
    Barney's Drive-In

    Barney's Drive-In

    Barney's, Waseca

    Located along the shore of Clear Lake and just west of a popular summer campground, this iconic drive-in has been around since 1949 when steak burgers were only 20 cents. Carhops still bring customers Coney dogs and homemade root beer, and the sweetest parking spots face the lake.

  13. The Country Drive In, Winthrop
    An old Polaroid of The Country Drive In

    An old Polaroid of The Country Drive In

    The Country Drive In, Winthrop

    Like an oasis on the prairie for Highway 15 road-trippers, this stand has served classics from fried chicken to burgers for more than 50 years, along with an ice cream happy hour Monday through Thursday and treats like the Dreamsicle — frozen lemonade blended with orange flavor-burst ice cream.

Lisa Meyers McClintick

Lisa Meyers McClintick is a prolific travel writer for outlets including USA Today, Midwest Living, the Star Tribune and her website A mom of three, she especially enjoys family travel, hands-on learning vacations, local food and farms, living history and outdoor adventures.