The tiniest tailgate
In the event that you must have a destination, why not go somewhere you’d usually exit the car and be stuck in a crowd, but maybe there’s a global pandemic or it’s the off-season! Parking lots or access roads near your favorite professional stadiums or concert halls, scenic natural vistas, some of the spots listed above under “Where Are We?” (not an occupied private home, don’t be a monster!) – these are all great spots to pop the trunk of your car, sit in the back and eat a picnic you packed yourself. It beats your kitchen table/sofa, and it gets you out of the house.
Though the landscape of drive-thru establishments across the country is not especially varied, there are some unconventional meals, services and tasks you can experience without leaving the comfort of your car.
In New Orleans, you can drive-thru at the DBC Bar & Grill to get cocktails (to take home!), and across Florida, Farmstores will shop for you while you wait in the car, and bring your order out to you. In Memphis, Tenn., Smartmart has done away with human staff and created a drive-up automat for your convenience. If you need some of that old-school roller skate soda fountain service (or what passes for it these days), the internet’s got you covered with some great lists of the nation’s best drive-ins (not -thrus!).
Churches around the country offer drive-in services, where you park, tune your radio to an FM station, and listen in to the signal being broadcast from the chapel within. Outside of San Francisco, you can find a drive-thru tree park, where you can get close to nature without, you know, touching it (::shudder::). In Westerville, Ohio, the public library features a drive-thru book pickup!
When in doubt: Fast food
But why get fancy when you can just get loaded up with fast food? See who in your car (assuming everyone has decent fine motor skills/you aren’t off-roading) can make the best french fry dipping sauce out of available condiments. Hit 4-5 different fast-food joints and have a taste test of nuggets, burgers or fries. Order a “Sproke” or “Dr. Dew” or some other disgusting combo of sodas and see what tastes the best/worst. Order one thing on a menu that nobody in the car has ever tried. There are a lot of ways to make your standard burger chain visit a little more interesting.
And home before dark
Even if grandmother’s house isn’t the destination, you can still road trip over the river and through the woods, and then just come back under the highway and past the lake. It can be a lovely way to spend a few hours with your family, away from screens – you’ll notice we didn’t mention any in-vehicle movie-watching – and maybe even getting some fresh air. Buckle up and enjoy the road!