Americans love their cars and, while many memorable moments take place while we’re driving, there are plenty of fun times with our vehicles that have absolutely nothing to do with being on the road. Maybe you’re thinking about when you bought your first car or, for you gearheads, when dad taught you how to replace the oil and filter on his ’65 Ford Mustang. A hot summer day might even bring back fond memories of water fights that began with washing the family station wagon with a sibling.
To celebrate our love of automobiles, here are five fun ways a car can help create memorable experiences with your family and friends.
1. Host a tailgate party at your favorite ballpark. While the exact origins of the tailgate party aren’t well-documented, the practice started in the U.S. and has since become a tradition before college and professional sporting events, and concerts too.
Round up your closest friends and family and purchase tickets to your hometown baseball or football team. Then pack your vehicles with coolers of ice, soft drinks and water, lawn chairs and snacks, and head to the stadium a couple hours before the game to spend some quality time with your favorite people.
Familiarize yourself with the venue’s tailgating policies before you go, however, so you don’t run into any problems at the stadium.
More ambitious tailgaters should pack a grill and other essentials to enhance the experience (condiments, bins for trash, lawn games, etc.), but make sure you’ve properly disposed of hot coals and allow time for the grill to cool down before you pack things up and head into the game.
Be safe, smart and responsible, but, most of all, have fun and cheer loudly for your team!
2. Visit a drive-in movie theater. The first drive-in movie theater began operating on June 6, 1933 in Camden, N.J. An icon of American culture, drive-ins were most popular during the 1950s and 1960s, with nearly 5,000 theaters located across the country. Now, their numbers have dwindled, so it’s a rare treat to see the latest blockbuster from the comfort of your vehicle, but aceable.com is a good resource for locating drive-in theaters in your area.
3. Go car camping. Many of today’s vehicles have evolved to include the luxuries of home, like rear-seat entertainment screens and DVD players, as well as mini-fridges, but car camping doesn’t literally mean you have to sleep in your car. Unlike backpacking, driving to your campsite allows you to bring more equipment (e.g., air mattresses, coolers, plenty of water, pillows, camping chairs, etc.) to allow for a comfortable trip while experiencing the great outdoors first-hand.
Car camping is allowed at many state and local parks throughout the country, but you can also research privately-owned campgrounds. Before setting out for your destination, follow these tips to keep you and your vehicle protected:
- Inspect your first-aid kit before you leave. Be sure it’s fully stocked and check the expiration dates to make sure they’re up to date.
- Purchase a bear-proof container in which to store and hang your food, or check your campsite to see if bear-proof, locked boxes are available. Storing your food in the car is a bad idea because enterprising bears can break car windows, or worse, to get to your stash. This could leave you without food for your trip, as well as a potentially expensive repair bill. (Comprehensive insurance coverage is necessary to protect against this type of incident and would cover vehicle damages, subject to your deductible. Talk to your local agent to make sure you’re properly protected.)
- Clear your fire pit of debris and maintain an eight- to 10-foot radius from tents, chairs and low-hanging branches. Make sure to keep water nearby, and extinguish all flames before going to bed.
4. Take a road trip. We highlighted 13 really cool road trip destinations that cover everything from national parks to ghost towns, but no matter what your destination may be, you’ll be sure to make lasting memories with these car games and tips to keep passengers entertained.
- Try to find unique roadside attractions. These attractions make for great pit stops to stretch your legs and explore things like the world’s largest ball of twine or the Beer Can House. Here’s a list from TIME to help get you started.
- Make a music video.
- Take lots of pictures. Chances are that you’ll pass amazing landscapes and can capture these moments to create a one-of-a-kind scrapbook that you’ll look back on to remember the good times.
Millions of Americans each year pack up the car to hit the road, but before you leave, ensure that your vehicle is road-ready. Check the conditions of the route, and review your auto insurance policy to make sure you have the right coverage in case things don’t go as planned.
5. Go to a drive-in diner. Burgers, fries and shakes in the car sounds like the perfect recipe for fun. The drive-in diner first sprouted up in Dallas, Texas, serving BBQ sandwiches to hungry customers and in its wake created an iconic culture for Hot Rodders and families alike. These establishments became cornerstones of Hollywood too, serving as sets for “American Graffiti” and “Happy Days.”
Today, drive-ins are becoming the nouveau place for foodies thanks to TV shows like the Food Network’s “Drive-ins, Diners and Dives” and the Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food.” Local mom-and-pop drive-in diners are hard to find, but a good time can still be had at some of the large chains spanning the U.S.