13 Drive-Ins to Explore Within 1 hour of Lake Winnebago

Ardy & Ed's in Oshkosh

As my girlfriend and I were eating burgers and chicken tenders that had been delivered to our car via a highschool student in roller blades at Ardy and Ed’s Drive-In in Oshkosh, it had never occurred to either of us that the Fox Cities has so many Drive-Ins with so much history. So I asked around and did some research to see how many I could find within 45 minutes of Lake Winnebago. I included drive-in food, ice cream, and theaters, and there are 11! Check them out before many of them close for the winter, or check them out next season. Let me know if I missed any in the comments!

Zesty’s Custard

Zesty’s is now three locations strong in Green Bay, Depere, and Howard, WI. Quality food and custard and being as local as possible are Zesty’s focuses. Even their custard machines were made in Wisconsin. Interestingly enough the machines came from Leon’s Custard, which is also on our list.

JD’s

Jd’s is an Appleton fast food staple. Still a leader on price, JD’s is more of a drive thru than a drive in, but they are JD’s Drive-In. They are open year round, and I recommend their shakes.

Ardy & Eds

Arty and Eds is located on the south end of Oshkosh on your way to Fond Du Lac. Servers bring your meals on roller blades right to your car! Not only does Arty and Ed’s give you the experience of the 50’s drive-in, but they provide a quality meal to boot.

Leon’s

On the north side of Oshkosh is the other side of the drive-in coin, Leon’s. Much like Arty and Eds, Leon’s waiters come to your vehicle to take your order. Take away the roller blades and add some the best frozen custard in Wisconsin since 1947 and you get Leons!

The Well

The Well in Winneconne is built right into the community. It has been around since 1954, and features a large array of entrees that you might not expect at the traditional American drive-in, such as gyros and pizza. The Well is a neat little place to set your sights on this summer season.

Dick’s

Like many of these historic local drive-ins, Dick’s has a strong following in its community of Kaukauna. A classic burger joint, Dicks also has many homemade ice cream treats!

Frogg’s Ice Cream

Frogg’s has great soft serve ice cream. Located just past High Cliff State Park near Appleton, Frogg’s in Sherwood makes a great pit stop after your next hike.

Charlie’s

Hortonville’s own carhop drive-in. Charlies has been around since 1982, and before that it was an A&W owned by the same family since 1965! Head on down at the beginning of next years season for their Elvis Tribute Week.

charlies
Charlie’s in Hortonville. Credit: Charlie’s

Gilles Frozen Custard

Delicious custard out of Fond Du Lac. Gilles was started and is owned by the same family since 1949. If my math is correct, Gilles is the third oldest drive-in in the area after Leon’s and Ardy & Ed’s in Oshkosh!

Mullin’s Drive In

Mullin’s has been searving since 1934 according to their sign. A unique drive-in to its area in Fox Lake, WI. Currently closed for the season they specialize in floats, malts, and shakes. I love this addition because people don’t think to travel to Fox Lake from the Winnebago area, but Mullins is less than an hour away from Oshkosh and about 30 minutes from Fond Du Lac. A great place to explore next season!

Chester’s

Another spot that nearing other communities. On the east side of Lake Winnebago in Plymouth, Chester’s is a drive-in that has a multitude of offerings including hot dogs, burgers, bbq, root beer by the gallon, and frozen treats. Although on the “other” side of the lake for many Winnebago inhabitants, we highly recommend going to check them out. Make a trip to Kohler-Andae State Park and make a stop at Chester’s.

Tom’s

Tom’s comes across as a national chain, but you can’t say they aren’t local. Starting out of Appleton in 1960, Tom’s is now an eight restaurant chain and did not get this far for no reason!

Dairy Cove

This northern ice cream sanctuary is located near Shawano Lake in Cecil, WI. Widely recognized for their ice creams, Dairy Cove is a must pit-stop for many cabin goers from the Fox Cities and beyond. We highly recommend checking them out for a nice ice cream date.

 

Northeast Wiconsin loves drive-ins! I wanted to give some coverage to some of the many historic drive-ins we have here, and since Food Network didn’t give us any recognition… Venture Wisconsin did. This post only covers the drive-ins within an hour of Lake Winnebago, but I can think of at least three more if you include the north woods and Door County. Are you a local drive-in fan? Tell me your favorite drive-ins, and if you are looking for things to do in Northeast Wisconsin, get out and check out the other ones this season!

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