An unlikely combination of drive-in movies and market shopping makes for a regular hit.
The Swap Shop is a daily flea market and drive-in movie theater in Lauderhill, west of Fort Lauderdale. More than 12 million people visit the attraction every year, to browse the stalls, haggle for a bargain and enjoy a drive-in movie with a hint of nostalgia. There are 180,000 square feet (16,700 square meters) of shopping and dining, all undercover and air-conditioned. More than 2,000 vendors sell everything from antiques to old toys. A food court offers a range of dining options, such as pizzas and burgers. There are amusement rides and a video arcade, which gives it a carnival-like atmosphere.
The Swap Shop started as the Thunderbird Drive-In Movie Theater in 1963. The flea market, the first on the East Coast, was added in 1966, and has been a success ever since. The markets are open during the day, while the theater screens movies at night.
It’s easy to spend hours shopping for clothes, bags, perfumes, toys, and household goods from a mix of professional and non-professional vendors. Pick up fresh produce from a market off to one side. There’s also an exotic car museum with former race cars and rare, older models.
After dark, the 14-screen drive-in movie theater adjacent to the flea markets screens all the latest films covering everything from sci-fi and action, to comedy or thriller. The current schedule of movies and times is on Swap Shop’s web site. You can purchase tickets on the night of the show. Parking spots are raised like a ramp, so every car has a good view of the screen. Fill up on snacks from the food court, which stays open at night, or bring your own popcorn and candy.
The Swap Shop is about a 15-minute drive from downtown Ft. Lauderdale. It’s open every day of the year, including public holidays.