After experiencing their heyday in the 1960s-80s, dinner theatres have largely slipped from public consciousness but they haven’t disappeared. In fact, they have continued to develop and flourish. There are wonderful examples across the USA, all offering great food and great shows. We explore the 10 best dinner theatres currently thriving in America.
The Barn, in Greensboro, North Carolina is the oldest, operating dinner theatre in America. Open since 1964, they offer guests Broadway-style shows with a delicious dinner buffet to make the show that much better. The buffet is full of Southern classics like fried okra, and banana pudding for dessert, and meat choices of Angus roast beef and honey glazed ham to fill you up in the best possible way. Their performances range from the occasional concert to shows of all sorts, like A Raisin in the Sun for a more serious experience, or A Good Old Fashioned Redneck Christmas for a bit of fun during the holiday season.
The shows you’ll find at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown, Colorado are Broadway favorites, put on with local actors in a classy theatre and restaurant. They change the menu before every show, so no part of the experience ever feels old, no matter how many times you go back. To make it a really special occasion, try some of their suggested wine and meal pairings, or take a look through their wine menu. Enjoy the exquisite immersive experience, the menu and wait staff are actually tailored to match whichever hilarious, classic show you’re about to see.
Fireside Dinner Theatre in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, originally opened as a small restaurant and theatre in 1964, before expanding into its current form in 1978. This spectacular theatre-in-the-round has consistently had to expand because of high demand, and things are no different now. Their chef has a reputable background in fine dining, so guests can be assured that the meal will be an extremely memorable part of their night. Their repertoire of shows includes both classic Broadway musicals, and musical revues performed by their in-house band, either of which will guarantee an entertaining evening. If you’d like a material reminder of your night out, be sure to check out their gift shop.
Murray’s has been around since 1977, committed to giving the people of Little Rock, Arkansas the highest quality theatre and food experience. Their focus in shows is split between fun comedies and Broadway musicals, either of which promise to entertain. The menu is tailored to go along with the show, so your whole evening blends into a full experience. If the show is set in England, expect something like Yorkshire pudding. Murray’s is also engaged with their community; every year, they co-sponsor a scholarship along with the National Dinner Theatre Association to support a theatre or dance major at the University of Arkansas Little Rock.
Located in Claremont, California, in the suburbs of Los Angeles, Candlelight Pavilion is LA’s best choice for a night of theatre and good eats put together. They are now in their 30th year, and recently celebrated by putting on their 200th show. Their shows are all Tony Award winners, and due to their location, always feature top-notch actors performing. While the sets and the elegant interior will certainly catch your attention, the food prepared by their well-respected gourmet chef will also demand notice. If you’re looking for elegance on all fronts in LA, Candlelight Pavilion is the place to come.
Nashville, where you’ll find Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theatre, is known globally as a great place for music, and Chaffin’s Barn is consistently rated among the top attractions in Nashville. Opened in 1967, Chaffin’s Barn is the second oldest dinner theatre in the US, and they’re very proud of their heritage. For food, you’ll get to make your own choices at their premium buffet, which changes depending on the season and the show. It might not be as famous as the Grand Ole Opry, but it’s just as essential for your visit to Nashville.
The name of Circa ’21 hearkens back to the theatre’s original founding as a vaudeville and silent movie theatre in 1921, when it was unique in the area that would become known as Quad Cities. When the theatre eventually failed as a movie theatre, it was converted into a dinner theatre, and has been Quad Cities’ premier dinner theatre since 1977. They hold auditions in New York and LA to draw the top performers in the country to feature in their productions. It was renovated to bring back its original grandeur, so now you can go and enjoy any number of shows and feel like you’re in the roaring twenties. The theme of the menu changes according to the show, for example, expect French cuisine to go with Les Miserables.
The Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre in Lancaster Pennsylvania, does a great job of combining simplicity and elegance to create an atmosphere that everyone can enjoy. Their list of shows is consistently made up of Broadway musical favorites, and the set design, direction, and acting at the Dutch Apple is of the finest quality. To compliment their fantastic performances, they have the buffet, which includes local touches like shoofly pie in the dessert section, an Amish specialty to suit the theatre’s location in Amish country. The inside of the theatre is grand, yet comfortable, the sort of place you’d be happy to return to again and again.
Jackson Hole Playhouse, out in Jackson, Wyoming, proves that Wyoming isn’t just worth a visit for the national parks. Jackson Hole Playhouse is an experience in itself, from the moment you step in until the curtain closes. Before the show, dinner is served in the saloon, outfitted just like the ones in old westerns. On top of that, the actors wait on guests before the show, and sing throughout dinner. Everybody then moves into the theatre, and the night continues with the main event, usually a show with a Western theme. The historic building, which is the oldest building still standing in Jackson, adds a historical dimension to your night out.
Pines Dinner Theatre makes an effort to be a lot more casual than some dinner theatres but that doesn’t take away from experience that is offered. Their menu changes according to shows, and you’ll have it brought to your table, so you won’t even have to get up. Their shows usually aren’t well known, so you get the opportunity to see a high-quality performance of something new and exciting. Also, who knows, you might even get something extra, a man proposed to his girlfriend on the stage at their Valentine’s Day show.