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6 Reasons to Celebrate National Drive-Thru Day

6 Reasons to Celebrate National Drive-Thru Day

Raise your milkshake or an order of fries at one of these California-born pioneers

Posted 4 years agoby Katrina Hunt

It’s easy to celebrate a certain “national holiday” that falls on July 24: National Drive-Thru Day salutes the fastest way to grab any meal or snack—and it also has its roots firmly in California. San Diego–born Jack in the Box reportedly launched the holiday, while another Golden State icon arguably created the drive-thru itself.

First opened in 1948 in Los Angeles County’s Baldwin Park, In-N-Out Burger set itself apart from the existing drive-in-style eateries at the time by offering a keep-your-motor-running, drive-thru option (according to fast-food historians, only one restaurant had tried that before, a place in Missouri, which didn’t make it). In-N-Out founder Harry Snyder even created a two-speaker intercom in his garage to streamline the drive-thru operation.

Today, hitting an In-N-Out is often the first stop for many visitors to California. Look for the dapper-clad staffers who often stand along the drive-thru lines, and who will ask if you want your food prepped to be eaten in the car, rather than completely wrapped up. You can also visit a replica of the first In-N-Out in Baldwin Park (13752 Francisquito Ave.; open Thursday-Sunday, 11 a.m.–2 p.m.), which is right down the street from a regular location.

In-N-Out is not the only drive-thru pioneer born in the Golden State, though. Here are some other California creations where you can celebrate the day:

Jack in the Box

The restaurant that created National Drive-Thru Day first launched in San Diego in 1951 and originally offered only drive-thru service. That first location is no longer standing, but there are some locations on the original street, El Cajon Blvd. On National Drive-Thru Day, Jack in the Box eClub members can get a free shake with any purchase.


The Golden Arches was born in 1940 as a car-hop-style drive-in called “McDonalds Bar-B-Q” in San Bernardino, but the chain didn’t utilize a drive-thru until 1975. The original McDonald’s site now has a small unofficial museum, while the oldest existing Mickey D’s, which dates to 1953, is now in L.A. County’s Downey—and still reportedly deep-fries its apple pies.

Taco Bell

Founder Glen Bell opened his first Taco Bell in 1962 in Downey, after tinkering with the concept in the 1950s, with his Bell’s Drive In in San Bernardino. The original location was moved in 2015 to the corporate headquarters in Irvine. Or, head to Palm Springs in August, when the chain is hosting pop-up lodgings at The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel & Resort.

Panda Express

The fast-Chinese food eatery first opened at L.A. County’s Glendale Galleria in 1983. It was a spin-off of Pasadena’s still-operating Panda Inn, opened in 1973 by the Cherngs, a Chinese-immigrant husband-and-wife team. You can find a drive-thru at some locations, or check out the original Panda Express at the mall in Glendale.


The smoothie shop began in San Luis Obispo in 1990, under the original name of Juice Club. It became Jamba Juice in 1995, and today offers some drive-thru locations—but you can also still visit the original shop at 17 Chorro St. in San Luis Obispo.

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