In parking lots across the United States, a new automotive phenomenon called "Cars and Coffee" has taken hold. At these events, car enthusiasts descend upon a local coffee shop to meet and admire each other's cars with a cup of coffee in hand. I live near what I think is the best event in the country: Katie's Cars & Coffee in Great Falls, Va., near Washington, D.C.

Cars and coffee phenomenon

People show up as early as 6 a.m. to get a prime parking spot in front of the coffee shop. The early start helps discourage people who may not be as respectful to the cars or the event itself.

Cars and coffee phenomenon

On these days, hundreds of people gather and gawk at cars that normally would only be seen on the walls of their childhood bedrooms. Owners strike up friendly conversations, and occasionally you'll see them let awestruck children sit behind the wheel of their rare and expensive vehicles. It's rare to encounter someone who isn't happy to discuss his or her ride, whether it be a Ferrari or a classic Volkswagen Beetle that looks like it just rolled off the production line.

Cars and coffee phenomenon

You're almost guaranteed to see something you've never seen before, like a pair of Ferrari F40s that are worth more than $1 million each. Other classic exotics — like the Lamborghini Countach, Lotus Esprit, DeTomaso Pantera, Shelby Cobra and Ferrari 250GT — are frequent visitors. Old British sports cars like Jaguars, Austin-Healeys, Triumphs and Morgans are there almost every weekend. Classic Porsches become as passe as a Toyota Camry. 

Cars and coffee phenomenon

Classic muscle cars frequently make a show as well. It's not rare to see a Pontiac GTO Judge sitting next to a Dodge Challenger and a Plum-Crazy Plymouth Barracuda. Naturally, all of their hoods are raised to allow the crowds to see what's underneath. 

If you enjoy the quirky, rare cars, Cars and Coffee will show you some of the best. Cars like a Stanley Steamer steam car and a Willys Jeep will certainly pique your curiosity. Other rarities are a bit more subtle, like a Renault 5 Turbo rally homologation special from the 1980s, or a CTS-V wagon.

Cars and coffee phenomenon

As for newer cars, they show up in droves. Ferrari 458s and Lamborghini Gallardos are common sights. When an interesting new car goes on sale, you can almost guarantee it will be at Katie's Cars & Coffee in the next few weeks. The last time I attended, a brand-new Tesla Model X electric SUV was shown off. Many area dealerships bring their newly delivered gems to Cars and Coffee to allow potential buyers to get up close and personal.

See also: Turn your classic car into a green machine

Cars and coffee phenomenon

Does that sound a bit too high-brow for you? Don't worry, customized and tuned cars show up, too. And clubs for the "average" Mustang or Corvette will also organize meetups near Cars and Coffee events.

Cars and coffee phenomenon

There's a good chance you live near a Cars and Coffee event. We guarantee you'll be surprised by what you see.

Have you been to a local Cars and Coffee event? Let us know what it was like.

About the writer: Will Kinton thinks life is too short to drive boring cars, and enjoys sharing his passion for them. For more, follow him on Twitter: @willkinton2

See also: Our 5 favorite cars and trucks from the 2016 Detroit Auto Show

Plus: The worst things from the 2016 Detroit Auto Show