University of Houston
The narrative documents the childhood and adolescence of Mason Evans, Jr., from the age of six to 18. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette play his divorced parents, Mason and Olivia, while Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei, plays his sister, Samantha. When Olivia relocates the kids to Houston to re-enroll in college, she attends the University of Houston.
Mason’s father visits frequently on the weekends, but the scene where he takes them bowling actually takes place at the Dart Bowl in Austin. Austinites will immediately recognize the Austin icon, which has been in business for over 50 years and offers 32 lanes open seven days a week.
Cockrell Butterfly Center
Houston provides a mesmerizing backdrop for much of Mason’s childhood. On one of his visits, Mason Sr. takes the kids to the Cockrell Butterfly Center. Filmed inside the Rainforest Conservatory at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the scene provides the audience a relaxing break from the turmoil of Olivia’s spiraling second marriage.
Miller Outdoor Theater
Nearby, Mason Sr. gives the kids a football lesson on the grounds outside the Miller Outdoor Theater in Hermann Park, one of Houston’s oldest and most popular public green spaces.
Minute Maid Park
Mason Sr. and the kids also catch a baseball game at Minute Maid Park. The Houston Astros go head to head with the Milwaukee Brewers in the scene, which was filmed live in 2006 (although the shots of Roger Clemens were filmed at a different matchup in 2005). Astros player Jason Lane happened to hit a home run during filming, much to the family’s delight.
Pedernales State Park
When Mason’s sister Samantha opts out of their camping trip, Mason Sr takes his son to Pedernales State Park for a boys’ weekend of wilderness walks, swimming and heart to heart conversation. The Park is about 45 minutes outside of Austin, situated on the Pedernales River about 10 miles (16km) east of Johnson City.
Hays County Courthouse
Upon graduation, Olivia moves the kids to small-town San Marcos to take a full-time lecturing position. Thus begins Mason’s early adolescence, and his first crush. Walking home with a friend, Mason learns that his classmate, Sheena, has a crush on him in front of the iconic Hays County Courthouse.
The Continental Club
Much of Sheena and Mason’s romantic development takes place in Austin, when the pair visits Samantha, now studying there. The couple takes in a live performance from a country band at the Continental Club on South Congress, which also featured in Linklater’s first film, Slacker, in 1989.
Another South Congress staple and an Austin icon, locals will rejoice as the young lovers cozy up to Magnolia Cafe’s famous queso at three in the morning. The diner is open all night, well-known for its “Sorry, We’re Open” neon sign.
Big Bend State Park
As Mason’s teenage years draw to an end, so does the film: his drive to Sul Ross State University are some of the most beautiful shots in the movie. Located in far West Texas, the setting for this next chapter in life leaves Mason on a hike with four new friends – fellow freshmen – in Big Bend State Park.