Follow in the footsteps of Mason and his family through the years in Richard Linklater’s Texas-shot, Oscar-nominated film.
Compiled by Ardelia Lee & Lauren Moriarty
Filmed over 12 years, “Boyhood” is the groundbreaking story that charmed viewers during Oscar season and should have won Best Picture. Seen through the eyes of a boy named Mason, who grows up on screen before our eyes, the film charts the rocky terrain of childhood in the state of Texas. Road trips, family dinners, moves to new houses, a ballgame with Dad — Linklater shows us the triumph and heartbreak of a divorced family as he moves the camera around the state from Houston to Austin and points in between. Experience the nostalgia of “Boyhood” and make your own memories on a road trip through Texas this summer.
The most populated city in Texas, Houston is where much of the beginning of the movie takes place. Home to more than 2.2 million people and often deemed the Energy Capital of the World, Houston offers visitors and residents plenty of opportunity. And that’s exactly what newly divorced mom Olivia (Patricia Arquette, who won Best Supporting Actress for this role) is looking for when she decides to move her young kids Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) and Mason (Ellar Coltrane) there in 2002. She hopes that a bigger city will offer her the chance to finish her college degree and make a fresh start.
One of the most visited museums in the U.S., this one has grown to a major science learning center and boasts impressive attractions like the Burke Baker Planetarium and the Cockrell Butterfly Center. In the movie, the Museum of Natural Science is the first stop for Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), Samantha and Mason on their day trip around the city. Mason is about 10 years old at the time, and they visit the museum’s popular Cockrell Butterfly Center before heading to a baseball game at Minute Maid Park.
Originally named Enron Field, Minute Maid Park opened in Houston in 1999 and was renamed in 2002 for obvious reasons. The ballpark seats 40,963 people and has a roof that can fully retract, making it the largest open area of any retractable roofed baseball stadium.
After visiting the Cockrell Butterfly Center, Mason Sr. and his kids relax near the Miller Outdoor Theater and play a little football. They then head over to Minute Maid Park to catch an Astros game. The game, a real match between the Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers, was filmed in April 2006. The cast and crew got lucky that day. Then-Astros player Jason Lane hit a home run almost directly at the camera.
Camp just like Mason and his Dad did, surrounded by acres of pristine acreage with the winding Pedernales River running through the park. Located in Johnson City, the park is a favorite for family hikes and known for its main attraction, a massive rock structure dotted with clear pools and spotted with rushing waterfalls. Primitive hike-in camp areas and those with water and electric are both available.
After a nasty divorce, Olivia moves the family to San Marcos to start her new teaching job in 2010. The small college town is a big change from bustling Houston. Locally, San Marcos is loved for its proximity to the great outdoors and thriving music scene. The local universities keep it from being a sleepy small town, but it retains some of that same charm. In the film, Jill tellls Mason that Sheena has a crush on him outside the Texas Music Theater, a popular concert venue.
The Lost Pines Forest derives its name from its location — an isolated 13-mile belt of loblolly pines. Bastrop is often cited as Texas’ most historic small town. With a population just over 73,000, it is a comfortable size with lots of nature adventures to offer. When Olivia moves the kids to San Marcos, Mason Sr. has also remarried and has a baby on the way. He takes Mason and Samantha to visit his wife’s parents at their ranch in Lost Pines, Bastrop, where Mason shoots a gun for the first time.
Mason’s coming of age in “Boyhood” culminates in a hike in Big Bend, a national park in west Texas where curving canyons kiss starry skies. He joins his new college friends on a trek through the park that ends with a sweet conversation about seizing the moment, perhaps a nod to what is next in store for him. The limestone walls here boast nooks and crannies containing numerous fossil finds, including crocodiles and dinosaurs. While the park is a destination for hikers like Mason today, it served as home for native people as many as 10,000 years ago and farmland in the 20th century. A mine, historic airfield and still active trading post give a glimpse into the lives of the hearty people who settled this unforgiving land.
Most of the filming for “Boyhood” took place in the capitol of Texas, a thriving metropolis that’s one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. Samantha ends up in college here and Mason and Sheena come to visit and see a show at The Continental Club, then, like true Texans, share a bowl of early-morning queso at Magnolia Cafe South.
Earlier in the film, the elementary school in Houston Mason reluctantly gets dropped off at after Olivia leaves her abusive husband is actually Perez Elementary School, located in Austin. Mason debuts his freshly shaved head in Houston, but Director Richard Linklater opted to film the scene in Austin’s Joe Dan Mills Elementary School.
Linklater shoots the bowling scenes over the years with Mason Sr. and the kids in Austin’s Dart Bowl. A pendant on the wall for the Houston Astros makes you think the scenes were filmed there, but the Dart Bowl is located in Austin. Bumper lanes are available for kids, but as Mason Sr. tells his son during a game: “Life doesn’t give you bumpers.”
Photo credits, from top: Downtown Houston from Flickr Creative Commons by Alex; Houston Museum of Natural Science from Wiki Commons; Minute Maid Park from Flickr Creative Commons by Adam Baker; Lost Pines from Wiki Commons; Pedernales Falls movie still of Ellar Coltrane; San Marcos County Courthouse from Flickr Creative Commons by Stuart Seeger; Big Bend Ranch State Park from Texas State Parks; Greetings from Austin courtesy of Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau; and Dart Bowl movie still.