Austin, Texas, is well-known for its music scene, but it’s also the filming location for countless movies.
You might be surprised by the wide range of genres and periods that can be depicted using local architecture and landscapes. The magic of film production can transform ordinary buildings or settings into something new or unusual.
We rounded up a few of the most iconic set locations around the city for you to explore on your next Texas road trip.
About Austin, Texas
You probably won’t find a trendier city in Texas than Austin. The state’s capital is known for its music scene and is considered the Live Music Capital of the World. But festivals like South by Southwest and Austin City Limits are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hometown entertainment.
There’s a thriving arts scene in Austin that goes far beyond music. Galleries feature works in all mediums, while fairs and festivals occur throughout the year. You can enjoy a performance by Ballet Austin or visit one of the city’s world-renowned museums.
Austin’s population has skyrocketed in the last decade as more folks discover this once-hidden gem. In addition to the inviting atmosphere, the city also has ample green spaces. So you can get a taste of nature despite your metropolitan surroundings.
What Makes Austin a Popular Setting for Movie Locations?
It seems Hollywood caught onto this eclectic city before the rest of us. Austin became a major filming hub in the 1970s because of its diverse movie locations. Within a one-hour drive, you can be in sagebrush desert, hill country, or lake-speckled farmland.
And the city itself offers a lot for filmmakers. On-screen, different neighborhoods around Austin can look like anywhere else in the country. Movies filmed downtown have been set in places like New York and Chicago, while the outskirts have served as remote wilderness in countless films.
In addition to the various terrain and architecture, Austin offers significant incentives for production companies. Many film permits are free, and the Texas Film Commission provides grants to earn movie makers up to 23 percent back on local expenses used for production.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that Austin’s movie industry is just an influx from Hollywood. Local production companies, studio facilities, and related vendors are booming!
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Austin Movie Locations You Can Visit
If you’re a film buff, you’ll have plenty of movie locations to check out on a visit to Austin. Here are a few spots from our favorite flicks that you won’t want to miss.
Top Notch Hamburgers
Address: 7525 Burnet Rd, Austin, TX 78757
Top Notch Hamburgers hasn’t changed much since its appearance in the cult-classic film Dazed and Confused. You can see it in the scene where Matthew McConaughey’s character Wooderson rolls up in his Chevy Chevelle, spouting his iconic line, “Alright, alright, alright.”
This drive-in fast food joint is still slinging burgers and milkshakes under its famous hamburger sign. So if you’re in the Austin area, visit Top Notch for a tasty treat and a walk down memory lane.
Manor Water Tower
Address: W Parsons St, Manor, TX 78653
Makers of the heartbreaking movie What’s Eating Gilbert Grape brought the fictional town of Endora, Iowa, to life in several locations around Austin. One of these is the Manor water tower, where Gilbert, played by Johnny Depp, spots his brother Arnie, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, scaling the structure from the home of his lover, Betty Carver.
In reality, the two sets are about ten miles from one another. However, movie magic makes it appear they’re both part of their tiny midwestern town. You can visit the Manor water tower, but it’s now fenced off, so nobody tries to climb it like Arnie.
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The Continental Club
Address: 1315 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704
The Continental Club is an Austin institution. Since 1955, it’s been a venue for live music, hosting acts like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Link Wray, and Robert Plant. The establishment has endured many iterations. It began as a supper club, then became the city’s first burlesque club, and later a casual bar.
In the coming-of-age film, Boyhood, Mason and Sheena visit Samantha in Austin, and the three head to the Continental Club for a night of live music.
Texas State Capitol Building
Address: 1100 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701
Once called an “architectural monstrosity,” the Texas State Capitol Building has come a long way from its original construction in 1853. In the 1980s and 90s, it was completely renovated, and today, it’s one of the most eye-catching structures in the city.
Movies like Tree of Life, Machete, and Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams featured shots of the famous location. But perhaps most notable is its use as the train station in the 2010 film True Grit.
Best Places to Stay In Austin
After a long day of touring some of Austin’s most famous movie sets, you’ll want a comfortable place to get some rest. Here are a couple of our top picks.
Pecan Grove RV Park
If you’re RVing through the city, Pecan Grove is great for catching some shut-eye. They offer full hookups, free WiFi, and comfortable pull-through spots. This pet-friendly RV park also has laundry facilities, showers, and trash service.
Pecan Grove is right in downtown Austin, so it’s really popular. You’ll want to make reservations as far in advance as possible. They also offer weekly and monthly rates if you have more than a weekend to spend in town.
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For a more luxurious experience, the Fairmont Austin is an excellent choice. This high-end hotel features a full-service spa and a glistening turquoise swimming pool flanked by palm trees and cabanas.
Three restaurants in the hotel cater to hotel guests as well as locals. Garrison is a AAA Four-Star rated eatery featuring flame-grilled steaks. Revue offers breakfast, dinner, and a happy hour menu. Finally, Fulton serves up fresh cocktails and a swanky take on classic pub food.
Is a Road Trip to Austin’s Movie Locations Worth It?
If you’re planning a trip to Austin, don’t forget to add some of the city’s famous movie locations to your itinerary. You’ll be able to live out some of the most iconic moments in cinematic history all in one place.
The Texas state capital has a lot to offer visitors. So whether you’re strolling the courthouse halls or grabbing a bite at Top Burger, you’ll surely enjoy your experience.
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