I thought it was a shame when I heard that the Contrabando movie set near Lajitas was bulldozed this past fall. Yes, the fake adobe village was crumbling and had become a bit of a safety hazard, but traipsing through its chapel and casitas along the banks of the Rio Grande transported me back to scenes from the Lonesome Dove miniseries Streets of Laredo and, even more vividly, to Brooks & Dunn’s My Maria music video. While the faux ghost town lives on only in this Texas Parks and Wildlife video now, there are still quite a few memorable movie locations around the state worth building a road trip around.
When five college roommates embark on a “berserk, beery graduation road trip to the Mexican border,” hilarious hijinks ensue in Far West Texas.
Where you’re heading: You’ll be making a pilgrimage from Midland to San Elizario, following the itinerary for last year’s commemorative Ultimate Fandango event.
Sights to see: Monahans Sandhills State Park, the Dom Rock along FM 170 (aka River Road), the Marfa Cemetery, and San Elizario’s town square (find specific filming locations here).
Where you’re staying: The historic Holland Hotel, in Alpine.
What you’re eating: Three chili dogs and a malt at the Sonic in Alpine.
From the Texas Monthly archives: “Let’s Go Dig Up Dom,” by Stephen Harrigan (October 2015)
The Last Picture Show (1971)
High school seniors Sonny and Duane navigate life and love in a bleak small town in this critically acclaimed classic based on Larry McMurtry’s semi-autobiographical novel.
Where you’re heading: Archer City, McMurtry’s hometown
Sights to see: Booked Up, the Royal Theater, the 1892 Archer County Courthouse, and the Archer County Historical Museum (housed in the old jail).
Where you’re staying: The Spur Hotel
What you’re eating: Chicken fried steak at Murn’s Cafe
From the Texas Monthly archives: “Picture Perfect,” by Don Graham (February 1999)
Dazed and Confused (1993)
It’s 1976 and the “l-i-v-i-n” is easy in Richard Linklater’s coming-of-age cult classic about a motley group of small-town Texas teenagers celebrating the first day of summer break.
Where you’re heading: Austin (though it’s Huntsville, Linklater’s hometown, that inspired the film)
Sights to see: The city’s fifteen remaining moon towers, Barton Springs, Zilker Park, and the fifty-yard-line at the Toney Burger Center (you’ll want to consult this great Google map of Dazed & Confused film locations around town)
Where you’re staying: Hotel San José on South Congress Avenue
What you’re eating: A charcoal-grilled burger at Top Notch or a three-meat plate at Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew (the Violet Crown Shopping Center is where scenes at the Emporium were shot)
From the Texas Monthly archives: “The Spirit of ’76,” by John Spong (October 2003; “Take Two,” by Louis Black (October 1992)
The story of the meteoric rise of Selena Quintanilla Perez, Tejano’s first superstar.
Where you’re heading: Corpus Christi
Sights to see: Mirador del Flor (the Selena Memorial), the South Texas Music Walk of Fame, Swantner Park, the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History, and, of course, the Quintanilla family’s Selena Museum.
Where you’re staying: Villa La Casita
What you’re eating: a Whataburger, one of Selena’s favorites, at the Texas chain’s two-story Whataburger By the Bay
From the Texas Monthly archives: “Dreaming of Her,” by Pamela Colloff (April 2010); plus, you can find all of our Selena stories here