Touring Famous Movie Sites in Boston

We have lived in Boston over a year, and have enjoyed slowly discovering this great American city in our free time (mostly when we’re not freezing our butts in winter). This past weekend we were invited to partake in the ‘Boston TV and Movie Sites’ bus tour, by On Location Tours. They also offer a Movie Mile walking tour in Boston, in addition to a huge array of movie and TV tours in New York City.

It was an entertaining 2 and 1/2 hour tour. Our guide, actor Alex Gettlin, recently relocated from Los Angeles and also performs stand up comedy. He made sure we all enjoyed some big laughs while touring famous movie sites in Boston.

On Location Tours Boston Bus
Ted Bear, Historic Movies Sites in Boston

On Location Tours Pickup

We were picked up by an air conditioned bus at a convenient central location next to Boston’s Public Gardens. While driving around Boston’s historic city center, our guide pointed out locations and played clips from various movies that were filmed at each location. We also drove past Fenway Park, America’s oldest ballpark dating back to 1912.

The Red Sox happened to be playing their arch rival, the New York Yankees. We could see fans sitting on top of the famed Green Monster, in addition to crowds of people buzzing around the concourse. Several great films have been shot at Fenway, and it was special to watch a ‘Field of Dreams’ clip while driving past the action of the real game.

Fenway Entrance and ticket stalls

Take an Air Conditioned Boston Tour in Summer

“The people on that bus there look kinda miserable” our guide Alex said at one point, in reference to a bus from a different tour company that was stuck at a traffic light next to ours. “That bus doesn’t have air conditioning” I replied back (drawing some laughs from the rest of the bus).

A lot of the tour companies in Boston have open air buses, which is fine on certain days in Boston, but given temperatures were around 90 fahrenheit (32 celsius), we were really glad we were in an air conditioned bus. An open air bus wouldn’t work for this kind of tour anyway since traffic noises are distracting from watching film clips that match the surrounding scenery.

On Location Tours Boston
Boston State House

Watch Some Movies Beforehand

One thing we’d advise before taking this tour- be sure to have already watched at least a few of the major films discussed on the tour. In particular, watch ‘The Departed’, ‘The Town’, ‘Ted’, ‘American Hustle’ and especially ‘Good Will Hunting.’ You will get much more from the tour this way. Since ‘Good Will Hunting’ is on Netflix, we re-watched the movie after we came home and really enjoyed it.

We had also just hung out in Cambridge over the weekend. That means we pretty much went almost everywhere featured Goodwill Hunting. Cambridge is not included in the On Location Tour, but it’s easy to visit on your own. Catch the red T line to Harvard Station from the center of Boston.

The major stop on the ‘Boston TV and Movie Sites Tour’ is L Street Tavern. That is the main hangout of Will and his friends in ‘Good Will Hunting.’ We had been meaning to visit L Street Tavern for awhile, especially after Robyn Williams tragically took his life this winter. But temperatures in Boston at that time were abysmal. The South End of Boston, or “Southie” as it is affectionately nicknamed, is a predominantly Irish American neighbourhood. It was once known for being downtrodden and riddled with crime, but has undergone significant gentrification.

Boston L Street Tavern, Touring Historic Movies Sites in Boston

L Street Tavern: Set of Goodwill Will Hunting Bar Scenes

In recent years, Boston’s South End has seen a major rejuvenation, as has the L Street Tavern itself. In ‘Good Will Hunting,’ which was filmed in 1997, the pub was a very worn looking working class establishment. Times have changed, as the worn tables featured in the film have been replaced by new tables covered in memorabilia photos from the movie.

The L Street Tavern has been completely remodeled (asides from the bathrooms). But the pub is still extremely proud of its connection with the film, as it should be. While our small tour bus stopped in for an optional beer, the pub is out of the way for most tourists. So it generally doesn’t draw the same touristy crowd that Cheers does. Our guide even brought in the stuffed bear from the movie ‘Ted,’ for those who wanted to take photos and combine two films in one!

L Street Tavern, Goodwill Hunting
L Street Tavern Bar
L Street Tavern, On Location Tours Boston
Goodwill Hunting Table, L Street Tavern in Southie

Charleston

The only other time we disembarked from the bus was in the neighborhood of Charlestown. That was to view a staircase featured in the film ‘Blown Away.’ The area offers a lovely view of Boston from the top of the stairs.

Ideally, one more stop would have been nice, but Boston traffic is pretty heavy. For several scenes shot in the center of Boston, it’s easy to return afterwards on foot for a closer look.

Cheers Pub

The tour ended when the bus dropped us off close to where we were picked up, in front of the original Cheers. Cheers is otherwise known as The Bull and Finch pub and was featured on the hit TV show from 1982-1993. So in a way you could say there were 3 stops. As we’d previously visited Cheers, we didn’t go inside on that occasion, but several people from our tour did. While obviously touristy, Cheers is still a good pub to grab a drink. Their food is better than we expected it would be on prior visits, while taking guests from out of town.

On Location TV and Movies Sites Tour, Boston
A previous visit to Cheers when Bell's mother visited from Australia.
A previous visit to Cheers when Bell’s mother visited from Australia.

Who’s the ‘Boston TV And Movies Sites Tour’ For?

– Obviously movie buffs. Several multi-award winning films are highlighted during the tour. A couple teenagers who were huge movie buffs thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They knew some obscure trivia that our guide threw at us.

– People who don’t get around very well. There’s very little walking involved on the ‘Boston TV and Movie Sites’ tour. The main stop was at L Street Tavern. So many great sites in Boston are highlighted from the bus. They include Boston Harbor, where the Boston Tea Party took place, the Boston State House, Fenway Park and many other historic buildings.

– People who want an air conditioned tour of Boston in summer.

Who’s The Boston On Location Movie Tour Not For?

– People who aren’t really movie buffs, the tour is primarily focused on movies and TV. Though we did learn some interesting facts about Boston outside of the film industry, including some historical facts. Tootsie rolls originated in Boston and our guide tossed us tootsie rolls for answering trivia questions correctly.

– People who haven’t seen at least a few of the films covered. These include ‘Good Will Hunting,’ ‘Ted’, ‘The Departed’, ‘The Town’, ‘Field of Dreams’, ‘Mystic River’, ‘American Hustle’, ‘Blown Away’ & ‘The Boondocks Saints.’ There’s a lot more films that are discussed and have clips shown on TV during the tour. But these are the major films involving this tour.

– People who prefer walking tours. If you’re a movie buff that prefers walking tours, you should instead consider On Location’s ‘Movie Mile Walking Tour’ which runs seasonally from April until October 31st. Among other places, the Movie Mile tour stops at the Athenaeum. The Athenaeum is one of the oldest private libraries in the country. Several films have been shot there, and is a truly beautiful place.

On Location Tours, Charlestown
New Yorker building

On Location’s New York City Tours

In addition to the two seasonal TV and movie tours in Boston, On Locations Tours offers around 10 different tours in New York City. They include the ‘NYC TV and Movie Tour’, ‘Sex in the City Hotspots’, ‘TCM Classic Film Tour’ and many more. We’re looking forward to experiencing the ‘Romantic Movie Moments Tour’ on our next visit to the Big Apple.

More on Boston and Massachusetts

We have covered Boston, western Massachusetts and New England extensively. Read our article on romantic winter road trips from Boston.

L Street Tavern Boston, with Ted Bear

Disclaimer: We were invited on a tour complimentary of On Location Tours as media guests. But all photos and opinions expressed here are our own. 

Author

  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

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4 thoughts on “Touring Famous Movie Sites in Boston

  1. Air conditioned buses are a must, especially in Boston, the open bus must be closed completely during fall/winter! Looks like you guys had a great time. I agree with your tip that this tour is for movie buffs. The movies shot in Boston are great but not “mainstream” , unlike, for example, those shot in NY. But love that they’ve got the Ted bear too 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment, Jean! On Location Tours runs the two Boston tours until October 31st as tourism really dies down here during the cold months. Hard to run tours when we’re buried in snow 😉 And yeah the Ted bear was a very cute touch- he talks when you squeeze his hand too. Happy travels!

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