Why You Should Plan a Trip to Smithville, Texas, Where 'Hope Floats' Was Set
It’s hard not to be won over by the Southern town.
When Birdee Pruitt (Sandra Bullock) finds out that her marriage is over in the most public way possible, she does what most of us want to do when we’re in trouble—she heads straight for home. So Birdee packs up her life in Chicago and with her young daughter Bernice (Mae Whitman) in tow, she moves back in with her mother (Gena Rowlands) in Smithville, Texas.
While Birdee and Bernice are fictional characters in the 1998 film Hope Floats, Smithville is a very real place. While the circumstances surrounding Birdee’s return to Texas aren’t ideal, it’s hard not to be won over by the Southern town, which is at least as charming as Birdee’s high school beau, Justin (Harry Connick, Jr.).
The city of Smithville sits just southeast of Austin and on the banks of the Colorado River. Easy access to the river means Smithville is a hub for water adventures including boating, kayaking, canoeing, and swimming and a great spot for anyone eager to fly fish in Texas Hill Country. The town has a lot of leisure options on land, too. There’s the annual Jamboree with its pet show, beard contest, and concerts that has been going strong since 1958. Fiber artists and quilters strut their stuff at the annual Airing of the Quilts. There are seven golf courses within in a 25-mile area and while the nearby Bastrop State Park is re-growing from a wildfire, the thousand-acre Buescher State Park, known for its pine trees and biking trails, is ready for visitors.
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The town also set a Guinness World Record holder after they baked the world’s largest gingerbread man cookie as part of Smithville’s annual Festival of Lights celebration. The 1,308 lb. 8 oz. gingerbread man stood 20 feet high when he qualified for the record. While the record was since broken (by IKEA of all things!), the mold from the town’s record-setting entry can still be seen on Main Street.
The James H. Long Railroad Museum can be found there, as well as the Smithville Heritage Museum, which sits in a 1908 Victorian structure that houses a collection of local historical memorabilia. Fans of Hope Floats will want to swing by the neo-classical McCollum-Chapman-Trousdale House on Olive Street, which was built in 1908, years before it stood in for Birdee Pruitt’s childhood in the film. Some of the town’s historic homes have been turned into cozy B&Bs, so finding a place to stay shouldn’t be difficult.
Of course, Hope Floats wasn’t the only Hollywood production to see that Smithville was ready for its close-up. The 2008 film Tree of Life with Brad Pitt was filmed there, too, and a few other features that helped the city earn its title as the first Film-Friendly Town in Texas from the Texas Film Commission. You can pick up a brochure for a self-guided tour of film sites here. Just don’t go looking for Honey’s Diner as it was built just for Hope Floats although you may find some memorabilia from the film at Pocket’s Grille. Visitors may also want to stop by Bone Spirits Distillery for local liquors and Murphy’s Steakhouse, a restaurant with a fascinating history and a darn good steak.
In short, if you’re looking for a perfect weekend away, head on down to Smithville, the town where hope floats.