10 Things to Do in Smithville, Texas—Home of Hope Floats
If you've ever seen the 1998 romantic drama Hope Floats, then you may know just a little about Smithville, Texas. While our beloved Birdee unwittingly falls in love with her close high school friend Justin, we were busy doing the same with Smithville. In the movie, the chemistry between co-stars Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick Jr. is undeniable, and so is the sparkle of Birdee's tiny hometown. Smithville, a real-life location on the outskirts of Texas Hill Country, may be home to only 4,000 people but it's packed the kind of special small-town charm you can't find just anywhere.
Almost 25 years after we caught our first glimpse of that iconic "Welcome to Smithville" sign as Birdee and her daughter Bernice pull into town, we're still just as obsessed with every legendary scene filmed in Smithville, from Birdee and Justin's slow strolls through town to Ramona's iconic circular home. Here's how to spend a weekend exploring the town made famous by the movie.
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Take a Movie Tour
Take a walk down memory lane by visiting many of the notable filming locations from Hope Floats. Start at the historic McCollum-Chapman-Trousdale House, the 1908 Neoclassical home where Birdee's mom Ramona runs her taxidermy business from the expansive front porch. You can walk around the quaint main street, have lunch at Honey's Pizza (Honey's Diner in the movie), see the Star Biscuit Co. mural that was painted for the movie, and grab a couple essentials at Smithville General Store, which served as the employment agency where Birdee asks an old high school acquaintance for a job. Fans of Brad Pitt's 2011 drama The Tree of Life can drive down Burleson Street to see many of the houses featured in the movie.
Learn Railroad History
Smithville was established as a railroad town and you can learn all about the city's history at the James H. Long Railroad Park & Museum. Climb onto a historic train car to get a closer look, and examine artifacts dating back to 1886. Kids will love running around on the playground and park located on the tiny museum's grounds. You can even have a picnic lunch in the picturesque gazebo.
Say Hi to Smitty
It may seem cheesy, but you can't leave Smithville without saying hello to the town's unofficial mascot. Smitty the giant gingerbread man reached international acclaim when he was listed as the World's Largest Gingerbread Man in the 2006 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.
Go Shopping on Main Street
Spend some time mozying up and down the streets of downtown Smithville. You'll find coffee shops, boutiques, cafes, restaurants, and antique stores housed in historic buildings with quintessential old-timey storefronts. Hunt for hidden treasures at Bella's Antiques, Texas Trails Antiques and Marketplace, and It's A Goode Thing, all located on Main Street. Shop for home goods and local art at Mosaic Art & Home, and find women's clothing and gifts at Handpicked Boutique. Find all the essentials—and more—at the Smithville General Store, which sells everything from groceries and lunch specials to T-shirts and books.
Get Barbecue at Zimmerhanzel's
When you need a fuel break from a long morning of shopping, head to lunch at Zimmerhanzel's BBQ, where you'll find the smoked meats—beef sausage, brisket, pork, and chicken—in town. Look for the little red building across from the water tower. You'll know you've found the spot once you see smoke clouding around a giant oak tree out back; that's where the pit is.
Grab a Cold One at Huebel's
Wash down your rich lunch of smoked meat with a cold one at Huebel's, an old-fashioned beer garden that serves as one of Smithville's only bars and a popular watering hole for the entire town. Established in 1945, the local hangout is known for Friday night karaoke, Texas Hold 'Em tournaments, and free billiards.
Stay for a Spell
Though it's located less than an hour from Austin, we won't blame you if you want to spend a night or two in Smithville. For a sweet small-town stay, try the Katy House Bed & Breakfast with its classic porches and country-inspired décor or Colonels Quarters, a 1920s refurbished farmhouse in the heart of Smithville's historic district. If you'd prefer, a place all to yourself, rent one of many renovated cottages and historic homes located just steps from downtown.
Spend an Afternoon at Buescher State Park
Enjoy the bright Texas sunshine at Buescher State Park, which features six miles of trails and a 30-acre lake that's popular with paddlers and fishing enthusiasts alike. You can even stay overnight in a cabin, or at a campsite of your choice.
Indulge in a Steak Dinner at Murphy's Steakhouse
For an authentic Texas experience, there's no better place than Murphy's Steakhouse for hand-cut USDA beef and fried seafood in a historic 1913 building where German immigrant C.H. Schmidt and his wife once sold groceries. If you go, don't skip dessert. The selection changes daily, but everything is guaranteed to be homemade.
Hang with the Locals at Rio Social House
Rio may not have been around when Bullock and Connick Jr. waltzed their way through town, but the modern business, known as the Jewel of Smithville, is more than worth a visit—and it's open at all hours of the day. Stop in for a cup of joe in the morning. You'll find plenty of locals who use the artist-designed café space as a co-working space. Stay for lunch; or come back in the evening when the colorful courtyard transforms into a music venue, hub for yard games, and tropical-themed outdoor bar.