Anyone who's a fan of classic romantic comedies from the '90s has seen Hope Floats (if you haven't, stop what you're doing and watch immediately). The film, directed by Hollywood legend Forest Whitaker and written by Steven Rogers, who also wrote Stepmom, Kate & Leopold and I, Tonya, follows Birdee Pruitt (Sandra Bullock), who gets humiliated and dumped on reality television and takes her daughter (Mae Whitman) back to her tiny home town where she was once queen bee in high school. She may or may not fall for Harry Connick Jr. along the way (and who wouldn't?) while rediscovering an appreciation for her southern roots. It's the ultimate heartwarming family flick, filled with tearjerker moments and plenty of laughs. But did you know that the small town featured in the movie wasn't a set or a fictionalized town? It's very real and located in the heart of the Lone Star State — Smithville, Texas.
After Hope Floats, Smithville became known as one of the premier filming locations in Texas. The Terrence Malick drama, Tree of Life, was filmed there as well as Bernie starring Jack Black. Miranda Lambert even filmed the music video "Vice" in town, paying homage to her home state. Just a short drive from Austin and less than two hours from San Antonio, the Smithville area is in a pretty central little pocket along Highway 71. It's the perfect day trip for anyone in Central Texas wanting to get a glimpse of an incredibly charming small town and see some film locations along the way.
If you love Hope Floats, this is the perfect mini road trip to relive some of the best moments from the beloved film, starting in the Texas state capital.
Though Hope Floats was primarily filmed in Smithville, you've got to start your little road trip in Austin. This was the first film produced under Sandra Bullock's production company, and the entire cast got together before filming in Austin. It's where Harry flew out to test for the role of Justin Matisse and even where Bullock has been known to split time living between her other home in Los Angeles. So we've got to start where it all technically started. Then head an hour southeast to the charming town of Smithville to step right into some notable scenes from the movie.
108 NE 2nd St.
First stop down in Smithville? You've got to pay a visit to the the employment agency Birdee visits when she first comes back to town. She crosses paths with a girl from her high school (who she wasn't very kind to back in the day), but ultimately gets help landing a job that turns out to be just perfect for her. And makes a new friend along the way. Yay Dot!
109 NE 2nd St (Honey's Diner)
Honey's Diner was featured in the film but its actually the home of Honey's Pizza. They serve traditional wood-fired Neapolitan pizza in the heart of Smithville, a perfect lunchtime spot as your make your way through the town.
Star Biscuit Co. mural
The faded Star Biscuit Co. mural, painted specifically for the film, is still in the small downtown area. Just head to the NE corner of 2nd and Main Streets, and you've got an ideal photo op.
Smithville High School
One of the side plots in the film centers around Birdee's daughter Bernice as she struggles to get acclimated to her new elementary school. Those scenes were actually filmed at the local high school, which was built back in 1924. You can drive by the school at 285 State Hwy 95.
Visitors are able to stop in and see the large house where Birdee stays with her mother at the end of Olive Street in Hope Floats. Dating back to 1908, the house was built for J. H. McCollum who owned a local store on Main Street. The house was purchased by Dr. Phillip Chapman in 1917 and is currently maintained by his grandnephew. Just head to 201 E. Eighth & Olive Street.
Back Door Cafe
The Back Door Cafe, located at 117 Main St, was also featured in the film. An ideal afternoon pick me up as you explore the quaint downtown area just like Birdee Pruitt.
This article was originally published in 2019. It was updated on July 14, 2023.
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