Day Trip: Smithville, Texas

Renovated, affordable, and gorgeous homes with front porches, rocking chairs, in a tree-shaded historical district lining the usually sleepy Colorado River, barely 45 minutes from Austin’s Bergstrom Airport.

From the lovely neighborhood one can walk to downtown where new restaurants, refreshing beverage and loungy establishments, galleries, antique and bric-a-brac shops, coffee shops, bakeries, and what-not are popping up.

Sophistimakated craft cocktails, wood-fired Neopolitan pizza, $3 Italian wine, and live reggae music outdoors can be enjoyed on Saturday night in front of the local Amy’s Ice Cream shop and adjacent Honey’s.

In Smithville, Texas.

Growing up in Houston and then moving to Austin in the late 70s, Smithville was just a place you stopped at to get some gas, or perhaps get a bite at Zimmerhanzel’s BBQ.  Once the state built the highway 71 bypass I’d have to think through-traffic in Smithville must have went to near zero.

Since then, I don’t ever recall driving through Smithville again—until yesterday.

We had heard that it’s kind of a “new Marfa.”  So on a lark we decided to make the 1 hour, 15 minute drive from near Lake Travis west of Austin. After all, that’s about 6 hours less driving—one way.

Well it’s hardly Marfa. Not yet. Probably never. Marfa’s a whole different scene.

However I see the potential for a real alternative family-centered remote tech-worker-hipster-farmer-creative-entrepreneural type community developing in these parts. I can see it becoming a new destination for those in Austin looking for something really different from the Fredericksburg and Lockhart day-trip scenes—and for those who want to live affordably in a quiet small Texas town where everyone seems so genuinely friendly and warm. And once again, it’s incredibly only 45 minutes from Austin’s international airport.

We didn’t realize until yesterday that several motion pictures have been shot here, including one nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award.

We didn’t realize that the owners of Austin’s beloved Amy’s Ice Cream are local landowners and playing an active role behind the revitalization of downtown Smithville.  The population has increased about 28%—from ~3,300 to ~4,200 in the past 7 years.

We didn’t realize until we arrived that there was an annual ”Airing of the Quilts” going on. It seemed as though almost all of the homeowners in the historic district were airing quilts, and some were open as part of a paid home tour.

Last but not least, I didn’t realize there’s an annual Texas Photo Festival held here! How did I miss that?

Unfortunately we arrived too late in the afternoon to partake in a proper full home tour, and thus I didn’t get any shots of the lovely homes on this visit.

We spent more time hanging around the downtown area, chilling with some lovely wine and nibbles at the clubby-pubby-lounge-like Front Room, then downing some delicious pizza while enjoying live reggae music at Honey’s + Amy’s Ice Cream stand on a very pleasant November evening.

In Smithville? Who knew?

We’ll definitely mark this spot down for a return visit, or two, or three.  There’s plenty more new establishments opening soon. There will be plenty more lovely local folks to meet—and plenty more to photograph.

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