With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, it’s time to figure out where you’re going to stand on ceremony. Places book up, and if you don’t do your due diligence and planning, you can end up with a drugstore box of mystery chocolates and slim pickings at your neighborhood Redbox.
Although winging it can be fun, too, here’s a list of one-day getaways from Fort Worth that are sure to make for an interesting excursion with your valentine. Just line up the Valentine’s Day playlist on your iPod for the drive and fill the tank.
Shop, grab lunch and possibly buy some chocolates — all less than 2 1/2 hours away. That’s just far enough to get you out of town for the day and back to the comfort of your own home, lickety split.
Drive time from downtown Fort Worth: Roughly 1 1/2 hours.
Directions: Take Chisholm Trail Parkway to U.S. 67 to Texas 220. Take a right on Second Street into downtown Hico.
Highlights: Old-town charm, shops, handmade chocolates, silo climbing, quaint lunch spots Billy the Kid Museum.
Take your valentine to ‘to the moon and back’ — actually, to Sugar Moon and back. That’s the name of Trish McMillin’s dreamy shop, the former C.L. Lynch hardware store and later a Western Auto store. McMillin and her sisters bought the building and turned it into a space chock-full of decor pieces, antiques, salvaged items and gifts.
“Lots of people like to mix things, and that’s the way I like it — a little bit of old and new,” McMillin says.
Before building Sugar Moon, McMillin worked as a contractor for the United States government. She operated out of Camp Speicher in Tikrit, Iraq, for two years.
“I just wanted to support this country in a way that I could,” she says.
The music stops playing in the store and she walks over to a corner to say, “Alexa, play classic country.” And just like that, George Jones pipes into the old building.
I thought of my Waxahachie grandmother’s giant console stereo playing that genre of music as I browsed.
Up a long flight of wooden stairs is another level of goodies and many things upstairs are on sale. From antique porcelain “hot and cold” buttons for faucet handles to old French bottle drying racks, there’s a lot to see.
A long farm table full of vintage embroidered linens sits near an old chalkboard and if you step toward the wall of tall windows, you can see the adjacent, restored Midland Hotel, which has 13 rooms and a Chop House restaurant that serves lunch and dinner.
“Everything is made from scratch, nothing canned or bagged. We hired a new chef from Rough Creek Lodge that was looking to do something like this,” says general manager Wes Lunsford.
Another dining option: Eis, a soda and ice cream stop where you can find a jalapeño grilled cheese sandwiches or Frito pie. Specials like a smoked rib-eye sandwiches and sopaipilla cheesecake traipse out of this kitchen from time to time.
Above the soda shop is a small hotel, The Upstairs Inn on Pecan Street. There are three beautiful rooms with restored antiques, some of them for sale.
Nearby, the North Pecan Drink Shoppe offers wines, cheese, sodas, coffees and teas.
There’s a lot going on over at 2nd Street Provisions. Owner Haley Rankin has a full-time coffee shop with sweet treats. She always has three cakes and a cake of the week.
“On the cake of the week, we only make it once and then we never make it again. It’s 95 percent of the time gluten-free. My baking is seasonal, so the flavors change with the season. There’s always variety and it keeps it interesting around here,” Rankin says.
There’s plenty to do besides shop, of course.
Sue Land is the director of the Billy the Kid Museum in downtown Hico and she’s proud to be installing more than a dozen oil paintings on loan from a museum of the same name in Sumner, New Mexico. A collector bought the paintings and has loaned them to the Hico museum for 2018.
“I love what I do here. I get to meet and greet all of the people who come here from places like Australia, Japan, and yesterday we had someone from Brazil,” Land says.
Wiseman House Chocolates is in a picturesque 1903 Queen Anne Victorian cottage that was originally built by artist Rufus Wiseman. In 1996, chocolatier Kevin Wenzel and his wife began offering fine handmade chocolates to the public. Having studied fine arts in Europe, Asia and the U.S., and chocolate making at a fifth-generation chocolate school in Pennsylvania, this confectioner’s son possesses the perfect combination of talent, training, and heritage for this delicate art. The rest is sweet Hico history.
Silver Spur Winery, also in the historic district in downtown Hico, has wine tastings and sells wine by the glass or bottle. .
Unique activities are on the increase in Hico. At Siloville, old grain elevators have been converted to accommodate climbers who want to scale the farm-style grain storage “mountains.” Call ahead to reserve a time to climb.
Drive time from downtown Fort Worth: about 2 1/2 hours.
Directions: Take I-20 west to exit 330. Take Texas 206 south and turn on Walnut Street into downtown Coleman.
Highlights: Great old architecture and historical atmosphere, nostalgic pharmacy/fountain, top shelf pizzeria, antique shops, mid-century modern shopping and the Owlvis burger.
It’s exciting to witness this town’s revitalization in the making.
For nostalgia seekers, Owl Drug is an old-fashioned pharmacy and fountain that is recognized by license No. 4 in the state of Texas. One, two and three are long gone, but Coleman’s is still up and running, thanks to owners Jim and Linda Caldwell, who are also pharmacists. This beating heart of Coleman changed locations in downtown, but it has continually operated since 1923.
“The Owlvis burger is great. Our owners love Elvis, so that is one of the favorites here. It has a real tangy sauce that’s both sweet and spicy and has a lot of layers,” assistant manager Davis Camacho says.
Yep, pairing the “Owlvis” with chubby, crispy onion rings seems like a hunk of burnin’ love. Wash it all down with a soda, and don’t forget the second straw for your valentine to share.
Rancho Pizzeria offers a different culinary adventure. This gem comes from the winning combination of Robert and Laurie Williamson. The couple founded the famed Rancho Loma, a fine dining-boutique hotel in 2003, and also serve their wood-fired pizzas in downtown Coleman.
Don’t look for a plain cheese pizza here. This is a place to explore new things. Options include roasted shiitake, bechamel, fontina, and roasted garlic with white truffle oils. Or look forward to the Italian sausage pizza with crushed tomatoes, fontina, and Calabrian chiles. Not too hungry? Stop in for chocolate panna cotta or an espresso float.
Work off the pizzas and burgers by browsing the shops around town. Old architecture and antiques add to the charm.
The Bonneville store is known for its mid-century modern furniture, decor and collectibles and was started by owner Bonnie West.
“I’m an accountant in real life, but I opened Bonneville about three years ago,” West says.
West’s managing partner, Wes Myler, has a passion for mid-century modern and for Coleman.
“Coleman has had a 1940s motor court remodeled and reopened as it was in 1948,” Myler says. “The Terrace Inn (a bed-and-breakfast) is truly a mid-century modern time capsule. It was custom built in 1959 by a wealthy jeweler, on the hill overlooking the city.. . . It is an amazing place. It is a true miracle that it exists in its condition.”
Myler isn’t along in his admiration for Coleman. On weekends, the Coleman Museum and Gallery at Heritage Hall opens to the public in an impressive historic building near downtown. Artifacts donated by Coleman residents over the decades and art exhibits are on display.
Speaking of art, shop owner Bonnie West had a dream to recharge some of the cherished older buildings, so she started painting outer walls and facades in Coleman about 3 1/2 years ago. She and her husband funded two projects; donations helped get more painted.
“We have painted 23 buildings in downtown Coleman so far! . . . I met Calina “Cal” Mishay Johnson (a Texas muralist based in Abilene) and started raising money for the first mural in Coleman (the wall of prickly pear cactus),” West explains.
Johnson’s work is stunning and brings new energy to downtown. Her colorful work is seen all over Texas. Some of her Coleman building artwork appeared on country music star Aaron Watson’s latest album, “Vaquero.” Back in Fort Worth, Johnson has some smaller-scale works on display at Milan Gallery.
Drive time: About 50 minutes
Directions: Take the Texas 280 Spur, follow I-35W south and take exit 370 into downtown Hillsboro.
Highlights: Historic town square, soda fountain, antique shops, brewpub, nearby Lake Whitney, and a burger with Fort Worth bourbon in it.
It’s hard to miss Hillsboro’s historic courthouse — a Second French Empire building with classical revival and Italianate styling and clock tower that rises about 70 feet. The building has seen hardship. In 1993, a fire threatened to erase it from history, but Hill County native Willie Nelson held two concerts to raise money for its restoration, and it came back to life in 1999. It sits in a bustling part of town.
On the southeast corner of the courthouse square is an old pharmacy/fountain building, A Tiskit A Tasket soda fountain, and boy-oh-boy does owner Ronney Earp have the burger for you in his 1950s inspired corner digs.
The double meat and jalapeño relish burger, appropriately called the Daytripper, is sure to give you stamina to hit the area shops or Lake Whitney.
Don’t overlook the Maple bourbon butter burger — a heavenly, dripping creation made with a little Texas corn, wheat and pecans. Earp gets his burger booze from Firestone & Robertson’s in Fort Worth. He uses its bold and flavorful TX Bourbon in his hamburger sauce.
Chase it all down with a root beer float, followed by your choice of homemade ice cream flavors that Earp dreams up and churns out.
The strawberry-basil is refreshing but the pecan cobbler using pecans Ronney buys in San Saba will leave you wishing for a pint of it for later.
“Sometimes I just find myself standing at Brookshire’s grocery store in the produce section just wondering what will inspire me to make a new flavor,” Earp says.
He and his wife, Paula Earp, sold their home in Trophy Club and moved to Hillsboro to build their dream. Their beautiful loft-style home sits right over the fountain shop on the corner of Waco and Elm, affording a lovely view of the courthouse.
A section of the store has some antiques, too, as well as neon relic signs that came off of adjacent buildings.
Also on the square, antique shops such as the Hillsboro Antique Mall are great fun to browse but they also serve up the history of the area with artifacts, books and friendly shopkeepers with stories to tell.
And don’t forget, you are just a hop, skip and a jump away from the lovely bluffs of Lake Whitney if you have any time left on the clock.
If you go
(Call ahead to confirm hours of operation, some aren’t open on a regular schedule)
Sugar Moon 101 S. Pecan St., 254-796-4155, www.sugarmoonantiques.com
Billy the Kid Museum 114 N. Pecan St., www.billythekidmuseum.com
Siloville Near Hico City Park. Call for appointment; cash only, 254-340-0737, www.siloville.com
Wiseman House Chocolates 406 W. Grubbs St., 866-460-3571, www.wisemanhousechocolates.com
North Pecan Drink Shoppe 202 N. Pecan St., Suite 100, 254-796-2230, http://www.hicosupstairsinn.com/drink-shoppe
Eis 202 N. Pecan St., Suite 100, 254-796-2230, www.hicoupstairsinn.com
2nd Street Provisions 208 W. Second St., 254-902-3000, www.2ndstreetprovisions.com
Hico Upstairs Inn 254-796-2230, www.hicosupstairsinn.com, Facebook: upstairsinn
Owl Drug 312 S. Commercial Ave., 325-625-2178
Murals by Calina “Cal” Mishay Johnson, https://streetartbycal.wixsite.com/artist
Rancho Pizzeria 414 S. Commercial Ave., 325-726-9307, www.ranchopizzeria.com
1948 Motor Court Lodging: The Harbord Kourt 2710 S. Commercial Ave., 325-259-1948, www.theharbordkourt.com
Bonneville 304 S Commercial Ave., 325-625-1500, www.deuxign.net/home
Coleman Museum and Gallery at Heritage Hall 400 W. College Ave., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays (call to verify hours in case of special events), 325-625-2000, www.colemanmuseumandgallery.com
Hillsboro Antique Mall 114 S. Waco St., 254-582-8330
The Goodie Mill (antiques and collectibles) 207 E. Elm St., 254-580-5657
A Tiskit A Taskit 71 N. Waco St., 254-582-3807, www.ascoopintime.com