Blogger, Writer, Urban Adventurer
Believe it or not, there’s more to Waco, Texas than Chip and Joanna Gaines. While Fixer Upper may have put Waco back on the map, one visit here and you’ll fall for its lovely mix of Texas charm, history and outdoor adventures. From Dr. Pepper and that famous suspension bridge to the home of the Texas Rangers, here are 15 reasons why Waco should be your family’s next weekend getaway.
1. It’s impossible to discuss Waco and not talk about HGTV superstars Chip and Joanna Gaines. One of their biggest hometown projects started when they purchased two abandoned cottonseed silos that were closed by the Brazos Valley Cotton Oil Mill in 1958. They have since revamped the whole area and created Magnolia Market at the Silos. The Market sells home décor, clothing and accessories. You can also shop at the Magnolia Seed + Supply store, Silos Baking Co., or just stop by for the food trucks and to lounge on the lawn.
2. While Dr. Pepper may not be the official soft drink of Texas yet, it’s legit enough for us. At the Dr. Pepper Museum, you’ll see why this homegrown drink has deep Texas roots. The museum itself is housed in the 1906 Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling building for Dr. Pepper, while the soft drink dates back even further, with its first sales in Waco starting in 1885. The entire museum is packed with memorabilia and nostalgia—and no visit is complete without a stop by Frosty’s Soda Shop.
3. The Mayborn Museum Complex is located on the campus of Baylor University. Two whole floors are occupied by the Jeanes Discovery Center, where you’ll find themed, interactive rooms such as Light & Sound, Design Den, Water & Bubbles and more. They also feature natural and cultural history exhibits and Governor Bill and Vara Daniel’s Historic Village. The museum is affordable, too, with adults costing $8 and kids ages only $6.
4. Waco Mammoth National Monument is five acres of land along the Bosque River, where Paul Barron and Eddie Bufkin discovered the fossilized bones of 16 Colombian mammoths. The monument has an indoor, covered dig site where you can still see some of these fossils in the earth—much like they how they were first found in 1978. Guided tours happen every 30 minutes, with no reservations required, and last 45 minutes to an hour. Adults are $5 and children grades pre-K to 6 are $3. Kids under the age of three are free.
5. Located near Baylor University, Common Grounds is a locally owned and operated coffee shop. With its delicious coffee and kid-friendly backyard setup, it’s perfect for a pick-me-up before exploring more of Waco.
6. If you want a different perspective of Waco, try a view from the water! Waco River Safari offers Historic Scenic Tours and Kids Tours of the Brazos River. Their boats all have canopies and bathrooms aboard, which is key when traveling with little people. The historic tours are two hours, but the kids’ tours are only one hour (and affordable!). Children under the age of three are free, kids ages four to 12 2 are $8 and adults are $11. The historic tour costs $25 for kids and $39 for adults (but it is BYOB-friendly!).
7. Blow your little athletes’ minds by taking them to see the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. This 35,000-square-foot museum pays homage to more than 300 Texas athletes. If you “Gig ‘Em,” “Hook ‘Em,” “Sic ‘Em”—or even if you root for the Cowboys or the Texans—you’ll find something to like here.
8. Cameron Park Natural Zoo Habitat is a 52-acre natural habitat along the Brazos River. The zoo has Galapagos tortoises, Gibbon Islands, a 50,000-gallon salt-water aquarium and various animals from America, South America, Africa and Asia. There’s also a playground and splash pad to help you cool off! If you’re already a member of the Houston or Dallas Zoo, you may also get discounts or free entry—present that card.
9. Homestead Craft Village is a year-round shopping center that focuses on vendors whose wares showcase craftsmanship and old world values. You’ll find things goodies like soaps, heirloom furniture, baskets, organic grains, flour & baking mixes, meat and produce and more! The Village also is host to items made by blacksmiths, fiber crafts (think handmade quits and textiles), a café, a pottery shop, a woodworking shop and a gristmill. On Saturdays, they sometimes offer crafting sessions for children. Don’t forget to stop for some of their award-winning cheese or barbecue, too!
10. The Waco Suspension Bridge is the oldest suspension bridge in Texas. Designed by the John Roebling Co., it was built in 1870 as the first bridge across the Brazos River and is considered a prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC. In front of the bridge, you’ll also find the famous Cattle Drive Monument, which features bronze longhorns and a cattle driver. Walk across the bridge (it’s pedestrian-only) and take advantage of a few photo ops before lounging in either Indian Spring Park or Martin Luther King, Jr. Park., both located on either side of the bridge.
11. In Texas, we are always trying to beat the heat! Waco is no different, and Hawaiian Falls Water Park is just the ticket in the summer. This 10-acre waterpark has a lazy river, splash pad, adventure pool, wave pool and six waterslides to help cool off and tire out the whole family. Buy your tickets online for larger discounts or consider going on a weekday (Monday-Thursday) for even more savings.
12. Operated by the Army Corps Engineers, Lake Waco is the reservoir within the city limits of Waco. The entire lake is 79,00 acres and has two public swimming locations (Airport Beach and Twin Bridges). Of course, it is also a popular spot for fishing and boating, if that’s more your speed.
13. One of our favorite things to do is snap photos at local murals, and Waco has a few great ones worth finding. There’s a huge version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night (corner of 10th & Columbus Ave), a cute, cheeky “You Look Nice Today Waco Town” (115 N. 7th Street) and “Dear Waco, We Love You” (910 La Salle Ave).
14. Who doesn’t like local, handcrafted ice cream? Heritage Creamery’s motto is “Grown Here,” and only uses fresh, high-quality ingredients (with no preserves!).
15. Waco is the official location of the state’s historic center, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum. You’ll find more than 300,000 items in their collection, spanning two centuries and devoted to the history and legacy of (what was once known as) the symbol of the American West. And, yes, there is a pop culture section of the museum that features Chuck Norris, because…obviously.