by Casey Johnson
Photos courtesy of Waco Convention & Visitors Bureau
Looking for a getaway that has something for the whole family but easy on your travel budget…consider Waco! Long known as the “Heart of Texas,” this family-friendly destination is less than a 3 hour drive from Houston and is sure to be a memorable trip for your family.
Waco is home to the famous Magnolia Market, owned by Chip and Joanna Gaines. It is also the home of a lively cultural district. Discover open-air festivals and concerts by the river, top sporting events, a popular Saturday morning farmers market, “First Fridays” downtown, theatre, live music, rodeo, comedy, dance, art galleries, and a world-class symphony orchestra. No matter what you choose to do during your stay, you will find plenty of “heart” at the center of their hospitality. wacoheartoftexas.com
What to Do
While there is no shortage of fun things you can do in Waco, here are a few highlights you should consider.
CAMERON PARK ZOO
The Cameron Park Zoo rests on 52 acres adjacent to the Brazos River. Lush native vegetation, splashing waterfalls and ponds create natural habitats that are home to giraffes, lions, white rhino and elephants. The Asian Forest features orangutans, Sumatran tigers, and Komodo dragons. The Brazos River Country exhibit features animals native to the Brazos River. Enjoy a coral reef saltwater aquarium and playful river otters. Cameron Park Zoo is an Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited zoo. cameronparkzoo.com
DR PEPPER MUSEUM
A museum dedicated to Dr Pepper, the nation’s oldest major soft drink. The museum offers two buildings of exhibits featuring many different soft drinks and the Emerson Holt – Ted Getterman Gallery. Exhibits change regularly, and the museum holds frequent interactive events. Visit Frosty’s Soda Shop and Peggy Pepper’s Emporium for cool treats and souvenirs. drpeppermuseum.com
TEXAS RANGER HALL OF FAME & MUSEUM
The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum is the official State Hall of Fame and Museum for the Texas Rangers. The museum’s artifacts date back to the early days of Texas, and include badges, firearms, tack and personal gear. Displays include a Bonnie & Clyde exhibit, memorabilia from The Lone Ranger and Walker, Texas Ranger, and Western art. The Hall of Fame commemorates 30 brave Rangers who died in service and served with distinction. texasranger.org
MAYBORN MUSEUM COMPLEX
Located on the campus of Baylor University, the Mayborn Museum Complex features hands-on discovery rooms and interactive natural science and cultural history galleries. This rich combination provides a wide spectrum of engaging learning opportunities for visitors of all ages. The grounds also include the Gov. Bill & Vara Daniel historic village, depicting life in Texas from the late 1800’s to the early 20th century. maybornmuseum.com
WACO MAMMOTH NATIONAL MONUMENT
This paleontological site represents the nation’s only recorded discovery of a nursery herd of Columbian Mammoths. Visitors can view “in situ” fossils including female mammoths, a bull mammoth, and a camel that lived approximately 67,000 years ago. www.wacomammoth.com
HOMESTEAD CRAFT VILLAGE
Homestead Craft Village, located 5 miles northwest of Waco, offers shopping, dining, and self-guided tours. The 18-acre complex includes a 200-year old barn, the Potter’s House, a woodworking shop, a restored 1760 gristmill, fiber arts, herb garden, and more. Guided tours are available by appointment. Café Homestead, serving natural beef and homemade baked goods, is one of the top-rated restaurants in the Waco area. Brazos Valley Cheese and Red Wagon BBQ are also located there. homesteadcraftvillage.com
If you’re interested in seeing all Waco has to offer while learning about the city’s rich history, these guided tours are sure to impress.
WACO RIVER SAFARI
This scenic river tour is full of interesting history and fascinating views of the Brazos and Bosque rivers. Relax as you embark on a pontoon boat tour narrated by a knowledgeable tour guide, winding through downtown Waco and up the Bosque River. Learn about the Suspension Bridge, Waco Indians and how the Brazos River shaped Waco today. Sunset dinner cruises and kid friendly cruises also available. wacoriversafari.com
Waco Tours provides an inside look at the most interesting things to do and places to see in Waco, as well as inviting you into the history of the city. From Baylor to the Brazos River, Cameron Park to the Suspension Bridge, the tours will show you Waco’s history, homes and hidden gems along with some Fixer Upper fan fare. This tour comes complete with a stop at Heritage Creamery for a scoop of ice cream, a visit with the Baylor Bears, a walk around Lover’s Leap and some great family fun. waco-tours.com
Wineries, Distilleries & Breweries
This local craft distillery has been racking up awards since opening in 2008. Whisky Tasting and Tours available through website booking only. balconesdistilling.com
KISSING TREE VINEYARDS
Live music, gourmet Italian meals on Friday & Saturday evenings, Sunday brunch, and the adorable story of why this country vineyard is named the Kissing Tree. kissingtreevineyards.com
BARE ARMS BREWING
The owners believe if you are passionate about something you shouldn’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves, bare your arms and go to work. They are passionate about providing a quality product and are not afraid of the work, thus the name Bare Arms Brewing. barearmsbrewing.com
Where to Eat
A breakfast and lunch restaurant specializing in fresh, homegrown ingredients and good, old-fashioned cooking. magnolia.com/table/
Known for its menu of traditional Texas, Mediterranean and specialty cuisines, Cafe Homestead serves up deliciously organic food in a unique setting of a traditional craft village. cafehomestead.com
Buzzard Billy’s Not only offers relaxing Views they also offer The Best Cajun and American food in Town! Bring your kids, they will love feeding the fish, turtles, and ducks who hang out by the deck while you relax and enjoy a signature cocktail. theoriginalbuzzardbillys.com
A fine dining experience. Indulge in award-winning cuisine, expertly prepared high quality steaks, seafood and ingredients. diamondbackswaco.com
Jake’s Texas Tea House
Retro eatery with a gas station theme & classic Southern fare, plus homemade desserts & local beers. Dinner is served family style with the perfect comfort food just like grandma used to make. Come enjoy the unique decor and family-friendly atmosphere. facebook.com/JakesTexasTeaHouse/
If you’re looking for a cool treat to quench those taste buds, check out Heritage Creamery located near Baylor University Campus, this ice-cream is hand-crafted daily. heritagecreamery.com
Where to Stay
As Waco is a city going through massive restoration, there are no shortages of quaint bed and breakfast cottages for your family to enjoy. Especially if you want to have the full authentic Waco experience. If cute and quaint isn’t your style, there are also several hotel options in the area. Check out the Waco CVB page for an extensive list of places to stay. wacoheartoftexas.com/lodging/
We hope you enjoy your trip!
FIXER UPPER FANS
If you’re a big fan of Chip and Johanna Gaines these destinations are for you!
MAGNOLIA MARKET AT THE SILOS
Magnolia Market at the Silos covers two city blocks in downtown Waco and features two landmark 120’ tall silos. The silos were built in 1950 as part of the Brazos Valley Cotton Oil Company. The grounds include a 12,000 sq. ft. retail store located in the historic grain barn and office building, a food truck park with picnic tables, a garden store, bakery, and lawn area with free lawn games such as corn hole and football. While at the silos, enjoy the beautiful garden blooming with plants inspired by Joanna’s greenhouse, and browse through the items you can purchase in the store at Magnolia Seed + Supply. Don’t forget to get a cupcake at the Silos Baking Co.! magnolia.com/silos
LITTLE SHOP ON BOSQUE
The original home of the Magnolia Market, this site is an adorable house made into a shop. The little shop grew as much as it could at its original location, before moving into the new location at the Silos in late November of 2015.
HARP DESIGN CO
HGTV’s Fixer Upper regularly features the amazing designs of craftsman Clint Harp. Stop in to visit his shop and showroom. Pick up some of those famous wooden candle holders, or have a custom table created, just like Joanna! harpdesignco.com
JDH IRON DESIGNS
Visit Jimmy Don Holmes’ store and shop. You are likely to find some of the great signs seen on HGTV’s Fixer Upper or have them design a custom sign just for you. Stop by his trailer near the Silos for a chance to meet Jimmy Don in person! jdhirondesigns.com