Sitting on the banks of the Brazos River about 2 hours from Austin, Waco is a moderately sized Texan city with a big heart. The city first started gaining attention as a tourist destination because of HGTV's Fixer Upper stars Chip and Joanna Gaines, but it also boasts an excellent selection of museums, restaurants, and beautiful natural attractions.
You're sure to find a pleasant way to spend your time here, whether you prefer perusing the museums on the campus of Baylor University, marveling at heritage homes in downtown Waco, TX, or strolling through one of the parks on the shores of Lake Waco.
1. Dr Pepper Museum
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Dr Pepper is the oldest popular soft drink in the United States; it was created in Waco in the 1880s, and it was manufactured in the Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling Company building between 1906 and the mid-1960s. That building has since been converted into the Dr Pepper Museum, with the goal to preserve and share the history of America's soft drinks industry. Three floors of exhibits display a wide range of Dr Pepper memorabilia and artifacts, while the gift shop sells Dr Pepper merchandise and soda bottled in the oldest still-running manufacturing plant in America.
300 S 5th St, Waco, TX 76701, Phone: 254-757-1025
2. Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat
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The Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat is home to the mascots of Baylor University: Two North American black bears known as Joy and Lady. The bears are biological sisters with a one-year age difference; they both came to the university at the age of 4 months, and they can often be seen playing together. Their habitat was designed to be as natural as possible, and it includes features like waterfalls, caves, and fallen trees.
M P Daniel Esplanade, Waco, TX
76706, Phone: 254-710-3322
3. Cameron Park Zoo
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Encompassing 50 acres inside Cameron Park, the Cameron Park Zoo was established in 1955 to care for a diverse range of wildlife and to provide educational and recreational opportunities for the public. More than 1,700 animals representing approximately 300 species can be seen in the zoo, including Komodo dragons, lemurs, and endangered Sumatran tigers. In addition to the exotic animals from Asia and Africa, there are also a number of animals native to the Texas region. The zoo is open 7 days a week throughout the year, and it's happy to cater to special events like birthday parties, weddings, family gatherings, and overnight sleepovers.
1701 N 4th St, Waco, TX 76707, Phone: 254-750-8400
4. Carleen Bright Arboretum
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One of the most beautiful natural attractions in Waco, the Carleen Bright Arboretum is a 16-acre nature preserve with approximately 8 acres of beautiful botanical gardens. The property is divided into four distinct zones: The western and eastern gardens, the pavilion and wedding lawn, and a nature trail that winds through a beautiful forested area. There are two venues that guests can book for weddings and other private events, but the arboretum also hosts special events open to the public, such as summer concerts. Visitors are welcome to visit the gardens every day between dawn and dusk.
9001 Bosque Blvd b, Woodway, TX 76712, Phone: 254-399-9204
5. Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits
© Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits
Offering both gourmet coffee and artisan cocktails, Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits is a unique establishment that serves as a welcoming gathering place for locals and visitors no matter what the time of day. The coffee menu includes both hot and iced espresso drinks made with coffee beans proudly roasted in America, while the bar offers an excellent selection of spirits and handcrafted cocktails. Live music and other special events are held here on a regular basis, and the business can also be found at the Waco Farmers Market.
508 Austin Ave, Waco, TX 76701, Phone: 254-717-3226
6. Armstrong Browning Library
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Established to study the lives and poems of the English writers Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the Armstrong Browning Library boasts the world's biggest collection of works done by the well-known literary couple. There are several exhibits about the lives of the Brownings and those who were close to them, but the museum also prepares two or three temporary exhibits every year that draw from their collections of stained glass, rare books, and artwork from the 1800s. The museum is open to the public free of charge, and visitors are also welcome to relax in the garden and shop in the gift store.
710 Speight Ave, Waco, TX 76706, Phone: 254-710-3566
7. Earle-Napier-Kinnard House
© Earle-Napier-Kinnard House
Constructed in 1868, the Earle-Napier-Kinnard House is a heritage home that dates back to a time when only 700 people lived in the village of Waco. The home is a beautiful example of Greek revival architecture, boasting pillared porticos, a pale pink brick exterior, and a wooden banister designed to look like ironwork. The home still contains some of its original furnishings, and there is an outdoor children's playhouse built in 1881 that children are still welcome to use today. A small admission fee is charged to enter the home, and 30-minute guided tours are available by appointment.
814 S 4th St, Waco, TX 76706, Phone: 254-753-5166
8. East Terrace Museum
© East Terrace Museum
Overlooking the Brazos River, the East Terrace Museum is a historic house museum located inside the former home of industrialist John Wesley Mann. The home is built in the Italianate style, and so it serves as an excellent example of a style of architecture not often seen in this part of the country. Some of the home's original furnishings still remain, including a Victorian-style pier mirror and a wooden desk. Special tours outside of regular operating hours can be arranged by appointment.
100 Mill St, Waco, TX 76704, Phone: 254-753-5166
9. Suspension Bridge and Riverwalk Area
No trip to Waco would be complete without a visit to the Suspension Bridge and Riverwalk Area. This historic bridge, which was built in 1870 by John Roebling, the same man behind the Brooklyn Bridge, is a symbol and icon of downtown Waco. At the time that the bridge was built, it was known for being the longest single-span suspension bridge to the West of the Mississippi, a great feat for that time in history. Today, the bridge and Riverwalk rea are frequented by locals and visitors alike thanks to its convenient location between the Indian Spring and Martin Luther King Jr. Park. This local favorite recreational space features seven miles of lit trails that trace the Bravos River shoreline and passes by several landmarks in downtown Waco such as Cameron Park and Baylor University.
101 N. University Parks Drive, Waco, Texas 76701, Phone: 254-750-5980
10. Heritage Creamery
© Heritage Creamery
Known for its delicious ice cream and friendly service, Heritage Creamery prides itself on serving carefully handcrafted frozen treats made with high-quality, ethically sourced ingredients. The menu offers everything from ice cream sandwiches on homemade cookies to milkshakes and ice cream floats; pints of ice cream are also available to take home or to share. Customers can also turn their ice cream into an affogato over at the next-door coffee shop Common Grounds. The shop is open every day between noon and 11pm, and they can also be found at the Waco Farmers Market on Saturday afternoons.
1125 S 8th St, Waco, TX 76706, Phone: 254-537-1352
11. Lake Waco
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Situated entirely inside the Waco city limits, Lake Waco is a man-made reservoir that offers excellent recreational opportunities throughout the year. Boating is one of the most popular activities here; the lake has seven boat ramps, and a marina can be found in Airport Park on the north shore of the lake. There are also plenty of hiking and walking trails around the lake, particularly in Koehne Park, Airport Park, and Midway Park. Visitors who want to spend more time here can also choose to stay at one of the campsites, most of which come with water, dump stations, and electricity.
12. Lake Waco Wetlands
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Created in 2001 to lessen the impact of Lake Waco being raised by 7 feet, the Lake Waco Wetlands provides an important habitat for a wide range of plant, animal, and insect species, which visitors can learn about at the on-site research and education center. The wetlands themselves cover an area of 180 acres; one of the highlights is a 6-acre plant nursery that boasts aquatic plants like bulrushes, duck potatoes, and two different types of water lily. Several walking paths and raised walkways wind their way through the wetlands, and there are also observation platforms that are perfect for birdwatching.
1752 Eichelberger Crossing Road., China Spring, TX 76633, Phone: 254-848-9654
13. Lee Lockwood Library and Museum
© Lee Lockwood Library and Museum
Only minutes away from downtown Waco, the Lee Lockwood Library and Museum was built to serve as the headquarters for the Waco Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. Three floors of exhibits educate visitors about the history of Freemasonry in both America and abroad; many of the exhibits contain information about local history as well. The library and museum are open to the public Monday through Friday, and there is no admission fee. The venue can also be rented out for weddings, corporate gatherings, and other special events; the auditorium can seat up to 340 guests, while the banquet hall has space for up to 500.
2801 W Waco Dr, Waco, TX 76707, Phone: 254-752-1618
14. Magnolia Market at the Silos
© Magnolia Market at the Silos
Founded by HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines, Magnolia Market at the Silos is a unique retail shop and community space situated on 2.5 acres of land with two silos and a large barn. The market sells a wide variety of home decor, furniture, and Fixer Upper merchandise, while the on-site bakery sells cookies, cakes, and other tasty treats made according to Joanna's favorite recipes. Another highlight of the property is the large lawn, which offers food trucks, lawn games, and picnic spots. The shop is open every day of the week except for Sunday, and plenty of free parking is available.
601 Webster Ave, Waco, TX 76706, Phone: 254-235-0603
15. Mammoth Site
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First discovered in 1978, the Mammoth Site is home to the largest known collection of Columbian mammoths to have died in a single disastrous event: A mudslide believed to have occurred approximately 68,000 years ago. The remains of various mammal species have been uncovered to date, and some of these have been removed and are now being stored at Baylor University, although a good number of fossils still remain embedded in the dirt at the site. Visitors are not permitted to walk on the excavation site, but they can view the fossils from a pavilion constructed in 2009 for this very purpose.
6220 Steinbeck Bend Dr, Waco, TX 76708, Phone: 254-750-7946
16. Martin Museum of Art
© Martin Museum of Art
Operated by the Baylor University Art Department, the Martin Museum of Art offers a variety of permanent and temporary exhibitions designed to complement the department's classes on art history and studio art. The museum's permanent collection boasts roughly 1,300 pieces of artwork that have been donated to or purchased by the university, and the museum is also proud to present work by internationally recognized artists. Admission is free, and the museum is open 7 days a week when classes are in session as well as when special events take place in the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center and during performances held in the university theater.
60 Baylor Ave, Waco, TX 76706, Phone: 254-710-1867
17. Mayborn Museum Complex
© Mayborn Museum Complex
Opened in 2004, the Mayborn Museum Complex is a fascinating natural history museum located on the campus of Baylor University. Many of the permanent exhibits are in the form of walk-in dioramas; highlights include the Cabinet of Curiosities, filled with objects from the Strecker Museum, and an exhibit about the Waco Mammoth Site. The museum also boasts 16 themed discovery rooms designed for children, a 13-acre open-air historic village that was relocated from Liberty, Texas, and the Design Den, which allows visitors to create everything from model skyscrapers to scribble bots that can draw glow-in-the-dark designs.
1300 S University Parks Dr, Waco, TX 76706, Phone: 254-710-1110
18. Red Men Museum and Library
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Owned by the Texas Red Men Foundation, Inc., the Red Men Museum and Library is housed inside a building that was designed to resemble Thomas Jefferson's plantation Monticello. The museum is home to an extremely diverse range of historical artifacts, including a complete set of National Geographic magazines from 1888 to the present, a bugle found on the battlefield at Gettysburg, and an old desk that belonged to former Vice President Aaron Burr. The museum is open between 8am and 4:30pm, Monday through Friday, and special weekend visits can be arranged by appointment.
4521 Speight Ave, Waco, TX 76711, Phone: 254-756-1221
19. Schmaltz's Sandwich Shop
© Schmaltz's Sandwich Shop
The original Schmaltz's Sandwich Shop was opened on the campus of Baylor University in 1975, and although it was closed 7 years later, there are now two other locations for visitors and locals to enjoy: One downtown and another on Valley Mills Drive. All of the sandwiches served at Schmaltz's come on artisan white or whole wheat buns baked fresh daily; popular sandwich options include roast beef, ham and cheese, and pastrami. Soups and salads are available as well, and anyone who purchases a soup or salad with their sandwich will receive a small drink free of charge.
1412 N Valley Mills Dr # 136, Waco, TX 76710, Phone: 254-776-3694
20. Texas Ranger Hall of Fame
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Sponsored by the city of Waco, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame has been the official museum of the Texas Rangers since 1968. The museum is found inside a Hill Country-style building set on a 30-acre property, and it houses a large collection of artifacts related to the Texas Rangers. The location also serves as a memorial to all the Rangers who have died in the line of duty, and visitors can see a list of all those who had their lives taken between 1823 and 2004.
100 Texas Ranger Trail, Waco, TX 76706, Phone: 254-750-8631
21. Texas Sports Hall of Fame
© Texas Sports Hall of Fame
The Texas Sports Hall of Fame was established to honor the Texan athletes who have distinguished themselves or made an impact in the world of athletics, and it now tells visitors the story of sports in Texas since 1951. There is a wide variety of interactive exhibits for visitors to enjoy; highlights include video clips of the state's most important sporting moments and a display that allows visitors to compare their hand size to that of some great NBA players. Discounted admission is offered to groups of ten or more people. More ideas: Glamping in Texas
1108 S University Parks Dr, Waco, TX 76706, Phone: 254-756-1633
22. The Art Center of Waco
© The Art Center of Waco
Located inside a beautiful Mediterranean-style home overlooking the Brazos River Valley, the Art Center of Waco was founded to cultivate the arts in Waco and to encourage people to explore their artistic abilities and interests. The center offers plenty of opportunities for community engagement, including educational classes for people of all ages and temporary art exhibits that are changed approximately every two months. The public is welcome to view the exhibits free of charge, and the center also features a beautiful 2.5-acre sculpture garden that visitors are free to explore every day of the week. More ideas: Things to Do in San Antonio
701 S 8th St, Waco, TX 76706, Phone: 254-752-4371
23. Waco BlueCats Minor League Baseball
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The Waco BlueCats are the city's official pro baseball team, and no visit to Waco is complete without making time for a Waco BlueCats Minor League Baseball game. The team first began playing in 2018, and it is part of the Southwest League of Professional Baseball. As is true of all teams in this league, the BlueCats play 112 games each year: 56 home games and 56 away games. Home games are held in the stadium at the Ballpark at Bellmead, a state-of-the-art stadium that cost $12 million to construct and can hold up to 4,000 spectators.
24. Bare Arms Brewing
© Bare Arms Brewing
If you want a sip of fantastic beer in Waco, then you absolutely must stop by the first craft brewery to be established in town – Bare Arms Brewing. True to their name, the brewery is known for their roll-up-their-sleeves attitude that pours passion and excellence into every batch of craft beer made. The result is a lineup of incredible craft brews that are so loved that they constantly get voted the best in Waco by local beer lovers. Bare Arms Brewing offers several flagship beers, many of which are mainstays in restaurants around Waco, but they also offer seasonal beers, specials, and one-of-a-kind brews that can only be found in their taproom. Sample a rich and complex coffee stout like the Java Joule, or sample the Turbulence IPA with its 5-hop blend and malty finish. Meanwhile, other flagship beers to try include the 1849 Vienna Lager, the Nebulous Tart Berliner Weiss, and the Block 5 Rye IPA.
2515 LaSalle Avenue, Waco, Texas 76708; Phone: 254-759-8480
25. Hawaiian Falls Waco
There is a whopping 10 acres of excitement and fun to behold at Hawaiian Falls, Wavo’s most popular waterpark and the ultimate summer destination in this part of Texas. Hawaiian Falls features amusement park rides and thrilling water adventures for guests of all ages. The daring visitor can scale a multi-level water structure at the park’s Kona Bay, then descend back to ground level through their choice of 10 different waterslides. For those who want to catch some waves, body surfing is great at Breaker Bay with its gentle waves. Meanwhile, those looking for an adrenaline rush can shoot through a pitch-black tunnel slide with laser lights and mist to guide the way at Tempest Tower’s most popular slide, The Rush. For daredevils though, nothing beats the 65-foot free fall of the Monsoon and Typhoon Body Slide. Other popular features of Hawaiian Falls include the Pineapple Express, the Tiki Tower Slides, and the Kona Kooler Lazy River.
900 Lake Shore Drive, Waco, Texas 76708; Phone: 254-892-0222
The top attractions to visit in Waco, Texas near me today according to local experts are:
Attraction Spotlight: Texas Sports Hall of Fame
The Texas Sports Hall of Fame located in Waco is home to over three hundred legends in sports from throughout the entire state of Texas. The vision for the Texas Sports Hall of Fame came from The Beaumont Enterprise's sports editor. In 1949, during the Texas High School Coaches Association All Star Games in the city of Beaumont, Thad Johnson talked about creating the Hall of Fame with the Texas Sportswriters Association.
The members of the Sportswriters Association agreed unanimously with Johnson on the idea of establishing a Hall of Fame for Texas sports. The inaugural inductee to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame was Tris Speaker, as baseball great, in 1951. With this, Texas became the country's first state to create a hall of fame to honor its own athletes.
The Texas Sports Hall of Fame opened on May 23 in the year 1981 in Grand Prairie, Texas. Lamar Hunt, a sports entrepreneur in Texas, became responsible for the facility. In 1986, however, the Hall of Fame closed. The building remained closed until a number of prominent residents of the city of Waco created their own plan to have the Texas Sports Hall of Fame moved to the Waco community in 1990. On April 16 of 1993, this plan to move the Hall of Fame to Waco was realized when the city held its grand opening for the new Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
Within the Texas Sports Hall of Fame is also the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame and the Texas Tennis Museum. In 2010, the facility was expanded in order to add a new banquet hall, as well as the Health, Fitness and Education Center. The Southwest Conference, the preeminent college conference in Texas, was also added to the Hall of Fame.
Throughout the majority of the century, Texas' Southwest Conference a power conference of the entire country until 1996 when it was broken up. The exhibit on display at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame that focuses on the Southwest Conference showcases the expansive history in Texas of college sports. Today, the Hall of Fame is truly a representation of the history of athletics in the state of Texas, and has expanded to encompass thirty-five thousand square feet of space.
Any athlete, administrator, or coach involved in Texas sports, no matter if they are living or not, is eligible to be an inductee of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. Nominees are selected to be inducted into the Hall of Fame based on the honor and lasting fame they have brought to sports in Texas. The selection committee that selects the inductees is made up of twenty-one people at a minimum. The members of the committee consist of member of the electronic sports media and sportswriters from throughout Texas. Up to ten sports greats may be inducted to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame every year. Six of these nominees are chosen from a Primary Ballot, two from the Veterans Ballot, and the last two from a ballot of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame Board of Trustees.
1108 South University Parks Drive, Waco, Texas, Phone: 254-756-1633
Attraction Spotlight: Art Center of Waco
The mission of the Art Center of Waco is to cultivate the arts within the Waco community. This mission is accomplished through the center art collection, an array changing exhibits, and educational programs. These various educational programs are among the Art Center of Waco's favorite and most popular things they do at the center. The center believes that offering an opportunity for everyone to learn more about the arts helps to expand people's perspectives, as well as allows for outlets for community engagement and personal expression.
There is always new and interest art exhibitions on display at the Art Center of Waco. The changing temporary exhibitions rotate out of the center around every two months. These exhibits are scheduled at least a year ahead of time, so visitors and locals alike will be able to know what will be on display and when before they come to the Art Center. In addition, these exhibitions are displayed at no cost for the public to view them, as the center desires to make their art accessible to everyone, particularly to their community of Waco. The schedule for the exhibits at the Art Center can be found on the center's website.
Established in October of the year 1972, the Art Center of Waco holds a unique and diverse private collection of works of art. This one-of-a-kind art collection is occasionally showcased within the center so the public can view the artwork. The unique collection was made possible thanks to generous donors who have provided the center with works of art over the years.
The Art Center of Waco, founded in 1972, was created to be a facility for the visual arts. The purpose of the establishment of such a facility was to provide a place for creative activities, class, and exhibits. Before the Art Center was built, Waco was the single city in the state of Texas that consisted of a population of over sixty thousand people that didn't have a permanent facility for the visual arts available for its residents.
Those who founded the Art Center of Waco desired to provide the city of Waco with a space that encouraged the appreciation of art and made such art accessible to everyone. They also wanted to create a place where anyone could explore and expand their artistic skills and creativity. This is just what the founders accomplished when they established the Art Center of Waco.
The Art Center was originally housed within a storefront building that once served as the Chamber of Commerce. When it began to outgrow the building, funds were raised by the Board of Trustees to renovate the historic summer house of William Cameron to serve as the permanent facility for the Art Center of Waco. The center was moved to the newly renovated building in April of 1976. The Art Center of Waco still continues to operate out of from the Cameron house today, offering rotating art exhibits and classes for both adults and children alike. The Art Center is also committed to provided community art events around the Waco community.
1300 College Drive, Waco, Texas, Phone: 254-752-4371
Attraction Spotlight: Magnolia Market at the Silos
There's something for just about everyone at Waco's Magnolia Market at the Silos. Between the shops, lawn games, the garden, and food trucks, it's easy for visitors to spend at least a few hours at the market. Magnolia Market was designed and constructed with a particular goal in mind, that is to inspire guests to own the space they are in. The hope is that visitors will come to visit the market and leave with an excitement about their home.
The large green lawn at the Magnolia Market is situated in the center of the market and provides a huge box full of a variety of games. On just about every sunny day in Waco, the big lawn at the Silos is filled with children and adults alike playing a game of cornhole, challenging each other to potato sack races, or just throwing a football back and forth. The lawn games create a more enjoyable shopping experience at the Magnolia Market, as it offers a space to enjoy time and play with family and friends.
Guests at the Magnolia Market at the Silos can also grab a bite to eat at one of several food trucks before or after doing some shopping or playing on the lawn. Food options at the market include Milo, Luna Juice, Co-Town Crepes, Cheddar Box, Vitek, Club Sandwich, H.O.T. Dog House, Common Grounds, Chuck's Gourmet Popcorn, 900 Pizzeria, and Silo Baking Co. However, food trucks at the market are subject to change and may not be on-site depending on the weather.
Visitors and locals alike can treat themselves to a delicious snack at Silo Baking Co. at the Magnolia Market. The on-site bakery welcomes guests with tempting aromas of baked goods. This little bakery is filled with personal recipes of Joanna Gaines, as well as her hand-picked favorites. Such treats include "The Prize Pig" cheddar and bacon biscuit, the "Nuts & Bolts" cupcake, and "The Silos Cookie." Visitors won't want to forget to visit the sweetest corner of Magnolia Market at the Silos.
The vision that Joanna Gaines had for the garden at the Magnolia Market was that of a place where friends and family could explore and learn helpful garden lessons together. There are plant beds full of seasonal flowers and produce and a wooden teepee for kids to have fun adventuring under. There is also Magnolia Seed and Supply, the market's garden shop. The small shop offers gardening tools, supplies for fairy gardens, flower-growing kits for children, and one-of-a-kind pots for plants. The idea is for visitors to the shop will leave feeling inspired to create their own garden at home.
The Silo District Downtown Trolley makes visiting the Magnolia Market at the Silos even easier for both visitors and locals alike. The trolley runs every fifteen to twenty minutes from nine in the morning until 6:30 at night, Monday through Saturday. Those wishing to park and ride the trolley around downtown Waco can follow signs to free parking areas and then hop aboard the trolley at no cost.
601 Webster AVE, WACO TX 76706, Phone: 254-235-0603