Sitting on the banks of the Brazos River, Waco is a moderately sized 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.
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1.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
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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. Visitors are typically welcome to see the bears between the hours of 9:30am and 8pm, but hours sometimes change because of weather or special events.
M P Daniel Esplanade, Waco, TX
76706, Phone: 254-710-3322
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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
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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
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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 every Saturday morning between 9am and 1pm.
508 Austin Ave, Waco, TX 76701, Phone: 254-714-1710
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6.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
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© 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
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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. The house is open to the public every Sunday between 1pm and 4pm, and special tours outside of regular operating hours can be arranged by appointment.
100 Mill St, Waco, TX 76704, Phone: 254-753-5166
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9.Fort House Museum
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Made out of local pink brick and cypress wood, the Fort House Museum is a Greek revival home built in 1868 by William Aldridge Fort. The Junior League of Waco bought the building in the mid-1950s, and much of it was restored thanks to gifts from generous local donors. A museum room can be found on the second floor of the house; exhibitions change two times a year and address various historical events of national and local importance. The home can be viewed Tuesday through Saturday in the late morning and early afternoon, but groups can sometimes arrange visits outside of normal opening hours.
503 S 4th St, Waco, TX 76706, Phone: 254-753-5166
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© 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
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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.
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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
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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
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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: 254-235-6111
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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. The museum is open between 9am and 5pm every day of the week.
100 Texas Ranger Trail, Waco, TX 76706, Phone: 254-750-8631
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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, and the museum is open every day of the week except for Sundays.
1108 S University Parks Dr, Waco, TX 76706, Phone: 254-756-1633
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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.
1300 College Dr, Waco, TX 76708, Phone: 254-752-4371
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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.
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24.Waco River Safari
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The Brazos and Bosque rivers are one of the highlights of a trip to Waco, and the Waco River Safari tour company allows visitors to experience the scenic beauty of the rivers from the comfort of a well-equipped boat. Cruises last approximately 2 hours, and there are two options for guests to choose from: A historical cruise that educates visitors about the ways in which the Brazos River shaped the creation of Waco and a sunset dinner cruise that takes passengers down the Bosque River. Private tours can be also be arranged for groups of up to 20 people.
113 S University Parks Dr, Waco, TX 76701, Phone: 254-981-4279
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25 Best Things to Do in Waco, Texas
- Armstrong Browning Library, Photo: Courtesy of rcfotostock - Fotolia.com
- Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat, Photo: Courtesy of riccardo - Fotolia.com
- Cameron Park Zoo, Photo: Courtesy of Michael - Fotolia.com
- Carleen Bright Arboretum, Photo: Courtesy of Gregory Johnston - Fotolia.com
- Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits, Photo: Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits
- Dr Pepper Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Shelley - Fotolia.com
- Earle-Napier-Kinnard House, Photo: Earle-Napier-Kinnard House
- East Terrace Museum, Photo: East Terrace Museum
- Fort House Museum, Photo: Courtesy of DenisProduction.com - Fotolia.com
- Heritage Creamery, Photo: Heritage Creamery
- Lake Waco, Photo: Courtesy of visi.stock - Fotolia.com
- Lake Waco Wetlands, Photo: Courtesy of Mykola - Fotolia.com
- Lee Lockwood Library and Museum, Photo: Lee Lockwood Library and Museum
- Magnolia Market at the Silos, Photo: Magnolia Market at the Silos
- Mammoth Site, Photo: Courtesy of Krzysztof Wiktor - Fotolia.com
- Martin Museum of Art, Photo: Martin Museum of Art
- Mayborn Museum Complex, Photo: Mayborn Museum Complex
- Red Men Museum and Library, Photo: Courtesy of connel_design - Fotolia.com
- Schmaltz's Sandwich Shop , Photo: Schmaltz's Sandwich Shop
- Texas Ranger Hall of Fame, Photo: Courtesy of Shelley - Fotolia.com
- Texas Sports Hall of Fame, Photo: Texas Sports Hall of Fame
- The Art Center of Waco, Photo: The Art Center of Waco
- Waco BlueCats Minor League Baseball, Photo: Courtesy of StefanoT - Fotolia.com
- Waco River Safari, Photo: Courtesy of Hundley Photography - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Peter - Fotolia.com