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

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

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

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. More info

1701 N 4th St, Waco, TX 76707, Phone: 254-750-8400

4. Carleen Bright Arboretum

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
© 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

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
© 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
© 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

Suspension Bridge and Riverwalk Area
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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
© 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

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

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
© 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
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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

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15. Mammoth Site

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
© 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
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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

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
© 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

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
© 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
© 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. Bare Arms Brewing

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

24. Hawaiian Falls Waco

Hawaiian Falls Waco
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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

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