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Waco, Texas, is one of the smaller cities in Central Texas, especially when compared to neighboring Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. However, don’t let its smaller size fool you; this city packs quite the punch for visitors. With a range of fun attractions throughout the city, especially ones about the city’s unique history and landscape, Waco is a popular city for a day trip.
SEE ALSO: 17 Best Restaurants in Waco, Texas
In fact, Waco has so many fun places to visit that it can be difficult to decide where to start. Should you start with the Dr Pepper museum or with the Waco Mammoth National Monument? Or should you just skip both of those and head to the Cameron Park Zoo to see their impressive collection of animals? So much to do, so little time!
So if you’re looking for a guide that can tell you about all the hottest places in Waco, well, you’re reading it! Here is a list of some of the top things to do when you visit Waco, TX.
1. Explore Magnolia Market at the Silos
The Magnolia Market is easily one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city that is especially easy to find due to the massive grain silos towering over the grounds. The two silos stand at a towering 120 feet, much larger than the surrounding area, making the park easy to find. HGTV celebrities Joanna and Chip Gaines from Fixer Upper are owners of the Magnolia Market, sectioning it off into smaller parts.
There’s so much to do at Magnolia Market – you can easily spend an entire day here eating and shopping for home decor.
- Magnolia Press – coffee shop with pastries
- Silos Baking Co. – the iconic bakeshop that Chip and Jo brought back to life on Season 4 of Fixer Upper. Cupcakes, pastries, and other treats.
- Food trucks – 900 Degree Pizza, Captain Billy Whizzbangs, Chuck’s Gourmet Popcorn, Club Sandwich, Guess Family BBQ, H.O.T. Dog House, Summer Snow, Maggie’s Sweet Shoppe, Silos Baking Co., Airstream, Alabama Sweet Tea, and Luna Juice
- Chapter One
- No. 16
- Tried & True
- Vie Bien Aimee
- Ferny’s: The Retro Plant Shop
There’s also a big outdoor seating area with turf for picnics and other family activities!
601 Webster Ave, magnolia.com/visit/shop/shops-at-the-silos/
2. Sunset horseback ride at Brazos Bluffs Ranch
Giddy up and go on a sunset horseback ride at Brazos Bluffs Ranch! It’s a 2 1/2 hour horseback ride along the Brazos River and ends with the sunset across the Brazos River with Blue Bell ice cream and Dr Pepper.
SEE ALSO: 11 Best Spots For Glamping Near Austin
3. Whisky tasting at Balcones Brewery
Not only is Waco home to some of the best attractions in the state, but it’s also home to some of the best whisky. At Balcones Distilling, you get to try out some of the finest whisky that the Lone Star State has to offer, and you can even get a chance to see how it’s made. You can book a tour of the inside and get a chance to see the magical distilling process. Their bold and intense flavors pack quite the punch, which makes them all the better.
225 S 11th St, balconesdistilling.com
SEE ALSO: Ultimate Guide To Things To Do in Fredericksburg
4. Shop at the Findery
Shopping in Waco is an experience in its own right, with one of the best places for it being the Findery. Sitting inside the Percy Medicine Building, the building alone is over a hundred years old. You can find multiple vendors throughout The Findery, each one selling a multitude of unique modern, vintage, and handmade home decor items. The biggest vendor in the outlet is Jute, which has many fun furniture options. You can also find other vendors selling a range of candles, clothes, and handmade jewelry.
501 S 8th St
5. Dr Pepper Museum
Now the first thing that might’ve come to mind when you heard about Dr Pepper is their famous jingle “I’m a Pepper, you’re a Pepper….” Or you just remembered the fun taste of a cold Dr Pepper. The nostalgic museum features a range of knickknacks from the 40s, as well as major attractions like the 20,000-pound advertising board made of concrete painted in 1940. Since the soft drink originated in Waco during the mid-1880s, it was a major contributor to the town’s popularity at the time.
Don’t miss the ice cream shop/soda fountain at the end where you can get a treat or your favorite soft drink.
300 S 5th St, Waco, TX
6. Visit Baylor University
Baylor University is a massive institution and covers a large part of the city. Not only is it an active research facility, but it remains one of the oldest running universities in the Lone Star State. The University has an audio walking tour that visitors can download and experience at their preferred pace. Or visitors can just walk around the campus and stroll through its many open spaces.
7. Eat at Milo restaurant
Looking for seasonal Southern grub down in Waco? Well, then, why not step down to Milo Restaurant for one of the best dining experiences in this small town. Using Texas sourced ingredients, the restaurant is able to blend various traditional recipes along with some bold flavors to make something that can leave you wanting more. They have various items to eat, which change every season, so you’ll have to tune in every now and then to check it out. Visitors can even pair their orders with an assortment of beers and spirits.
1020 Franklin Ave, Waco, TX, milowaco.com
SEE ALSO: Ultimate Guide To Things To Do In Round Top Texas
8. Cookies at Milk Bottle Cookies
If you’re looking for a fun place to get something sweet and tasty, then why not hop on down to Milk Bottle Cookies. The cookies there are diverse in their flavors and will have you mesmerized. Of course, you can pair each one of your cookies with a warm or cold glass of milk.
218 S 11th St, milkbottlecookies.com
9. Waco Mammoth National Monument
Before turning into a small Texas town, Waco was actually monumental in the Ice Age for the Columbian Mammoths. There have been a number of fossils and relics that archeologists have found over the years in a single place. You can take a guided tour of the entire compound, where the tour guide can go over the significance of the different artifacts as well as well as more information about how the mammoths lived before going extinct after the Ice Age.
10. Cameron Park Zoo
If you’re traveling with a family and are looking for a fun day out in Waco, then the Cameron Park Zoo is one of the best places to visit. As a natural habitat zoo, all of the animals that you can find in their enclosures live in simulated habitats to make them feel more comfortable. The zoo is massive and is a great final place to visit after a day of fun at the park.
There are over 300 species throughout the 52-acre compound. There are different sections throughout the zoo, with each one having animals from a different habitat. One of the highlights of the zoo is the African savanna, which features elephants, white rhinos, giraffes, and other animals native to that area. The zoo also features a 50,000-gallon aquarium, with a variety of fish and marine life to discover. With so many things to find throughout the zoo, it is easily one of the best places to visit, and you can spend a whole day there.
11. Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum
The Texas Ranger was one of the most important professions in the old West, and their work contributed greatly to law enforcement in the country. In fact, the Texas Rangers have served the state for some time, over 200 years, and continue to influence most of modern policing. This hall of fame and museum pays tribute to one of the oldest arms of the law.
You can take a guided tour throughout the museum and learn more about how they contributed to the building of Texas.
12. Cameron Park
Along with housing the Cameron Park Zoo, this park features plenty of fun activities that make it exciting for the whole family. The park encompasses a massive part of the city at 416 acres and is one of the best places to visit for its wealth of activities. You can go for a long stroll through the park, or you can ride a bike through one of the many trails in the city.
You can also get a chance to see the Cotton Bowl exhibit and the Southwest Conference Gallery, both of which are fun ways to learn more about Texas’ sports history. Each of these attractions has exhibits that make them such a joy to watch and explore.
13. Mayborn Museum Complex
Mayborn Museum is a top attraction in Waco, specifically for its sheer size and enjoyment. The natural history museum features a multitude of hands-on exhibits that can pique a child’s curiosity. The compound focuses on subjects like paleontology, geology, and archeology. There are 16 different discovery rooms, each with a unique theme that can engage and excite children of any age. Families can even check out Governor Bill and Vara Daniel Historic Village, which brings an 1890s community back to life.
14. McLane Stadium
Another popular attraction at Baylor University is the enormous McLane Stadium, which also happens to be home to the Baylor Bears. You can take a full tour of the stadium and see all of the facilities inside. It is easily one of the highlights of your visit to the Baylor University Campus. If you happen to be a fan of the Baylor Bears, be sure to visit their website and see if they have a match coming up to show your support for your favorite team.
15. Valley Mills Vineyards
Waco is one of the few cities in Texas that has one of the best distilleries and vineyards in the state. At Valley Mills, you get to experience the rich flavors of some of their best wines made from 100% Texas-grown grapes. You can book a tour of the vineyard and explore the incredible winemaking process from the farm all the way to the bottle. They go over all of the steps. And once you reach the final stage of winemaking, you will also get a chance to try some of their delicious wines — you’ll certainly be taking a bottle of home.
16. Waco Hippodrome Theatre
The Waco Hippodrome is one of the oldest theaters in the state, built in 1914 as a vaudeville theater, and is a crown jewel in the city’s pantheon of attractions. While the theater certainly started out for vaudeville shows, it soon evolved into something so much better. It is now a massive movie theater with space for live performances and plays. And even though the Hippodrome has gone through many iterations and reconstruction, it has managed to maintain its century-old cultural significance.
17. Armstrong Browning Library and Museum
The Armstrong Browning Library and Museum is one of those attractions that you will have to go out and find. Dedicated to studying the life and work of two famous English writers, Elizabeth and Robert Barrett Browning, that is how the museum initially started. The works of both these writers have become literary classics studied by students today, and the library itself holds the largest number of their works.
The library is free to visit, and you can see rare collections of materials, from artwork to manuscripts, related to the poets.
18. Texas Sports Hall of Fame
Among all of the incredible attractions throughout the city, sports enthusiasts are especially going to love this one. The Texas Sports Hall of Fame honors athletes from Texas that have contributed significantly to any sport. A sports editor created the Sports Hall of Fame back in 1951, which has inducted multiple players from the Houston Astros, Dallas Cowboys, and Texas A&M. Of course, the hall of fame is also fun for the whole family, as there are plenty that children and adults alike can interact with.
19. Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market
Since Waco is a relatively smaller town, it is one of the best places to try out the local Farmer’s Market. The market is alive and bustling with people, as vendors continue to sell a range of products from meats to jams and cheese. The local farmers and vendors are super friendly, and you can often find the market packed with people getting their favorite things.
The Market is open year-round every Saturday from 9:00am to 1:00pm. Hours may vary seasonally.
500 Washington Ave
20. Branding the Brazos Sculpture
Back at the Waco Suspension Bridge are the Branding the Brazos sculptures that are at the end of the suspension bridge. The sculpture shows three cowboys and 25 cattle running, making it a life-sized cattle drive. It makes for a great sight to see and take photographs.
The Waco Suspension Bridge is currently closed.
21. Waco Welcome Center
The Waco Welcome Center is one of the best places to visit on your first rodeo to Waco. They can tell you about all of the best attractions throughout the city and can even provide you with info on the latest foodie hotspots. The staff is very friendly, and they can be very understanding and hospitable to people of different cultures and ethnicities. It also happens to be just a short walk away from the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame, which can be your second stop as soon as you reach Waco. You can also find guides for visitors at the information center and coupons.
106 Texas Ranger Trail, wacoheartoftexas.com
22. Midway Park RV Campground, US Corps of Engineers
Sometimes you just want to get back in touch with nature, and the best way to do that is with a fun little camping trip. Reconnect with nature when you go camping at Midway Park with its multiple camping sites. They have one near the lake, and they have one dedicated to RVs where you can set up camp in your summer vehicle. Take a short trek down to the lake to fish, share stories by the campfire, or roast some marshmallows by the fire.
23. Bare Arms Brewing
If you’re looking to try out the local craft beer scene with your friends, then the Bare Arms Brewing pub is just the place to go. One of the best things about it is that it has some flavors that are unique to this city, so you’ll be coming back often for that special taste. The founders of the pub are very passionate about brewing their craft beers, and they will often ask visitors to try out their newest brews.
24. Heart O’ Texas Speedway
Do you have the need, the Need for Speed? Well, you can satiate that need by heading to the Heart O’ Texas speedway. You can buy a ticket and cheer on the drivers. Since this is not a big event, you can see a lot of uniquely modified cars racing towards the finish. There are even different categories of races like dwarf cars or the unique Texas sprint series.
25. LaSalle Shoppes
Before heading back home, you have to pick up a few souvenirs for your friends and family. And no other place’s souvenirs scream Waco like the ones at the LaSalle Shoppe. The LaSalle Shoppe consists of a multitude of small shops where you can buy all sorts of fun and creative souvenirs. From tiny handmade dolls and jewelry to vintage art pieces, you can find a multitude of fun things there. And if you tell them you’re a visitor, they might even give you a small discount.
26. Waco Convention Center
There are few places as fun and exciting to visit as the Waco Convention Center, home to a number of fun events throughout the year. Visiting the center is well worth it just for its sheer size and design alone, as the tall glass structure gives beautiful views of the city outside. You can visit their calendar to get a look at the events that are happening during your visit, from comic cons and anime conventions to smaller grassroots organizations holding meetings.
27. Hawaiian Falls Waco
Beat the heat this summer by visiting the Hawaiian Falls Water Park in Waco, one of the best water parks in the city. It is easily one of the city’s biggest attractions as it brings in hundreds of thousands of visitors every summer. Throughout its ten acres, it offers slides of all shapes and sizes for kids and adults to enjoy. There is the Kiki Kove for kids to play around in and two slides that go as high as 65 feet for the truly daring to enjoy. They also have a high-speed ride called the pineapple express for thrill seekers to enjoy. Warning: it goes super fast.
28. Cotton Belt Trail
If you’re looking to get a good run in a while enjoying a beautiful view, then the Cotton Belt Trail is just the trail you should visit. At 2 ½ miles long, the South Bosque River runs right beside it, giving you a beautiful view while you’re running, jogging, or even riding a bike down the trail. You can also make your exercise a little more exciting by taking a camera with you and taking pictures of some of the more beautiful aspects along the trail.
29. Cameron Trading Co. Antique Mall
As a small town, you can find plenty of trading shops in Waco that sell you some of the finest antiques. One of the best ones to visit is the Cameron Trading Co. Antique Mall, which features many fun and cute antiques that would make for a fun souvenir to take back home to your friends and family. One of the best things about it is the friendly staff , who just make your shopping experience so much better. Some of the antiques happen to be reasonably priced as well.
30. Brazos Park East
The Brazos Park East is a fun small park that is perfect for all sorts of family-friendly activities. From picnics to launching pads for boats, there is plenty to do no matter your age or interest. One of the best things to enjoy in the Brazos Park East is sightseeing, especially when you launch your boat and get a chance to go about the Brazos River.
31. Lake Waco
Lake Waco is massive in its size. The lake offers a multitude of fun and exciting things to do. You can go hiking, camping, and picnicking near the lake, and you can even go boating or indulge in some fun water sports. But easily, one of the best things to do here is to take off on the open waters at high speed. With all that space, no one will be getting in your way.
32. Spice Village
Spice Village is a local favorite collection of 60 eclectic shops located in a 1908 warehouse building in downtown Waco. Bonus for Fixer Upper fans: it has been featured many times on Joanna Gaines’ televised shopping adventures.
213 Mary Ave, Waco, TX 76701
33. Waco Tours
You can learn everything about the city of Waco by Waco Tours. There are several different tour options, including:
- Classic Waco Tour – (2.5 hours) this tour takes you to Waco’s top attractions (such as Baylor University, Cameron Park, and through historic neighborhoods) and is a great way to get acquainted with the city.
- River Cruise – brings you along the Brazos River at sunset so you can relax and enjoy the view.
215 S University Parks Dr Suite #104, waco-tours.com
34. Waco Surf
Waco Surf is one of the largest inland surfing and water sports facilities in the country! Ranked the #1 cable park in the US, the resort features cabins, a wakeboarding cable park, the world’s longest lazy river, and the Wedge Slides. The resort’s 2-acre surf lake uses PerfectSwell Infinite Ocean™ design and surf-generating technology. Whether you’re looking for a fun day in the water or trying to catch some serious waves, this state-of-the-art surf and wakeboard water park offers experiences for all skill levels!
Tip: It’s BYOB!
5347 Old Mexia Road, wacosurf.com
35. Wheel throwing class at Black Oak Art
Come in and get your hands dirty with a wheel throwing class at Black Oak Art. We learned how to make several different pieces over the course of two hours, and then got to take them home to show off to our friends and family.
1619 Franklin Ave, blackoakart.com