A visit to the heartland of Texas (founded in 1849 by the Huaco Indians) is an experience that offers a plethora of indoor and outdoor excursions. Perhaps you’ve heard of Waco if you’re into reality TV (think home renovations) or maybe you’re simply keen to explore more of what the South Central region of the United States has to offer.
Either way, Waco is a strong contender in becoming a top-notch destination with its thriving arts scene, museums, zoos, and outdoor barbeques that are quintessentially Texan. It’s a hub-spot for culture and cuisine, and a charming place blended with old-southern charm and modern-day views on rebranding the city by repurposing what has been there all along.
Interactive Map of 25 Things to Do in Waco (TX)
1. Magnolia Market At The Silos
This is a prime example of how the people of Waco took something that had been abandoned for years and gave it a facelift of sorts. The Magnolia Market At The Silos is a bustling place where you can pick up anything from fresh produce to antiques that you’ll only find in the deep south.
Naturally, you cannot visit Texas without trying biscuits and gravy, and of course some pecan pie. Stop by the Magnolia Bakery for a treat of a lifetime. Make sure you go hungry and be ready to walk away with more than you bargained for.
2. The Dr. Pepper Museum & Free Enterprise Institute
It’s alright if you thought that Texas is mostly known for bourbons, rums, and whiskeys. Dr. Pepper is not only the most Texan thing you can enjoy as a carbonated drink, but it’s also a Waco original.
The museum is situated downtown in the exact same place where the bottling of this product took place from as far back as 1906. You’ve got three floors of exploration (and tasting) to do and while you learn about how Dr. Pepper became an international flavor, you’ll also get to see how it all started with radio broadcasts and commercials from the early 1900s.
3. Cameron Park
Summers in Texas are no joke, but should you find yourself in Waco, or in need of shade, head on over to the 416-acre Cameron Park. Tag the kids along for a full-day excursion that includes long bike rides along the Brazos river, followed by a picnic under a tree.
The park also has a great playground and splash pad which helps to keep the heat under control. You’d be surprised by the lush greenery and the hiking options that are available.
4. Waco National Mammoth Monument
The Waco National Mammoth Monument is an active dis site, so it changes quite often in appearance. You also never really know what you’ll be seeing – which adds to the mystery of it all.
The fossils of Colombian mammoths (and other rare mammals) are still in the process of being unearthed, and when you follow the guided tour, you’ll be in for a treat of a lifetime: A glimpse into a disastrous event that happened 68,000 years ago.
Along the way, you’ll not only learn about this fatal mudslide but also about this fascinating animal, the ice age, and the region that we now know as Waco.
5. Waco Suspension Bridge
This might sound like an Instagram moment only, but there is more to the Waco Suspension Bridge than meets the eye. The bridge leads to a public park where you can take the kids to burn off some energy and meet the massive cattle sculptures that tell a great story of Waco’s history.
It’s a great place to grab a great view of downtown Waco and capture those unforgettable moments on camera at a landmark that first opened in 1869.
6. Texas Ranger Hall Of Fame & Museum
Along the beautiful banks of the Brazos, lies this epic museum that honors the legendary Texas Rangers. This is the place where you can learn about the history of the state’s oldest law enforcement agency.
The museum exhibits fascinating artifacts and memorabilia, but you can also meet active-duty and retired members of the state’s oldest state law enforcement and learn what it meant and took to wear a badge of such honor.
The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame Museum is a popular tourist spot that has been running for over 40 years and continues to bask in the pop culture spotlight it was placed under back then.
7. Waco Downtown Farmers Market
Waco’s Downtown Farmers Market runs all year long, every Saturday from 9am to 1pm, located at 500 Washington Avenue. Here you will find the freshest local agricultural produce.
It’s a great initiative that encourages visitors to support local farmers and artisans in an effort to enrich the culture of Waco.
Here you can bask under the Texan sun (under a tree, perhaps?) while sipping on homemade lemonade and savoring delicious southern delicacies made with the freshest produce you can find.
8. Cameron Park Zoo
Cameron Park Zoo is situated within Cameron Park and stands out as a 52-acre natural habitat zoo. You’ll walk along lush native vegetation that sprouts from the soil that is hydrated by the stunning waterfalls, lakes and ponds.
Founded in 1993, Cameron Park Zoo surprises with a rich family of animals like Komodo dragons, an entertaining Orangutan, bats, Crown Fish and even a lion.
Purchase your tickets online and be sure to check out their animal adoption programme where your monthly donations place you in the distant care of one of the zoo’s 1,300 endangered animals.
9. The Waco Hippodrome Theatre
Waco Hippodrome is an option for a romantic night of movies and popcorn, but it’s also a place where you can enjoy some of Waco’s finest live events.
You’ll find anything on their calendar from quiz nights to comedy festivals, so check out the schedule to find out what’s during your stay.
10. Mayborn Museum
The Mayborn Museum is conveniently located near the Texas Sports Hall Of Fame on the Baylor University Campus. This is a fun place where natural sciences and cultural history of Central Texas is put on display.
Explore the aspects of the Waco Mammoth Site, geology, paleontology and archaeology with walk-in dioramas that lead to seventeen themed discovery rooms which is all about hands-on learning for everyone.
From there, be sure to pop in at the Historic Village, where you’ll get an interesting glimpse of times gone by and how the people of different communities went about their daily lives back in the 1890s.
11. Hawaiian Falls Waco
This is yet another great way to take the kids out for the day, but that doesn’t mean the adults can have some fun too. The 10-acre water park is home to a massive wave pool, a lazy river for rafting and other aquatic adventures to test your adrenaline levels.
Hawaiian Falls is a great place to be out in the sun, but if you favor the shade, rent a cabana for the day and pack some snacks in your cooler box. Stick around for outdoor movie screenings at night under the stars.
12. Spice Village
It’s time to burn some cash. At Spice Village, you will find a collection of 90 boutique shops that cater to almost anything you can think of – From antiques to luxurious linen. Make your way through this glorious maze first before you spend anything.
Spice Village is located within the old Waco Hardware building that was constructed in 1908 where now, locals and visitors alike flock toward for a morning of serious shopping.
13. Texas Sports Hall Of Fame
The Texas Sports Hall Of Fame recognizes athletes, coaches and administrators who have all made a massive contribution to honor Texas sports.
If you are a sports buff or just curious to see how much the great state of Texas loves their football, then head on over to this exhibit hall that was first established in 1951 by the Texas Sports Writers Association.
Waco had its grand opening for the Texas Sports Hall of Fame on April 16, 1993. The Sports Hall is also home to the Texas Tennis Museum, the Hall of Fame and the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame.
The entire complex expanded to a total of 35,000 square feet in 2010 to include a new banquet hall and the Health, Fitness and Education Center. There is plenty of memorabilia to check out and plenty of history to absorb if this is your thing.
14. BSR Cable Park
The fun in the sun continues at the BSR Cable Park where you will find a bunch of aquatic adventures at your disposal. One of the most notable things here is to sign up for surfing classes at the massive wave pool, or grab a beverage and gently cruise down the lazy river on a massive floaty.
Head on over for a hearty lunch at the Cable Park where you can savor local fare from BSR’s Bar & Grill menu, and then opt for a chilled afternoon under a cabana.
15. Hewitt Park
On this sprawling 32-acre park, you will find 2 playgrounds, 1 baseball backstop, 2 volleyball courts, soccer fields, basketball courts, a walking track and of course an 18-hole golf course. The park is open to the public, but at times, Hewitt Park will host sporting events.
Should you feel the need to burn some calories, grab your running shoes (or golf clubs) and take advantage of this massive park and all of its amenities.
16. Royal Flush
Royal Flush forms part of the BSR Cable Park, but it deserves a spot on this list because of the absolute thrill involved.
These water slide sensations come in 4 different options (catering to different levels of bravery) but if you are willing to shoot down a parallel slide that volleys you into the pool off a ramp, then this is the place to be.
17. Homestead Heritage
Stop by the Homestead Village for a glimpse into an agrarian- and craft-based community that thrives on simplicity, self-sufficiency, sustainability and craftsmanship.
On this 50-acre farm, the community lives in peaceful coexistence with the environment where they grow wheat, barley, corn, potatoes, sweet sorghum, pinto beans and a large array of fruit and vegetables.
It’s a great place to shop for fresh produce and to observe how the community runs their pottery house, blacksmith, cheese-making room and woodworking stable to name a few. Learn while you shop and strive for self-sustainability!
18. Brazos Park East
This incredibly scenic park is not only serene, but at times, it has also become an epicenter for large events, boat races, and horseshoe tournaments.
While there aren’t always events scheduled to take place, it’s best to check in advance if you wish to enjoy this stunning 32-acre park for a barbeque and a long stroll along the river that leads into the wilderness.
19. Jacob’s Ladder
Jacob’s Ladder was built by a family that lived on top the hill in the early 1900s, but this ladder takes on the shape of about 100 zig-zagged stairs that trail up the hill.
It’s exhilarating, scenic and most of all, you are surrounded by nothing but trees. If the barren beauty of Texas becomes a bit too much for you, climb Jacob’s Ladder for a challenging workout. Don’t worry, there are stone benches and rails along the way if you need to take a breather.
20. Lake Waco
The Waco City Council’s vision of the city’s future was translated into a project that saw the Waco Wetlands come to life by providing an increase of seven feet, in addition to an extra 20,000 acre-feet of water.
This is a great outdoor trip to learn about this reserve which is now a laboratory for research, recreation and most importantly, education. It’s a great place to take the kids to if they wish to learn more about wildlife. But also, who can resist those glorious trails that stretch across the marshlands?
21. Lake Waco Wetlands
Lake Waco Wetlands is one a kind in Texas, and perhaps in the South. It’s a habitat to a wide range of wildlife, insects and indigenous plant species. The wetlands not only serves as a home, but it assists in flood-protection and the filtration of water.
Bird watchers will find this to be a spectacular spot for their pastime, but also a peaceful spot for reflection that sits along the shores of the North Bosque River.
22. Waco’s Antiquing Route
Waco itself is a treasure chest filled with surprises, but at its core, you will find this to be the gift that keeps on giving. Strolling around Waco will lead you to many antique shops waiting to be explored.
Make your way to LaSalle Shoppes on La Salle Avenue, Savage Finds Antiques & Oddities on 6th Street, as well as Laverty’s Antiques Furnishings for some finest Texan finds. Waco takes antiquing seriously, so if this is your vibe, you’ve come to the right place.
23. Taste By Kissing Trees Vineyard
For top-notch Texan cuisine and amazing wines that pair well with the dishes they serve, this bistro winery is the place where you need to find yourself for dinner at least once.
Taste is located right next to Magnolia Market and offers a tranquil setting where good food and wine can be enjoyed with friends and family. Weekends are great for brunches and toward the evening, live music performances add to the ambience.
24. Buzzard Billy’s Bar & Grill
In short, Buzzard Billy’s Bar & Grill is the opposite of Taste. Here you can show up with shorts and flip flops and enjoy Cajun and American fare next to the river while country music plays in the background.
This place draws a massive crowd and has an amazing atmosphere. It’s a great place for a party and an even better place for line-dancing.
25. George’s Restaurant
This Waco institution dates back to the 1930s serving comfort food from an extensive breakfast lunch, dinner and kids menu. It’s an even better place to pick on daily specials and to sample exciting cocktails from their menu that’ll leave you loving Waco even more.