You may be drawn to Waco, Texas, because of Magnolia Market (of Fixer Upper fame), but there are plenty of other reasons to make a stop here. Read on to learn of the great things Waco has to offer – beyond the DIY craze!
Most of us recognize Waco, Texas, as home to Magnolia Market and HGTV’s two favorite DIY-ers. I consider myself a Fixer Upper expert and super-fan, even though the show is no longer on the air. Even though people flock to this growing Central Texas town to experience all the Magnolia things, I’m excited to share some other family-friendly activities to do there. Here’s nine things to do in Waco, Texas (also known as the Heart of Texas by those who live there) besides the Magnolia Market.
Nine Things to do in Waco Texas that aren’t Magnolia Market
I completely get that the thing that’s put Waco in your travel plans is probably Magnolia Market or Magnolia Table. Waco is an easy side trip from Dallas or Houston. It is even a doable day trip from San Antonio or Austin. Since you’ve already committed to the drive, why not make a weekend of it? Taking some time to explore the rest of the town is worth doing. This once sleepy little town has really boomed as a tourist attraction and there’s lots to explore and enjoy.
Looking to explore Texas beyond Waco? Check out our list of free things to do in Texas.
1. Waco Tours – One of the Best Things to do in Waco Texas
If you are a true Chip and Jo fan, you need to do the Classic Waco Tour and you need to do it your first day in Waco. I promise you will not be sorry. The tour will help you get your bearings and give you recommendations on places to eat. And, if you’re in Waco for more than one day, you will probably want to eat at more places than Magnolia Table or Silo Baking company. There’s some really good food in town; this tour will show you where to get it as well as provide you with discount coupons.
The tour includes a stop for refreshments and a complimentary ice cream or a coffee drink. It also features a stop at Harp Design. If you’re familiar with the show, you know Clint Harp is a craftsman Joanna Gaines often worked with, and his shop is full of goodies. I prefer it to the Magnolia Market…their merchandise is really fun and creative and it isn’t the mob scene that Magnolia can be, especially on the weekends.
You’ll also get a windshield tour of many of the Fixer Upper houses and hear little tidbits about the flips and the owners that you didn’t hear on the show. The tour operators are fabulous and do a great job of showcasing their city. They also offer other tours, such as the Texas Experience Tour (lots of cowboy culture) and a sunset cruise along the Brazos River. More on Waco Tours here.
2. Waco Mammoth National Monument
Waco Mammoth National Monument falls under the National Parks Service, so if you have a National Parks Passport, make sure you bring it along so you can collect your stamp. We spent about three hours at the Waco Mammoth National Monument and honestly, we could have stayed longer. We had to pry our kids out of the dig pit as it was.
The Waco Mammoth National Monument is an active dig site, so you never know quite what you’re going to see. The back story: a herd of Chilean mammoths (kind of like a warm-weather and larger version of the woolly mammoth) died in this area in what is presumed to be a flood. Their fossils are still being uncovered, along with some other surprises, such as fossil remains of other mammals that lived during this period. Admission is free, but spring for the guided tour. It lasts about 30 minutes and includes history of the site and entry into the active dig site. The fee is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, military, educators and students, and $3 for children pre-K to sixth grade. Kids under three are free.
Waco is a short drive from Austin, the state capital. If you’re looking for an itinerary for three days in Austin, we’ve got you covered.
3. Texas Sports Hall of Fame
The Texas Sports Hall of Fame is located on the Baylor University Campus. It’s a great place for kids and for people who love Texas sports. Kids will love the many hands-on activities, and there’s plenty of room to run around. There are exhibits dedicated to the Southeast Conference, high school football (hey, it is Texas. We’re all about our Friday night lights, right?) and to noteworthy Texas athletes of all types. There’s also an interactive children’s area with an electronic soccer game, jump ropes and other exhibits dedicated to youth physical fitness.
The Texas Sports Hall of Fame is open Monday through Saturday from 9 to 5. Admission is $7 for adults $6 for seniors and $3 for students in 1st – 12th grade. Active military are free.
TravelingMom Tip: The Waco area is close enough to both San Antonio and Killeen to have a substantial military connection in the community, so ask about military discounts if that applies to you.
4. Mayborn Museum
The Mayborn Museum Complex is also located on the Baylor University Campus. Here you will find hands-on discovery rooms, interactive natural science and cultural history galleries, including outdoor exhibits. There are also traveling exhibits, so check the website to see what’s currently offered.
If your kids complete the Junior Ranger Program at the Waco Mammoth National Monument, they’ll get free admission to the Mayborn. There is also a Mammoth exhibit at the Mayborn that ties into what your kids (and you!) will learn at the Waco Mammoth National Monument.
The Mayborn museum strikes a nice compromise between being interactive and being informative. My kids found plenty of hands-on fun, while I learned a lot about Texas that I didn’t know. That’s saying something, since I’ve lived in this state for most of my life.
Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for kids 2-12 and $7 for Seniors 65+. Check their website for hours.
5. Dr Pepper Museum
If you’re ever been curious about the history of Dr Pepper manufacturing and bottling (come on, you know you are!) and love a good dose of quirky nostalgia, the Dr Pepper Museum is worth a visit.
The Dr Pepper Museum in Waco TX is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00-5:30 and on Sundays from noon to 5:00. Adult admission is $10, military and seniors is $8 and kids and students is $6.
I recommend visiting after lunch. It doesn’t take a ton of time to go through and there’s a fun ice cream shop/soda fountain at the end where you can get a treat or your favorite soft drink.
6. Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum
The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum is open from 9:30-5:00 Monday through Sunday. If you’ve ever been curious about the history of law enforcement in the state of Texas, stop in here. Admission prices are $8 for adults and $4 for children. Allow two to three hours to see everything, although you can breeze through faster if you want. Ask about senior and military discounts.
7. Cameron Park Zoo
This is one of the things to do in Waco Texas that is super kid and family friendly. I’ve been twice: once in the spring when it was relatively cool and once in the heat of the Texas summer. We had a great time on both visits, although Texas summers are no joke.
The Cameron Park Zoo is a lovely, lush, small zoo. It is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00-5:00 and Sundays from 11:00-5:00. Admission prices are $10 for adults, $9 for seniors and $7 for kids. Ask about military discounts.
8. Waco Suspension Bridge at Indian Spring Park with Cattle Drive Monument
Do you want to get great pictures in Waco or just let your kids burn off some energy? This is the place.
This is one of the things to do in Waco Texas that is wonderfully unstructured and really lets you enjoy being out in the open. This park is located in the heart of downtown Waco, but we really loved the open spaces.
9. Homestead Craft Village
Homestead Craft Village is 16 miles outside of Waco. It’s full of shopping, learning and beautiful scenery. It’s also free.
You can easily spend three hours walking around and talking to the artisans, who are super friendly and willing to talk to you about their craft. We visited with the ladies who make pottery and baskets, and a man who made beautifully handcrafted furniture. There was a working mill with an adjoining shop where you can buy bread and pancake mixes, plus other fun kitchen things. If you’re a shopper, they have some beautiful things but I’ll warn ya…they’re expensive. I would have loved to have some of their beautiful blue Brazos pottery, but the price tag was a budget buster for me.
The onsite restaurant, Cafe Homestead, is famous in these parts and for a good reason. Their food is amazing. If you would like to eat here, check in and get on their waiting list as soon as you arrive on the property. People line up at the door before the place opens, so wait times are easily an hour or more. Reserve your place in line and you’ll get a text when your table is ready. I’m telling y’all, this place is seriously worth the wait. I recommend the sweet potato and jalapeno soup with a Virgil’s Black Cherry soda. You’re welcome.
But don’t skip Magnolia Market!
I know this is a list of things to do in Waco Texas besides Magnolia Market, but definitely make sure you do get to Magnolia. Even though you can easily fill several days with the other things Waco has to offer, Magnolia is a lot of fun, too. I am not really a shopper and I personally don’t get that excited about the home decor and gardening items for sale there. They’re nice but they’re not much different than any other home store or big box store. (Yes, I know I might get my Texas card revoked for saying that.)
If you’re looking for awesome boutique shopping in Waco, I recommend checking out Spice Village and/or The Findery. They have some truly authentic and fun gift items and memorabilia with Texan flare.
Still, the backyard area and all the food trucks make for a really fun atmosphere. Even if you just get some ice cream or a glass of sweet tea while your kids or grandkids play cornhole or run around on the lawn, this is a “worth it” stop. The last time we visited, I didn’t even go inside the store. Oh, and do your homework: Magnolia Market, Magnolia Table and Silo Baking company are closed Sundays.
Want the best breakfast in Waco? Read this guide to getting the most out of your visit to Magnolia Table.
I hope you enjoy all that Waco has to offer. If you go, say hi to Chip and Joanna for me. Just kidding. Sightings of these famous DIY-ers at the Magnolia Market are pretty rare.