Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- 1. Dr Pepper Museum
- 2. Waco Mammoth National Monument
- 3. Texas Sports Hall of Fame
- 4. Mayborn Museum
- 5. Waco Tours - One of the Best Things to Do in Waco Texas
- 6. Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum
- 7. Cameron Park Zoo
- 8. Waco Suspension Bridge at Indian Spring Park with Cattle Drive Monument
- 9. Homestead Craft Village
- 10. Hawaiian Falls Water Park
- But Don't Skip Magnolia Market!
- Visiting Texas During the Spring? Here's where to find Texas Bluebonnets:
- Where to Stay in Waco, Texas
Your inspiration for planning a trip to Waco Texas might be to check out all things Magnolia Market or to catch a glimpse of HGTV’s favorite home improvement team, Chip and Joanna Gaines. Spoiler alert: Your chances of seeing Chip and Jo in the flesh are very, very slim. Fear not! There are plenty of other reasons to plan a trip to Waco. Read on to learn of the great things Waco has to offer beyond Magnolia Market.
Most of us recognize Waco, Texas, as home to Magnolia Market and HGTV’s two favorite DIY-ers. I consider myself a Fixer Upper super-fan, even though the show is no longer on the air. People flock to this growing Central Texas town to experience the home goods and food empire the Gaines have built. I’m excited to share some other family-friendly activities to do in Waco before or after you get your Magnolia Market fix.
Texas is a big state and there are lots of charming places to explore in Texas; Waco is no exception. Here are 10 fun things to do in Waco, Texas (also known as the Heart of Texas by those who live there), Magnolia Market not included.
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Things to Do in Waco Texas
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 day trip from Dallas or road trip from Houston. It is even a doable day trip from Austin or San Antonio. 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.
TravelingMom Tip: Opening days and hours as well as rules (wearing face masks, for example) are subject to change without warning. Always call ahead or check the website for the most up-to-date information before venturing out for the day.
Looking to explore Texas beyond Waco? Check out these 15 Texas road trip ideas.
- Photo Credit: Jill Robbins
1. Dr Pepper Museum
- There are lots of photo opps to be had at the Dr Pepper Museum! Photo credit: Jill Robbins
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 the price of admission.
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.
2. Waco Mammoth National Monument
- Waco National Monument is a don’t miss! Photo credit: Jill Robbins
Waco Mammoth National Monument falls under the National Parks Service, so if you have a National Parks Passport, 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.
Pick up a Junior Ranger activity book (you can print one at home before heading to the site) to make it even more fun. Take the completed book with you to visit the Mayborn Museum (see #4) and the kids get in free!
- Waco National Monument is an active dig site. Photo credit: Jill Robbins
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.
TravelingMom Tip: Admission is free, but spend the few bucks for the guided tour; it’s oh so worth it. The tour lasts about 30 minutes and includes history of the site and entry into the active dig site. The fee in 2020 is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, military, educators and students, and $3 for children pre-K to sixth grade. Kids under 3 are free.
- We took the ranger-led tour and my son was really into it, as you can see from the look on his face! Photo credit: Jill Robbins
Waco is a short drive from Austin, the state capital. Here’s how to spend three days in Austin.
3. Texas Sports Hall of Fame
- Well…wrestling is a sport. Photo credit: Jill Robbins
The Texas Sports Hall of Fame is located on the campus of Baylor University. It’s a great place for kids and for people who love Texas sports.
My kids loved 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!) 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. There’s an admission fee, but active military members get in 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 if you’re a military family, ask about military discounts any place you go in Waco.
4. Mayborn Museum
- The sign for the Mayborn Museum is tiny but this is the building you’re looking for – easy to spot! Photo credit: Jill Robbins
The Mayborn Museum Complex is also located at Baylor University. Here you will find hands-on discovery rooms, interactive natural science and cultural history galleries and outdoor exhibits. There are also traveling exhibits, so check the website to see what will be offered during your visit.
If your kids complete the Junior Ranger Program at the Waco Mammoth National Monument (see #2), 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!) learned 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’s saying something, since I’ve lived in this state for most of my life.
5. Waco Tours – One of the Best Things to Do in Waco Texas
- If you take the Classic Waco Tour with Waco Tours, you’ll learn the significance of this building…beyond the fact that it makes a great Instagram photo! Photo credit: Jill Robbins
If you are a true Chip and Jo fan, you need to do the Classic Waco Tour. 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 find it. Bonus: You’ll come away from the tour with some discount coupons!
The tour includes a stop for refreshments and a complimentary ice cream or coffee drink. It also features a stop at Harp Design. If you’re familiar with the show, you know Clint Harp is a craftsman who often works with Joanna Gaines. His shop is full of goodies. I prefer it to the Magnolia Market. The merchandise is really fun and creative and it isn’t the mob scene that Magnolia can be, especially on the weekends.
- If you want to get a feel for where the locals go in Waco, take a Waco tour. Photo credit: Jill Robbins
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. The company offers 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.
6. Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum
If you’ve ever been curious about the history of law enforcement in the state of Texas, head to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. 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
- There’s a shady play area with adjacent splash pad that offer relief from the Texas sun. Photo credit: Jill Robbins
The Cameron Park Zoo is a lovely, lush, small zoo.
It’s 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.
Ask about military discounts.
- Cameron Park Zoo also has a great playground and splash pad, and that splash pad is certainly needed on those hot Texas days. Photo credit: Jill Robbins
8. Waco Suspension Bridge at Indian Spring Park with Cattle Drive Monument
- Unmistakably Waco. Photo credit: Jill Robbins
Do you want to get great pictures in Waco or just let your kids burn off some energy? This is the place.
The larger-than-life sculptures tell the story of cattle drives and how they’re part of Waco’s history. There’s a little bit of shade, a place to look out on the Brazos River and a mural honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- This suspension bridge makes an awesome backdrop for pictures…and for bubble blowing. Photo credit: Jill Robbins
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
- This basket shop sells beautifully handcrafted baskets and you can watch them being made. Photo credit: Jill Robbins
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 makes 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, there are some beautiful things but I’ll warn ya…they’re expensive. I would have loved to have some of the 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: The food is amazing. If you would like to eat here, check in and get on the 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.
TravelingMom Tip: Order the sweet potato and jalapeno soup with a Virgil’s Black Cherry soda. You’re welcome.
10. Hawaiian Falls Water Park
If you’re visiting during the summer months with kids, consider scheduling an afternoon at Hawaiian Falls.
This 10-acre water park has great pools, including a wave pool, a lazy river and lots of slides. It also offers some of the best rates I’ve seen on Cabana rentals at a waterpark. If you plan to spend the day, consider renting one, as the shady spots are fairly limited.
But Don’t Skip Magnolia Market!
- This is the Demo Day Dog, one of the gourmet hot dogs available at Waco Dog House, which is a food truck at the silos. It’s made with Dr Pepper chili, which is a must-try when in Waco! Photo: Jill Robbins
I know this is a list of things to do in Waco Texas besides Magnolia Market, but definitely make sure you get to Magnolia. Even though you can easily fill several days with the other things to do in Waco, 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.)
For my family, it’s the backyard area and all the food trucks that this a really fun place to visit. 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.
If you’re looking for awesome boutique shopping in Waco, I recommend checking out Spice Village and The Findery. They have some truly authentic and fun gift items and memorabilia with Texan flare.
Want the best breakfast in Waco? Read this guide to getting the most out of your visit to Magnolia Table.
Visiting Texas During the Spring? Here’s where to find Texas Bluebonnets:
Although bluebonnets, the state flower of Texas, bloom everywhere across the state, one of the best areas to find them is the Texas Hill Country. You will probably also see them along the side of the highway coming in and out of Waco.
Bluebonnets bloom from late March to early April (varies depending on how cold the winter was.).
If you are visiting Waco during spring, you could easily add on a trip to explore the Texas Hill Country and places like Brenham Texas to check out the wildflowers. There are also some spots in and around Dallas that might be more convenient for you, depending on which way you are traveling.
Read More: Where to find Texas bluebonnets.
Where to Stay in Waco, Texas
There are many hotels and Airbnb options in the area. You can use this interactive map to help locate nearby lodging for your family.