From Dallas, Waco is an easy 90-minute jaunt on I-35 (as long as traffic cooperates). The neat little city located halfway between Dallas and Austin is home to Baylor University; you’ll see the school’s snazzy new stadium from the highway.
While Magnolia Market, a retail complex opened by HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines, has transformed Waco’s downtown, you can easily fill a day (or more) exploring these Waco attractions, as well.
Home Goods Galore
Fans of the HGTV show “Fixer Upper” flock by the thousands to Magnolia Market at the Silos. Two huge grain silos and a 20,000-square-foot barn are filled with items showcasing Joanna Gaines’ impeccable taste in home goods: bud vases and blanket throws, alarm clocks and picture frames, teapots and mugs, and metal signs with clever sayings fabricated by show favorite and local, Jimmy Don.
The complex also includes a garden and garden store, a lawn for lounging and playing, food trucks, a bakery and, on many days, huge crowds. (Check the website for tips on visiting.) Other boutiques and home-goods stores have also sprung up nearby.
The Great Outdoors
The Brazos River flows picturesquely through the center of Waco. Tromp miles of hiking trails to view limestone cliffs or ply the paddling trails in Cameron Park (also home to the 52-acre Cameron Park Zoo), or just pause for photos on the historic suspension bridge.
I’m a Pepper, You’re a Pepper
Say, “10, 2 and 4,” to a Texan, and they’ll know you’re talking Dr Pepper (which once had an advertising slogan that said, “Drink a bite to eat at 10, 2, and 4.”) The soft drink was born in Waco, and the Dr Pepper Museum is housed in the company’s original 1906 building.
See a bottling line in action, learn soda-pop science, watch old Dr Pepper commercials, and take a break for a beverage (guess which one) in the soda shop. Even if you don’t remember the “10, 2, and 4″ jingle, you might leave singing about being a pepper.
The more than 300 honorees in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame range from track and field star Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias to Shaquille O’Neal, who started his illustrious career at San Antonio’s Cole High School.
Displays in the spacious museum include jerseys, game balls, banners, cleats and film clips of thrilling moments in sports. The building is also home to the Texas Tennis Museum and Hall of Fame as well as the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame.
Nobody knows exactly how a nursery herd of Columbian mammoths died, possibly during one catastrophic event, approximately 70,000 years ago, but you can view their fossils in situ at the Waco Mammoth National Monument. Since a local fossil hunter discovered the site in 1978, 24 mammoths have been excavated, and scientists are still studying them and making new discoveries.
The science-lesson fun continues at the Mayborn Museum Complex, a natural and cultural museum on the Baylor campus. Here you can walk on a glass floor for a closer look at casts of the mammoth fossils exactly as they were when they were found. Strecker’s Cabinet of Curiosities is an example of the hodgepodge of displays that used to suffice for natural history museums, and a historic village gives a glimpse of life in Texas in the 1890s.
A Nod to the Wild West
The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum tells the history of the iconic law enforcement agency, the oldest state law enforcement agency in the country. The collection includes guns and knives, boots, saddles, lassos and badges and even a collection of Lone Ranger memorabilia.