Many people associate Waco with Chip and Joanna Gaines, the couple who renovates homes
on the TV show Fixer Upper. Located between Dallas and Austin, Waco is so much more than
Magnolia, the business empire the Gaines’ built as a result of Fixer Upper’s success. It’s a
college town, thanks to Baylor University. It’s also the home of two scenic wineries and a craft
whisky distillery. History buffs can learn about one of Texas’ best-known law enforcement
agencies, the state’s sports legends, and an iconic soft drink. Children will enjoy visiting a
themed zoo, seeing the bones of a Columbian mammoth, and riding thrilling waterslides. Here
are twenty-three things to see and do in Waco.
Amazing Fixer Upper Tour of Waco
Brazos Tours offers a 2 ½ hour tour that includes many of the homes that Chip & Joanna Gaines
renovated on Fixer Upper. In some instances, the tour van will stop at one of the renovated
houses and allow passengers to go inside the house and see the work the Gaines’ did. The tour
van also stops at Harp Design (Clint Harp’s house and workshop) and JDH Iron Designs (Jimmy
Don Holmes’ workshop). Tour passengers often get to meet Holmes.
Part of the Baylor University campus, the Armstrong Browning Library is distinguished by its
three-story Italian Renaissance-style building with limestone exterior walls, granite steps, and 62
stained glass windows. The library houses the largest collection of research materials pertaining
to nineteenth century Victorian poets Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning and their
artist son Robert Wiedeman Barrett Browning. Exhibits focus on the Brownings, the library’s
latest acquisitions, and the life of library founder A.J. Armstrong.
In 2009, Balcones Distilling started making whisky in a former welding shop turned craft
distillery. Balcones uses Texas grown malted barley and other ingredients sourced in Texas and
in neighboring states to make classic, annual release, and special release spirits, including their
flagship Texas Single Malt Whisky. The distillery is open for tours Thursday-Saturday by
reservation while the tasting room is open Tuesday-Saturday.
The Brazos Bluffs Ranch offers both group and private sunset horseback rides at the ranch,
which runs along the Brazos River. The ride takes visitors to a high bluff overlooking the Brazos
River. Riders ages 10 and up of all skill levels are welcome. The private sunset horseback rides
are geared towards couples. Snacks and beverages are included. The Ranch also has a
daytime 90 Minute Horseback Journey open to riders ages 7 and up. The Ranch has two
houses and a glamping site available for rental.
Passengers board a pontoon boat for a tour of Waco from the Brazos River. The boat stops at
McLane Stadium, Baylor University, the Waco Suspension Bridge, Cameron Park, and Brazos
Park East. Throughout the two-hour plus voyage, the captain and tour guide tell stories of the
river and its history and how the river’s history pertains to Waco’s history.
Located on 52 acres near the Brazos River, the Cameron Park Zoo houses over 1,700 animals
representing 300 different species. The zoo grounds feature native vegetation, waterfalls,
ponds, and a lake that resemble the animals’ natural habitats. Themed habitat areas include
Gibbon Island; the Bald Eagle Habitat; a South American exhibit; Brazos River Country, which
features a 50,000 gallon saltwater aquarium and animals indigious to Texas; a Herpetarium; an
African Savanna; an Asian Forest; and Lemur Island.
Waco Tours offers a guided three hour van tour of the city and its landmarks, placing an
emphasis on the history and restoration of Waco. Some of the houses featured on Fixer Upper
are on the tour along with downtown Waco, Harp Design, Cameron Park, East Waco, and many
of the city’s neighborhoods. The tour van makes several stops and the tour guides tell stories
about everything from Baylor University to Dr. Pepper to Magnolia.
Doris Miller, Waco born and raised, served on the USS West Virginia in World War II during the
attack on Pearl Harbor. Miller, a messman, helped to pull the ship’s wounded captain to safety.
He then fired at enemy planes as they attacked the ship even though he wasn’t trained to use
heavy artillery. Miller was the first African-American to be awarded the Navy Cross for his
bravery. The memorial features sculptures of both Miller and the USS West Virginia.
Waco is the hometown of Dr. Pepper. In 1885, pharmacist Charles Alderton created the soft
drink, mixing different fruit syrups until he found a mixture that matched the smell of Morrison’s
Old Corner Drug Store, the pharmacy Alderton worked at. The museum houses over 100,000
items pertaining to the history of Dr. Pepper, other beverages owned by Dr. Pepper and its
parent company, and the soft drink industry. Only a fraction of those items are on display at any
given time. In addition to regular tours, the museum offers guests soda tasting, soda making,
and paranormal activity tours.
Open from May through September, Hawaiian Rivers provides water fun for the entire family.
The waterpark features seven different waterslides, two water play structures, a wave pool, a
lazy river, and a sand volleyball court. Cabanas are available for rental and a cafe sells burgers,
hot dogs, personal pizzas, brisket sandwiches, and quick snacks.
The Historic Waco Foundation offers tours of two of the city’s historic homes, East Terrace and
the McCulloch House. East Terrace, an Italianate Villa built between 1874 and 1884, was the
residence of businessman John Wesley Mann and his family. Mann owned the brick company
that supplied the bricks used to build the Waco Suspension Bridge. The McCulloch House was
built in 1866 by Dr. Josiah Caldwell. In 1870, Dr. Caldwell sold the house to Champe Carter
McCulloch, who expanded the house in a Greek Revival style. McCulloch was a merchant and
served as Waco’s mayor for 11 years.
East Terrace, 100 Mill Street; historicwaco.org
Covering 18 acres, the Homestead Craft Village consists of a number of shops where artisans
make or grow everything onsite. The shops include a pottery shop, a woodworking shop, a
gristmill, a basket making shop, and a blacksmith’s shop, among others. The Village features
gardens that visitors can walk through, along with a poultry display. The Ploughshare Institute
for Sustainable Culture offers classes in all the crafts demonstrated by the artisans plus
additional classes for those interested in homesteading. Children can make their own baskets,
clay pots, brass spoons, and leather key fobs and bookmarks.
The Magnolia Silos are perhaps the most recognizable landmarks in Waco. The Silos guide
visitors to the visitor’s complex for Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia home décor and
renovation businesses. The complex features the Magnolia Market, a home décor, design, and
gift shop; Magnolia Seed & Supply, a garden shop; the Silos Baking Company; the Magnolia
Press Coffee Company; and assorted food trucks. The Silos host a variety of events along with
appearances by Chip and Joanna Gaines.
The Baylor Bears face off against their Big 12 Conference college football opponents at McLane
Stadium. On days when the Bears are not using the field for practices or games, the stadium is
open for 90 minute guided tours. The tour takes visitors to the team locker room, the
presidential level, the press box, the recruit lounge, the stadium suites, and the football field.
1001 South Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard; Mclanestadium.com/public-tours
Mayborn Museum Complex
Located on the Baylor University campus, the Mayborn Museum complex consists of a natural
history museum, a historic village, and a children’s discovery center. The natural history
museum contains exhibits and collections covering the archaeology, ethnology, geology, animal
life, and history of the Waco region, Texas, the U.S., and the World. The Governor Bill & Vara
Daniel Historic Village consists of nine buildings that provide a look at a Texas community in the
1890’s. The Jeanes Discovery Center houses hands-on exhibits designed to spark children’s
The Brazos River invites canoeists, kayakers, and stand up paddle boarders to tour the city
from the water. Paddlers can guide their canoes, kayaks, or paddleboards past the Waco
Historic Suspension Bridge, Cameron Park, McLane Stadium, and Baylor University. Two
companies, Waco Paddle Company and Pura Vida Paddle, rent canoes, kayaks, paddleboards,
and personal flotation devices. Both companies also offer kids’ day camps where they can learn
to paddle a canoe, a kayak, and a paddleboard.
Pura Vida Paddle, Brazos Park East, 3516 North Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard;
Waco Paddle Company,
The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum isn’t a museum devoted to the baseball team, but
rather, it’s a historical museum dedicated to the famed Texas law enforcement agency. Opened
in 1968, the museum tells the history of the Rangers through video presentations, exhibits,
artifacts, and photos. The museum maintains a separate room devoted to the portrayal of the
Rangers in pop culture. There is a large collection of pistols and rifles and some of the more
infamous criminals like Bonnie & Clyde have their own exhibits. The museum also runs a
research center for students, teachers, law enforcement officials, authors, film producers, and
Measuring 35,000 square feet, the Texas Sports Hall of Fame celebrates the state’s best
athletes and sports teams, with over three hundred athletes enshrined in the Hall of Fame. The
Hall contains separate areas covering the former Southwest Conference and the Cotton Bowl,
the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame, and the Texas Tennis Hall of Fame. This is in
addition to the main gallery and tribute rooms covering football, basketball, baseball, hockey,
golf, horse racing, swimming and diving, soccer, and Olympic sports.
Spanning an area covering both sides of the Brazos River from Baylor University to Cameron
Park Zoo, the Waco Cultural District showcases the city’s public art exhibits. The exhibits
include sculptures, murals, public fountains, and chalk murals. The Cultural District also
highlights graffiti art done by French artist Blek le Rat. One of the main public art features of the
Waco Cultural District is the Sculpture Zoo. The Sculpture Zoo features 28 different animal
sculptures from artists throughout the United States. The sculptures can be found along the
Brazos River Trail from Doris D. Miller Park to the Cameron Park Zoo.
Waco Hispanic Museum
Opened in 2016, the Waco Hispanic Museum celebrates the city’s Hispanic culture and
involvement in the history of both the city and Central Texas. The majority of the museum’s
exhibits consist of photographs, newspaper articles, apparel, and artifacts that commemorate
Waco’s Hispanic community.
In 1978, Paul Barron and Eddie Bufkin found a femur bone belonging to a Columbian
mammoth, an extinct species that lived during the Ice Age. Volunteers from Baylor University’s
former Strecker Museum excavated the site and recovered the fossilized remains of 22
Columbian mammoths, a Western camel, a dwarf antelope, an American alligator, and a giant
tortoise along with a tooth from a juvenile saber-toothed cat. The site, which became a National
Monument in 2015, offers a Dig Shelter tour, allowing visitors to see the mammoths’ bones.
Built in 1870, the Waco Suspension Bridge is the oldest suspension bridge in Texas that is still
in use. At the time it was completed, the bridge was the longest single-span suspension bridge
located west of the Mississippi River. The bridge spans over the Brazos River and was used by
cowboys leading cattle drives along the Chisholm and Shawnee Trails. Today, the bridge links
Indian Spring Park and Martin Luther King Jr. Park. On the west side of the bridge, a Branding
the Brazos sculpture in Indian Spring Park pays tribute to Waco’s involvement in the state’s
Indian Spring Park, 101 University Parks Drive
Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
Waco has two picturesque wineries, Country Spring Vineyard and Valley Mills Vineyards. Both
wineries are located on over 30 acres of land and bottle a variety of different wines. The Country
Spring Vineyard bottles five estate wines, two dry wines, and five sweet wines. The winery also
offers frozen bellinis and a hard lemonade. Valley Mills Vineyards bottles nine different red,
white, rose, and port wines. Both wineries are open for tastings and wine sales. On Saturdays,
Waco Wine Tours runs day trips that include tastings at both wineries; a picnic lunch; a vineyard
tour; and a tasting at a wine importer.
Country Spring Vineyard, 1685 Country Spring Road, Lorena; countryspringvineyard.com
Valley Mills Vineyard, 1686 FM1637, Valley Mills; valleymillsvineyards.com
Waco Wine Tours; wacotours.wine