Searching for the best things to do in Waco, Texas? Look no further because this guide is straight from a local, herself and packed with favorite things that not only tourists love, but locals too!

Searching for the best things to do in Waco, Texas? Look no further because this guide is straight from a local, herself and packed with favorite things that not only tourists love, but locals too!

For over 15  years, Waco, Texas has been my home. I uprooted from Corpus Christi, Texas while I was in college to move closer to my now-husband, Mathew, and I’ve called Waco “home” ever since. In the past 15 years, a lot has changed about Waco, Texas. It used to be a town without nightlife, hardly any decent restaurants, and not much to do on the weekends. But in these past 15 years, Waco has grown. Grown into a town that I’m proud to say I live in. There is so much to see and do in Waco now, that we strive to get out on the weekends to do as much as we can before the week hits. I’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in Waco, Texas and I hope you’ll come to visit sometime. It’s truly amazing to see how quickly Waco is becoming a second Austin!

Searching for the best things to do in Waco, Texas? Look no further because this guide is straight from a local, herself and packed with favorite things that not only tourists love, but locals too!
Searching for the best things to do in Waco, Texas? Look no further because this guide is straight from a local, herself and packed with favorite things that not only tourists love, but locals too!
Searching for the best things to do in Waco, Texas? Look no further because this guide is straight from a local, herself and packed with favorite things that not only tourists love, but locals too!

Things to do in Waco

There’s honestly so much to do in Waco, Texas now. They’re so fun, perfectly and uniquely Waco, and great for all types of families. If you’re looking for some of the best things to do in Waco, these are them!

Downtown Farmers Market: The Waco Downtown Farmers Market is one place our family loves to go to as much as possible. It’s open on Saturdays from 9-1 and has lots of different tents with delicious food, beautiful plants, homemade soaps, and more. Sometimes you’ll even be lucky enough to have some live entertainment! Pets are welcome and it’s totally kid friendly too- there’s lots of area to run around. Make sure you grab yourself some tasty coffee and a hot artesian pizza while you’re there! It’s located at 401 University Parks Drive.

Blue Hills Ranch: If you’re looking for something truly unique, travel the few minutes away from Waco to McGregor, Texas. Blue Hills Ranch has incredible animal adventures like swimming with otters, dining with giraffes, and kangaroo bottle feeding. You’ll go back home with so many fun memories from this place! It truly is one incredible thing to do in Waco!

Dr Pepper Museum: Head downtown for a look at the history of Dr Pepper and tons of memorabilia. Our tips? Try the Make A Soda experience! It’s an extra fee on top of admission but really fun for the whole family. Also, upgrade your free drink to a DP float. Their floats are made with Blue Bell Ice Cream and are the perfect pairing with a cold, crisp Dr Pepper. 

Cameron Park Zoo: This 52-acre natural habitat zoo located within Cameron Park in Waco has lush native vegetation that surrounds splashing waterfalls, a picturesque lake, and ponds. With indoor and outdoor exhibits, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Visiting in the winter? Don’t miss the Christmas lights in the park! You can rent an animal scooter and ride around the park to see the lights. It’s so fun!

Jacob’s Ladder: Hidden away in Cameron Park you’ll find Jacob’s Ladder. With nearly 100 steps of varying heights, this challenge isn’t for the weary! The hike up Jacob’s Ladder at Cameron Park is considerably challenging, but rewarding. Go in the evening and you can enjoy breathtaking views and the most amazing Texas sunset!

Waco Mammoth National Monument: The Waco Mammoth National Monument is a paleontological site and museum in Waco, Texas, United States where fossils of 24 Columbian mammoths and other mammals from the Pleistocene Epoch have been uncovered. Visit the dig site and then brave some of the trails nearby! It’s a great time for all dinosaur fans.

Mayborn Museum: The Mayborn Museum Complex celebrates the natural science and cultural history of Central Texas. This 143,000-square-foot building on the Baylor University campus sparkles with numerous vibrant exhibits and compelling hands-on activities for the whole family to enjoy over and over again. There are so many things to enjoy in static and traveling exhibits, and are a family favorite thing to do in Waco for locals and tourists.

HOT Fair & Rodeo: This Waco staple is a must-do in the Fall. Over the past 70 years, the Fair & Rodeo has offered Central Texas a place to come and support the community while enjoying the sights, sounds and smells that make the Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo what it is! With livestock show and contests, a fast-paced rodeo, concerts, a fair, and carnival- there’s so much to do! Our favorite part of the fair? Mutton Bustin! Watch little kids ride sheep like the little rodeo riders they are! Ps- don’t forget a corny dog and funnel cake!

Waco Suspension Bridge: The Waco Suspension Bridge crosses the Brazos River in Waco, Texas. It is a single-span suspension bridge, with a main span of 475 ft. Opened on November 20, 1869, it contains nearly 3 million bricks. It is located north of downtown Waco, connecting Indian Spring Park with Doris D. Miller Park. Grab some tortillas and toss them off the bridge, and don’t forget to take pictures at the Branding the Brazos sculptures! Tossing tortillas is one of the most popular things to do in Waco for Baylor students so don’t skip it!

Waco Sculpture Zoo: The mile-long stretch of the Waco Sculpture Zoo features 28 artworks varying in style, form and materials. Each sculpture represents an animal that can be found in Cameron Park Zoo or that is native to the area. The sculptures are visible from University Parks Drive, the Riverwalk and the Brazos River. You can find all 28 animal-based artworks along the Brazos River Trail between downtown Waco and the Pecan Bottoms entrance to Cameron Park Zoo. 

McLane Stadium: Located on the Brazos River and directly adjacent to the I-35 Corridor, McLane Stadium serves not only as the front door to Baylor University but also as the East anchor of downtown Waco. Take a tour of the stadium or book a public tour, check out a Baylor Football game, or if you know an alumni, check out the Baylor Club for an amazing meal.

Waco Surf: Located in the heart of Texas, Waco Surf is one of the largest inland surfing and water sports facilities in the country! The resort features the Waco Surf Hotel, Cabins, RV Hookups, Surf Houses, a massive Cable Park, the world’s longest lazy river (allegedly), and the Wedge Slides. The resort’s 2-acre surf lake uses PerfectSwell® technology to guarantee you’re riding flawless surf. Whether you’re looking for a fun day in the water park or trying to up your surf game, this quirky park offers experiences for the whole family!

Camp Fimfo: Want to try camping with all the fun amenities? Try Camp Fimfo. There’s an interactive playground, pool with volleyball net and basketball hoops, spa tubs, mini golf, pickle ball, tennis, and so much more. Plus you can stay in a cabin, bring your RV, or pitch a tent! The options are endless and fun for the entire group.

Hawaiian Falls: Whether you live in Waco or visiting one of Waco’s famous attractions like the nearby Magnolia Marketplace at the Silos. Hawaiian Falls – Waco is the perfect place to cool off on a hot summer day. Newly renovated with amazing upgrades Hawaiian Falls is truly Waco’s Family Waterpark. Come beat the Texas heat and dive into some splashy fun. Your Aloha adventure awaits!

Cotton Belt Trail: Cotton Belt Trail is a 2.5 mile (one way) Hike and Bike Trail with a scenic view including wildlife and a bridge crossing the South Bosque River. The trail begins at Trail Blazer Park on Harris Creek Road and ends near the Waco Regional Land Fill on Hannah Hill Road. This trail is currently not lighted at night. Our family loves this trail for dog walking, bicycling, and just enjoying a nice trail walk. 

Waco Tours: Don’t have a lot of time in Waco but want to see a lot? Book a Waco Tours tour! There are several different tours to choose from and you’ll find that these award-winning tours are perfect for exploring Waco on a time crunch! You can get a lot of things to do in Waco checked off your list with Waco Tours, so don’t miss this!

Balcones Distillery & Tasting: Join Balcones for a tour of their distillery as you learn the distillation process that creates world-class whiskies in the heart of downtown Waco. Guests must be 19 years or older for tours and infants and children can not be accommodated. There is also a tasting room and gift shop for visitors to enjoy!

Texas Ranger Hall of Fame Museum: The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco, Texas, is the state-designated official historical center of the famed Texas Rangers law enforcement agency. Check out memorabilia, historical pieces, and more in this unique museum. We love it on a hot day and it is usually not very busy! 

Texas Sports Hall of Fame: The Texas Sports Hall of Fame & Museum was opened in 1993 and is home to over 6,000 pieces of sports memorabilia. The TSHOF Museum is the first hall of fame in the nation with memorabilia from each inductee, dating back to the first induction class in 1951. 

Black Oak Art: This ceramic pottery studio has become both a local art icon and home to creatives and aspiring potters. They create handmade, custom and functional pottery pieces for businesses and home, and provide a handmade touch for each piece of pottery they create. Schedule a private workshop, a throwing workshop, or try your hand at their build-a-mug workshop!

Practically Pikasso: Waco’s only eclectic art studio specializes in paint-your-own pottery, mosaics, and fusible glass. Whether you take the kids or you go with a friend, Practically Pikasso is such a fun place to unwind. Please note that pieces will need to be fired upon completion of painting, and it usually takes about a week to do.

Refit: Angela Beeler, Catherine Ballas and Emily Field are the founders of REFIT, a locally-based and nationally recognized fitness program. What started as a local fitness class in 2009 has evolved into a fitness revolution with over 3300 REFIT Instructors across the globe and over 300k subscribers to the REFIT YouTube Channel. REFIT’s mantra is “EVERYBODY BELONGS” and women of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities are finding their fit in an industry that typically excludes.  The format combines several elements of fitness into one power-packed hour. The focus is structured around movement + music + more; including toning, flexibility, strength training and stretching. The workout formula is easy to follow and will both challenge fitness enthusiasts and welcome beginners. Drop in for a class and see what REFIT is all about!

Waco Axe Company: Waco Axe Company is locally owned and operated. Starting in 2019 with a mobile axe throwing trailer axe- their retail location opened in 2020 but had to close shortly after the pandemic. Now in 2023, Owners Thomas Ellis and Cody Beeler are dedicated to continuing to offer Waco the best axe throwing experience! Throwers need to be 13 years old and up for Waco Axe Company for insurance purposes but all ages are welcome to watch. 

Hammer & Stain: Transform unfinished wood into wall worthy pieces at this fun studio. Enjoy an evening of Paint & Sip from a wide variety of projects like porch signs, decorative mantels, holiday decor, and more!

Carleen Bright Arboretum: The Arboretum extends over 16 acres that are home to lovely botanical gardens. The original white chapel located at the entrance, is the Whitehall Center. It welcomes and entertains local residence and guests as they discover all that Woodway offers. The Carleen Bright Arboretum, known as the “Jewel of Woodway” boasts a certified Monarch Way-station, botanical gardens, fountains, meditation garden, the Todd Willis Nature Trail that winds through native woodlands suitable for all explorers and much more. Come enjoy one of the many city hosted events here at the property!

The Backyard Bar, Stage, and Grill: Great food, a hometown, hole-in-the-wall dive bar, indoor vibe, and a sprawling 12,000 sq ft courtyard offer something for every age and interest. Icons such as Snoop Dogg, Steve Wariner, Eddie Money, Nelly, and newcomers Koe Wetzel, Parker McCollum, and Bailey Zimmerman among many others to perform to sold-out crowds. 

Bill & Eva Williams Bear Habitat: Baylor students, school groups and campus visitors frequently visit the Bill & Eva Williams Bear Habitat, a facility heralded as one of the most visited spots on campus. The Habitat welcomes an estimated 250,000 visitors per year, including over 5,000 children visiting on educational trips for schools, camps and other groups. The Habitat is fully accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the independent, international accrediting organization for the best zoos and aquariums. Baylor University became the first university in the world to receive this designation and joins the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo in Gainesville, Florida, as the only AZA-accredited zoos on higher education campuses. 

Lake Waco: Lake Waco lies in McLennan County two miles west of Waco, Texas. It covers 8,190 acres with 60 miles of shoreline and a maximum depth of 100 feet. Come for fishing, a picnic, paddling, or just relaxing. It’s always nice to relax on the lake.

Searching for the best things to do in Waco, Texas? Look no further because this guide is straight from a local, herself and packed with favorite things that not only tourists love, but locals too!
Searching for the best things to do in Waco, Texas? Look no further because this guide is straight from a local, herself and packed with favorite things that not only tourists love, but locals too!
Searching for the best things to do in Waco, Texas? Look no further because this guide is straight from a local, herself and packed with favorite things that not only tourists love, but locals too!

Places to Shop in Waco

Shopping in Waco has gotten so much better in the past few years. I think everyone is trying to compete with the amazingness that is Magnolia Market, and I’m thankful for that! There are so many more options for families to choose from. Here are just a few of my favorites.

The Findery: Located catty corner to Magnolia Market, The Findery is a unique place to shop! Also with a farmhouse touch, this shop has home decor, boutique-type clothing for women and babies, and more. It’s a tall and skinny building, so be prepared to feel a little like a sardine on a weekend when everyone is downtown, but this place is so fun, you’ll want to come back again. There’s so much to see! If you have a knack for decorating your home or just want some gorgeous clothing items, you’ll want to check out this place. You can find The Findery at 501 S. 8th St.

Hey Sugar: Fan of sweets? You won’t want to skip Hey Sugar Candy Shop. With a retro theme and so many types of candy, you’ll be transported back to the old days when you were a kid. Hey Sugar has bright and colorful candies with  hundreds of varieties purchased from suppliers, but the shop’s real treasures? Their in-house made chocolates! Pick up some candy and stay cool in that a/c at 808 Austin Ave.

Spice Village: Looking for something unique to wear? Want to grab a gift for a friend? Spice Village is where it’s at. It’s one huge building with lots of boutiques inside, making it a storefront that’s worth spending a lot of time at. There’s something for everyone at Spice, and it seems like anytime I have a friend come into town, we’ve got to go shopping, and always end up there! Plus, there’s a huge map so you can mark where you’re from and see just how many people love Waco as much as you do! Get your shopping on at 213 Mary Ave.

Fabled: Located in the heart of downtown Waco,Texas, Fabled Bookshop & Cafe offers new books in general categories, unique toys and gifts, a cafe serving coffee, food, beer and wine, as well as a private event space. Featuring an iconic outdoor mural, 6-foot wooden owl, Narnia-esque lamppost, and a secret wardrobe entrance into the children’s section, Fabled offers a nostalgic and whimsical environment for readers of all ages. Our favorite must-have from Fabled? A copy of Authentically Addie (you may even find a signed copy from yours truly) and a Frobscottle drink!

Buc-ee’s: Take a visit to the beaver mecca by traveling a few minutes from Waco to Temple, Texas. An American chain of country stores, gas stations, and electric vehicle chargers, you’ll find something for everyone at Buc-ee’s. The chain is well known for the large size of its locations, alongside its product offerings of fuel, snacks (particularly beef jerky and candy), brisket, baked goods and commodities, tacos, fresh sandwiches, souvenirs, and travel items. The chain has also become well known for the cleanliness of its bathrooms, mascot, Buc-ee, and has a highly loyal customer base. We love going for a fun time, and you’ll be amazed at how long you can hang out at Buc-ee’s with all there is to offer!

Ramble & Co.: A women run shop specializing in hand-printed graphic tees + sweatshirts and other goods, Ramble has a small line of manufactured items from India and California but their main focus is their fun small batch inspirational pieces. Ramble’s goal is for you to feel confident and supported in the words you are wearing and we couldn’t love that more!

Sironia: Sironia is a collection of unique boutiques under one roof, offering a selection of gifts, cards, clothing, accessories and more. A long time local favorite with two floors of eclectic shops and wonderful café. The café serves fabulous lunches and desserts. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Craft Gallery: Craft Gallery is a unique mix of over 150 different shops which include gift shops, home décor shops, antique stores, and boutiques. These shops sell original items not found in national chains. Craft Gallery has consistently been voted one of the top Gift Shops and Best Home Décor stores by locals. Craft Gallery opened in 1993 as one of the first stores like this in the country and offers Waco souvenirs, leather jewelry, Waco shirts, Circle E candles, handmade sterling jewelry, vintage items, and personalized items to mention a few. The store is located minutes from downtown Waco at Highway 6 and Bosque Boulevard.

JDH Iron Designs: Specializing in custom metal art designs from wall art and home decor to custom projects and everything in between, JDH Iron Designs is your one-stop shop for your metal design project needs. Visit Jimmy Don Holmes’ store and shop. You are likely to find some of the great signs seen on HGTV’s Fixer Upper or Mr. Jimmy Don Holmes, himself!

Black Daisy Boutique: The Black Daisy was born from a wild dream in 2016 in a living room! As a trafficking survivor, the founder knew that she wanted to create something that was much more than a store. She wanted to create a safe space for women, and a place to celebrate EVERY woman’s worth. Don’t skip this eclectic and trendy boutique!

Searching for the best things to do in Waco, Texas? Look no further because this guide is straight from a local, herself and packed with favorite things that not only tourists love, but locals too!
Searching for the best things to do in Waco, Texas? Look no further because this guide is straight from a local, herself and packed with favorite things that not only tourists love, but locals too!
Searching for the best things to do in Waco, Texas? Look no further because this guide is straight from a local, herself and packed with favorite things that not only tourists love, but locals too!

Places to Eat in Waco

Mathew and I definitely consider ourselves foodies, and we live in such a wonderful city that has tons of local restaurant options! I love trying out all the local hotspots and honestly, I’d rather eat there than the chain restaurants because the local places are where it’s at!

Viteks: Listen, barbecue and Texas go together like peanut butter and jelly. It’s a staple and it’s just a fact that if you live in Texas, you must eat barbecue as often as possible. Hey- I don’t make the rules here, people, I just follow them. Viteks is a great, local joint with delicious brisket, and is home to the Gut Pak. Get it if you dare, because you won’t want another meal for a week after eating it! It’s a lot of food! There’s even a covered outdoor patio, so feel free to take your meal outside and enjoy the weather. Get your fix at 1600 Speight Ave.

Katie’s Frozen Custard: If you’ve been around this blog at all before, you’d know our love for Katie’s. Their frozen custard can’t be beat, and is the smoothest we’ve ever had. There are so many combinations of things to order like shakes, Vortex’s, Strawberry Shortcake (with real cake!), and our favorite- the pie cyclones. Depending on the season will determine which pie cyclones are available. We suggest coming in the Fall and getting their Pumpkin Harvest Cyclone. Trust us, it’s pretty much the best thing ever because it’s a real slice of pie blended with vanilla custard. Grab your sweet treat at 602 S. Valley Mills Dr.

Health Camp: In the mood for an old fashioned burger and fries? Make sure you stop at Health Camp. It’s been around since 1948 and there’s a reason it’s still open. The burgers are extra hot and juicy, and the chili cheese hot dogs are downright delicious. I’ll warn you, it’s a tiny place, but it’s definitely worth squeezing into! Get “healthy” at 2601 Circle Rd.

Milk Bottle Cookies: Milk Bottle Cookies serves up delicious large, homemade cookies of all kinds.. Their cookies are perfectly sweet and salty. You can’t go wrong with ordering one cookie, or a dozen! 

Bitty & Beau’s: All of Bitty & Beau’s front-line employees have disabilities such as autism, Down syndrome, or TBI; the employees bring a joyful spirit to the shop that makes Bitty & Beau’s the “Happiest Place in Waco.” With over 80% of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities unemployed nationwide, the Wrights believe that Bitty & Beau’s Coffee creates a path for people with disabilities to become more valued, accepted, and included in every community. Grab a cup of coffee, stay to chat with a friend or the employees, and just enjoy the atmosphere of this incredible coffee shop. 

Captain Billy Whizzbangs: The #1 family owned and operated burger joint Captain Billy Whizzbang’s has the best burgers in Waco, and has been providing them since 1977. Whether you’re a local or just visiting, you won’t want to miss their incredibly juicy burgers!

Poppa Rollos: Poppa Rollos is a local, family-owned restaurant, that proudly serves the greater Waco area the very best homemade pizza. Their great food, unique atmosphere, family-friendly arcade and shows, and the overall dining experience is why they’re a Waco tradition since 1969.

George’s Restaurant: George’s is a locally owned diner that has been in Waco since the 1930’s. A traditional Baylor fan hangout, George’s has it’s own “Party Zone” to view all Baylor sports events. Home of the “Big O” – 18-ounce goblets of ice-cold beer, George’s has a full menu that includes a wide array of diner favorites, including its renowned chicken fried steak. Visit their new “Party Zone” for Baylor fans at every home Baylor football game, across from McLane Stadium on South MLK Jr. Boulevard.

Nightlight Donuts: Serving up donuts day and night, Nightlight is a favorite for many local Wacoans. Each of their donuts are made in house daily with the freshest, flakiest ingredients. The light, airy Croissant Donuts are so delicious in every single flavor they offer. We’re not telling you how to live your life, but don’t skip on the ridiculously large donut holes in cinnamon sugar. Yum!

Moroso Wood Fired Pizzeria: Moroso’s brings the storied flavor of Italy to Waco, Texas, inviting the community to sit at their table as part of the family. Owner Dan Moroso spent time at the feet of Neopolitan pizza masters in Italy and has found a way to blend authenticity with his own delicious innovation. This is our personal date night favorite, and we love every single thing on the menu! Don’t miss the Figaro, Vesuvio, or Wild Hog pizzas (grab a few to split with a group) and make sure you say hello to Dan as he walks around. He is a joy to talk to and makes everyone feel so warm and welcome in his restaurant.

Be Kind Coffee: Be Kind Coffee’s ultimate goal is to promote kindness. They just so happen to serve craft coffee and vegan/gf treats! These times have been hard for everyone in their own ways and their goal is to make our community a kinder place than they found it, one drink at a time. Try their Pink Horchaita- it’s my favorite and such a delicious and refreshing drink!

Luna Juice Bar: Serving smoothies and juice, Luna Juice is all-natural, fresh, cold pressed 100% whole food, fruit and veggie juices! Grab a bottle of LIquid Sunshine or a Chunky Monkey 

Union Hall: Union Hall is bringing the food hall dining experience to downtown Waco, serving a range of different tastes and offering the added nourishment of community. Taking its cue from European markets, Union Hall brings local chefs and entrepreneurs under one roof, offering delicious and diverse dining options from multiple stalls while friends, families, and neighbors dine at common tables. Union Hall puts a local and modern spin on things by hosting special community events throughout the year and embracing the history and culture of the Franklin Avenue address. 

Common Grounds: This eclectic coffee shop is a longtime favorite of locals and Baylor students. Located next to the Baylor Campus, it has a charming atmosphere and great coffee, whether you are studying or just relaxing. Grab a Cowboy Coffee, enjoy the atmosphere, and a taste of another one of our fun things to do in Waco.

Cafe Homestead: Cafe Homestead serves fresh, natural food true to its setting at Homestead Heritage, a traditional farming community. Pasture-raised beef, fresh breads, award-winning local cheese, and house-made sauces and condiments; these are a few of the things that help make Cafe Homestead one of Waco’s most-loved restaurants since 1994. While visiting the Cafe, tour the farm and gardens and the working craft shops. You can even enjoy a hayride to a scenic vista overlooking the Brazos River! 

Alpha Omega: Looking for delicious Mediterranean food? We love Alpha Omega! Alpha Omega’s kitchen is visible from the seating area, allowing guests to experience the food being prepared. The two gyro machines positioned in the middle of the kitchen allow guests to see the classic Mediterranean meat preparation style. Fresh bread, pastries and gelato made daily entice customers to try a variety of classic and updated Mediterranean dishes. Customers can enjoy a gyro while dining either inside or outside on our patio area in view of the historic Alico building lights.

Cajun Craft: Formerly known as Krispy Fried Chicken, Cajun Craft is quickly making a name for itself in the local food scene. They serve customer favorites like famous fried chicken and fried short ribs but have added traditional cajun entrees such as crawfish étouffée, gumbo, jambalaya, and po boys. They currently offer patio and outdoor seating as well as an inside dining area. It is BYOB so bring a cold one and come enjoy some great food.

Searching for the best things to do in Waco, Texas? Look no further because this guide is straight from a local, herself and packed with favorite things that not only tourists love, but locals too!

Share your favorite things to do in Waco in the comments! What have you tried? What did you love?

Want more travel ideas? Don’t miss the travel archives from The Vintage Modern Wife!
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