All the Reasons Why People Are Flocking to Waco This Winter

Magnolia Silos, Mayborn Museum Complex, a beer spa, and more.

By Geneva Diaz and Ana Garcia Published in the Winter 2022 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Waco is a treat for the whole family.

Image: City of Waco

The first few things that come to mind when you think of Waco probably include Baylor University, HGTV’s home renovating TV show Fixer Upper, and most likely Magnolia Market. While those are all great reasons to visit this thriving city, a booming arts scene, the staggering array of dining options, and the wealth of ways to enjoy the outdoors give other Texas towns a run for their money.

Simply put: there’s a lot of Texas in this town. The birthplace of Dr Pepper is also home to both the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame and Museum and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. It’s also a significant archaeological site, where the bones of 25 ancient Columbian mammoths were found in 1978. Surrounded by the natural beauty of central Texas and the Bosque River (a tributary of the Brazos River), Waco is a treat for all senses.

What to Do in Waco, Texas

Take a Waco-Tours sunset cruise on the Brazos River and learn about ​​Waco’s storied history. Ride by McLane Stadium, one of three on-campus college football stadiums that are accessible by water. At the end of your day, sit back, relax, and enjoy a special Wacoan Dr. Pepper float. Tour Texas Tip: If it’s too chilly for a boat tour, consider taking the Classic Waco Tour. Spanning two-and-a-half hours, the tour takes you to Waco’s top attractions including Baylor University, Cameron Park, and through historic neighborhoods, making it a great way to get acquainted with the city. 

Take a stroll on the riverwalk, walk across the suspended bridge, and enjoy all there is to see and do in Waco.

Image: City of Waco

For the outdoorsy-inclined, there’s a beautiful seven mile riverwalk, which runs straight through Downtown Waco, and is perfect for a morning run, romantic stroll, or nice walk for fresh air. Once you’re ready to head indoors, for a truly unique experience, soak in a copper tub full of beer while sipping a flight at Pivovar’s beer spa, located in Pivovar, a Czech-style building that serves as a hotel, restaurant, bakery, and biergarten. Beer baths will leave your skin feeling smooth and refreshed; no you won’t get buzzed, but you will leave smelling like beer. 

Visit Valley Mills Vineyards, located just under 30 minutes from Downtown Waco. This family-owned winery produces bottles from 100 percent Texas-grown grapes. Book a tour or a tasting and then head out onto the patio to take in the gorgeous views.

Head over to the Mayborn Museum Complex, located on the Baylor University campus. The museum features a natural science and cultural history museum focusing on Central Texas with walk-in dioramas including one on the Waco Mammoth Site, and exploration stations for geology, paleontology, archaeology, and natural history. In addition to the natural history exhibits, there are 17 themed discovery rooms which encourage hands-on learning for all ages as well as a Historic Village. The nine wood-frame buildings that comprise the village, provide a glimpse into the past, bringing to life a community in the 1890s.

The Dr Pepper Museum in Waco, Texas.

Image: City of Waco

The reason Waco is on the map for tourists these days is due in large part to the Silos! Grab a gift from Magnolia Market, a sweet treat from the Silos Baking Co., listen to music while eating lunch at the food trucks. And although there are many reasons to visit Waco, don’t forget to check out the Dr Pepper Museum—just a short walk from the Silos.

Where to Eat in Waco, Texas

You can’t visit Waco without going to Magnolia Table for brunch. Avoid the long line by making a reservation in advance. Try the house-made buttermilk pancakes and Jo’s buttermilk biscuits with strawberry butter while sipping on a lavender latte.

It’s not a true Texas town without BBQ and Tex-Mex restaurants; Helberg Barbecue and Hecho En Waco won’t disappoint. Try Helberg’s Sunday special featuring smoked meatloaf with garlic mashed potatoes. Or order a family pack (amounts vary) that contain a little bit of everything from brisket, ribs, sausage, sides, and banana pudding. For Hecho En Waco, brunch is the way to go. Grab a plate of chilaquiles to pair with a refreshing peach bellini or savory michelada.

After brunch at Hecho En Waco, take a photo with the red dinosaur.

Image: City of Waco

Who says you can’t find authentic Italian food in Waco? Treat yourself to pizza or pasta at Di Campli’s Italian Ristorante. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but we recommend the gnocchi, which practically melts in your mouth. And no visit to Waco would be complete without heading over to local favorite George’s Restaurant (there’s even a song about it), famously known for its chicken-fried steak and Big O beer. End the night with drinks at Undercroft, a BYOB speakeasy-style social club. Bring your own spirits and the bartender will whip you up something custom made to your liking.

Where to Stay in Waco, Texas

There are plenty of places to choose from when thinking about where to lay your head down at night, but why not go all out and stay in a home dedicated to the King himself. Sleep in the same house Elvis slept in at the Elvis House. Learn about his colorful and storied life through memorabilia displayed around the house, and even make Elvis’s famous peanut butter and banana sandwich in the kitchen. Spend time in the Elvis Den, painted in his favorite colors pink and black, where you’ll find an original Sony three-screen TV. It is said that he liked to watch all three networks at one time so Sony made these exclusive sets and gave them as gifts to people like Elvis and President John F. Kennedy.

The reason Waco is on the map for tourists these days: the Silos.

Image: City of Waco

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