To Do: Waco, Texas
You've probably heard of Waco because you've watched Fixer Upper or seen photos of Chip and Joanna Gaines in People magazine. But Garner and I are proud to say that we lived in Waco before it was "cool."
Garner and I met in Waco while attending Baylor University. He actually grew up there and spent the first 22 years of his life in the small town before moving to San Francisco... I know, it was a big change.
Both of us, but especially Garner, have watched Waco grow from a town you stopped for gas in while driving from Dallas to Austin, to #2 on TripAdvisor's "destinations on the rise" list.
After consulting with my lovely mother-in-law and my sister currently at Baylor (so much has changed in three years!), here's our recommendations when visiting Waco, Texas:
Magnolia Silos - As my sister Claire said, "give the people what they want; Magnolia!" You can visit the bakery, the Magnolia store and the many food trucks on site. Just try to go on a weekday as the weekends and holidays can be insanely busy.
Concerts at Common Grounds - This rustic coffee shop has been around for years and is a Waco and Baylor staple. They are known for their Cowboy Coffee and the incredible lineup of folk bands. Also Claire works here so make sure to say "hi" if you stop in!
Homestead Heritage - One of my favorite hidden gems. Homestead is a community of agrarian people that are totally self sufficient. There is a pottery house, a blacksmith shop, a cheese-making house, a woodworking and fine furniture-making shop, and a fiber-crafts cottage that features spinning, knitting and weaving. These shops are run by award-winning craftsmen/community members and are open year-round to the public. It's the perfect place to take a craft class, get a delicious farm-to-table meal and purchase high-quality gifts. I could easily spend a whole day here.
Farmer's Market - The Market is open every Saturday from 9:00am to 1:00pm, featuring the best local agricultural producers and artisan vendors within 150-miles of Waco.
Armstrong Browning - As my mother-in-law said, this is "the jewel in the crown of Baylor and Waco." The museum is internationally famous and houses the world’s largest collection of Browning material and other fine collections of rare 19th-century books, manuscripts, and works of art. It is also stunning with stained glass windows lining nearly every wall... the rumor is that the wait list to get married here is multiple years.
Waco Pedal Tours - Take a tour of downtown with a local guide on a 14-person pedal bike party bus. There are two daily tours (some are pub crawls!) and they also offer private events.
Balcones Distilling - Stop by to taste this high-quality Texas whiskey and if you have extra time, join a tour to see how it's made.
Wine Tasting - With a few new wineries popping up in Waco, take your pick of where and what you'd like to taste. I'd recommend the Grape where you can also catch some live music.
The Hippodrome - The Waco Hippodrome has been around for over 100 years. It features full service in-theatre dining for concerts, movies and theatre acts, and a mezzanine level restaurant & bar overlooking historic Austin Avenue.
Fabled Bookshop and Cafe - Owned by the same couple as Common Grounds, Fabled will be opening later this year. You'll be able to browse books, have a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, and snack on some food items.
Cameron Park + Zoo - The massive park has dozens of hiking trails, two famous ones being Jacob's Ladder and Lover's Leap. Bring a picnic to enjoy overlooking the Brazos River. You can also visit the 52-acre Cameron Park Zoo.
Dr Pepper Museum - Visit this 100-year old building to learn about the history of Dr Pepper while having a few sodas or ice cream floats along the way.
Brotherwell Brewing - Brotherwell will host regular brewery tours that walk you through the ins and outs of the brewing process. They're currently renovating the space to create room for a 15-barrel brewhouse as well as a tasting room for you to sample Waco-brewed beers of the highest quality.
Magnolia Table - Chip & Joanna's newest business just opened on Feb. 26. You'll find a variety of items on the menu, from fresh-squeezed juices to french toast... assuming you can find a table.
Oh My Juice - A great spot for salads, smoothies, delicious acai bowls and fresh juices.
Pinewood Roasters - Stop in for a cup of coffee ($2) or to hang out in a hip environment.
Food for Thought - This is a healthier spot with yummy salads and sandwiches. My favorite, however not so healthy, are the chicken nachos that are smothered in cheese, jalapenos and avocado.
Shorty's Pizza - A college past-time. You can watch sports games with friends while drinking a few pitchers of beer, eating a pizza pillow and sippin' on some classy Boone's Farm.
Morosos - While Shorty's has cheap prices and is great for college kids, Morosos is delicious hand-crafted Neapolitan pizza that's made from secret Italian family recipes. It's my mother-in-laws favorite new restaurant!
Alpha Omega - This Mediterranean grill and bakery serves classic dishes, along with fresh bread, pastries and gelato.
The Cozy - Come share a unique meal with friends, old and new, at a pop-up dinner somewhere in Waco (i.e. an art museum). Sign up for a dinner by purchasing a ticket online and make sure you arrive early to take photos of the picturesque locations.
Jake's Texas Tea House - The diner takes you back to the 1950s with the vintage cars and decor. I'd recommend trying the family style lunch served on Sunday afternoons or stopping in for a piece of pie (or two).
Tesla's Cafe & Coffee Pub - This newly opening restaurant was once a historic house. The menu offers a variety of items - breakfast, barbecue, waffles, ice cream and fresh coffee.
George's - This classic Waco restaurant is famous for it's chicken fried steak and "Big O" beers and margaritas.
Hey Sugar - An old-school candy store with every sweet and treat you can imagine. Definitely worth going inside and trying a few (or a lot) of the different types of "sugar."
Vitek's BBQ - Family owned and operated since 1915, Vitek's is known for the "gut pak," a basket filled with brisket, Fritos, cheese, beans, onions, pickles, BBQ sauce, sausage and topped with a slice of bread. Don't eat too many or you'll legit get a gut.
Hopefully you found this helpful as you make a trip to Waco. Did you visit one of these spots? I'd love to know your thoughts.
To learn more about Waco, read this article on why the city is so great.