Waco, located in Central Texas, is a charming Texan small town with plenty of attractions.
Because of its location, it is famously known as the Heart of Texas!
The small town shot to fame because of the HGTV show Fixer Upper.
Magnolia Market at the Silos, founded by the show’s star couple, is located in downtown Waco, TX.
But the town’s many attractions are spread far beyond Magnolia Market.
Here you will find prehistoric fossils, museums, amazing murals, panoramic views, hiking trails, and kayaking!
Because of its many kid-friendly attractions, Waco makes an excellent family vacation destination in Texas.
Best Things to do in Waco, Texas
From art galleries and cultural attractions to zoos and state parks, Waco has a variety of attractions for all types of visitors.
Take a cruise along the Waco River, see giant mammoth fossils, and visit the sprawling Baylor university campus.
Here are our favorite things to do in Waco, Texas on your next trip!
See the Mammoth skeletons at Waco Mammoth National Monument
Waco Mammoth National Monument is one of our favorite things to do in Texas with kids.
It’s one of the few national monuments preserving paleontology sites in the U.S.
Admission to this monument is free, but access to the dig shelter requires an entry fee.
Waco Mammoth National Monument features extremely well-preserved skeletons of giant Columbian mammoths.
These are the remains of Columbian mammoths that once roamed this area!
Seeing the gigantic fossils in person at the Waco Mammoth National Monument is a pretty incredible experience.
Visit the Dr. Pepper Museum
The amazing Dr. Pepper Museum is another of our favorite things to do in Waco Texas.
Dr. Pepper was invented and bottled right here in Waco.
This museum features the history of Dr. Pepper and other soda brands like 7-Up, A&W Root Beer, Fanta, Hires Root Beer, and Vernor’s Ginger Ale!
And of course no trip is complete without tasting the favorite beverage.
The whole family will enjoy this interactive museum!
Looking for brunch places in Waco, Texas to visit on your vacation?
Read our Ultimate Guide to Brunch in Waco now.
Shop at Magnolia Market at the Silos
Magnolia Market at the silos is the most popular of all the Waco attractions.
This market brings out droves of people from far and wide to grab a cup of joe, some locally made crafts, and even take pictures in front of the iconic silos.
For amazing things to do at the Silos including Joanna’s famous cupcakes, read our post on Visiting Magnolia Market in Waco, Texas.
Magnolia Market at Waco’s Silos is definitely one of our favorite things to do in Texas.
Go for a stroll in the cultural district of Waco downtown
Downtown is the cultural heart of Waco, TX.
It features several art galleries, museums, theaters, shops, and restaurants.
Our favorite gallery downtown is Cultivate 7Twelve. Other great choices include Studio Gallery, Texas Fine Artists, and Frames Etc.
This area also hosts several festivals such as the Food Truck Showdown, Wine & Food festival, Deep in the Heart film festival and more.
Grab dinner or coffee after strolling through the arts district!
Hunt for the downtown murals
If you love amazing murals, then Waco is the city for you!
In the city’s bustling downtown, you will find several amazing public artworks that are perfect backdrops for Instagram photos.
Some of the famous murals include the Dr. Pepper mural inside the museum Courtyard, the welcome to Magnolia silos mural, the city with the soul mural, and the Greetings from Waco mural outside Twisted Root Burger Co.
Looking for these delightful murals is a treasure hunt in itself and you will never know what you will find!
See the McLennan County Courthouse
An often forgotten gem in the heart of downtown is the McLennan County Courthouse.
This majestic building was inspired by the St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome and has splendid Beaux Arts Renaissance Revival style architecture.
The courthouse dome has a statue of the Greek god Themis and soaring eagles around the base.
The building is definitely worth a visit and one of the best things to do in Waco for art and architecture lovers.
Shop the Waco Downtown Farmers Market
Also located in downtown Waco, right in front of the courthouse, you will find the Farmers Market.
This market is held on Saturdays and features fresh produce, baked goods, crafts, and more.
Be sure to stop at the market and grab some goodies to eat on your next Waco trip!
Check out the local breweries, distilleries, and wineries
Did you know, Waco is also a hub for local breweries, wineries, as well as distilleries!
Some of our favorite places to stop include the Balcones Distillery, Southern Roots Brewing Company, Waco ale company, and Brotherwell Brewing.
You can find the tasting rooms in Waco downtown or even take a tour of the vineyards outside of downtown.
Many of these are family friendly and even offer entertainment such as food trucks, outdoor games, and more.
Admire the Waco suspension bridge
The historic Waco suspension bridge is another of our favorite things to do in Waco TX.
The bridge was built in 1870 and has become an icon of Waco.
It was built to carry cattle over the Chisholm Trail across the Brazos River and was then used for vehicular traffic.
Today, it is a pedestrian only bridge that has a panoramic view of Waco.
It is a great place to watch the Independence Day fireworks in the city.
Surrounding the bridge you will find two large parks – Indian Spring Park & Martin Luther King Junior Park.
They are great for taking a walk and admiring the views of the bridge.
A number of Chisholm Trail sculptures, artworks, and monuments are located near the bridge.
The bridge address is 101 N University Parks Dr, Waco, Texas 76701.
See the Waco sculpture zoo
The Waco sculpture zoo is a unique Sculpture Garden located along the banks of the Brazos River.
Here you can see metal sculptures of 28 animals that can be seen in the Cameron Park Zoo.
The sculptures are located over a mile-long path .
Kids love seeing the animals and taking a photo with them.
Cruise down the Brazos River
One of the popular Waco attractions is the relaxing cruise down the Brazos and Bosque rivers.
The cruise is a little over 2 hours and is a great way to learn about the city’s history, wildlife, and iconic buildings downtown.
The tours are offered by Waco Tours River Cruise.
Other companies such as Waco River Safari and tours also offer Scenic Wildlife tours.
Enjoy kayaking in Waco
Waco is one of our favorite places to go kayaking in Texas.
In downtown, you will find two excellent paddling trails — the Bosque Bluffs trail and the Brazos Bridges paddling Trail.
These easy trails are perfect for beginner kayakers.
You can rent canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddle boards from various places downtown and enjoy an amazing day on the Waco rivers.
Take a sunset stroll on the Waco Riverwalk
If you’re looking for outdoor things to do in Waco, then take a stroll along the Waco Riverwalk.
This Scenic Trail located on the Riverbanks is 7 miles long.
It continues from Cameron Park to Baylor University and even passes under Waco’s suspension bridge.
The trail is especially beautiful at twilight when you can admire views of the river as well as Downtown Waco.
Spend a day on the water at Lake Waco
Lake Waco, created by the Lake Waco Dam on the Bosque River, is a must visit for outdoor lovers.
The lake offers excellent spots for fishing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, camping, bird watching, and mountain biking!
Families can enjoy the soft sandy beaches at Airport Beach and Twin Bridges.
Besides these, the six day use parks surrounding the lake also have covered picnic tables, group shelters, barbecue grills, and play areas for kids.
The Lake Waco Marina has kayaks and paddleboards for rent.
See elephants and rhinos at the Cameron Park Zoo
The Cameron Park Zoo in Waco TX is a world-class zoo that is home to over 1,000 animals from all around the world.
It has exhibits for chimpanzees, elephants, tigers, orangutans, reptiles & amphibians, monkeys and more.
Enjoy hiking at Lake Waco Wetlands
Lake Waco wetlands is an ecological nature preserve located on the North West side of Lake Waco.
The park has a 1 mile boardwalk surrounded by trees, marshes, and wildlife such as deer, blue herons, turtles, and more.
You can also hike around the trails to enjoy the views of wetlands and learn about the ecosystem.
The research and education center has several interesting exhibits for kids.
Best part? The Preserve has free entry all year long!
Enjoy the thrilling rides at Hawaiian Falls Water Park
Visiting Waco on a hot summer day and looking for ways to beat the heat?
Hawaiian Falls Water Park in Waco TX is a favorite summer destination for families.
With several water slides, rides and attractions to choose from, this is a great place to enjoy.
The park also has a wave pool for swimming & lazy river ride for paddling.
They offer season passes as well as tickets day-by-day.
Go on a barbecue trip in Waco
Love barbecue? Then do not leave Waco without visiting one of our favorite joints in the city!
Waco is home to several amazing BBQ joints including the famous Honky Tonk Kid, Guess Family BBQ, Jasper’s Bar-B-Q, and Helberg Barbeque.
On slow days you can get seated immediately and enjoy your food while on weekends you will have to wait in line for hours and be lucky enough to get the Smoked Meats you desire!
Try the famous beef brisket, ribs, sausages, Fried Chicken, and more!
Enjoy the Waco culinary scene
Besides BBQ, Waco is also famous for other foods including burgers!
Try the amazing burgers at Twisted Root Burger Co.; visit Lula Jane’s for breakfast, or the famous deli sandwiches at Schmaltz’s.
Other great places to eat in Waco include the Silos Baking Co., George’s Restaurant, and Clay Pot.
Read our post on Best Places to Eat in Waco, Texas for more details.
Shop for Texan souvenirs at Spice Village
Spice village, located in downtown Waco, is a great place to shop while in town.
Here you will find an excellent collection of over 50 small shops and boutiques located under one roof.
You can also pick up souvenirs like t-shirts, hats, jewelry, wooden toys and Texan themed decorations for your home at Spice Village.
Enjoy live music performances in the city
The Waco Cultural District is also a great place to listen to live music performances.
You will find events being held in many of the venues and bars downtown as well as attend music festivals such as Brazos Nights.
Take a living history lesson at the Homestead Craft Village
Waco’s Homestead Heritage is a living history center that was built to commemorate the Waco community.
It allows visitors to observe, understand, and appreciate how people lived in the 1870s by providing an open-air village with over 20 craftsmen who work in traditional ways.
Visit the Texas Sports Hall of Fame
The Texas Sports Hall of Fame is a museum that pays tribute to the legendary athletes from Texas.
Here you can visit interactive exhibits, watch videos of their games, and learn about their personal life stories.
The Hall also has a gift shop for sports lovers where you can buy souvenirs and memorabilia.
Take the kids to the Mayborn Museum Complex
The Mayborn Museum located on Baylor University’s campus is a must stop while in Waco.
This is a natural science and cultural history museum that focuses on Central Texas.
With several hands-on exhibits spread over 5 floors, kids will love learning about the animals, dinosaurs, space and nature at this museum.
Kids can see amazing exhibits such as a humpback whale skull, a gigantic sea turtle fossil, and Mammoth skeletons, making the natural history museum a hit with families.
The museum is located at 1300 S University Parks Drive.
See the bears at the Baylor Bear Habitat
Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat at Baylor University is home to Lady, an American black bears who is the university’s mascot.
The Baylor Bear habitat is designed to provide the bears with a naturalistic environment where they can forage, play, and explore.
Visitors can tour the habitat and see the bears on a visit.
Learn about the history of Texas Rangers at Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum
Another of our favorite things to do in Waco Texas!
The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum is located on the edge of Waco and offers a great glimpse into the history of Texas Rangers.
Here you can learn about their famous battles, read stories from real Texas Rangers, try old-fashioned handcuffs & learn about Bonnie and Clyde!
Kids especially love the cool exhibits at this museum.
Visit the Armstrong Browning Library
The Armstrong Browning library and museum, located on the Baylor University campus, is an essential visit for literary lovers.
The library contains the world’s largest collection of works by Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
Works include personal letters, manuscripts and first editions of books by the Victorian poets.
The library also has amazing architecture and is free to visit.
Travel tip – Have less time to explore Waco? Enjoy guided tours? Waco has a variety of amazing tours including the Classic Waco tour, Fixer Upper tour, and the Texas experience tour!
Best time to visit Waco
Waco is a pleasant town to visit all year round and the best time of year depends on what you want to do.
If you’re interested in seeing the beautiful wildflowers and bluebonnets in Central Texas, we recommend visiting Waco from March to April.
Water activities peak in summer while during the holiday season you can enjoy Christmas lights in Waco.
Another best time to visit Waco is during autumn when you can enjoy beautiful foliage and pleasant temperatures.
The average temperature ranges from 56 degrees Fahrenheit in January to 88 degrees Fahrenheit in July.
Where to stay in Waco, TX
Waco has a variety of accommodations available for everyone.
You will find hotels, resorts, motels, RV parks, tent camping sites, and more in the city.
Waco even has several houses on Airbnb and other vacation rentals and some of these have even been featured in the show the Fixer Upper.
We recommend picking a place to stay that is close to downtown and all the major attractions for your stay.
Day trips near Waco, Texas
Looking for great things to do near Waco, Texas?
Explore these amazing locations on a day trip or weekend getaway: Austin, Dallas, or even San Antonio!
Also Read: Best Things to do in North Texas
Austin makes a great day trip from Waco TX.
You will find several things to do in Austin including exploring amazing museums and parks, attending live music events, and visiting the Texas State Capitol building.
Dallas is a bustling metropolis with a lot to offer.
Here you will find an eclectic mix of culture, entertainment, and history.
Dallas is home to several world-class museums and the largest urban arts district in the United States.
Take a day trip from Waco to explore Fort Worth.
History fans will love a trip to Fort Worth Stockyards where history comes alive with old-fashioned saloons, shops and restaurants.
The city is filled with several heritage sites including the Kimbell Art Museum, The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, and the Amon Carter Museum.
Glen Rose is known as the dinosaur capital of Texas!
Take a day trip from Waco TX to visit Dinosaur Valley State Park where you can hike to see several dinosaur tracks.
Visit the Dinosaur World if you want to experience more of this slice of prehistoric history and see life size sculptures of dinosaurs.
With its diverse attractions, Waco makes the ultimate day trip or weekend getaway for all types of travelers.
We hope you liked our guide to fun things to do in Waco Texas.