Waco is situated in central Texas and is the state’s 22nd most populated city. It was named after the Wichita tribes, known as the Waco, which were the area’s earliest inhabitants.
Whether you’ve been to Waco repeatedly or are a first-time visitor, you won’t be disappointed in the array of available options. The city has a rich history, ample economic opportunity, and a wide range of cultural experiences to enjoy.
These 15 things to do in Waco represent only a tiny fraction of everything that is out there to enjoy in the city. From bear habitats and football stadiums to homestead shopping and craft centers, there is plenty for everyone to do in Waco, no matter what their interests may include!
15. Texas Sports Hall of Fame
The Texas Sports Hall of Fame honors Texas athletes who have impacted the world of athletics. Texas is the first state to have its own sports hall of fame, so you won’t want to miss it. Visitors can view a wide variety of interactive, fun exhibits, watch video clips showcasing the biggest sports moments in history, and more. Built in 1951, this hall of fame also has exhibits where you can compare yourself to many of the greatest athletes in sports!
14. The McCulloch House Museum
Visiting the McCulloch House is the best way to catch a glimpse of the forgotten old life of Waco. This house was a vital part of early Waco’s social scene when it was built in 1886. Everyone from celebrities to locals and tourists would stop by the house in its glory days.
Today, it is a museum with many heirlooms of the original family on display and original watercolor paintings by local artist Charles H. Cox.
13. The Waco Hippodrome
First opened in 1914 as a vaudeville theater, the Waco Hippodrome is now a live event space and movie theater. It’s one of the most popular places to go for a live performance or a film. Visitors enjoy film festivals, concerts, trivia nights, stand-up comedy shows, and more here. There is also full-service in-theater dining and a full-service bar on site!
12. Cameron Park Zoo
Cameron Park Zoo is spread across 50 beautiful acres. The zoo was established in 1955 and is home to more than 1,700 animals. Every animal is housed in natural environments, including tigers, orangutans, lions, otters, lemurs, and many more. The zoo was founded to provide family-friendly fun and education to visitors and is home to many animals native to Texas.
11. The Waco Suspension Bridge
One of the most gorgeous architectural feats in the city is the Waco Suspension Bridge, a crucial landmark that stretches across the Brazos River. This bridge was built in 1870 and used almost three million bricks. The bridge is responsible for much of the growth of Waco.
When it was being built, the nearest town with artisans was over 200 miles away. This made construction slow and time-consuming. But the work was eventually completed, making the bridge the first suspension bridge in the state. It’s now open only to foot traffic and sits between Indian Spring Park and Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.
10. Magnolia Market at the Silos
HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines founded this community space and retail store site, and it is one of the most popular places to visit in Waco. The large barn and two silos are standout features of the market, where a huge range of products, from furniture to home decor and even baked goods, are for sale.
9. Dr. Pepper Museum
Whether you’re a fan of Dr. Pepper or not, you don’t want to miss this unique attraction in Waco. The soft drink, manufactured by the country’s oldest soft drink syrup manufacturer, was first produced and sold in Waco. Dr. Pepper is considered to be the drink of Texas, so it makes sense that so many people flock to this location.
The museum is in a building that used to be the home of a bottling company for Dr. Pepper and is owned by a non-profit organization that receives financial support from the Keurig Dr Pepper parent organization.
8. Waco Mammoth National Monument
As part of the National Parks System, this incredible destination gives visitors astounding insight into the stories behind the mammoth bones unearthed in Waco. The monument is an expanse of woodlands and parklands stretching over 100 acres along the Bosque River.
The bones of 19 adult female mammoths and their offspring have been discovered here. The animals are thought to have been caught in a sudden major flood and drowned. The position of the bones suggests that the females tried raising their young above the waters but failed.
Since the discovery of the mammoth bones site, other mammal species have been discovered, including a prehistoric camel and a giant cat! One of the main attractions at the monument is the pavilion, where many fossils are still held in the dirt and set in a climate-controlled area for visitors to gaze upon.
7. The Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat
One of Waco’s most exciting (and, for many, unexpected) attractions is the Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat. Bears don’t come to mind for many people when they think of Texas, which is why you don’t want to miss this attraction, especially if you’re an animal lover.
The habitat is the home of Baylor University’s two black bear mascots—two sisters named Joy and Lady. It’s a Class C Zoo that is licensed by the USDA and features natural habitats for the bears to thrive in, including trees, caves, and waterfalls.
6. McLane Stadium
McLane Stadium, the football stadium of Baylor University, is home to the Baylor Bears. Anyone who is a sports fan shouldn’t miss a visit to this attraction. If there is a football game that you’re able to catch while you’re there, all the better!
When there isn’t a game, the stadium offers tours of the grounds. The tours take about an hour and a half and will bring you through the press room, the locker rooms, and many other behind-the-scenes spots.
5. The Findery
If you love to shop for original, rare, fun, and interesting items, the Findery is the place for you! Located in a century-old building called the Percy Medicine Building, the Findery is on the corner of 8th and Webster.
Many vendors have their wares on display for purchase, creating an eclectic mix of handmade, modern, classic, and vintage items.
4. The Carleen Bright Arboretum
One of the most beautiful places in the entire Waco area is Carleen Bright Arboretum, a stunning nature preserve that spans 16 acres. Eight of those acres showcase incredible botanical gardens.
The preserve is separated into four distinct areas or zones: the wedding lawn and pavilion, the nature trail through the forest, an eastern garden, and a western garden. Throughout the year, many kinds of events are hosted in the different zones and venues on site. It was closed for three years starting in 2019 for sewer project repairs, but now the renewed and lovely location is ready to receive visitors again!
3. The Lake Waco Wetlands
This amazing habitat was created in 2001 after Lake Waco was raised seven feet. It’s a vital habitat for dozens of flora and fauna species and spans a whopping 180 acres. There is a plant nursery that takes up six acres of land and is the home to a beautiful array of plants, from bulrushes and water lilies to duck potatoes.
2. The Homestead Craft Village
Just 16 miles from the center of Waco is the Homestead Craft Village at Homestead Heritage, which offers plenty of sightseeing, shopping, and learning and is free to enter. Gain a unique glimpse into the local artistry and culture and meet artisans of all kinds.
Inside, you’ll find Cafe Homestead, along with plenty of sweet treats, pottery, furniture, baskets, and more.
1. The Waco Civic Theatre
This little theatre actually used to be called the Waco Little Theatre back in the 1920s, and its original iteration ran from 1925 to 1936. The theater worked with Baylor University in 1945 and put plans into motion for what would become the Waco Civic Theatre.
Since then, it’s been named one of the best-designed buildings in the country, and while renovations are continuously underway, it never loses its charm.
As you can see, Waco has a lot to offer everyone. If you are looking to do more in the surrounding area, check out other weekend trips from nearby Waco, Texas.
These areas are perfect for a quick day trip or a long weekend getaway. Explore our favorite things to do or peruse some pre-built itineraries.
(featured image via Instagram)