Things to Do in Waco, Texas that Aren’t Magnolia Market

Jill Robbins Avatar
things to do in waco texas

Situated by the Brazos River in Central Texas, the city of Waco is home to the massive Magnolia Market shopping complex. However, there’s more to Waco than shopping. Wineries, live music and biking on the riverwalk are among fun things to do in Waco Texas. Waco is also the birthplace of Dr Pepper and has an assortment of museums.

And since it’s an easy day trip from Dallas and Austin or road trip from Houston, Waco is a nice spot for a mini getaway or family vacation.

This once sleepy little town has really boomed as a tourist attraction and there’s lots to explore and enjoy. Here’s our list of the best things to do in Waco, TX.

Things to do in Waco Texas - Dr Pepper Museum
There are lots of photo opps to be had at the Dr Pepper Museum! Photo credit: Jill Robbins

Dr Pepper Museum

If you’re ever been curious about the history of Dr Pepper manufacturing and bottling and love a good dose of quirky nostalgia, the Dr Pepper Museum is worth the price of admission.

I recommend visiting after lunch. It doesn’t take a ton of time to go through and there’s a fun ice cream shop/soda fountain at the end where you can get a treat or your favorite soft drink.

If you're looking for things to do in Waco Texas besides Magnolia Market, Waco National Monument is a great choice
Waco National Monument will transport you straight back to the Ice Age. Photo credit: Jill Robbins

Waco Mammoth National Monument

Waco Mammoth National Monument falls under the National Parks Service, so if you have a National Parks Passport, bring it along so you can collect your stamp. We spent about three hours at the Waco Mammoth National Monument while enjoying the natural habitats, and honestly, we could have stayed longer. We had to pry our kids out of the dig pit.

Pick up a Junior Ranger activity book (you can print one at home before heading to the site) to make it even more fun. Take the completed book with you to visit the Mayborn Museum (see #4) and the kids get in free!

Read More: Complete Guide to the NPS Junior Ranger Program

Things to do in Waco Texas - Waco Mammoth National Monument
Waco National Monument is an active dig site. Photo credit: Jill Robbins

The Waco Mammoth National Monument is an active dig site, so you never know quite what you’re going to see. The back story: a herd of Chilean mammoths (kind of like a warm weather and larger version of the woolly mammoth) died in this area in what is presumed to be a flood. Their fossils are still being uncovered, along with some other surprises, such as fossil remains of other mammals that lived during this period.

Admission is free but spend a few bucks for a guided tour. It’s worth it. The tour lasts about 30 minutes and includes the history and entry to the active dig site.

Boy listening to a US National Parks Ranger in Waco Texas
We took the ranger-led tour and my son was really into it, as you can see from the look on his face! Photo credit: Jill Robbins

Read More: Waco is a short drive from Austin, the state capital. Here’s how to spend three days in Austin.

Things to do in Waco Texas - Texas Sports Hall of Fame
Well…wrestling is a sport. Photo credit: Jill Robbins

Texas Sports Hall of Fame

The Texas Sports Hall of Fame is located on the campus of Baylor University. It’s a great place for people who love Texas sports.

My kids loved the many hands-on activities. And there’s plenty of room to run around. There are exhibits dedicated to the Southeast Conference, high school football (hey, it is Texas! We’re all about our Friday night lights!) and to noteworthy Texas athletes of all types. There’s also an interactive children’s area with an electronic soccer game, jump ropes and other exhibits dedicated to youth physical fitness.

The Texas Sports Hall of Fame is open Monday through Saturday from 9 to 5. There’s an admission fee, but active military members get in free.

SheBuysTravel Tip: The Waco area is close enough to both San Antonio and Killeen to have a substantial military connection in the community. So if you’re a military family, ask about military discounts any place you go in Waco.

Visiting the Mayborn Museum should be on your list of things to do in Waco Texas
The sign for the Mayborn Museum is tiny but this is the building you’re looking for – easy to spot! Photo credit: Jill Robbins

Mayborn Museum

The Mayborn Museum Complex is also located at Baylor University. Here you will find hands-on discovery rooms, interactive natural science and cultural history galleries and outdoor exhibits. There are also traveling exhibits, so check the website to see what will be offered during your visit.

If your kids complete the Junior Ranger Program at the Waco Mammoth National Monument (see #2), they’ll get free admission to the Mayborn. There is also a Mammoth exhibit at the Mayborn that ties into what you learned at the Waco Mammoth National Monument.

The Mayborn Museum strikes a nice compromise between being interactive and informative. My kids found plenty of hands-on fun, while I learned a lot about Texas. That’s saying something since I’ve lived in this state for most of my life.

Things to do in Waco Texas - Alico sign
If you take the Classic Waco Tour with Waco Tours, you’ll learn the significance of this building…beyond the fact that it makes a great Instagram photo! Photo credit: Jill Robbins

Waco Tours – One of the Best Things to Do in Waco

If you are a true Chip and Jo fan, you need to do the Classic Waco Tour. Do it on your first day in Waco; I promise you will not be sorry. The tour will help you get your bearings and give you recommendations on places to eat. And, if you’re in Waco for more than one day, you will probably want to eat at more places than Magnolia Table or Silo Baking Company. There’s some really good food in town and this tour will show you where to find it. Bonus: You’ll come away from the tour with some discount coupons!

The tour includes a stop for refreshments and a complimentary ice cream or coffee drink. It also features a stop at Harp Design. If you’re familiar with the show, you know Clint Harp is a craftsman who often works with Joanna Gaines. His shop is full of goodies. I prefer it to the Magnolia Market. The merchandise is really fun and creative and it isn’t the mob scene that Magnolia can be, especially on the weekends.

Two children in Waco Texas
If you want to get a feel for where the locals go in Waco, take a Waco tour. Photo credit: Jill Robbins

You’ll also get a windshield tour of many of the Fixer Upper houses and hear little tidbits about the flips and the owners that you didn’t hear on the show. The tour operators are fabulous and do a great job of showcasing their city. The company offers other tours, such as the Texas Experience Tour (lots of cowboy culture) and a sunset river cruise along the Brazos River. More on Waco Tours here.

Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum

If you’ve ever been curious about the history of law enforcement in the state of Texas, head to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum on the Texas Ranger Trail. Allow two to three hours to see everything, although you can breeze through faster if you want.

Ask about senior and military discounts.

Cameron Park Zoo in Waco Texas
Cameron Park Zoo has a great playground and splash pad, which comes in handy on those hot Texas days. Photo credit: Jill Robbins

Cameron Park Zoo

The Cameron Park Zoo is a lovely, lush, small zoo. Kids and adults alike will enjoy seeing the giraffes, Komodo dragons and even a bear habitat.

It’s one of the things to do in Waco that is super kid- and family-friendly. I’ve been twice: once in the spring when it was relatively cool and once in the heat of the Texas summer. We had a great time on both visits, although Texas summers are no joke.

Be sure to ask about military discounts.

Boy playing on a statue of a longhorn bull in Waco TX
Unmistakably Waco. Photo credit: Jill Robbins

Waco Suspension Bridge at Indian Spring Park with Cattle Drive Monument

Do you want to get great pictures in Waco or just let your kids burn off some energy? This is the place.

The larger-than-life sculptures tell the story of cattle drives and how they’re part of Waco’s history. There’s a little bit of shade, a place to look out on the Brazos River and a mural honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is one of the things to do in Waco that is wonderfully unstructured and really lets you enjoy being out in the open. This park is located in the heart of downtown Waco, but we really loved the open spaces.

Things to do in Waco Texas - Homestead Craft Village
This basket shop sells beautifully handcrafted baskets and you can watch them being made. Photo credit: Jill Robbins

Homestead Craft Village

Homestead Craft Village is 16 miles outside of Waco. It’s full of shopping, learning and beautiful scenery. It’s also free.

You can easily spend three hours walking around this historic village and talking to the artisans, who are super friendly and willing to talk to you about their craft. We visited with the ladies who make pottery and baskets, and a man who makes beautifully handcrafted furniture. There was a working mill with an adjoining shop where you can buy bread and pancake mixes, plus other fun kitchen things. The village feels like a history museum come to life.

If you’re a shopper, there are some beautiful things but I’ll warn ya…they’re expensive. I would have loved to have some of the beautiful blue Brazos pottery, but the price tag was a budget buster for me.

The onsite restaurant, Cafe Homestead, is famous in these parts. And for a good reason: The food is amazing. If you would like to eat here, check in and get on the waiting list as soon as you arrive on the property. People line up at the door before the place opens, so wait times are easily an hour or more. Reserve your place in line and you’ll get a text when your table is ready. I’m telling y’all, this place is seriously worth the wait.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Order the sweet potato and jalapeno soup with a Virgil’s Black Cherry soda. You’re welcome.

Hawaiian Falls Water Park

If you’re visiting during the summer months, consider scheduling an afternoon at Hawaiian Falls Waco Water Park.

This 10-acre water park has great pools, including a wave pool, a lazy river and lots of slides. It also offers some of the best rates I’ve seen on cabana rentals at a waterpark. If you plan to spend the day, consider renting one, as the shady spots are fairly limited.

Things to do in Waco Texas - go to Magnolia Market for lunch and order this hot dog!
This is the Demo Day Dog, one of the gourmet hot dogs available at Waco Dog House, which is a food truck at the silos. It’s made with Dr Pepper chili, which is a must-try when in Waco! Photo credit: Jill Robbins

But Don’t Skip Magnolia Market!

I know this is a list of things to do in Waco besides Magnolia Market, but definitely make sure you get to this shopping district. Even though you can easily fill several days with the other things to do in Waco, Magnolia is a lot of fun, too. I am not really a shopper and I personally don’t get that excited about the home decor and gardening items for sale there. They’re nice but they’re not much different than any other home store or big box store. (Yes, I know I might get my Texas card revoked for saying that.)

For my family, it’s the backyard area and all the food trucks that make this a really fun place to visit. Even if you just get some ice cream or a glass of sweet tea while your kids or grandkids play corn hole or run around on the lawn, this is a “worth it” stop. The last time we visited, I didn’t even go inside the store. Oh, and do your homework: Magnolia Market, Magnolia Table and Silo Baking Company are closed Sundays.

If you’re looking for awesome boutique shopping in Waco, I recommend checking out Spice Village and The Findery. They have some truly authentic and fun gift items and memorabilia with Texan flare.

Want the best breakfast in Waco? Read this guide to getting the most out of your visit to Magnolia Table.

Visiting Texas During the Spring? Here’s where to find Texas Bluebonnets:

Although bluebonnets, the state flower of Texas, bloom everywhere across the state, one of the best areas to find them is the Texas Hill Country. You will probably also see them along the side of the highway coming in and out of Waco.

Bluebonnets bloom from late March to early April (varies depending on how cold the winter was).

If you are visiting Waco during spring, you could easily add on a trip to explore the Texas Hill Country and places like Brenham Texas to check out the wildflowers. There are also some spots in and around Dallas that might be more convenient for you, depending on which way you are traveling.

Read More: Where to find Texas bluebonnets

SheBuysTravel Tip: Looking for more Texas fun? Try these things to do in Dallas with kids, or these things to do in Austin!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What are some other popular attractions in Waco besides Magnolia Market?

A: Some other popular attractions in Waco include the Dr Pepper Museum, Cameron Park Zoo and the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum.

Q: Are there any good places to eat in Waco?

A: Yes, Waco has a thriving food scene! Some popular restaurants include Health Camp (known for their burgers and milkshakes), Torchy’s Tacos and Milo All Day.

Q: Is Waco a safe place to visit?

A: Yes, Waco is generally considered a safe place to visit. As with any city, it’s always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and take basic safety precautions.

Q: What’s the best time of year to visit Waco?

A: The best time to visit Waco depends on your preferences. Spring and fall tend to be the most pleasant in terms of weather, but summer is a popular time to visit as well. Just keep in mind that it can get quite hot during the summer months.

Q: Where can I find more information about visiting Waco?

A: The Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau website is a great resource for planning your trip to Waco. You can also check out the Visit Waco, Texas Facebook page for updates and recommendations.

Jill Robbins is a freelance writer covering lifestyle, travel, health, and commerce. Her writing has appeared in SheKnows, HuffPost, Tripsavvy, Insider, AARP, and other publications. Jill lives in San Antonio with her husband and two youngest kids, although she’s usually somewhere else. You can find out what Jill is up to by reading her blog, Ripped Jeans and Bifocals.
Read full bio

2 responses

  1. Lansharx Gaming on Franklin Ave. is a great place to take your kids. They have been a family friendly business for over 13 years and have a huge selection of games and consoles. You can check them out at!

  2. We second the Waco Mammoth. Last year driving between Austin and Dallas, that was the one attraction in Waco we stopped at.