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The 20 Best Things to Do in Waco, TX, for First Timers

Lake Waco

If you are thinking of taking a vacation to Texas, then one destination to consider is Waco. This is a city in the center of the state that sits by the Brazos River. There are plenty of things to see and do in this city, so you can enjoy a jam-packed schedule during your stay. As there are activities and attractions to suit all tastes, you should plan your itinerary in advance to make sure you include the best that this city has to offer. To help you decide how you want to spend your time in this city, here are the 20 best things to do in Waco, TX, for first-timers.

Photos are courtesy of The City of Waco, TX

Texas Sports Hall of Fame

20. Go to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame

Sports enthusiasts should visit the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. The museum at this attraction teaches visitors about the history of sport in Texas from 1951 onwards. The hall of fame is devoted to Texan athletes who have made an impact in athletics or who have distinguished themselves in some way. Visitors can enjoy a wide array of interactive exhibits, and there are video clips of some of Texas’ most important sporting moments to watch. One of the highlights is a display that has the handprints of some of the best NBA players from Texas, and visitors are encouraged to measure their hand size against the prints. The Texas Sports Hall of Fame is open every day except Sunday.

19. View the Artworks at the Martin Museum of Art

An interesting attraction to visit for art lovers is the Martin Museum of Art. It is the best place to see art in the city, and it is operated by the art department at Baylor University. There are both permanent and temporary exhibitions to enjoy at this attraction. In the permanent collection, there are approximately 1,300 pieces of artwork. Some of the work is that of internationally recognized artists. This art museum also hosts classes on art history and studio art, and it is used as a venue for various events throughout the year. It is open seven days a week, and admission to the art museum is free.

18. Learn About the Habitat at Lake Waco Wetlands

Nature-lovers should spend some time at Lake Waco Wetlands, which is an area that was created when Lake Taco was raised to lessen the impact that this would have. There is an on-site research and education center where visitors can learn about the plant, animal, and insect species that live in the wetlands. Visitors can also wander around various aspects of the 180-acre park to see the plants, animals, and insects for themselves. One of the highlights for many visitors is seeing the six-acre plant nursery. This is a good activity for avid birdwatchers, as there are several raised observation platforms specifically for birdwatching.

Lake Waco

17. Have Fun at Lake Waco

A fantastic place to have some outdoor fun is Lake Waco. This is a man-made reservoir where locals and tourists can enjoy a diverse range of recreational activities. One of the most popular activities at the lake is boating. Around the lake, there are hiking trails where you can take a leisurely stroll in nice surroundings. It is also possible to camp around the lake, as there are multiple campsites.

16. Waco Hippodrome Theater

Since 1914, the Hippodrome has been known to host a wide variety of high-quality Broadway-style acts and entertainment such as silent films, vaudeville shows, and traveling performers – even live performing seals. Today, the spirit of live entertainment endures at the Hippodrome – minus the seals. If you’re looking for large live music venues in Waco, look no further than the Hippodrome. HTey embrace rock, country, blues, soul, punk, roots, and other genres of music.

15. Spend Time at the East Terrace Museum

An interesting museum to visit is the East Terrace Museum. This museum overlooks the Brazos River, and it is built in the Italianate style, which is an unusual architectural style in this area. It is the former home of industrialist John Wesley Mann. You can take a tour of the property on Sundays between 1 pm and 4 pm. If you want to take a tour at any other time, you can arrange a private tour by appointment only.

14. Visit the Earle Napier Kinnard House

History buffs will enjoy a trip to Earle Napier Kinnard House. This historic building was constructed in 1868, and it is one of the finest examples of Greek revival architecture in Waco. Inside the property, many of the original features remain. It is possible to take a guided tour of the property, and children can go and play in the outdoor children’s playhouse that was added to the property in 1881.

13. Enjoy the Peace at the Carleen Bright Arboretum

A peaceful place to spend some time is the Carleen Bright Arboretum. The locals would argue that this attraction is one of the most beautiful natural attractions in the city. It is a nature preserve spanning 160acres, half of which are stunning botanical gardens. The arboretum is divided into four zones; the nature trail through a forested area, a pavilion and wedding lawn, the western garden, and the eastern garden. There are special events hosted at this venue throughout the year.

12. See the Bears at the Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat

If bears are one of your favorite animals, then there is no better activity to include in your itinerary than the Bill and Eva Williams. This is where the two black bear mascots of the Baylor University live. They are called Joy and Lady, and they are biological sisters with a one-year age difference. They have been at the university since they were four months old, respectively. When the habitat for the bears was designed, the aim was to make it as natural as possible for them. Some of the features of the habitat include fallen trees, caves, and waterfalls.

11. Go to the Armstrong Browning Library

Literary lovers should take a trip to the Armstrong Browning Library, which boasts the world’s largest collection of works by Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The museum was first established to study the lives of this famous literary couple, says Vacation Idea. This is a good attraction for those who have a limited budget, as entrance to the library and the gardens is free.

10. Take the Waco River Safari

A unique way to see the sights of Waco is to take the Waco River Safari. This is a cruise up the Brazos River that teaches passengers about the history of the river and of Waco. On the cruise, you will see the sighs of the city from a different perspective, so you should take along your camera to capture some of the sights. There are various cruise packages available, some of which include dinner and drinks on the cruise.

9. Get Creative at the Homestead Craft Village

Those who love crafts will enjoy a visit to the Homestead Craft Village, says Waco Heart of Texas. The village is divided into different craft areas where visitors can view pottery-making, woodworking, iron forging, cheese making, and textile crafts. There is also an old grist mill, and there are activities that visitors can get involved with during their visit. Admission to the village is free, although there is a fee to take part in activities.

8. Go to the Mayborn Museum Complex

The Mayborn Museum Complex is a collection of museums that are located within the grounds of Baylor University Campus. There is a natural history museum, the Bill & Vara Daniels Historic Village, and a children’s museum. To explore all three museums, you should set aside a full day of your vacation. In addition to the permanent exhibitions in the museums, there are traveling exhibitions featured throughout the year.

East Terrace Museum

7. Visit the Dr Pepper Museum & Free Enterprise Institute

Although there are many museums to visit in Waco, one of the best is the Dr. Pepper Museum & Free Enterprise Institute. Dr. Pepper was invented at the Old Corner Drugstore in Waco, and it is the oldest branded soft drink in the United States. Therefore, this drink is an important part of the history of this city, and it is considered one of Waco’s claims to fame. The museum is devoted to the history of Dr Pepper, and visitors learn about its history, along with the history of general soft drink bottling. At the end of the tour, visitors can enjoy a Dr Pepper float from the old-time soda fountain.

6. Spend Time at Cameron Park

Many people describe Cameron Park as one of Waco’s hidden gems. It is located close to downtown Waco between the Brazos River and the Bosque River. The park covers 416 acres, and it boasts multiple hiking, biking, and equestrian trails. There are also playgrounds, scenic overlooks, and several picnic areas where you can enjoy a picnic in pleasant surroundings.

Waco Suspension Bridge & Cattle Drive Sculptures

5. Go to the Waco Suspension Bridge & Cattle Drive Sculptures

One of the most prominent and iconic landmarks in Waco is the Waco suspension bridge. This historic bridge was completed in 1870, and it once served as the cattle drive crossing for the Chisholm Trail and the Shawnee Trail. When it was completed, it was one of the longest single-span suspension bridges. Now, there are many sculptures along the suspension bridge, including the Branding Brazos that depict a herd of Texas longhorns and a group of cowboys.

4. Visit the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum

Paying tribute to the famed Texas Rangers law enforcement agency, the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame & Museum is the only attraction of its kind. It is a state-designated official historical center where you can learn about the history of the United States’ oldest law enforcement agency. There is an interesting exhibition of the role of Texas Rangers in pop culture.

Waco Mammoth National Monument

3. See the Waco Mammoth National Monument

Time Out lists the Waco Mammoth National Monument as one of the activities that you should include in your vacation itinerary. This attraction is home to a collection of fossil remains of Columbian Mammoths, and they are the only recorded finding of a herd of Pleistocene mammoths in the United States. Not only can visitors see the fossils in the excavation site, but they can also learn about how the fossils were discovered and about the Ice Age. This is one of the most unique attractions you will see anywhere in the United States.

2. Take the Kids to Cameron Park Zoo

One of the top family-oriented attractions in Waco is the Cameron Park Zoo. Built within Cameron Park, this is a natural habitat zoo covering 52 acres. There are more than 1,700 animals from around 300 species living at the zoo. Some examples of the species include lions, Sumatran tigers, orangutans, lemurs, and Komodo dragons. This is an attraction that people of all ages can enjoy, and it is both fun and educational.

Magnolia Market at the Silos

1. Enjoy Shopping and Entertainment at Magnolia Market at the Silos

According to Waco Heart of Texas, the best thing to do in Waco, TX, for first-timers is to go to the Magnolia Market at the Silos. This is a large retail complex, but a trip here is about so much more than shopping as it is also a dining and entertainment venue. There are multiple restaurants and food trucks, so it is one of the best options when looking for a place to eat during your visit to the city. Throughout the year, this venue hosts multiple concerts and celebrations.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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