The Ultimate Guide to Waco, TX

ultimate guide to waco texas travel

Waco never fails to disappoint with a number of exciting attractions, a thriving cultural arts district, and an extensive list of contemporary bars and restaurants that entice visitors to return year after year. It’s no wonder that Waco is known as the “Heart of Texas”.

How To Get To Waco  

Waco is situated just two and a half hours from Dallas International Airport, and equal distance from Austin. If you are flying in, most people fly into Dallas and either rent a car, or book a transfer shuttle down. Waco also has a small local regional airport, however there is only one airline and one destination serving the airport; American Airlines offers daily flights to and from Dallas which would be the fastest way to arrive in Waco; but due to the limited routes flights can be more costly. If you choose to book a shuttle transfer, I highly recommend Waco Streak which offer personalized pick up and drop off between Dallas Fort Worth International Airport or Dallas Love-Field to Waco. 

Where To Stay

With an ideal location opposite the suspension bridge, the Hilton Waco and right beside the new trolley route, it allows you to park and ride for free, which makes the convenience of getting around all the more easy. The Hilton boasts a heated outdoor pool, gym and bar/restaurant that is open all day. 

This unique rental, once cited as Elvis Presley’s “home away from home” in the 1950s during the height of his popularity, is now open for guests to stay and enjoy. It has had a number of modern renovations since it was built, but an air of rock’n’roll is still apparent throughout. 

Within walking distance to a plethora of bars, restaurants and attractions, these contemporary rentals offer a convenient location, sleek and chic décor, each designed to a different theme. There is a shared heated pool and a marvelous verandah that looks out over Austin Avenue. 

  • Hotel 1928 –

One of the newest additions to the Magnolia portfolio, Hotel 1928, aptly named after the year it was first opened, is undergoing extensive renovations. Due to open in 2023, the completed hotel is due to have 33 rooms, a large restaurant, and a highly anticipated 3500 square foot rooftop terrace.

Far from being just a restaurant, this Czech inspired enterprise features beautifully decorated rooms overlooking the traditional inhouse brewery and bakery below.  The best rooms feature ornate copper bathtubs  and offer unparalleled views over the Magnolia Silos. 

How To Get Around Waco

I was actually surprised at how easy it is to get around Waco; there is a large part of the city that is easily accessible by foot and many of the attractions and restaurants are within close proximity to each other.  There is a lot of free parking in the downtown area, however at the time of writing there is a lot of construction underway so not all roads were accessible. There is a free silo trolley that offers a “flag stop” system whereby you can flag the trolley down at any safe spot and they will scoop you up. Uber and Lyft are also readily available throughout the city.

Things To Do in Waco

No visit to Waco would be complete without a visit to the Magnolia Silos. Featuring a plethora of carefully curated local artisan shops, food trucks and attractions it’s easy to spend a whole day here. It’s completely free to visit, and the grounds are impeccably kept, the bakery is of particular interest and never fails to bring in a crowd. All of the shops featured here are meticulously chosen by Chip and Joanna; and are a welcome addition to the Magnolia estate. Magnolia Market features a wonderful selection of home goods and apparel – you will not be leaving empty handed once stepping foot inside!

Boasting to be the first city to serve the legendary soda, Waco houses this comprehensive museum spread out over three stories that accurately illustrate the complete history of Dr Pepper through the years. Be sure to check out the Liquid Laboratory where they perform daily science experiments and the Soda Fountain to taste a delicious Dr Pepper Float after a long day of exploring.

This was by far one of my favourite things I have done in Waco. Not only does this 3 hour tour take you to some of the best highlights of Waco, but the staff who run the tour are incredibly entertaining, knowledgeable and passionate about the city they call home. With a few stops to stretch your legs and enjoy a quick refreshment, this tour is not to be missed. 

Featuring the fossilized remains of 24 Columbian mammoths that weighed in at almost 20,000lb, the Waco Mammoth National Monument makes for a fascinating museum experience. The dig shelter also features fossils of camels which surprisingly lived quite harmoniously with the mammoths.

With over 20 miles of trails, and multiple picturesque viewing points overlooking the rivers, Cameron Park really is the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon. I’ve been told that the best time to visit is when the Blue Bonnets are finally blooming in the spring! 

Be sure to also check out my other blog post on 5 Weird and Wonderful Things To Do in Waco, Tx.

Where To Eat and Drink

One thing that surprised me when visiting Waco for the first time was the vast assortment of different culinary experiences you can enjoy. Below is a list of my top choices.

Located in the heart of Waco, this local eatery promises to “entertain your soul with Jamaican cuisine” and it is nothing short of phenomenal. Family owned and operated, it’s not difficult to see the heart and soul going in to every meal authentic cuisine. Popular favourites are the curry goat and jerk chicken. Each entrée is served with authentic rice and peas, steamed vegetables and the best fried plantains you will taste north of the Caribbean Sea. I had the pleasure of meeting the owner Vivio and her son Ancieto during my most recent visit whose passion for traditional Jamaican food comes through in every meal they serve.

This laid back restaurant has been serving fan favourites such as chicken fried steak and the locally acclaimed Big O’Beer since 1930. Painted on one outdoor wall of the original building is a mural of all the George’s including President George Washington and George Bush, country music legend George Strait and boxer George Foreman. Bring your appetite at this restaurant, you won’t be leaving hungry! There are now two locations of George’s, the original being on Streit Street.

This chic restaurant, featuring an inhouse bakery and brewery serves up delicious Czech inspired dishes in a beautifully ornate space. Be sure to try one of their famous lager flights where you can sample a range of their traditional Czech brews, all made inhouse. 

This popular cajun and creole eatery offers fresh seafood straight from the Gulf , vibrant atmosphere and bar with some eclectic menu items including “Armadillo Eggs” (don’t worry, it is really just bacon wrapped cheese and chicken tenders!) and “Gator Fingers”. 

Just a couple of miles from the silos sits Chip and Joanna’s signature restaurant – the Magnolia Table. It is always in high demand, so it is recommended to reserve a table beforehand to avoid potential long wait times. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and it really is a must-do on anyone’s visit to Waco. The food and service is exceptional, and in true Magnolia style, the interior space is eloquently decorated. 

Located close to Baylor University and next door to Common Grounds; this ice cream shop features an extensive flavour menu with nothing short of delectable. Everything is made inhouse, all of the ingredients are locally sourced and with flavours such as Brown Butter & Texas Pecan and dairy free Coconut Stracciatella  you are sure to find a new favourite!

Bring your appetite to this authentic Italian restaurant right in the heart of town; specialising in pizza and pasta, you will not be disappointed with the extensive menu choices they have to offer. 

This hidden gem of a bakery is well known for its cinnamon rolls; and for good reason! Far before the Magnolia empire took off, Joanna Gaines used to purchase dozens of these luscious rolls for her bed and breakfast guests. Be sure to try the raspberry crumble bars too, they are to die for! 

This small and cozy bar has a relaxed and fun atmosphere, and forever a favourite with the locals. With an extensive range of liquors available, you will be sure to find your tipple of choice! Literary fans will appreciate the bar which is covered in one cent coins and set in epoxy, a subtle reference to the ‘Tale of the Last One Cent Coin’ by which on returning home to find his coveted boxing room transformed into a pool, Hemingway reportedly threw a one cent coin at his wife and exclaimed, “You’ve spent all but my last penny, so you might as well have that!”. The coin landed on the floor, and has since been preserved in plastic and is still lying there today. 

With a prime location right on Austin Ave, this contemporary bar offers an eclectic range of fancy cocktails, along with an extensive wine list and delectable selection of bar bites from Nancy’s Cocina. Bring your phone as the interior is definitely worthy of a few Instagram shots! 

Not only does this establishment offer two of my favourite things – coffee and cocktails, but it features a fabulous rooftop patio and one of Blek Le Rat’s signature stencils right outside! Featuring a coffee bistro at the front, and a cocktail bar at the back, you are sure to find a drink for every occasion! 

Following the same trend as Dichotomy (above) is Pinewood which offers bespoke homebrewed coffee and a selection of craft drinks at the adjacent public house. 

Another Instagram worthy establishment, One Day boasts an extensive cocktail menu featuring an abundance of some old classics while offering some unique noteworthy drinks. 

In my opinion, one of Waco’s best hidden gems, this members only club really is in a league of its own. It is located under the studio of Culture 7Twelve in Downtown Waco and while you can purchase day passes, the best value can be found with one of the monthly memberships which includes the use of a private locker for you to house your personal alcohol selection. Memberships include invitations to events and the use of the social club during the evenings Thursday through Sunday. See also 5 Weird and Wonderful Things To Do in Waco, Tx.

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