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Things To Do In Waco

By: jwilder

waco attractions downtown
Austin Avenue and the famous ALICO building.

If you are an auto enthusiast, then this Things to do in Waco article is crafted especially for you.

Listed below is a outline of the attractions in this article.

  • Take a Drive on Austin Avenue
  • Vintage Gulf Service Station
  • Visit the Dr. Pepper Museum
  • Waco Suspension Bridge
  • Magnolia Market at the Silos
  • Eat at Magnolia Table
  • Jake's Texas Tea House
  • Kim's Diner
  • Health Camp
  • More Waco Restaurants and Attractions

Take a Drive on Austin Avenue

If you have never been to Waco before then I would recommend starting with a cruise down Austin Avenue.

waco attractions Coca Cola Bottling Plant
Long closed Coca Cola Bottling Plant on Austin Avenue.

Austin Avenue is a great street for viewing many of the beautiful old Waco buildings, such as the Art Deco Coca Cola Bottling Plant shown above.

As you get closer to the downtown area, you will find the famous Hippodrome Theater, Jake's Texas Tea House, antique stores, restaurants and coffee shops on Austin Avenue.

I would recommend starting at 38th street and taking a leisurely drive all the way to 3rd street, which ends at the beautiful Waco City Hall building.

Make sure to pay attention as you approach 33rd street you will see the castle house. The castle house has a historical marker so you have a valid excuse to pull over. The house was purchased by Chip and Joanna Gaines in 2019. They have been quiet about their plans for the house, but it could be simply to secure its future.

The Austin Avenue drive could easily take you all day, and maybe even to the next day, depending on how much you get out and check out the various shops and restaurants.

Several of the attractions listed in this article are on, or near, Austin Avenue. You might want to keep this in mind when planning your route.

The second half of the cruise is to explore Elm Avenue.

I would recommend taking Washing Ave. across the beautiful Brazos river truss bridge. After crossing the river, the road turns in to Elm Avenue. This short trip might take only 10 or 15 minutes. There's not much to do on this little strip of road, but you'll get a more complete view of the old downtown area.

If you go as far as Rotan St., you will be rewarded with an old relic of a gas station.

Vintage Gulf Service Station

Waco Attractions 1929 Gulf Service Station
Vintage Gulf Service Station on Washington Avenue.

This vintage Gulf service station service station was restored by two car enthusiast brothers, Gary and Randy Balusek. The restoration was finished around October 2014.

The Baluseks restored the building mainly to provide a place to work on their own cars.

Although the building looks like a museum, it is privately owned and as far as we know, tours are not available.

You might want to make a note of the 1424 Bistro restaurant right across the street, if you're looking for dining options during your stay.

Location

The restored Gulf service station is one block off of Austin Avenue. This attraction could easily be incorporated in to your Austin Avenue drive.

The Gulf Service Station is located on the northwest corner of Washington Ave. and N. 15th St.

Gulf Service Station
1425 Washington Ave., Waco, Texas

Visit the Dr. Pepper Museum

Waco Attractions Dr Pepper Museum
Dr Pepper Museum.

"The Dr Pepper Museum was founded in 1988 to educate and entertain the general public through the collection, preservation, interpretation, and exhibition of objects relevant to the history of the soft drink industry, and through that example, the free enterprise economic system. The Dr Pepper Museum & Free Enterprise Institute is a private, non-profit organization governed by a Board of Directors elected by its membership. The Museum and Free Enterprise Institute opened to the public in May 1991 and has hosted over 1,200,000 visitors."

Here are a few quick facts taken from their website:

  • Dr Pepper Company donated the historic building to the non-profit organization in 1988.
  • The Museum is housed in the 1906 Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling Company building.
  • The 100 year-old building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the "Home of Dr Pepper."
  • The Museum receives the support of Dr Pepper Snapple Group and its affiliated bottlers but is not owned or operated by them.
  • The Museum is also home to the W. W. Clements Free Enterprise Institute. The Institute was created in 1997 for the purpose of educating school children as well as adults about the economic system that underlies American life.

And in case you didn't know, Big Red™ was also invented in Waco in 1937.

Location

The museum is only two blocks east of Austin Avenue, at S 5th Street and Mary Avenue.

Dr Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute
300 South 5th Street, Waco, TX 76701
254-757-1025
drpeppermuseum.com

Waco Suspension Bridge

Waco Attractions Suspension Bridge
Waco Suspension Bridge

The Waco Suspension Bridge is an attractive structure built in 1870. The focal point of this bridge is definitely on the south side of the river. At the entrance of the bridge there are several sculptures depicting cowboys guiding a herd of cattle onto the bridge.

The bridge is also beautifully lit in the evenings.

The most fascinating thing about this bridge is the miracle of its construction. You can read more about the suspension bridge here (and learn about a secret Baylor tradition).

Location

The Waco Suspension Bridge is very close to Austin Avenue and 3rd Street.

Waco Suspension Bridge
N. University Parks Drive, between Washington Avenue and Franklin Avenue.

Magnolia Market at the Silos

Waco Attractions Silos Magnolia
Magnolia Market at the Silos

Ok. Yes, I am a fan of Fixer Upper! So who could go to Waco without visiting the Magnolia Market at the Silos?

First impression. Last impression. The Magnolia Market is impressive!

First of all, the white buildings with black accents, the astroturf and the clearly designed spaces give you a sense of order. The place is super clean. Everything is "designed", right down to the electrical conduit on the walls (In the lower area inside the Magnolia building, look up and see if you can find what I'm talking about).

The employees were courteous, calm and well trained, even with the crowds and lines.

In the grass (turf) play area, they have swings, beanbag chairs, beanbag toss equipment you can set up where you like. They also have music at just the right volume, to round out the relaxed and peaceful experience.

Whether you like their "Fixer Upper" show or not, these guys are a class act when it comes to business.

Maybe we can get Chip interested in hosting a car night at the Silos! Who knows?

Location

Magnolia Market at the Silos
601 Webster Ave, Waco, TX 76706
magnoliamarket.com/silos/

Magnolia Table

Waco Attractions Elite Cafe
We'll let you know when breakfast is ready. -Chip. This photo was taken in April 2017 while interior construction was in progress.

Chip and Joanna Gaines, of Fixer Upper fame, purchased the Elite Cafe property in 2017. They did a full remodel on the building, and now Waco, and Chip, have an amazing breakfast joint six days a week.

Waco Attractions Elite Cafe 1950s
Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University.

The original Elite Café goes back to 1919. It was located at 608 Austin Avenue. It was owned by four brothers that immigrated to America from Sparta, Greece. In 1941 they opened a second location on the traffic circle, which was just outside of town at the time. The restaurant did well until experiencing financial difficulties in the 1980s. The brothers decided to sell the restaurant in 1986. It changed hands a few times, but continued to struggle. Chip and Joanna Gaines, purchased the Elite Cafe property in 2017. The new Magnolia Table opened in February 2018.

The original Elite Cafe has been a Waco landmark for many decades, and now Chip and Joanna are continuing the legacy.

Location

Magnolia Table is on the east side to IH 35, on the Waco traffic circle. Health Camp is also on the traffic circle.

Magnolia Table
2132 S Valley Mills Dr, Waco, TX 76706

Eat at Jake's Texas Tea House

Waco Attractions Jake's Texas Tea House
Jake's Texas Tea House

Jake's Texas Tea House has a vintage 1950s gas station theme. Even if they just sold ham and cheese sandwiches I would go here on a regular basis.

By the way, the term "Texas Tea" refers to crude oil.

Below is the description from their website.

"Texas home cooking worth leaving home for! Our desserts are baked fresh daily and vary from day to day. We have a daily lunch special during the week and amazing southern style, made from "scratch" meals. Saturday dinner is always an event! 1st Saturday of every month we have Elvis in the building and the 2nd Saturday of every month we have Marilyn putting on a wonderful show, the other Saturdays of the month we have Andy Jane or other musicians. We serve many TX crafted beers as well."

Jake's is located in the old Kress building in downtown Waco.

The Kress chain was known for the architecture of its buildings. "Samuel H. Kress... envisioned his stores as works of public art that would contribute to the cityscape." A number of former Kress stores are recognized as architectural landmarks and many are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. -Wikipedia

Location

Jake's Texas Tea House
613 Austin Ave, Waco, TX 76701
www.facebook.com/JakesTexasTeaHouse

Kim's Diner

Waco Attractions Kims Hanburgers
Kim's Diner

American food in a 1950s style diner.

They have a car night from 6-9 pm and every third Sat of every month, weather permitting.

Kim’s Diner
2600 Waco Drive, Waco, TX
www.facebook.com/Kims-Diner-945185355547430/

Health Camp

Waco Attractions Health Camp
Health Camp

Burgers and shakes since 1948! Health camp, is a Waco attraction, mainly because it has survived all these years! It's also on the infamous Waco traffic circle!

The origin of the name "Health Camp" is as confounding as the name itself. According to an old newspaper article, the owner had a friend in the egg business. He stamped each egg with the words "Health Camp". So, for no good reason, he decided to use the name for his business.

For a souvenir, you can pick up a "I survived the traffic circle" t-shirt.

Location

Health Camp and Magnolia Table are on the Waco traffic circle.

Health Camp
2601 Circle Road, Waco TX 76706
www.health-camp-waco.com/

More Waco Restaurants and Attractions

Here are a few more Waco attractions and restaurants that we have been to or might be interested in checking out.

Cricket's Draft House and Grill

When many restaurants are closed, Cricket's is the go to location for food, drink and rest.

Good burgers, fish and chips, and 100+ beers on tap!

Cricket's Draft House and Grill
Open 7 days a week 11 AM to 2 AM.
221 Mary Ave, Waco, TX 76701
www.cricketsgrill.com

Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum

"In 1964 the Texas Department of Public Safety chartered the City of Waco, Texas, to construct and operate the official museum of the Texas Rangers. In return, the City of Waco agreed to commit 32 acres (130,000 m2) for a building site, provide an ongoing annual operating subsidy, and build and sustain a headquarters for Texas Rangers Company "F". More than three million persons have visited the historical center since it opened in 1968."

"The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum is supported by the city of Waco. The costs are defrayed by admission fees, proceeds from art shows, and private contributions. A large part of the museum collection has been furnished from the private collection of the curator, Gaines de Graffenried of Waco."

Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum
100 Texas Ranger Trail, Waco, TX 76706
www.texasranger.org

Heart O' Texas Speedway

Heart O' Texas Speedway is a 1/4 mi oval dirt track located 7 miles N of Waco on I-35. The speedway races multiple classes every Friday night March-Sept!

Heart O' Texas Speedway
784 N. McLennan Drive, Elm Mott, Texas 76640
www.facebook.com/Hotspeedway

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