Less than 100 miles from the Dallas-Fort Worth area you’ll find a city along the banks of the Brazos River that’s brimming with nature, culture and historic discoveries. If you’ve always thought Waco was just a small college town, then you’re in for a surprise when you find out about its standout attractions. So gather up your family or some friends and hit the road for a wondrous Waco weekend.
Waco is a straight shot out I-35 south, taking less than a two hour drive — even with a quick kolache stop at the famous Czech Stop And Little Czech Bakery right off the highway in the town of West.
Stop Along the Way…
Czech Stop and Little Czech Bakery
105 N. College St.
West, TX 76691
(254) 826-4161 deli
(254) 826-5316 bakery
Boasting 17 years of being one of the most fun gas stations around, Czech Heritage promises a scrumptious sandwich, but it’s the kolache that makes this place awesome. Count on options including ham, sausage and fruit. Just off of I-35, this fun shop also plays host to delicious baked goods from a traditional Czech bakery.
Waco Mammoth Site
6220 Steinbeck Bend Road
Waco, TX 76708
Price: $7 adults/$5 children ages 4 to 12/free 3 and younger
A true paleontological adventure awaits in Waco. Two young men looking for arrowheads back in 1978 certainly didn’t see that adventure coming when they stumbled across 68,000-year-old mammoth bones. Ever since that discovery, Baylor University’s Strecker Museum staff crew have been carefully excavating the site, uncovering 22 mammoth remains in what may be the largest mass grave of Columbian mammoths in the world. Though unbeknownst to many, the site was open to the public in 2009 and soon will become listed as a national monument. Take a tour of the enclosed, air-conditioned dig shelter via the suspended walkway, which provides an overhead view that’s straight from the ice age.
Mayborn Museum Complex
1300 S. University Parks Dr.
Waco, TX 76708
Price: $6 adult/$4 children
Located at Baylor University, this 142,000-square-foot facility is the largest museum complex in the region, offering interactive exhibits and activities for the entire family. Tour the limestone cave and other walk-through dioramas, visit the scientific explorations stations, then spend some hands-on time in the 16 themed discovery rooms spaced out over two levels. When you’re finished inside, head out back to the 13-acre village right out of the 1890s, featuring 15 wooden buildings filled with enough artifacts to excite parents as much as it does the kids.
Lake Waco Wetlands
1752 Eichelberger Crossing Road
Waco, TX 76633
Being located along lakes and rivers provides Waco with unique natural attractions including a 180-acre wetland along the Bosque River. This intricate ecosystem is a nature lover’s dream, filled with a variety of plants, insects and wildlife including deer, egrets, herons and beavers. There are 2.6 miles of trails and walkways around the area, with three elevated observation platforms for bird watching. The Nature Center offers a host of information including interactive displays and tours. If you like to party with stars, come out for the monthly star gazing events hosted by the Central Texas Astronomical Society.
Dr. Pepper Museum
300 S. 5th Street
Waco, TX 76701
Price: $8 adults/$4 children
It’s not the Smithsonian or even a close runner up, but this small museum pays homage to America’s oldest soft drink, developed by a Waco pharmacist in 1885. Housed in the original manufacturing plant, the museum covers three floors and includes one of the largest soft drink memorabilia collections in the world. Along with lots of nostalgia, there’s a gift shop selling the original cane sugar Dr. Pepper, plus an old-fashioned soda fountain churning it out on tap, in addition to the usual ice cream concoctions.
Waco, TX 76706
For more than 75 years, this famed dining spot has been serving up great food, huge drinks and good times to locals and travelers alike. A perfect candidate for the show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” this comfort-food joint features such hits as fried pickles, chicken fried steak and juicy burgers that keep the crowds continuously coming back for more. If you make it to a Baylor game, don’t miss out on George’s Big O for a cold one during the game.
The Cotton Palace Bed and Breakfast
1910 Austin Ave.
Waco, TX 76701
Price: from $110
This lovely, 1910 arts and crafts-style home is located on Waco’s most beautiful street near the city center, offering six rooms decked out in antiques, plus a guest house in back. All of the rooms are furnished with luxurious bed linens, robes, handmade soaps and some have jetted tubs. Dutch and Betty Schroeder will make families, friends or couples feel right at home with their gourmet breakfasts, baked goodies and charming southern hospitality.
Related: Best Escapes From Dallas/Fort Worth
With a passion for adventure, Ilene Jacobs has spent 25 years traveling around the globe. A native of Dallas,Texas, she has also lived in Europe studying and working in marketing and tourism. Ilene is constantly researching interesting places to visit and enjoys sharing her findings with her readers. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.