48 Kid-Friendly Hours in Waco, Texas

We were planning on a quiet Winter break at home but then my youngest one kept repeating “Mommy, I’m so excited about vacation!” Well, what could we do? When the The Baby wants something, he gets it! We needed an interesting destination that was within a few hours’ drive, somewhere we haven’t gone before, and someplace that would not involve loads of money. Waco, Texas it is! {The loads of money part went out the window the minute I stepped foot into Waco’s largest attraction, the Magnolia Market Silos. But two out of three isn’t bad, right?}

How to get there :: Waco is about a 3-hour drive northwest of central Houston. There is a Buc-ee’s on the way though it’s located just an hour outside of Houston. As all Texans know though, if you’re going to make a stop, Buc-ee’s super clean bathrooms is the only place to “go”.

Where to stay with kids :: There are hotel options in the area, but we ended up staying at a renovated house right around the corner from the Silos. The owners are painstakingly restoring the entire house and property into a charming little inn. Barn doors, original shiplap, and all the cozy details gave it a very “Fixer Upper” vibe. We rented two rooms which gave our family of five more space, and the cost was not much more than the price of one hotel room. 48 Kid-Friendly Hours in Waco, Texas | Houston Moms Blog

What to do with kids ::
1) Dr. Pepper Museum – The small three-story museum building next to the original bottling plant houses old Dr. Pepper artifacts. There were some interactive exhibits but the younger ones were not interested in reading captions. If it weren’t for the Liquid Lab Demo we would have zoomed through within 30 minutes. We sat through a fun 20-minute demonstration where my husband volunteered for a Smell Test. {Fun fact: Most of the sweetness you think you are tasting is actually from the aroma the food emits!}  The best part of the tour, according to my daughter, is the ice cream. The Soda Shop serves fountain drinks, floats, and ice cream. Check for discounts on entry fees through Groupon. The ticket packages on Groupon includes free fountain drinks.

2) Magnolia Market Silos — Joanna and Chip Gaines’ “Fixer Upper” show has made this place a premier Waco destination. The gorgeous complex includes a home goods store, food truck area, garden, big lawn with games, a bakery, and a restaurant.  The home goods store is not for the faint of heart though; a line forms outside the building before it opens. 48 Kid-Friendly Hours in Waco, Texas | Houston Moms BlogMy husband took the kids to the big lawn while I shopped in the crowded store. My kids kicked a ball around, played cornhole, and chased each other until they were out of breath before they came looking for me.

3) Waco Mammoth National Monument– Although a national park, thankfully it remained open during the government shutdown due to its partnership with the City of Waco. The centerpiece of the park is the Dig Shelter housing real Columbian Mammoths fossils found on that site. We went on a 45-minute guided tour that took us through a short, easy trail and ended at the Dig Shelter where you can view actual fossils in their original position in the bone beds. You can walk their trails for free, but the tour and entry into the Dig Shelter requires tickets. There is a small covered sand pit near the gift shop where my 4-year old enjoyed digging for fossils while we waited for the tour to start.48 Kid-Friendly Hours in Waco, Texas | Houston Moms Blog

4) Cameron Park and Jacob’s Ladder — Cameron Park’s 400 acres sits along the Brazos River and includes trails, playgrounds, look-out points, sprawling picnic areas, and more. My kids loved climbing the 88 steep steps of Jacob’s Ladder. Once we got to the top, we were pleasantly surprised by a big open space and playground equipment challenging enough for my 9-year old. We opted not to visit the Cameron Zoo but if we did, we would have used our reciprocal membership discount with the Houston Zoo.48 Kid-Friendly Hours in Waco, Texas | Houston Moms Blog

5) Baylor University Bear Habitat- We ventured onto the quiet campus and visited their bear habitat. It is tiny, but coupled with a walk nearby it was just enough activity to make it worth getting out of the car.

6) The Silo District Downtown Trolley- takes you on a 15-20 minute ride. We caught it outside Magnolia and looked out the windows at downtown Waco. Blink and you’ll miss it though!

Where to Eat::
1) Twisted Root Burger—A regional favorite, their burgers and salad hit the spot after a day of romping around Waco. Vintage MTV music videos and a football game were playing on two big screens while we ate. If my kids were teens, they would have been mortified by my bopping but I couldn’t help it:: 80’s music!

2) Cajun Craft—We ordered at the window and took our food back to the house to eat. Locally owned, their versions of fried okra, fried chicken, green beans and red beans and rice were delicious and devoured by all.

3) Silos Baking Company—The line here can wind around the block if you are not there at opening time. We got our sugar rush first thing in the morning with an array of cupcakes, cookies, and muffins. Almost all the offerings are sweet so if you’re looking for something savory, you can hit one of the food trucks there instead.

4) Magnolia Table Food Truck— We ordered breakfast tacos with bacon, egg, and cheese. They came wrapped in aluminum foil which made it easy to handle, especially for kids. {The Magnolia Table Restaurant is popular but we passed—prices are not as friendly and waiting times can be upwards of 2 hours!}

I’m glad we made the effort for this short, fun trip to Waco. I guess there is a scenario where letting a 4-year old dictate things turn out very well!


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Vicky grew up in Miami, graduated from Boston University, and moved to New York City to work in advertising. She and her husband then had a marvelous adventure abroad, which included the birth of their older son. After almost four years in Beijing, they headed to her husband's hometown of Houston. Their daughter made her debut a few months later and their younger son joined the ranks several years after that. Vicky loves family life and all the adventures, laughs, and lessons that come with it. Though busy raising three kids, she tries to sneak time to tend to her tiny urban garden and come up with ideas to continually make her home a haven. Vicky has been slightly obsessed with raising monarch butterflies in recent years. She’s a writer and communications consultant who dreams of days where she can simply sit by the pool reading a book and drinking lemonade.

3 COMMENTS

    • Don’t let that lose you Jen! There was so much more to this article than just the Dr Pepper museum… you might want to give the article another look! There’s still plenty to do if you want to skip the DPM. I’d never imagined I could make a family getaway out of Waco until I read it. 🙂

      Also… on the pro side for sugar and harsh chemicals – my granny turned 94 years old – just two days ago – and I am thoroughly convinced it is due to the fact that 65% of her diet is Coca Cola. 😀

      Happy Monday!

    • Hi Jen–Thanks for the feedback. I definitely share your concerns about the sugar and chemicals. We actually do not drink soda in our family either but I thought it was fun for us to learn about local history and manufacturing methods in general. (I found myself engrossed in captions about “thief bottles” and the shenanigans of competing manufacturers. Never know what you’ll find at museums!)

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