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Exploring Waco Texas

Waco History

Before the Texas settlers came, Tonkawa, Tawakoni, Commanche, Cherokee, and Waco Indians roamed the land hunting, gathering, and warring. By the end of the 18th century only the Waco Indians remained. In 1837, the Texas Rangers established Fort Parker as a temporary outpost to protect the early settlers.

Waco was incorporated in 1857 and when the Waco Suspension Bridge was built in 1870 it was the longest single-span bridge west of the Mississippi and provided the only pedestrian and wagon span across the Brazos River. Waco began to grow when a Waco pharmacist first started making Dr. Pepper in 1885, when Baylor University moved to Waco in 1886, and when Waco claimed to be the largest inland cotton market in the world.

Waco gained attention when:

  • Amicable Life Insurance built the ta
    llest building west of the Mississippi in 1911
  • one of the deadliest tornadoes in Texas history struck in 1953 killing 114 people
  • the Waco Mammoth site was discovered and became one of the most important palentological finds in the world, resulting in the skeletal remains of 23 mammals thus far
  • when the siege of the Branch Davidian compound in 1993 ended in fire and took the lives of most of the adults and children living within the commune
  • Baylor joined the Big 12 Conference in 1996
  • President Bush's purchase of his 1600 acre Crawford ranch and 4000 square foot house and cottage in 1999 when he was still the governor of Texas

Waco was once a crucial gateway to settlers headed to the Texas frontier and remains a crossroads for people from around the globe seeking to discover the heart and soul of the Lone Star State. In 1837 the Texas Rangers established Ft. Fisher as a temporary outpost to protect the early frontier settlers. The town of Waco was incorporated in 1857 and Baylor University moved to Waco from Independence.

Waco Outdoor Activities

We typically viewed Waco from I-35 on our way to or from Austin and Dallas and all we knew was it was a good place to stop for fast food and gas. When we spent some time in Waco, we were pleasantly surprised with all the fun things to see and do - here you will find a list of sites and attractions.

Waco offers some fun outdoor activities, here is a list of some things to do:

  • play tennis at Waco Regional Tennis & Fitness Center (254 753-7675) and then indulge in a private or couples massage at La Bella Visage Waco trail along the Brazos
  • launch or rent a kayak or canoe and explore the Brazos or Bosque River
  • take a fun drive along Highway 6 to the town of Valley Mills, then south of Valley Mills on FM 317 to Middle Bosque Road as it winds and twists past cliffs, through woods, past President Bush's Prairie Chapel Ranch and ends at Canaan Church Road; head two more miles and you'll pass the entrance to the Bush ranch, then turn right on Coryell City Road to see the very quaint Canaan Baptist Church
  • enjoy Cameron Park which is set in the heart of Waco with a series of bluffs and gullies along the Brazos and Bosque Rivers. The Park has over 400 acres of varied terrain (dense foliage, high overlooks, lush vegetation, towering limestone cliffs, river bottom) and some incredible views. If you like to bike, there are nearly 20 miles of renowned mountain biking trails which will suite the casual bikers and kids or challenge the mountain bike extremists (click here for a trail map of Cameron Park). Some other things to do in Cameron Park include:
    • hike, walk, or jog along the river and some of the trails
    • enjoy a picnic lunch or outdoor BBQ at any of the many picnic spots within Cameron Park
    • play 18 holes of disc golf along the river, up and down the hills, and through the trees
    • challenge someone to a game of horseshoes at Jimmy Bryant Horseshoe Complex
Here are some other things to do in Waco:

  • ride the Waco Transit (an old trolley car) around townCottonwood Golf Course
  • explore the Baylor University campus
  • go back in time and catch a flick at the Last Drive-in Picture Show in Gatesville which opened in 1950
  • bike, walk, or stroll across the Waco Suspension Bridge and view the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial as you enjoy the paved and level River Walk loop
  • enjoy some food, drinks, or music on the Dock's Riverfront deck overlooking the Brazos River
  • boat, fish, or take a dip in Lake Waco
  • see the Waco Golf Map to find some good golf courses and read the Texas Outside Golf Course Reviews
  • cruise the river on the Spirit of the Rivers' genuine sternwheel paddleboat
  • beat the heat at the Waco Water Park which has a 22 foot water slide, current channel, tumbling water buckets and zero depth pool

Where to Stay, Eat, and Party In Waco

  • Camp at I-35 RV Park & Resort which is a very clean RV park with large sites, pool, and cafe just north of Waco or the Corp of Engineers park on Lake Waco
  • stay at the Waco Hilton or Marriott Courtyard in downtown Waco or better yet stay at  just east of Waco - a very special place, read the Texas Outside
  • enjoy a good diner and drinks on the the Dock's River Front deck over looking the Brazos River - occasionally you'll hear some good music Moon River Ranchon the deck and always enjoy a great sunset
  • head over to River Square Center for shops and restaurants - Crickets Grill and Drafthouse is a fun bar in River Square Center with food, pool tables, darts, shuffleboard, and 100 draft beers on tap and nightlife Wild West
  • The Wild West Club, which opened in February 2007, is Waco's newest hot spot. Located next to the River Square Center in downtown Waco, Wild West's 12,000 square feet of space and dance floor (4000 square feet) is the place to boot- scoot-boogie, party, and socialize! There are four full-service service bars, a separate martine bar, and pools tables. And best of all, when we visited during the week, the cover was $3 for men, women were free, and cold long neck beer was only $2 all night - when was the last time you paid two bucks for a cold beer? The DJ kept the crowd going and Wild West Club will soon have monthly live performances from Texas music artists like Cory Morrow, Aaron Watson, Eli Young Band, Wade Bowen, and more

Waco Events

  • check with the Waco Visitors Bureau
  • Power Boat Racing on the Brazos River
  • check out what's happening at the Bosque River Stage which hosts a variety of musical and theatrical events in a beautiful, modern amphitheater on the banks of the Bosque River

Waco Tourist Attractions Attractions

  • Waco Hippodrome Theater was built in 1914 and an artistic architectural treasure hosting Broadway musicals, dance performances, and local productions
  • Baylor University Theatre or Waco Civic Theatre for productions and a variety of special events
  • Mayborn Museum Complex celebrates the natural science and cultural history of Central Texas with numerous vibrant exhibits and compelling hands-on activities for the whole family to enjoy, including a very well done children's discovery hall. consists of a number of very well done and interesting exhibits including a traveling exhibit. Outside the museum is the Governor Bill and Vara Daniel Historic Village which is an agricultural village from around 1890
  • Dr Pepper Museum is home to the oldest major soft drink in America and includes an Old Corner Drug Store, bottling equipment, interior artesian well, and 25 years of Dr Pepper commercials
  • Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum is dedicated to the history and lore of the legendary Texas Rangers since 1823 and has exhibits, 12,000 artifacts, and an interesting movie about the Texas Rangers
  • learn about Texas athletes who have distinguished themselves both on and off the field at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame
  • tour the historical houses around the downtown area
  • if you like the British poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, then check out the Armstrong Browning Library which is an architectural masterpiece with over 602 stained glass windows depicting themes from the Brownings' poetry and the world's largest collection of Browning's rare books Cameron Park Zoo lion
  • Cameron Park Zoo is an outstanding 52 acre zoo with winding paths that lead to very well done exhibits (freshwater aquarium with paddlefish, reptiles, and amphibians; night building with owls, bats, raccoons, and opossums; shipwrecked Spanish galleon with salt water aquariums; or the World of Reptiles); Seven Cities of Gold including prairies, savannah, east Texas piney woods, salt mars, Edwards Plateau, Cap Rock, and Gulf Coast; and lots of animals
  • Red Men Museum & Library contains books and artifacts pertaining to the Improved Order of Red Men and Degree of Pocahontas (dedicated fraternal organizations that believe in freedom, friendship, charity, and the American Way of Life) plus some American world history
  • Lake Waco Wetlands, a 180 acre thriving ecosystem along the shores of the North Bosque River, is home to scores of birds, foxes, deer, and a variety of plants
  • Waco Mammoth Site is a wooded, 105 acres along the Bosque River. The 1st phase of this archeological attraction exhibits the remains of six prehistoric mammoths. There is also a visitors center, shaded park, a 8,350 square foot dig shelter. This shelter includes explanatory displays, viewing platforms and a crosswalk that looks directly into the dig.
  • for the kids visit the spray parks in most of the Waco City Parks, Lions Park (miniature golf, go-kars, bumper boats, and a train ride), Baylor University Bear Plaza, the Cameron Zoo, and the discovery rooms at the Mayborn Museum

Nearby Waco Things To Do

  • Branch Dividian Complex
  • George Bush Ranch in Crawford
  • Texas Motor Speedway
  • Flatrock on Lake Waco for some cliff diving, swimming, and fishing

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