“I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met.” –Unknown
There was probably a time when Waco, Texas was not a tourist destination. But then, along came Chip & Joanna Gaines and their HGTV show, Fixer Upper! It seems like everything they touch turns to gold and we all want to see and experience the positive and beautiful changes that Waco has experienced. The Gaines and their show have certainly put Waco on the map for many of us.
Of course, like so many, I am a fan of all things Magnolia so we planned a trip to Waco. With some research, we had a wonderful trip in and around Waco and this is how we planned our trip. I hope that what we learned can help you to plan an equally memorable trip to Waco.
The best time of year and the best day of the week to visit the Magnolia Silos
Weather and crowds are always the biggest considerations for us as we plan any of our trips. This was especially true as we planned to experience Waco. From our research, we saw that many recommendations indicated that crowds were smaller in the fall so we planned our trip for September. The summer tourist rush had subsided and the kids were back in school and it is generally a time of year that we prefer to travel anyway. In addition, the oppressive summer heat of Texas had backed off and while it was warm, it was not uncomfortable as we explored.
We also learned that the day of the week played a role in crowds as well. We planned to visit Magnolia Table and the Magnolia Silos on a Monday morning and had no crowds at all. If you choose to go on a Monday, be mindful that because of smaller crowds, some businesses in downtown Waco are closed on Mondays so be sure to check the hours for any peripheral business you would like to visit in the downtown area to be sure they are open.
TIP: when considering the time of year to visit the Magnolia Silos, be sure to check their website for the events that they host like Silobration or the Silo District Marathon. These are busy times with big crowds and while the events look like tons of fun, hotels, parking, and getting onto the Magnolia Silos campus will take some patience. The Magnolia Silos is a grown up Wonderland, family playground, and foodie delight all wrapped up in one place so there are likely to be lots of people when you visit. Our Monday in September was perfect!
Stay in a “Fixer Upper”
Where we chose to stay was frankly, the part of our trip that I looked forward to the most. For the same price as a hotel, we opted to stay in an Airbnb. And not just any Airbnb! We stayed in one of the houses that Chip & Joanna remodeled on their show. We stayed in the house that appeared in Season 3, episode 2, “The Brick House.” This was my favorite house that Chip & Joanna had on their show. I loved it! We were able to get some groceries and make a few of our own meals so we didn’t have to eat out for every meal. It turned out to be a quiet, comfortable place to stay after a fun day of touring that was centrally located to everything we wanted to do. Staying there instead of a hotel truly enriched the trip and reinforced why were in Waco. See an Airbnb link below for details on how to rent the house or check out the Magnolia blog to see the house before and after: https://magnolia.com/our-show/episode-02-brick-house/
Our house was clean, cozy, and just as cute as it was the day it was revealed on the show after it’s remodel. In fact, right next door was another Fixer Upper home, “The Giraffe House.” For those of you who have used Airbnb before, our house has a “Superhost” status and our host was fabulous at making us comfortable, checking on us before, during, and after our stay and she was available if we needed help.
Staying in a Fixer Upper home is easy. A LOT of them are now rentals so be sure to check Airbnb for your favorite Fixer Upper home if you’d like to truly have a Fixer Upper experience while you are in Waco.
Our trip plan
In my research, I noticed that a majority of those who head for Magnolia are “Girl’s trips” that look like lots of fun. My Mother in Love joined us for the week and we met her in Dallas and headed to Waco. My Husband is the best! He drove his Mother and me anywhere we wanted to go and waited patiently while we shopped. He’s a good sport! He had some fun too!
We used Waco as home base and midpoint for everything we wanted to do in the time we had. Below was a rough plan of our trip:
Day 1; flew into Dallas and drove to Waco.
Waco is about an hour and a half from Dallas so coordinating flights and meeting Rose Mary in Dallas worked well. Once in Waco, we found our home for the week, grabbed some groceries, and headed out for some Tex-Mex before calling it a day.
Day 2: Our day dedicated to Waco
Breakfast: In keeping to the all things Magnolia, we started with breakfast at Magnolia Table. The restaurant is known for big crowds so we were there not too long after the doors opened at 8am and we were seated right away. They only serve breakfast, 8am-3pm, Monday through Saturday. For me, the highlight was the delicate and complex Lemon Lavender Donut Holes. Don’t wrinkle your nose! (I know what you’re thinking because I thought it too). They did not taste of potpourri or soap at all. They are lemon, floral, and sweet all at once. Try them! You won’t be sorry!
Magnolia Market Silos & Waco Tours: After breakfast, we headed for the Silos to shop and enjoy the grounds of Magnolia Market Silos. The Silos grounds are set up to be very family oriented and you can play lawn games in the green space, enjoy the gardens, grab a meal or a sweet treat, people watch, and shop to your heart’s content.
Around 11am, we joined a group for a wonderful tour of Waco with Waco Tours. The tour included stops by several of the actual houses that were renovated on Fixer Upper, we stopped at Harp Design Co., owned by Clint Harp who played an integral part on Fixer Upper, stopped at Heritage Creamery for a taste of the most delicious ice cream on the planet, had coffee at Common Grounds, stopped by the Dr. Pepper Museum, visited the campus of Baylor University, and saw sights in and around Cameron Park. We also learned a lot about the history of Waco and it’s people from our knowledgeable guides. It was a great way to see Waco with actual locals who love their home town and we would highly recommend that you consider a tour with them early in your trip so you can go back to the places they point out during your stay. Our tour enhanced our time in Waco and helped us get our bearings. They also offer river boat tours on the Brazos River that we would’ve taken if we’d had more time. The staff is tremendously helpful and make you feel like family.
Lunch: After our tour, we went back to the Magnolia Silos to have lunch. On their campus, you can choose from any number of food trucks for a quick bite to eat. For us, that was the humble Grilled Cheese at the Cheddar Box Food Truck. Crunchy and cheesy, it met our expectations for one of our favorite comfort foods and we paired our sandwiches with Iced tea from another food truck, Alabama Sweet Tea, which was served ice cold in a reusable mason jar. Very Southern!
Before leaving the Silos for the day, we felt compelled to grab treats to take home from the Magnolia Bakery. Serving cupcakes, cookies, and cinnamon rolls…we wanted them ALL but we took home enough to keep our sweet tooth satisfied for our stay!
Before calling it a day, we headed back to Harp Designs Co. to shop around.
Day 3: San Antonio
Waco is 2 hours and 40 minutes from San Antonio. We made the day of it, taking a boat tour of the River Walk and had lunch in a Tex-Mex restaurant overlooking the water. After lunch, we had a short walk to the Alamo. I have never seen it so we toured the inside, trying to imagine what happened there so many years ago when today, the Alamo is eclipsed by the skyscrapers of San Antonio.
When we got back to Waco, we visited Waco Suspension Bridge.
Day 4: Dallas
On day 4, we made a quick trip to Dallas to visit the George W. Bush Presidential Center. I love history and this is my third Presidential Library. President Bush’s Library is very interactive and unlike the other Presidential Libraries I have visited before. The exhibits start, as all new Presidential terms do, with hope and dreams for a better future, specifically with the inauguration and Mrs. Bush’s role as First Lady. However, the first turn into the exhibits, sets the tone for what came next in Mr. Bush’s Presidency. The lighting is dark and you hear sirens. You are in the portion of the Library dedicated to the horrible events of September 11, 2001. The contrast from the room before is dramatic and in the middle of the room is a twisted piece of one the World Trade Center towers. While I expected the story to be told, it felt like a place of reverence to see the twisted steel. The exhibit as a whole was powerful. It is a humbling place that tells the story of that horrible day and beyond as well as how the events shaped Mr. Bush’s Presidency.
The library exhibits remain darkly lit through the period that followed the Terrorist Attack on our Country and there are interactive exhibits around the wars in Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan including a fascinating one that puts you in the President’s shoes. In this exhibit, you are in the Situation Room and you are given a situation that President Bush had to deal with when he was President. You are given updates by “experts” and you see news reports on the events as they happened. You have a series of buttons in front of you and when prompted, you have to make a decision. On the screen, you can see what decisions others in the room made. The moderator then tells you what decision President Bush ultimately made and why. It was fascinating to get the perspective of how a President must make the decisions he must make with the information and advice he is provided. We all grow up wanting to be President and spend our adulthood criticizing those who hold the job but after experiencing that exhibit, I can say with certainty, I do not envy the people we elect to make those decisions. I’m always amazed that in a four or eight year term, our Presidents always seem to look much older. Now, I certainly understand why!
There is a full size replica of the Oval Office from President Bush’s time as President. This is worth mentioning because it was the first that allowed you to walk into the office and sit behind the desk while others we have seen were not interactive. This is a really neat touch.
Other parts of the Library highlight the First Family’s life while in the White House. There is a section on the First Pets and a delightfully funny retrospective of Mr. and Mrs. Bush by their daughters Jenna and Barbara. The exhibits end exploring The Bush family and what they have done since leaving office.
No matter your political preferences, it is a great place to visit and if you have to opportunity to visit any Presidential library in your travels, I encourage you to experience one. I have visited John F. Kennedy’s Library in Boston and Ronald Reagan’s Library in Simi Valley, California and while each one is different and striking in their own ways, Mr. Bush’s Library is very engaging and interactive, which we enjoyed very much.
Day 5: Free day to explore more of Waco
Our last day in Texas was left as a free day on purpose. We had done some driving throughout our trip so our plan was to stay close and go back to anything in Waco we might want to revisit, like Heritage Creamery (read more about them in a previous blog: https://letsjustgo247.com/?p=652) or the bookstore at Baylor University. We enjoyed some shopping at Spice Village (not to be missed-there is something for EVERYONE!), and enjoyed one last Tex-Mex meal while we had the chance to get something authentic. The rest of the day was set aside to relax and enjoy our little Fixer Upper Airbnb and prepare to head for home.
Here are some direct links to all these great places to help you plan your trip:
Magnolia Table: www.magnolia.com
Magnolia Market Silos: www.shop.magnolia.com
Magnolia Bakery: www.magnoliabakery.com
Waco Tours: www.waco-tours.com We met reps of Waco Tours across the street from the Magnolia Market Silos. They took us by golf cart to their main offer where we met our group and boarded our van for our trip They have wonderful guides and everyone associated with them were friendly. Take a tour early in your visit if you can. They take you to places around town that are worth going back to for more time! They even took us back to our car, parked just outside the Magnolia Market Silos.
Cheddar Box Food Truck: www.cheddarboxwaco.com
Alabama Sweet Tea Company: www.alabamasweettea.com
Harp Design Co: www.harpdesignco.com
Heritage Creamery: www.heritagecreamery.com
Airbnb, The Brick House: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/36237369?location=Waco%2C%20TX%2C%20United%20States&adults=2&check_in=2020-12-01&check_out=2020-12-05&source_impression_id=p3_1593959144_2qj0zL6FZr92ZjXs&guests=1
The San Antonio River Walk: https://www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com/
The Alamo: https://www.thealamo.org/
The George W. Bush Presidential Center: https://www.bushcenter.org/
Spice Village: https://spicewaco.com/
We truly enjoyed our time in Waco. Overall, Waco feels like home–like any town. Chip and Joanna Gaines have made a positive impact that seems to have injected growth to downtown Waco and sparked new businesses that no doubt, have served many who live in Waco. It is great to see.
I hope I’ve been able to give you some ideas for your visit and I hope you enjoy your trip!