Everything You Need to Know about Waco, Texas

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Welcome

Welcome to Waco Texas Home! A website all about Waco, TX by a native Wacoan!  Waco is a town full of life and uniqueness! Just look at our houses, our people, and our name. I have lived here my entire life, so I have a love hate relationship with the place, but I know it like the back of my hand.

Forgotten Town

Waco was somewhat of a forgotten town. A stop in between Dallas and Austin, a blip on the news about a crazy cult. For years and years, that was what Waco was known for. Little do people know that Waco is full of a vibrant culture of people and places. We are smart, we are creative, and we are stuck in this town for whatever reason that may be. So we make the best of it. We work hard. We create art and music to share our creativity, and we celebrate life as we know it.

Waco Texas Rags to Riches

All of that has changed since Fixer Upper. I understand why Waco is now loved. I spent my college years going to MCC. On the weekends I would go to Laverty’s and buy all kinds of forgotten treasures. This was before anyone knew about that place. And everything was dirt cheap. I got old radios, old toys, old records, books from the 60s, a set of baby birthday cards from the 1930’s. The place was full of treasures. Forgotten treasures in a forgotten town with abundant land and cheap old houses.

Fixer Upper

Some of us embrace the Fixer Upper affect and some of us hate it. Who wants their beloved town to be exploited on TV? Who wants their humble abode to be loved by everyone else too? Its weird because nobody cared about those 2 old silos downtown for the past 30 years. They just sat there rotting. It’s bizarre for something you see everyday and don’t think twice about to turn into a tourist attraction! It’s a strange occurrence in this strange place we call Waco, TX.

A New Era for Waco Texas

After 30 years of people saying where’s Waco, or oh the place where David Koresh was from? It’s so refreshing to be loved and adored for something as random as Fixer Upper. I never in my lifetime dreamed that my home town, that I hated as a teenager, wanted to escape from as an adult, and was forced to tolerate due to my lack of funds, would turn into millions of people’s fantasy home town destination.  It’s funny seeing tourist buses and tropes of travelers marching their way across downtown to the Magnolia Silos.  A downtown that was plagued with vacancies and lost cause businesses and failed revitalism attempts for years. Waco finally made it. Somebody finally got the word out to the world that this place is cool, this place is unique, this place is nice and full of everything you’d ever need to thrive and be happy. A place for adults, a place for kids, a place for all races, a place for animals, a place for friends and family.

Proud to be from Waco Texas

The world’s new found interest in my hometown makes me proud to be a Wacoan. I spent my college years exploring the city, taking photos, searching out artistic endeavors and just going to all sorts of places around this town – from junk yards to gay bars, from payday loan stores to grocery stores, from  punk shows at abandoned theaters to the farmers market, from Hastings to Bankstons to Wizards of Odds to lan sharks to the Flea market. This city has everything. Now, ten years later I have a new reason to explore my hometown. To share with the world what a wonderful place Waco Texas is. To rediscover what Chip and Joanna have managed to bottle and manufacture to the mass media. The wonderful, inspiring, strange place that is Waco, TX.

So Welcome to my Waco Texas Home!

About Waco Texas

Waco is smack dab in the middle of Texas. Right in-between Dallas and Austin. It was founded in 1849. Waco Texas has a population of over 130,000. Waco has the nickname – The Heart of Texas, because if the State of Texas was a torso, Waco would be where the heart vessel is located, its streets, river and highways sprawling out like veins. I don’t know if the song “Deep in the Heart of Texas” is about Waco, but it sure does sound like it. Waco has a river running through it – the Brazos River.  Waco Texas is mostly flat land with some hills out there somewhere if you look hard enough. Once you get outside the city you will see flat fields and farms with livestock such as cows. Interstate 35 runs through the middle of Waco and is the most popular road in and out of the city. Interstate 35 (or I-35 for short) is made fun of by locals for being constantly under construction.

Waco History

Waco was officially founded in 1849 by white settlers. However, before those people came along, Waco was a tribe of Indians on the Brazos River. These poor Native Americans were forced off of their land, like many of their brothers and sisters. Waco was part of the Confederacy during the civil war. Although no definitive battles were fought in Waco, people from here fought in the Confederate Army.  There were battalions from Texas. Prior to the Civil War, the Mexican American War was fought in Texas (another case of white people overstepping their boundaries.) The US basically stole the bottom half of Texas from Mexico. Waco wasn’t established at this time but if the war hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t be considered the “Heart” of Texas, now would we?

Waco Indians

The Waco Indians (Huaco) lived along the Brazos River. They were a tribe of about 33 houses according to Stephen F. Austin. They had about 200 acres of land that was used for planting corn. They also grew beans, melons, peach trees, and pumpkins. What is weird is those are all some of my FAVORITE FOODS. Maybe it is a Waco thing? I don’t know. These Native Americans knew what was good. They were attracted to the area for the abundance of water coming from the Brazos River.

Forced From their Waco Texas Home

Like the fate of many unfortunate Native Americans, they were forced out of Waco and sent to live on a reservation with the Wichita tribe in Oklahoma. They had their own language dialect, which is now extinct and has been replaced with:

HOWDY YALL. YALL, lets go get some corn from Walmart YALL. Well I’ll be darned that sure was a sad story about them there HUACO Injuns. God forbid something like that would happen to US REAL WACO FOLKS.

Here is a strange photo of the descendants of the original Waco Indians. They were invited to the Texas Cotton Palace Exposition in 1912. The organizers set up tents for them to stay in during the fair. They were basically put on display for the white attendants. Can you imagine living in an area for THOUSANDS OF YEARS and having it taken away from you?

Paying Homage to Waco Texas Indians

How can I pay homage to these Native American people that were forced off of their land? I was born in their city. Everything I have is from here. I guess I should say: Thank you. And I am sorry for the way you were treated. I was just born here, I had no choice in the matter. If I did have a choice I would give you your land back.

They lived in bee hive shaped grass huts such as the one in the photo below. The huts could hold up to 12 beds! You can find a replica of the huts at the Mayborn Museum.

Jacob De Cordova

Jacob de Cordova was instrumental in founding Waco Texas. He was a spaniard born in Jamaica. He and George Erath surveyed and planned the first plots that would become Waco Texas. Jacob de Cordova’s wife Rebecca wanted to name the town Lamartine (UGH!) but luckily George Erath protested and essentially told her “Over my dead body.” So the city was name Waco after the Waco Indians. Waco is Jacob De Cordova’s greatest legacy. He once said of Waco “She will be my daughter, and a beautiful daughter she will be.”

She will be my daughter, and a beautiful daughter she will be.

Waco Tornado

One memorable moment in Waco history is the Waco Tornado. If you have lived in Waco your entire life (like me), you have a HEALTHY FEAR OF TORNADOs. I remember one time we were at McDonald’s on Valley Mills, back when they had those giant spring rocking horses made up of McDonald’s Characters. My mom was yelling at me to come inside because a tornado was coming! I was just out there playing, and everyone acted like I should have known. We went to my Grandmoms house after that and hid out in the living room (away from windows). A tornado never came, but that was my first experience of a tornado warning. If you live here, there will be many warnings, but rarely do they actually occur. I only remember 1 tornado occurring during my lifetime. It happened around 2006? I just remember being in my house and it seemed like everything outside was blowing around. It was dark because the electricity went out. Then in the morning trees were down, none of the street lights worked, and several buildings had been damaged. No one was hurt that I know of.

The Waco Tornado came in 1959? My Grandad worked for the Waco Trib and took photos of the aftermath. Check them out on my Waco Tornado page.

Waco Siege

Throughout my entire life, if I told someone I was from Waco, they would ask me if I knew David Koresh. NO I did not know David Koresh. There are over 100,000 people in Waco. But that is what we were known for, a crazy cult. Hence the name Wacko Waco. I was literally ashamed to be from this town. There’s nothing wrong with it though. It just had a crazy cult. You can learn more about the Waco Siege here.

Not to brag but I do have a connection to the Waco Siege. My big brother worked at news channel 10 and bought a Ford Bronco from one of the people at the station who said the Bronco was at the siege when it happened. I think there is even a photo of my brother’s bronco in one of the news articles or footage. I need to find that!

Fixer Upper

And then came Fixer Upper. Finally, Finally, Finally, God shined down on this forgotten crap hole of a town and said wait a minute, this place has potential. Let’s get some camera crews in here and start bashing in walls and fixing it up. And that’s what happened. Fixer Upper not only fixed up houses but they fixed the ENTIRE CITY OF WACO TEXAS. I do not know these people (nor did I know David Koresh!), but they have performed a MIRACLE. Downtown Waco was a baren empty forgotten dump my entire life. The only thing still kicking down there was the Waco Trib, a trail of used car lots, and failure after failure of bars and restaurants that no one wanted to drive all the way Downtown to go to. Oh and the Alico Building was still there but whatever goes on in that place is a mystery to us all.

Waco Texas Downtown Failures

The Hippodrome at one point was literally closed and out of business. I mean this was not that long ago, I am talking 3 to 5 years before Fixer Upper happened. That is how big that show had an affect on this City, Waco, Texas.

I used to go downtown to the Barkin’ Basement, a giant thrift store that is no longer there that was better than any thrift store you’ve ever seen. There was literally NO ONE down there. I mean there would be 6 cars within the whole downtown city block. You’d always hear on the news about how they were going to revitalize Downtown Waco, but it just never took off.

UNTIL FIXER UPPER.

Me watching Fixer Upper in my house that needs some Fixer Upper help (hint, hint, Chip and Joanna)

Chip and Joanna

If you don’t know already, Fixer Upper is a show on HGTV featuring Chip and Joanna Gaines. They go around bashing in old houses and turning them into works of art. And in Waco Texas there are plenty of old crappy houses to bash in. Well there were houses here, until the show took off and every Californian that saw it decided to buy a house here with their kid’s college savings account. Crappy old houses were flying off the shelves left and right!! It was CRAZY!! People from California were calling in buying houses they hadn’t even stepped foot in. Literally NO ONE gave a damn about Waco until this show. And these people from California are fighting over houses in the ghetto in Waco Texas! WHAT IS HAPPENING!!!

My First Experience with Fixer Upper

The first I heard of it was in 2015, about a year after the show began. I had never even heard of it. That year, I went to Coco Beach Florida to get married to my sweet husband. We were in Coco Beach and I was getting my hair done for our wedding. The lady that was doing my hair asked me where I was from and I said WACO TEXAS. She said Oh My God, are you serious? I want to LIVE THERE!

WHAT????????

Hold the phone. Are you talking about MY Waco Texas? The place where its hot as hell and crazy cults live there? The place that is half way in between 2 cool cities that people drive by and just keep going? The place that is all dusty and hot and gets hit by tornadoes? The place that I have been trying to get out of my entire life?

YES, YOUR WACO TEXAS. I WANT TO LIVE THERE IT LOOKS SO BEAUTIFUL ON TV.

And that’s when I heard about Fixer Upper. I was in shock. I thought wow…. they sure can make a place look nice on TV.

Then it just blew up even more from there with the Silos and all the tourist spots and the rest is history. And now I am happy for my City, Waco Texas. I even saw a girl I went to high school with on Fixer Upper! How cool is that? Waco, the Daughter of Jacob De Cordova, has finally had her day in the sun. Some people love it, some people hate it, but there is no denying that it has been good for the City. So thank you to Chip and Joanna, the new King and Queen of Waco Texas. You deserve it. You brought a miracle to Waco Texas.

Waco Texas Weather

Um, let me paraphrase for you: HOT. They don’t call it “Heart of Texas” for no reason. Heart of Texas, AKA H.O.T. its HOT as hell here. From about June to September, you can’t leave your house unless if it is dark outside. Even then its risky. I get fat in the summer because its literally too hot to go outside. I can’t do anything. I’m trapped in my house. Its even hot driving places because you sweat going in and out of stores. Its so draining. But if you stay inside its all good.

I saw some travel sites that say the most popular times for Waco tourism are in the summer. WHY? Do yourself a favor and come in the fall, around October. It’s very pleasant in October. Spring is amazing too. Spring is beautiful because everthing is green and growing. In the summer here all of the plants are dead. They just cannot survive the heat. Its August right now and my yard is brown.

Waco Neighborhoods

There are a lot of distinct neighborhoods in Waco. There is the ghetto surrounding Baylor, ironically. The difference in income between the people who live around Baylor and the people that go to Baylor is about a million dollars per year.

Downtown

There is downtown Waco which is west of Baylor along the river and used to be super ghetto too, but is now turning into a hot spot with condos and all kinds of cool stuff like the Silos and possibly a river walk in the future.

East Side

This is the really ghetto area. The area on the other side of the river. My friends always said don’t go to the other side of the river or maybe it was the railroad tracks. Either way its pretty slummy over there. No disrepect to the residents. However this area too is seeing a revitalization so, who knows, maybe its the next tourist spot. Elm Avenue goes through this area. There is a revitalization of Elm Avenue in the works. There is a festival called Art on Elm that is being held there every year for the past few years.

North Side

North side is the big area west of Cameron Park Zoo. There are a lot of smaller older houses (think 40’s and 50’s wood frame houses with 2 beds and 1 bath) in the North Side. This area used to be pretty ghetto too, but nowadays its anybody’s guess. If the house flippers have had their hands at it, there are probably some non-ghetto areas. Waco High is in this area and if you keep going west you run into the Heart of Texas Fair Grounds and Valley Mills Drive.

Fair Grounds & Valley Mills

There’s a lot of cool shopping stuff in this area. The old Magnolia store is around here off of Bosque. You will also find Kiddy Land, which is a special place for kids. This place is cool, but I will go into more details below. Valley Mills gets you into the commercial area where you find all of the chain restaurants and stores. If you keep going west you will run unto Moutainview and Lake Waco

Mountainview

Mountainview has bigger newer nicer houses than those in North Side. These are more 1960’s brick houses with 3 beds and 2 baths. There are also many bigger nicer houses near Lake Waco. This area is still in Waco ISD school district, but there is a private school in the area called Vanguard.

South Side & Beverly Hills

If you go back across Highway 84 and back towards the river, you will be in Beverly Hills. No not the Beverly Hills you see on TV in California. This Beverly Hills is different, WAY different. Were talking no mans land in some areas. Apparently there are no laws in Beverly Hills so you can turn your house into a hair salon or a barbeque shop or a taco truck or paint your house any color you want, or leave all kinds of weird trash in your yard. Go down Memorial Drive in Beverly Hills and you will see what I mean.

One time we were driving down memorial and there was this lady hanging onto the back of some furniture in her van so it wouldn’t fall out. She was about to fall out herself and it was CRAZY! The people around there “just don’t give a damn.”

South Side is also the hispanic area of Waco. This is where University High is. You will find good taco trucks around here, but be careful because its not the safest part of town. That’s not to say that its all a really bad part of town. Some of the streets are perfectly fine and nice. I have heard stories of shootings around there. There are some cool mexian churches in South Side too if you are into architecture.

Getting Around

I suggest renting a car to get around Waco. There is not much public transportation. We do have a bus system though, if you want to ride the bus. Downtown is walkable. or you can ride your bike or scooter or skate downtown. There appears to be a trolly you can ride around downtown too. It’s not a really trolly though, I think its just a bus that looks like a trolly.

Things to do in Waco

Winter

Waco Wonderland

In the winter, Waco has a festival each year called Waco Wonderland. It is held downtown at heritage square. It has rides for kids, a Ferris wheel, and normally a winter activity such as ice skating or a snow hill for sledding. They also have a giant Christmas tree and a Santa Clause for the little ones to visit. AND they have a really cool Christmas Parade! I love the parade and so do my little ones. CHECK IT OUT!

A super cool Christmas car.

Click here to see more pictures of the Waco Wonderland Christmas Parade.

Christmas at the Silos

Christmas at the Silos is an annual event put on by the Magnolia Market. I am not sure what goes on there but I imagine it involves a lot of food trucks, home decor, and Christmas snacks. Not only that the Silos will be lit up with Christmas lights, which is cool to see.

Spring

Spring at the Silos

Spring at the Silos is another event at the Magnolia Market. This event has a lot of food trucks (as per usual) and a lot of floral arrangements. Its a nice event to silobrate spring!

Deep in the Heart Film Festival

This is a film festival that is held in the spring at the Hippodrome. It features indie films that are meaningful and according to the organizers, they are easy to comprehend. I guess people from Waco aren’t capable of comprehending complex indie films? Best not to scare off any normal people. I kid, I kid! You can find the Waco Hippodrome by the big red Waco Marquee sign outside.

Waco sign at the Hippodrome.

I’m not a huge fan of the big ugly digital clock they smacked on the bottom of it within the past few years. WHY DID THEY DO THAT? It looked so much better better when it was an old style marquee sign. It’s blasphemy!! BLASPHEMY I TELL YOU!!! Here is the old sign….

Waco Hippodrome Marquee before they put that digital CRAP on it.

Doesn’t this sign look better? I will tell you Waco is great and all, but some of the people running things are not thinking straight. Why on earth would they destroy that old timey marquee with a freaking digital clock that looks like it belongs on my bedside table is BEYOND ME. It is driving me insane so I must move on to another topic.

Not only did they make the Marquee UGLY, they tacked on a big UGLY Restaurant onto the side of the building. There used to be that pretty courtyard next to the Hippodrome. It was a free standing building, kind of like THE ALAMO. Now there is a hideous god awful restaurant literally STUCK TO THE SIDE OF THE BUILDING. Do these people have no shame? I guess anything goes now a days if you can make a buck. Here is what it looks like now.

The SAD modern version of the Hippodrome

Whoever had the great idea to tack a restaurant onto the side of the historic Waco landmark, should be JAILED IN THE MCLENNAN COUNTY JAIL. Ok sorry for that rant. Lets get back to discussing events in Waco!

Summer

Margarita and Salsa Festival

This festival has been going on in Waco for 24 years! That is how much we love margaritas and salsa. I am not much of a drinker, but I love salsa. I could drink salsa if I was thirsty and hungry enough. The Margarita and Salsa festival happens at the Extraco Events Center in August.

Hawaiian Falls

If you want to cool off in the summer in Waco Texas, you can head over to our water park, Hawaiian Falls. This water park used to be Waco Water Park and was owned by the City of Waco. It used to cost $8 to get in, but now that it is owned by Hawaiian Falls it costs about $30 a pop. It is worth it though for a day of fun in the sun. They have added a lot of stuff like a lazy river and a bunch of water slides. It is a pretty fun place to go with your kids. They have a big area for little kids and toddlers that my children love.

Fall

Waco Oktober Fest

This is a festival that happens in Waco Texas in the fall at Indian Springs Park. If you like craft beer and food trucks, this is the event for you. They also have German food and a football watch party. So if you want to get buzzed and eat some good food and celebrate German things, go to this festival. Just remember not to drink and drive!

Wine and Food Festival

This is another festival that happens in the fall in Waco Texas that is centered around alcohol. It happens at the McLane Stadium. You can sample all kinds of different wines and food samples from over 30 vendors! I will come for the food!

Music

Baylor Symphony Orchestra

Baylor has an orchestra and they put on shows througout the year. They have has some unique performances in the past such as the Star Wars soundtrack performance. You can check them out on the Baylor website.

Waco Symphony Orchestra

There is also a Waco Symphony Orchestra. I don’t know much about it but I hear it has been around since the early 1900s. Pretty cool!

Other Music

Waco also has live music events at the Heart of Texas Fair and at other places around town such as the Back Yard Grill.

Arts

If you are an art lover, like me, you can find it here in Waco Texas. The Waco Art Center is the contemporary art museum of Waco. It is located near MCC. There are a bunch of cool cow sculptures out there too. While you are around MCC, you can check out the MCC Fine Arts building. They have a lot of great artists that rivals many major university art programs.

Banksy

The famous artist Banksy actually came through Waco in September 2018. His art was shown down town in an art gallery along with some contemporary local art. There are several art galleries downtown that come and go. One year they will be there and the next year they will be out of business, but there are always a few art galleries downtown. Here are some pictures I took at the Banksy show.

The STAR of the show, the Banksy Rat that was spray painted on the side of a building in San Francisco and removed by a patron of the arts.

See Waco is cool, we are cultured, we actually have cool art shows! Were not just some hick college town!

Some other cool paintings at the Banksy show by local artists. Artist Credits: John Storm, Ty Nathan Clark

Art on Elm

A new celebration that has started recently is Waco is the Art on Elm event. This event is held in East Waco on Elm Street. It features local artists and vendors.

Waco Cultural Arts Fest

This festival is held in October at Indian Springs Park. It has art, music performances, dance performances, face painting, crafts for kids, and food and craft vendors. It is a pretty cool event that can be enjoys by adults and kids alike.

Outdoors

If you like the outdoors, there are plenty of things to do in Waco Texas! You can paddle boat on the Brazos river. You can ride your bike along bike trails at Cameron Park. These bike trails are awesome! They go throught the forest and are on dirt slopes and hills. They are really cool, but you can get hurt so wear a helmet! There are also nature trails at Cameron Park and if you venture to the suburbs, there is a nature trail at Woodway park that is really good. There is also lake waco which has several beach park areas that are maintained by the parks department. You can also swim in Lake Waco and ride boats and jet skis out there.

Cameron Park, Zoo & Suspension Bridge

There are many parks around Waco Texas. Cameron Park is the big park downtown that is located next to the river. There is a walkway next to the river that people like to walk down and ride their bikes on. It is very pretty and goes by the suspension bridge. Cameron Park zoo is also in this area. The Zoo is known for being very a good zoo considering the size of the city it is in.

Shopping

There are lots of places to shop in Waco. Here are a few!

Richland Mall

Richland Mall is your standard indoor walking mall. Its been there since at least the 1980’s.

Central Texas Marketplace

This is a newer shopping center that isn’t an indoor mall but has a lot of stores and parking areas so you can just walk up to the store you want to visit.

Magnolia Market

This is Chip and Joanna’s HGTV Mecca tourist shopping center/ gathering place.

Spice Village

This is a local unique shopping market with several boutique vendors located downtown.

Museums

There are many museums in Waco. The main ones are: Dr. Pepper Museum, the Mayborn Museum, and the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame. Oh and I can’t forget the National Monument, The Waco Mammoth Site!

Conclusion

Wow this post got really long, and I haven’t even finished! There’s still more to learn about Waco, such as our schools, and all of the wonderful places to eat! I will have to come back and add those things later. Bye for now!

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