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Outdoor Fun

Waco Weekend with Kids

Branding of the Brazos
Head to Waco, Texas, for a weekend of family fun. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

In the middle of Cental Texas, find a unlikely destination packed with fun for the family. North of Austin and south of the Dallas/Ft. Worth, Waco offers a surprising amount of family fun for a weekend getaway. Start with the National Park Service site, then meander across several museums then explore a great zoo. Find lots of kid-friendly restaurants and you can even go shopping during your trip. Read on for the top things to do in Waco with kids.

Top Things to do in Waco with Kids

Where to See Animals in Waco

Start the day early and when it’s nice and cool. And learn about the animals of Waco, past and present.

Waco Mammoth NPS site. things to do in Waco with kids.
Tour Waco’s National Park Service site. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Waco Mammoth National Monument 

Learn about the ancient mammoths that roamed Central Texas at the Waco Mammoth National Monument in Waco.

History of the Mammoths

The first mammoth bone was discovered in 1978 by a couple of young men out fossil hunting. After the pair dug up the large bone, they took it to Baylor University for identification.

Baylor University staff identified it as the femur bone of a Columbian Mammoth from the Ice Age. Columbian Mammoths, named after Christopher Columbus, inhabited the more temperate areas of North America including Alaska all the way to Costa Rica. Columbian Mammoths, with heights that reach 13 feet tall and weights exceeding 9 tons, are larger and less furry than their distant relatives the Wholly Mammoth.

Baylor University dispatched groups of volunteers and excavation began that would take over 20 years. In all, the group discovered a nursery herd of 19 mammoths that were killed at the same time between 65,000 and 72,000 years ago in what appears to be a flash flood. Other floods occurred in the same spot at different times killing and covering an additional six mammoths, a Western camel, a dwarf antelope, an American alligator, a giant tortoise and the tooth of a Saber Toothed cat.

Baylor University dispatched groups of volunteers and excavation began that would take over 20 years. In all, the group discovered a nursery herd of 19 mammoths that were killed at the same time between 65,000 and 72,000 years ago in what appears to be a flash flood. Other floods occurred in the same spot at different times killing and covering an additional six mammoths, a Western camel, a dwarf antelope, an American alligator, a giant tortoise and the tooth of a Saber Toothed cat.

Dig Site

The dig area is now protected from the elements in an climate-controlled building; the Waco Mammoth National Monument leads 45-minute long tours along an elevated platform over the dig site. There are six of the mammoths still intact and the rest of the mammoths discovered are housed at Baylor University.

Located at 6220 Steinbeck Bend Dr. Open Sunday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Guided tour prices: Adults $5, students 7th grade through college $4, kids 4 to 6th grade $3 and kids 3 and under free. Your America the Beautiful Pass does not include tours.

Read More about Texas

Where to find Dinosaurs in Texas
The National Parks of Texas 
Best Caves of Texas 
Waco offers with tigers, lemurs and bears. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Cameron Park Zoo

Waco packs a big city zoo with lots of animals in a zoo that’s easy to explore in half-a-day. Since animals like to nap in the afternoon, a morning visit is best.

The zoo features three main sections, an Asian Forest, an African Savanna and the Brazos River Country. The Brazos River bisects Waco and the animals in this section of the zoo are native to this area of Texas. Find the following animals:

  • Gibbons
  • Lemurs
  • Bald Eagles
  • Galapagos Tortoises
  • American Black Bear
  • Cougars
  • Giraffes
  • Kudus
  • Elephants
  • Rhinoceros
  • Meerkats
  • Tigers
  • Orangutans
  • Komodo Dragons
Cameron Park Zoo
The carful of kids wrestle an American Alligator while at the Cameron Park Zoo. credit: Catherine Parker

All the exhibits are easy to find with wide paths and gentle inclines, perfect for grandmas and strollers. With a map full of pictograms kids can read it alone and lead the way. And the zoo is laid out in a large circle–nothing to be missed.

Located at 1701 N. 4th St. Open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission (13+) is $13, kids 3 to 12 $10 and under 2 and under are free.

Lake Waco Wetlands

Look for birds at the Lake Waco Wetlands, an 180-acre preserve that protects the habitat of native plants and animals of Central Texas. Also find an education center at the Lake Waco Wetlands.

Located at 1752 Eichelberger Crossing Road in China Crossing. Open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Read More

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Top Museums in Waco

Dr. Pepper Museum. Things to do in Waco with kids.
It’s a museum dedicated to soda. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Dr. Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Instutitute

This museum is dedicated to Dr. Pepper, the soda invented in Waco. Learn how soda was made in the manufacturing room. Find lots of nostalgic Dr. Pepper items on the tour that covers three different floors. You can even watch commercials through the decades.

Located at 300 South 5th Street. Open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5:30 p.m. Adults admission is $10, students and kids $6 and free for 4 and under.

The Mayborn Museum
Head to the Mayborn Museum with the kids. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Mayborn Museum Complex

Located on the Baylor University Campus the Mayborn Museum Complex is part natural history museum and children’s museum along with an outdoor living history area. The natural history part of the Mayborn Museum features interesting skeletons and life-sized walk-through dioramas. Also find a casting from the Waco Mammoth Site.

The Outdoor Historic Village includes a one-room school house, a church, an office, a general store, and the planter’s house along with a cook’s house. All the buildings are furnished and some are open so you can experience life 100 years ago.

Located at 1300 South University Parks Dr. Adult admission is $10 and kids 2 to 12 is $8. Open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Texas Ranger Museum

Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum

The Texas Rangersis the oldest state law enforcement agency in the U.S. Unofficially created by Stephen F. Austin in 1823, the Texas Rangers protected the early settlers from raids and served as surveyors to settle property disputes.

This museum is geared towards adults, especially men of all ages, yet my boys loved it. Learn about the history of the Texas Rangers along with a extensive display of weapons. It’s not the best for families with small children due to the subject matter.

Located at 100 Texas Ranger Trail. Adult admission is $8 and kids from 6 to 12 it’s $4 and kids 5 and under are free. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Texas Sports Hall of Fame 

Established in 1951, this facilty is a must for sports fans. Learn about the athletes from Texas and their careers.

Located at 1108 S. University Parks Dr. Open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission is $8 and kids (6 to 18) are $6.

Waco Suspension Bridge. Things to do in Waco with kids
Walk across the Waco Suspension Bridge with kids. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Other Musts for Waco

Waco Suspension Bridge

As the first suspension bridge built east of the Mississippi River in 1869, walk across its wooden deck with the kids. Madewith 3 million bricks, it spans 475 feet over the Brazos River.

Originally conceived as a toll bridge to cross the river with cattle since the Chisholm Trail went through Waco. The legendary trail that cowboys used to herd cattle from South Texas to Abilene, Kansas, for the train to the East Coast.

Located in the Indian Spring Park along University Parks Drive between Washington and Franklin Avenues. The bridge and the surrounding park are free and along with the street parking. Open from dawn to dusk.

Branding of the Brazos
Head to Waco, Texas, for a weekend of family fun. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Branding of the Brazos Sculpture

The Branding of the Brazos sculpture depicts the epic journey of cowboys and their cattle along the Chisholm Trail. With larger-than-life depictions of cattle and cowboys, it’s a favorite among kids.

Located in the Indian Spring Park along University Parks Drive between Washington and Franklin Avenues. Open from dawn to dusk. Free.

Baylor Football Game at McLane Stadium

The football stadium is hard to miss while driving along Interstate 35, it’s massive. So if it’s football season, try and catch a game at Baylor University’s McLane Stadium.

Located at 1001 S. MLK Blvd. Advance tickets required for football games.

Waco Hippodrome 

It’s the home to live music in downtown Waco with touring national acts. Opened in 1914, the building was renovated

Located at 724 Austin Ave. Advance tickets required for live music shows.

Lake Waco 

West of Waco, visit the 79,000-acre lake with fishing, boating and camping. If you owe a boat, find several boat launches along with campgrounds.

Located between Texas Highway 6 and Highway 1637. Open dawn to dusk.

Armstrong Browning Library 

A must for readers, visit the Baylor University library dedicated to the works of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. It’s the largest collection of the work of the English poets.

Located at 710 Speight Ave. Open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where to go Shopping in Waco

The Magnolia Market at the Silos

If you want to go shopping while in Waco, there’s one place that’s on everyone’s list, Magnolia Market, curated by Joanna Gaines. Find a complex of shops, each with a different focus, like bath and body, stationary, clothing and more.

Located at 601 Webster Ave. Open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Spice Village

It’s a 30,000 square-foot complex of 60 different shops under one roof. Find food shops, clothing shops, home shops and everything in-between.

Located at 213 Mary Ave. Open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

Waco Downtown Farmers Market

Find locally grown vegetables along with artisan made items. Located at 500 Washington Ave. Open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where to Eat in Waco

I will not lie, I love a good burger. Most kids do too. Find several top burgers across Waco.

Health Camp. Things to do in Waco with Kids.
Get a tasty burger at Health Camp. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Health Camp

Head for a burger joint from the 1940s for a quick bite. Opening in 1948, Health Camp is a classic with made-to-order burgers with some of the best onion rings around. The malts and shakes are another menu item not to miss.

Dine in the small dining area or get them to-go. Health Camp is a favorite with locals, families and college students.

Located at 2601 Circle Road on the Waco Traffic Circle. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Dubl-R Burgers. Things to do in Waco with kids.
Grab an old-fashioned burger with the kids. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Dubl-R Old Fashioned Burgers

Since it’s the weekend, time for another burger. Another old school burger joint, Dubl-R Old Fashioned is just a few blocks away.

Served inred baskets, I take a moment to smell my burger, hot off the flat top. It’s the combination of a grilled hamburger patty mixed with the aroma of buttered and toasted buns that I love. Each burger is served with lettuce, tomato, pickles, grilled onions, mustard and mayonnaise. I order the onion rings since I am a fan, equally as satisfying.

Located at 1810 Herring Ave. Open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Closed Sunday.

Dave’s Burger Barn 

Dave’s Burger Barnhome to the Zipper Ripper Challenge, where a five patty bacon-cheeseburger must be eat in 12 minutes to get their photo posted on the wall.we head over to Dave’s Burger Barn

Located at 600 North Patricia Street in Lacy-Lakeview. Open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday).

Head to Waco, Texas, for a weekend away with the family that doesn't include shopping. Here's a weekend itinerary full of family fun including the zoo, Dr. Pepper Museum, Waco Mammoth National Monument and more. What to do in Waco Texas with kids | Weekend Itinerary for Waco #Waco
credit: Catherine Parker

 

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a 95-year-old house. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

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