Waco, TX is located in the very heart of Central Texas. Within one hour you can be in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Killeen/Harker Heights, Temple, Belton, Bryan-College Station, and Austin.
Waco also sits right on the edge of the Hill Country just to the west.
Depending on how far you’re willing to drive from Waco, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of destinations that you can explore. Whether you live in Waco or you’re just here to visit, you’ll never run out of things to do in or around Waco.
In this list of things to do near Waco TX, I have organized it by distance from downtown Waco. To be specific, it’s based on how far each destination is from the historic Alico building downtown. The further you go down the list, the further away the destination is from downtown Waco.
But be careful not to dismiss a destination simply because it’s further from Waco than the rest. Texas is a big state, and some of the coolest things in Texas are located far away from just about everything!
Here are some fantastic things to do near Waco TX:
Largest Whiskey Bar in Texas – 0.1 Miles
Few people are aware of this, but Barnett’s Public House in Waco is the largest whiskey bar in the entire state of Texas, and the third largest whiskey bar in the nation. But, it’s not just a bar. It’s a restaurant too. And in addition to the 500+ whiskeys they have available, they also happen to serve up some delicious food.
In fact, Barnett’s Public House consistently earns a 5-Star review rating for both food and drinks. If you’re looking for things to do near Waco, TX, and you enjoy some good food and a whiskey neat – then Barnett’s Public House should probably be on your list.
The Silos at Magnolia – 0.5 Miles
We’ll get the most obvious one out of the way. Unless you have been living under a rock for the past decade, then chances are you have likely heard about Chip & Joanna Gaines, the stars of the show Fixer Upper.
Since that show originally aired, the Gaines family has gone on to build an empire that’s comprised of real estate, media companies and more. If you’re near Waco, then you should probably stop by and visit The Silos at Magnolia which features all kinds of family-friendly activities and fun things to see and do.
It’s a walkable distance from the Alico building, so it’s #1 on this list.
Mammoth National Park Monument – 6 Miles
Associating “mammoths” with “Waco, TX” may not be your first thought when you think about visiting Waco… yet here we are. There is a Mammoth National Park located in Waco, TX. It’s not just a park… it’s an active archeological dig site where they are actually digging up Mammoth remains and fossils.
It’s pretty crazy. And cool.
So, if you are looking for things to do near Waco TX, stop by and check out the mammoths.
It’s impressive, to say the least.
Lake Waco – 10 Miles
Lake Waco is located just to the West of downtown, Waco, TX. If you’re in the area during the summer, you’ll probably be looking for places to swim near Waco, and Lake Waco is probably one of the closest free places to swim that you can find.
If you have a boat, jet skis or other water-based equipment, there are plenty of places to get it into the water. There are also multiple parks, including a large, covered kids playscape at Twin Bridges Park just across the bridge on Highway 6.
Twin Bridges Park also has covered pavilions and a manmade beach where you can go swimming in a designated swimming area. There are other places around the Lake to visit as well, including the Lake Waco Dam Trail which is a great place for a sunrise or sunset walk, jog or even bike ride.
Longest Lazy River in The World – 11 Miles
If the mammoths in Waco haven’t blown your socks off yet, then maybe this will… Waco is home to the longest lazy river in the world. And if you are familiar with the weather in Texas, it’s nice to have a 1-mile-long lazy river to spend the afternoon floating around in.
If you are visiting during any of our hot Texas Summer months, then this is definitely one of the things to do near Waco TX that I would put on my list.
It’s not just the longest lazy river in the world either. The water park in which the lazy river is located also has a ton of other fun activities like a cable park, water jumps, manmade beaches, cabin rentals, cabana’s and more.
Czech Stop in West, TX – 18 Miles
West, TX is the “Home of the Official Kolache”. In fact, the Texas legislature passed a measure stating as much in 1997. So, if you’re a fan of Kolache’s, then a visit to West, TX is a must.
It all started with the original Kolache spot in West, “The Village Bakery”, which is permanently closed. The founder passed away in 2019, and the bakery was unable to continue running without her. It had been open since 1952 and was the most famous Kolache stop in Texas.
Today, you can still experience the incredible Kolache’s in West at a few other spots near where the original store was located. The Czech Stop is one of them and since The Village Bakery closed, the Czech Stop has become the most popular Kolache bakery in West, TX.
Tonkawa Falls – 25 Miles
Tonkawa Falls is located in Crawford, TX. Yes, the same Crawford, TX where one of the Bush family ranches is located.
Tonkawa Falls is a local swimming spot that is comprised of a series of small waterfalls on the Tonka Creek as it flows down to the Bosque River. And yes, it is a great swimming spot as long as the region has seen decent rain. But even if it’s dry and you’re unable to swim at Tonkawa Falls, there’s something even more interesting…
Tonkawa Falls is named after the Native American’s who lived in the area for centuries – the Tonkawa Indians. When the creek starts to become more shallow during the sweltering summer months you can start to see petroglyphs etched into the creek bed.
The petroglyphs have both Spanish and Native American influences, and since the Tonkawa people had a significant level of interaction with the Spanish in this region back in the day, it’s fair to say that the petroglyphs were likely created by them.
The Tonkawa people were forcibly relocated to Oklahoma (where their descendants still live) back in the late 1800s, but the petroglyphs at Tonkawa Falls are evidence to this day that Tonkawa Falls was once a place that they called home.
Valley Mills, TX – 26 Miles
Valley Mills is a small town to the West of Waco. It was named Valley Mills because it is located in a valley where the powerful Bosque River runs. Originally the town had multiple mills, including flour mills and gristmills located along and near the banks of the river.
The next two things to do near Waco TX are both located in Valley Mills:
Valley Mills Vineyard
Texas is quickly becoming known for its wine and wine vineyards. While most of those famous vineyards are located in Fredericksburg, TX, that’s not the only place you can find award-winning wines. The Valley Mills Vineyard is one of the top-rated vineyards in the Waco area and has recently won internationally recognized awards for their wine.
Aside from the wine, it’s also a beautiful vineyard. If you enjoy wine, wine vineyards, and the countryside – and you’re looking for things to do near Waco TX – then I’d highly recommend setting some time aside to visit the Valley Mills Vineyard.
The Gristmill in Valley Mills
If you watch Joanna Gaines baking and cooking show on the Magnolia Network, you may think that the location where the show is filmed is in Waco, TX. It’s not! The Gaines family bought a 130+ year old gristmill located in Valley Mills, TX and that is the primary filming location for her show.
Valley Mills, TX is the filming location for Magnolia Table with Joanna Gaines on the Magnolia Network.
If you want to admire this beautifully restored building, you can find it at 401 Ave A, Valley Mills, TX.
Other things to see and do in Valley Mills are:
- A refreshing kids splash pad park
- Valley Mills Santa Fe Railway Depot (Texas State Historical Marker)
- Basketball court
- Baseball fields
- Local boutiques and antique stores
- Historic 1st National Bank of Bosque County (Built in 1908)
- Valley Mills Mantels (featured in Fixer Upper, located in a historic 120+ year old building)
The Getaway Capital of Texas – 33 Miles (Lake Whitney)
Lake Whitney is commonly referred to as The Getaway Capital of Texas. It’s called that because it’s a massive lake located just 30-45 minutes from Dallas-Ft. Worth, and 30 minutes from Waco.
During the hot summer months, hundreds of thousands of people from all over Central Texas descend on Lake Whitney. Boats, jet skis, swimming, camping, RV’s, parks, trails… Lake Whitney has everything you need for a great summer vacation or quick weekend getaway.
Drive-In Movie Theater – 38 Miles
If you’re looking for things to do near Waco TX, then why not add a drive-in movie to your list?
The Last Drive-In Picture Show is a drive-in movie theater located just 38 miles from the Alico building in downtown Waco.
This drive-in movie theater is one of well over a dozen drive-in movie theaters all over the state of Texas. The Last Drive-In Picture Show opened in 1950 and has been managed by the same family for the past forty years.
Experiencing a drive-in movie theater is awesome in and of itself, but under the big starry Texas sky…? It’s a distinct experience that everybody should have.
The last time I checked, it only cost $10 per vehicle (yes, you read that right), and you get to watch two movies back-to-back.
And no, these are not old movies. These are new releases just like you’d see in a normal theater. Going to the drive-in movie theater in Texas is a fantastic outdoor activity for the Fall, Winter and Spring seasons.
The Norwegian Capital of Texas – 39 Miles
Clifton, TX is known as The Norwegian Capital of Texas because the town was founded by Norwegian migrants.
Clifton, Norse and Cranfills Gap were all towns in Central Texas that were founded by Norwegian-American pioneer, Cleng Peerson.
To this day, the ties between Clifton and Norway are so strong that one of the kings of Norway visited Clifton, TX. If you are interested in Norwegian history and heritage, then Clifton, TX may be one of the things to do near Waco TX that is of interest to you.
Other places of interest nearby are:
The Oldest Movie Theater in Texas
The oldest, continuously operating movie theater in Texas is also located in Clifton, TX. It originally opened in 1916. If you want to get a feel for what it was like to go to a small, rural movie theater 100+ years ago, then you’ll want to add The Cliftex Theater to your list of things to do near Waco TX.
Families in Bosque County have been going to the movies at The Cliftex for generations and you too can experience a piece of movie theater history when you go see a movie there.
1884 Whipple Truss Bridge
Built in 1884, this specific bridge design is named after the person who designed and built them. His name was Squire Whipple. He is known as “The Father of Iron Bridge Building in America”.
Of all the bridges that Squire Whipple built, this 1884 Whipple Truss Bridge in Clifton, TX is one of only a few that was built in this exact style believed to be left in the entire state of Texas.
If you like architecture, design, and history… then you’ll want to add this to your list of things to do near Waco TX.
Bosque County Courthouse – 48 Miles
It may seem odd that a courthouse is on a list of fun things to do near Waco TX, but there’s something about the courthouses in Texas that makes them incredibly fun to go check out.
The courthouse in Bosque County is no exception.
Built from limestone from local quarries, and designed in the Rennaissance Revival style, the Bosque County courthouse stood out from the countryside when it was originally built in 1886. It was a contentious build that the citizens of Bosque County fought over bitterly both in favor, and in opposition. But ultimately, the new county courthouse was built.
130+ years later, it still stands and stands out. And that’s why it’s on the list.
The Rock Church – 55 Miles
Built in 1886 by Norwegian immigrants (using rocks sourced locally), this church building is absolutely beautiful. The ground on which the church sits rises above the surrounding topography, giving you a lovely 360-degree view of the countryside.
The congregation has not met at The Rock Church (St Olafs Kirke is its official name) in quite some time. The congregation outgrew it in the early 1900s and built a new church building several miles down the road where they have weekly church services to this day. The building where they currently meet is also a historic building, having been built around 1907.
The Rock Church is still occasionally used for special services such as Easter, Christmas, etc. The rest of the time it’s open to the public, as well as for weddings and the like.
The doors of the church are almost always open and when you step inside, there is a guest book that you can sign and date to document your visit.
There are a few places that you can visit near Waco that I would define as “peaceful”, and The Rock Church is certainly one of them.
Collin Street Bakery: The Most Famous Fruitcake in The World – 2.6 Miles (Waco), 59 Miles (Corsicana)
The most famous fruitcake in the world is made in a bakery called Collin Street Bakery. It’s not just famous because they ship fruitcake all over the world, but also because it is where the “Fruitcake Fraud” story took place.
The Sandy Jenkins Embezzlement Case involved the embezzlement of over $17 Million from the Collin Street Bakery. The story has gained international fame over the years and was the subject of a lengthy documentary on Discovery+ called “Fruitcake Fraud“.
The Collin Street Bakery nearly went bankrupt as a result of the embezzlement scheme, but somehow the bakery survived, and they currently have three bakery locations in Texas today.
The location where all the excitement took place is in Corsicana, TX – just a hop skip and a 59-mile drive from Waco.
If you don’t want to make the longer drive to the original location (the documentaries source material), you can also just visit their Waco location which is just 2.6 miles from the Alico building downtown and you can try out their famous fruitcake for yourself!
Glen Rose, TX – 70 Miles
Although Glen Rose, TX is about an hour’s drive North and West of Waco, there is quite a bit to do there, so I have included it in this article in case you don’t mind driving that far.
The things you can do in Glen Rose are also pretty fascinating things to see and do. Stuff you really can’t find anywhere else like visiting the burial spot of Davy Crockett’s wife, seeing dinosaur footprints in the riverbed, and going on a Texas “Safari” to see endangered or extinct animals.
So, for that reason, if you don’t mind driving an hour away, then Glen Rose is definitely a place to check out if you’re looking for things to do near Waco TX.
Here are a few things you can do in Glen Rose:
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
The Fossil Rim Wildlife Center is home to over 50+ species of native and non-native species that are either rare, endangered, or even extinct in the wild. That translates into over 1,000+ animals on 1,800 acres of conservation land where endangered species from all across the world call home.
To support the conservation efforts, you can purchase tickets and go on either a guided tour, or drive in your own vehicle on a self-guided tour through the 1,800-acre park. It’s probably one of the closest places to a Safari that you will find in the US, and certainly in Texas.
The wildlife center also has lodging options, an onsite restaurant, and other fun activities as well. So, whether you’re just going for the day, or you want to extend your trip a little, you have options.
The “safari” tour will typically take at least an hour, so make sure you set aside some time to enjoy your time at the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center.
Dinosaur Valley State Park
Just as the name indicates, at the Dinosaur Valley State Park you will find evidence of dinosaurs in this state park. Beneath the shallow waters of the Paluxy River you will find massive dinosaur footprints in the rock bed.
Aside from the dinosaur tracks, you will also find 20 miles of trails, swimming spots, camping grounds and other traditional attractions that you would expect to find at a state park.
Big Rocks Park
The name of this park pretty much says everything you need to know. It’s literally a park with big rocks. Granted, the big rocks are in pretty cool formations, and they’re a lot of fun to climb on.
But it’s not just the rocks… it’s the river that flows over and around a lot of the rocks as well. The Paluxy River (the same river with the dinosaur tracks in it) runs through this park and it’s a beautiful place to relax for the day, wade around, swim or climb on some rocks.
There are quite a few places to swim in and near Waco, but if you are going to be in the Glen Rose area, plan on bringing your swimming gear!
Burial Site of Davy Crockett’s Wife
Nothing is more “Texas” than Davy Crockett. And even though the Alamo is hundreds of miles South, The burial site of Davy Crockett’s wife (Elizabeth Crockett) is in Granbury, TX – a short drive just north of Glen Rose.
Creation Evidence Museum
“Gopher Wood” (as mentioned in the Bible) is not an actual type of wood. It’s a woodworking technique that you can learn all about at the Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose, TX.
Aside from learning about woodworking techniques, you can also see a large model of Noah’s Ark, The London Artifact, The Burdick Track, The Alvis Delk Cretaceous Footprint, a Fossilized Human Finger, Dinosaur Replica’s and much more.
The World’s First 3D Drive-In Movie Theater – 80 Miles
It might be the furthest place from Waco on this list, but it’s also one of the coolest.
The First 3D Drive-In Movie Theater was opened in Ennis, TX in 2010 at the Galaxy Drive-In Movie Theater. The first movie ever shown in 3D at a Drive-In Movie Theater was Yogi Bear 3D and it was at the Galaxy Drive-In.
If you want to experience some movie theater history, as well as catch a movie under the big Texas sky, then you should definitely add this drive-in theater to your list of places to visit when you’re in Waco.
Tickets are $8 for adults, and $4 for kids and they show new releases all week long.
Things To Do Near Waco TX | The Recap
Did I miss anything? Are there other things to do near Waco TX that you would recommend? If so, send me a message and I’ll add it to the list!
To quickly recap, here are the things to do near Waco TX starting with the closest to the farthest away from downtown Waco:
- Largest Whiskey Bar in Texas
- The Silos at Magnolia
- Mammoth National Park
- Lake Waco
- Longest Lazy River in The World
- Czech Stop in West TX
- Tonkawa Falls
- Valley Mills, TX
- Valley Mills Vineyard
- The Gristmill in Valley Mills
- The Getaway Capital of Texas
- Drive-In Movie Theater – Gatesville
- The Norwegian Capital of Texas
- The Oldest Movie Theater in Texas
- 1884 Whipple Truss Bridge
- Bosque County Courthouse
- The Rock Church
- Collin Street Bakery
- Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
- Dinosaur Valley State Park
- Big Rocks Park
- Burial Site of Davy Crockett’s Wife
- Creation Evidence Museum
- The World’s First 3D Drive-In Movie Theater