15 Fascinating Things To Do in Valley Mills, Texas | Where Magnolia Table is Filmed
Valley Mills, Texas is home to many fascinating and historical things including a Santa Fe Railroad Museum, a nationally recognized sawmill (as seen on HGTV’s popular show, “Fixer Upper”), as well as the remains of a historic bridge in a hidden riverside park.
More recently, Valley Mills, TX became the exclusive filming location for “Magnolia Table with Joanna Gaines”, the Magnolia Network TV show.
If you’re visiting Waco, and looking for unique things to do near Waco that are off the beaten path, look no further! Valley Mills is just a quick 20 minute drive down the road from Waco.
The Location & History of Valley Mills, Texas
Valley Mills, TX is a small, rural town in Central Texas located about 25 minutes West of Waco and 60 miles North of Fort Hood – the 3rd largest military base in the US.
The population is approximately 1,400, though, the greater Valley Mills population outside of city limits is much higher.
Valley Mills, TX was originally founded in the mid 1800s in Bosque County (est. 1854) along the banks of the Bosque River.
When the railroad was built through the region, the tracks were built on the opposite side of the river from where the town was located.
The town soon relocated to the other side of the river to be closer to the railroad, which, in hindsight was a good decision.
Shortly after the town of Valley Mills relocated, a massive tornado destroyed much of the original town on the other side of the river where they’d recently moved from!
The picture above is on the side of the river where the original historic town was built in the valley. It’s now a several hundred acre, privately owned farm and ranch.
After the new town was built closer to the railroad, it became a prosperous and growing town that featured multiple general stores, a church, a school, a drugstore, a bank, a blacksmith shop, a stagecoach stop, boarding house, as well as multiple sawmills, cotton gins, grist mills, and flour mills.
To this day, much of the town is still standing. Most of the old buildings are occupied by new businesses, though some aren’t far from their original uses.
The following historic buildings are still standing in Valley Mills, TX:
Multiple General Stores
Things To See and Do in Valley Mills
From historic buildings to a railroad museum, a world-famous baking show recording studio and an award-winning wine-vineyard, for being a small rural town, Valley Mills has a lot of things to see and do.
So, if you want to get out of the city, and into the rural countryside of Texas and visit small town America, Valley Mills, Texas is a wonderful place to do just that.
All of the baked, fried and roasted goods that are made on Magnolia Table are made in the newly renovated Historic Gristmill in downtown Valley Mills, TX.
While they do not currently offer tours of the building, you can still view it from the outside, including the greenhouse tucked away in the back of the property that is the source of much of the fresh produce used in the show.
If you go to view the property, please be respectful of the community and do not park on lawns, or other private property. You can park for free on the main stretch going through downtown Valley Mills on Highway 6, and walk two blocks to see the historic Gristmill.
Award Winning Valley Mills Vineyard
If wine is your thing, then you’ll absolutely want to make a trip out to the Valley Mills Vineyard. It’s a beautiful wine vineyard and they have won multiple awards for various bottles of wine that they produce right in Valley Mills, Texas.
Fredericksburg, TX may be the premier place to find locally produced wine in the state of Texas, but Valley Mills is certainly giving Fredericksburg a run for its money.
The wine vineyard features a beautiful building located atop the hillside that rises above the valley and offers relaxing scenery while you sip on your favorite drink.
The Bosque River Runs Through Valley Mills
When you head out to the Valley Mills Vineyard, you’ll drive about a mile past the historic gristmill, you’ll cross over a bridge which extends over the Bosque River – the same river that forms Lake Waco.
From Lake Waco (a good place to swim in Waco), the Bosque River joins the Brazos River at a fork, and continues through downtown Waco.
The Bosque River is what divides the town of Valley Mills in two. On one side is where the main part of town is today. On the other side is where the original town was built, and ultimately destroyed by an F5 tornado.
Thankfully most of the town had already made the move to the other side of the river (to be closer to the newly built railroad line) shortly before the devastating tornado struck.
The Bosque River is frequently visited by fishers, as well as by research teams from Baylor University, and occasionally by people who want to escape the hot Texas summer heat.
There are no designated swimming areas, but if the water is high enough (and not stagnant) then it can be a refreshing place to hang out on a hot afternoon.
Just keep in mind that since it is rural Texas, other critters like snakes may take a liking to the riverside, too.
The Santa Fe Train Depot Museum is Located in Valley Mills, Texas
Adjacent to the city park is the Santa Fe Train Depot Museum located in downtown Valley Mills, Texas. One of the railroad lines that went through Valley Mills was the Santa Fe Railroad and the train tracks through Valley Mills are still used to this day.
If you want to check out a small piece of railroad history, it’s a really neat place to go visit. While you’re there, you’ll probably hear an actual train go by, blowing its train whistle from the tracks nearby.
The Lost Bridge in Valley Mills
Inside the “Boy Scout Park” mentioned in the section above, there is an old historic bridge that no longer exists outside of the pillars that it once rested upon. You don’t have to go climbing down any embankments to see it, and if you’re someone who likes seeing remnants of historic structures, it’s a pretty neat find.
The remains of the lost bridge are from the original bridge that was used by the original founders of Valley Mills to cross from one side of the river to the other. The gravel road that you drive into the small city park on is also a remnant of the original road that connected to the historic bridge.
Basketball Court, Baseball Fields, Splash Pad, City Park & Pavilion
If you visit Valley Mills, Texas with kids during the summer, there’s a refreshing Splash Pad that’s pretty cool for such a small rural town. In fact, it’s probably one of the coolest splash pads I’ve seen anywhere around Waco.
In addition to the Splash Pad, there are baseball fields, a basketball court, a small city park with old school park amenities and a covered pavilion. If there is no burn ban in place, you can grill out in the parks as well.
Back down in the valley you’ll find the Valley Mills Mantel shop and sawmill which has been featured on Chip and Joanna Gaines’s HGTV show, “The Fixer Upper”. It’s owned and operated by Aubrey Stringer who calls himself “an old-school Woodsmith”.
While I do not personally have use for a wood mantel, I’ve visited several times both to photograph, and to admire his work. If I ever have a place to put a wood mantel, I will certainly order from the Valley Mills Mantel shop. The pieces he makes are incredibly beautiful and well made.
The building that the Valley Mills Mantel shop is located in is also historic. It was built at the same time as the historic Gristmill around the year 1900.
It was originally a livery stable, then a blacksmith shop as well as home to a number of other businesses over the years. Now this historic building is being put to good use once again as a famous wood mantel shop in downtown Valley Mills, TX.
Historic 1st National Bank of Bosque County
Valley Mills, TX is home to the 1st National Bank of Bosque County. Founded in 1896, the bank received its National Charter in 1908. The 1st National Bank of Bosque County has been at this same location since 1908.
First Methodist Church of Valley Mills
This church can trace its history back to the circuit riding preachers in the 1840s. By 1889, they had built a church in Valley Mills, but ultimately decided to move further into the downtown area. The church that stands today was built in 1916, and features a pressed metal roof (it looks like roofing tiles), corbelled brickwork and art glass windows.
A historic marker is available to read onsite.
Valley Mills Hidden Boy Scout Park
There is a hidden “boy scout park” that won’t show up on the map online unless you zoom all the way in on the map. It’s located right on the Bosque riverside.
While it’s called a “boy scout park” (I think local boy scout chapters use it on a regular basis), it’s actually a small city park with lots of shade, RV parking spots, and some access to the riverside if you’re willing to walk through some vegetation and down an embankment to the sandy riverside.
Needless to say, it’s a nice little city park located in Valley Mills, TX and it’s a great place to escape the heat under the canopy of the trees. It’s also a great place to grill out or even park your RV for a little while if you’re visiting the Waco area.
The last few times I’ve been there, the RV lots have all been full, so you will probably want to make a reservation in advance.
Valley Mills Progress (1989 – Current)
Originally established in 1989, this rural American newspaper is still in publication to this day. You can view the Valley Mills Progress building located right next door to the historic Gristmill where Magnolia Table with Joanna Gaines is filmed in Valley Mills, TX.
You can pick up the latest edition of this newspaper at many of the local businesses in Valley Mills, including the local grocery store, Brookshire Brothers. Your copy of the paper will cost you $0.75.
Wall Mural Art
Wall mural art isn’t just for big cities. It’s in rural America, too.
If you’re going to visit the filming location for Magnolia Table with Joanna Gaines, you’ll likely be parking on the main street (see parking map). When you park on the main street, you’ll be walking right by the wall mural which is a beautiful depiction of life in Valley Mills from years past.
Rock Springs Cumberland Presbyterian Church
The historic Rock Springs Church is located just a few miles up the road from downtown Valley Mills, TX. This church was one of the first churches built in the area in 1890.
The Rock Springs Church was established and led and built by James B. Sadler, a slave who had been forced to migrate to Texas prior to being freed in the 1860s following the Civil War.
James B. Sadler eventually purchased 545 acres known as “Rock Springs, TX” (also known as The Colony), which was the first African American community in the entire state of Texas. The Rock Springs, TX community featured the church, a school, a lodge, ranches, farms and more.
The Rock Springs Church was built up on an overlook with the Rock Springs seen below. Today, the springs are hidden in dense forest, but the historic church building still remains standing despite being in significant disrepair.
Ultimately, that church grew and split into other churches in the area, but the descendants of the original church founders family and members of the church still hold an annual get together at the church each year.
The Rock Springs community is still often referred to as Rock Springs on some maps and by locals, despite now being formally considered part of the “greater Valley Mills” area.
Places to Shop in Valley Mills
Despite being a very small rural town, Valley Mills features quite a few fantastic boutiques and places to shop.
Here area few of the places you can shop at when planning a visit to the filming location for Magnolia Table with Joanna Gaines:
Valley Mills, TX is home to the Valley Mills Eagles baseball team. They became the 2022 State Champions after winning the Conference 2A State Championship game. The last time they had won a state title before that was 30 years prior in 1992.
Donnie Sadler was born and raised in Valley Mills, TX. He also attended the Valley Mills High School and played on the Valley Mills Eagles baseball team. He went on to be drafted in 1994 by the Boston Red Sox minor league team, and subsequently played in the MLB from 1998 – 2007.
Valley Mills, TX was founded in 1867.
Valley Mills was named after a flour mill that was built on the banks of the Bosque River.
Valley Mills was home to Isaac Brock, a supercentenarian.