I’d never been to Waco. It probably isn’t hard for a lot of people to imagine, because maybe they’ve never been to Waco either. However, I grew up in Texarkana, only 4 hours away. Not only had I never been to Waco until this summer, but I had probably only traveled as far as Tyler, TX in that direction. It seems so close, now that I’ve made the journey. Now that I’ve finally been there, I wonder what took me so long.
Currently, the popularity of the television show, Fixer Upper, has brought tourism to Waco, TX. If you go there, you’ll be bombarded by the presence of Chip and Joanna Gaines, but in a really good way. Somehow, their influence hasn’t had a negative impact. Instead, they have brought attention to the college town with an easygoing Texas flair. It’s a good mix.
My adventure to Waco was a short one. My mom, aunt, and I left early on a Monday morning from my parents’ house in Texarkana. I like to say that Texarkana is “on the way to anywhere you want to go.” So, we headed out on the highways of east Texas, avoiding the bigger interstates, even when GPS begged us to hop on the freeway with the rest of the hurried crowd. We said “No thank you” to that idea. I’d been to Dallas plenty of times, and didn’t need the hassle of the traffic this time. This adventure was meant to be savored, even the drive.
My mom and her sister have traveled all over the United States together, so hopping in the car and going to another Texas town probably wasn’t a big adventure for them. However, my husband and I have mostly traveled for the sake of our sons’ baseball games and tournaments. Any non sporting excursion is something different for me. I was so excited about it that I could think of little else. Also, my mom and aunt take little trips all over Arkansas (our home state) and Branson, MO quite often. The last time I was included on one of their trips was in the mid 1990s when I was very pregnant with my son, A.J. So, this invitation was extra special to me.
I regret not taking any photos of the scenic drive on the way to Waco. I loved the thick Piney woods along the highway in east Texas that evolved into soft rolling hills that were very spread out as we got closer to our destination. I usually get carsick, but I was driving this time, so that helped. Also, the roads were mostly straight. I’m directionally challenged, so I never really knew when east TX ended and whatever part of TX (that Waco is in) began. It was all just very comforting to me. I’m the kind of person who can find beauty in a lot of different places, but this trip felt like I was going home. Home to a place I’d never been? I’m weird.
When we arrived in Waco Monday afternoon, we went straight to our hotel. We chose the Hilton, which was by the Brazos River, across from the historic extension bridge. What a view we had! I could have stayed there for days. We were able to walk over to Spice Village, the Olive Branch, and the trolley stop also. In fact, thanks to the perfect location of our hotel, we only had to get in our vehicle once– to eat at Buzzard Billy’s on the other side of the river. The trolley took us to Magnolia Market, and gave us a little recorded history lesson along the ride. If we had stayed longer, I would have ridden that trolley everyday.
Magnolia Market was definitely worth the drive! I was there just long enough to want to go back soon. I got lots of decorating ideas. I think a girl needs a little trip like that for rejuvenation and inspiration. And I needed it to create more memories with my sweet mother and her sister, two of my favorite women in the world. I’m so thankful that they included me.
The Olive Branch is a restaurant inside Spice Village, which is an old steel mill building. I was curious about the building, so I asked our waitress about it. I didn’t realize that Waco had a rich history of providing steel for the railroad systems in Texas and the West. If you get a chance to eat lunch or breakfast at the Olive Branch, you’ll love it. And buy some coffee to take with you. They’ll grind it for you. In the Texas summer heat, your car will smell so good!
I’ll admit that I didn’t know anything about Waco, except for Baylor University and Magnolia Market. So, learning about the town was interesting to me. This suspension bridge, for example, was built in the 1800s to help get cattle across the river. It’s quite substantial in size! I’m glad the people of Waco cared enough to preserve it.
We love to watch Fixer Upper. Chip and Joanna create the most amazing spaces in older homes. It was fun to see such a huge collection of decorative pieces inspired by them. I only bought a t-shirt though… I’ll come back when I can afford more. I was in tourist mode this time!
We only spent one night in Waco, but we covered a lot of ground. The next time I visit, I’d like to see the Dr. Pepper Museum, Texas Rangers Museum, and Homestead Heritage. I think I have peaked the interest of my husband, so maybe he’ll go with me next time. Stay tuned.