Waco, A Friendly Taste of Central Texas’ Heartland

by Carmel L. Mooney

Our Sacramento area families have an adventurous spirit and recently that led us to a wonderful family vacation treasure in the great state of Texas.

Folks in Waco know their gems and are more than happy to share them with visitors. This beautiful little city in the heart of Texas is lush and fertile partly thanks to the gorgeous Brazos River and the Bosque River which meander through, providing an ambiance and an environment that attracts wildlife and birds as much as visitors.

Where Vacationing Families Stay in Waco

Staying at the Waco Hilton across the Brazos River, provided our clan with the perfect hub from which to enjoy our delightful adventure. With Serenity beds, a good night’s sleep was nearly guaranteed. Upon arising, we checked out the breakfast buffet where made-to-order omelets are standard fare along with heart-healthy options such as lean apple sausages and egg white entrees. A perfectly maintained exercise room, pool, and spa add to our family fun and comfort.

Family Vacation Fun Spots

Across the street from the Hilton, we took a walk across the historic Waco suspension bridge. Once an integral part of Waco history, this forerunner to the Brooklyn Bridge allowed cattle ranchers the only viable way across the Brazos with their herds. We all loved a beautiful grouping of statues depicting this, at the entrance to the bridge.

While downtown, we loved the world-famous Dr. Pepper Museum. Wouldn’t ya like to be a Pepper too? Thousands of visitors enjoy everything Dr. Pepper does while learning about Waco’s claim to fame as it was invented there. We discovered a marriage made in heaven when we bellied up to the old-fashioned soda counter to order Dr. Pepper floats made with the Doctor of course and Blue Bell ice cream, still Texas’ best.

You’ll want to check out the Texas Ranger Museum and Hall of Fame. Even if you don’t own a Ford Ranger and have never watched an episode of the Lone Ranger and have never heard of Bonnie and Clyde, you’ll be captivated by the history and amazement in this museum. You might not have known that many of the freedoms you enjoy today are thankfully due in part, to Texas Rangers of years gone by, as they shaped our very nation nearly two hundred years ago. This is a must museum for kids who like playing “Cowboys and Indians.”

For a taste of the local and exotic within the animal kingdom, take at least a few hours to experience Cameron Park Zoo. A highly acclaimed, and nationally recognized zoo, this place provides habitat for animals from around the world as well as an inside look at the ecosystems and inhabitants of the gorgeous Brazos River region. An outstanding bird aviary, unique primates, and excellent reptile exhibits make this a very worthy investment of your time. We loved the unique slide where kids can slide down a tube that passes through the otter exhibit so it looks and feels like kids are sliding into the water with the otters. We’d never seen anything like it! There is even a “cool” thing where the primates can douse the kids with a water-pull set up where the primates pull a lever that “cools” the kids off with water. We found this to be the best and most interactive zoo we’d seen in ages.

historic homestead heritage site shows children what it was like back in the day

Be sure to take a little time to stop by the Mayborn Museum for kids with all its hands-on and interactive exhibits. It’s natural science and history on one side and a children’s discovery area on the other, and perfect for kids of all ages.

The Waco Mammoth site showcases several wooly mammoth fossils in their entirety in an intriguing and educational setting. Still partly encased in the rocks in which they were discovered, this mind-boggling excavation site and the display will any vacationing family a glimpse into the lives of these interesting prehistoric creatures with teeth the size of shoe boxes. We were blown away by the “cool factor” at this mind-blowing historic site.

Good Eats in Waco

Getting hungry yet? If a healthy salad and wonderful buffet of options sounds enticing then stop in at Jason’s Deli for a knock-your-socks-off salad bar as well as a remarkable sandwich bar that offers gluten-free bread and other not-typical healthy options. One of our kids is on a gluten-free diet so we appreciated this place.

If a hearty Mexican meal sounds good, then you won’t be disappointed at Ninfa’s. A local, well-known resident favorite, the Carnitas are gigantic portions and melt-in-your-mouth tender.

Back to Destinations…

Carmel L. Mooney is the editor of Road Trips for Couples

Mayborn museum in Waco, Texas