Whether you’re traveling here from out of town, or just looking for something new to do with friends and family, here are a few of my suggestions for places to go when you just want to chill. These all require no previous planning – you can just show up, stay as long as you want, spend as much money as you want (except for a couple that are free), and make what you want of it. These are my favorite kinds of places.
Common Grounds/Heritage Creamery
- I put these two together because they’re right next to each other and owned by the same people. Common Grounds is a great coffee shop, making it a great place to hang. There is a lot of seating inside, outside, and in the side porch, however, during the school year these spots get filled with students “diligently” studying. Common Grounds is definitely the place to go if you love coffee or if you like drinks with coffee in them that don’t necessarily taste like coffee. They have a very wide array of choices and always have a seasonal menu, which I think is really fun. They also sell some pastries that are super tasty. The vibe here is cozy and fun, definitely a college atmosphere. You can also catch a show here – check out their schedule online or look around at the posters hanging up. They also have a container store located at the Silos.
- 1123 S 8th St, Summer hours – 7am-10pm Mon-Fri, 8am-10pm Sat., 12pm-1pm, Sun.
- Heritage Creamery is right next door. Heritage serves ice cream, shakes, floats, and ice cream sandwiches – and they make some dang good flavors. My personal favorite is the Ethiopian Coffee, followed by Mint Stracciatella. They use local ingredients, which makes everything taste very fresh and not artificial, and they roll their own waffle cones in house. (which is why it smells amazing in here). You can also buy cookies there which are absolutely delicious. They have a lot of seating and a great little back porch, so this is a great escape if Common Grounds is a little too crowded.
- 1125 S 8th St, Mon-Sun, 12pm-11pm
- Dichotomy is another coffee shop that is located down town, however Dichotomy also has a bar next to their coffee bar. This is more of a young adult hang out, but you can still find college students studying here. They also host two of the best food trucks out front on a regular basis – Sergio’s (amazing burritos) and Pokey-O’s (ice cream sandwiches). Dichotomy has less options, more of the classic coffee staples, but they also have a great selection of teas. They serve a few pastries as well as breakfast tacos in the mornings. Recently, they’ve added a refrigerator with some great local kombuchas, along with other great sodas, which is nice when you’re not in a coffee mood. They have special events from time to time, like smaller concerts or build your own drink specials.
- 508 Austin Ave, Sun-Thurs., 6am-12am, Fri-Sat., 6am-2am
- Steel City Pops finally has a store front location, and I am very happy about that, especially because it’s very close to my home. Steel City allows you to customize your own popsicle and make it into a work of art. You can choose either a fruity or a creamy popsicle and then choose which toppings to dip it in. My favorite is to get a chocolate popsicle, dip it in white chocolate, and coat it in graham crackers. You can also find Steel City Pops at the Silos, or the Waco Farmers Market!
- 721 S 4th St #114, Sun-Thurs., 12-10pm, Fri-Sat., 12-11pm
- This is a little bit of a drive from “Waco,” but definitely worth visiting. I always have a hard time describing Homestead, so from their website – “Homestead Heritage is an agrarian- and craft-based intentional Christian community. Its literature stresses simplicity, sustainability, self-sufficiency, cooperation, service and quality craftmanship.” You can really do a little bit of anything at Homestead. Their cafe serves amazing food all day, so you could go just to eat (check out my places to eat blog for more information on that). Their craft village is really amazing to walk around – you can visit their shops like the forge, fiber crafts, pottery, woodworking, and gristmill. There is a main store called The Barn that you can buy any of their products at, as well as a general store, a market, and a cheese shop. There are places to walk through gardens, as well as check out some animals. You can really customize your experience here. They also have annual festivals and special events. Entering is free, so if you just want to walk around and look at stuff, you are free to do so.
- 608 Dry Creek Rd., Mon-Sat., 10am-6pm
- There’s not much to say about the zoo because it’s a great zoo, but if you’ve been to a zoo before, then you know what a zoo is like so I probably don’t need to describe it much. There are a wide variety of animals located in the Asian Forest and African Savanna areas, as well as a few Brazos Valley displays. My personal favorite exhibit is the otters – there is a clear slide that you can slide down and feel like you’re playing with them! There are quite a few indoor buildings, so it is manageable to go here even if it’s hot outside.
- 1701 N 4th St, Mon-Sat., 9am-5pm, Sun., 11am-5pm
- Admission: Adult (13+) – $10, Children (4-12) – $7 (3 and under are free), Sr. Citizens (60+) – $9
- Cameron Park is a massive 400-acre park located next to down town. There is a TON to do and see here. There are multiple hiking and biking trails, pavilions, and open spaces to hang out. People enjoy cooking out, working out, playing sports, hammocking, slack lining, and playing frisbee golf here. Even just taking a drive through the park is an enjoyable experience.
- Located in the parking lot across from Dichotomy and the court house, the Waco Farmer’s Market is open on Saturday mornings from 9am-1pm. There are multiple tents where you can get breakfast/lunch made for you, and of course a ton of tents where you can buy locally made goods. There is a train that goes around the parking lot for children and local artists playing live music. I love the breakfast tacos at Happy Harvest, and the chocolate chip cookies and berry hibiscus tea (not at the same time, separately) at Double B Farms.
- Hey Sugar is a candy store downtown that is dangerously close to my office. It’s a great place to check out for both kids and adults. They have a ton of classic candy, craft sodas, hand dipped candy, and ice cream. You can really get most anything your sugar loving heart desires here. It’s a great place to have birthday parties for kids, or just relive your childhood.
- 808 Austin Ave, Sun-Thurs., 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat., 11am-10pm
Lake Waco/Carleen Bright Arboretum
- Lake Waco is technically not considered “in Waco” to locals, but it’s close enough that I consider it something to do here. There are 3 different park areas around the lake where you can cook out, hang up hammocks, play a round of frisbee golf, hike on trails, and play on playgrounds. There are pavilions you can reserve for parties, as well as a baseball diamond.
- Right up the road is the Carleen Bright Arboretum, which also has great walking trails and beautiful plants and flowers to check out.
- 9001 Bosque Blvd, Mon-Fri., 9am-5pm, Sat., 10am-2pm, Sun., closed