I’ve watched “Fixer Upper” with the best of ‘em. Literally. I remember my best friend flying out to surprise me one year for my birthday and we did what any pair of best friends do when they have a weekend to catch up and make meaningful memories: lay in bed, eat take out and watch Netflix.

It was on this trip that I introduced her to Chip and Joanna Gaines and baptized her into all things Waco. From marveling at the sale price of homes (as compared to LA real estate, which you should never, ever do) to its literal picture of transforming what was once cast aside into something treasured and beautiful, we were both in tears at the end of every episode.

I doubt we’re alone. There’s something about the Gaines that, in a sea of reality television and larger-than-life personalities, is so grounding and refreshing. They’re not perfect; they don’t claim to be. But they’re willing to do their thing and give us a peek into their lives — and make shiplap a household name in the process.

A few months after my friend’s visit, I had the chance to interview Joanna for Darling Issue No. 15. I was relieved to discover that her warm and relatable demeanor was just as present off-screen. I left our conversation wanting to model integrity and consistency in my own interactions, whether professional, personal or otherwise. There was something about Joanna that certainly rubbed off.

magnolia market chevy
Image via Chevrolet

So when I was invited to Waco recently on behalf of Chevrolet, I was immediately curious. How would the town measure up? Would Magnolia Market be its one-hit-wonder or would “Fixer Upper” serve as lure to find a diamond in the rough?

I’ll let the below speak for itself.

Magnolia Market

An obvious stop when in Waco, Magnolia Market’s hallmark silos are hard to miss in the center of town. Park at the church parking lot across the street for $10 or hop on the free Silo District Trolley that makes a loop around downtown, including a stop at a free parking lot.

Once through the entrance gates, the market shop is immediately to your left. It’s a split-level wonderland of all things Magnolia and even if the style isn’t totally up your alley, you’ll still find something here to call your own — possibly even to send to a best friend. (FedEx is on site!)

Outside, a sprawling lawn offers picnic tables, bean bag chairs and cornhole boards while local food trucks dot its perimeter. Both the Cheddar Box and Co-Town Crepes were excellent for lunch. On an extra hot day, be sure to grab something from Luna Juice. That Texan sun does not kid around.

Silos Baking Co.

It goes without saying, but if you’re at the market, then you’ll definitely notice the long line snaked around the bakery on the corner. Queuing up is a must for the cupcakes standing at attention inside. Luckily, the line moves fast and you’ll be so glad you waited because these clouds of confection are… perfection. Must-trys are the Strawberries ‘n Cream and the Cup O’ Jo.

Dr. Pepper Museum

In the great Coca-Cola v. Pepsi debate, I’d forever choose Dr. Pepper. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that Dr. Pepper was actually invented in Waco in 1885 by a young pharmacist who liked the way the soda shop smelled.

Learn everything you ever wanted to know about the nation’s oldest major soft drink at the Dr. Pepper Museum, located just a stone’s throw (a cupcake’s throw?) from Magnolia Market.

Historic Homes of Waco Tour

So, yes. You can take a driving tour of the famous fixer uppers located all over Waco and I did. Frankly, I was looking for any reason to keep driving the roomy Chevy Suburban that I had been loaned for the trip. And while it is fun to spot these homes “in the wild,” keep in mind that most of them are still private family dwellings. Aim to be respectful instead of overly nosy.

What I wish I had more time to do was tour all of Waco’s historic mansions. These mini-museums showcase furnishings and ways of life original to each home’s time period, complete with an intriguing history of who built it, who lived there and why. My favorite would easily be the Italianate Villa-styled East Terrace House, which looks like the spitting image of the dollhouse of my dreams.

Balcones Distillery

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Happy Derby Day ???

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Award-winning Balcones is the perfect place to cool off and simultaneously heat up with a tasting of their famed Texas whisky. Even if you’re not one for drink, you’ll still find reasons to appreciate the dedication to their craft and learning the history of how they started from an old welding shop beneath a bridge.

 Downtown Waco

The charming grid of streets a few blocks over from the silos will have you seriously smitten — and wondering how much storefronts are going for and if now’s the perfect time to open that little boutique you’ve always dreamed of.

But if you decide you’re OK just being a visitor, then you’ll want to stop in Dichotomy (coffeehouse by day, cocktail lounge at night) and browse the shops on the ground floor of the historic Praetorian Lofts. See what’s playing at the classic Hippodrome, too. It offers full-service, in-theater dining for an extra special night at the movies.

I could go on about what else to visit in Waco: the plethora of vintage shops (Spice Village, Cedar Chest Antique Mall, Black Oak Art Studio, Summer Ellis Bijouterie, JDH Iron Designs) the catalog of scrumptious local restaurants (MILO Biscuit Company, Common Grounds, Rufi’s, Café Homestead) or the Gaines’ newest venture, soon-to-open Elite Café where Elvis dined while stationed at Fort Hood. There’s even the beauty of Baylor University’s Armstrong Browning Library that fans of “Beauty and the Beast” will, no doubt, appreciate. Also, the zoo!

But what I’m struck by the most is that there is so much more to love in Waco than simply what’s been seen on TV. Just like its revered HGTV residents, it’s a city that doesn’t clamor hard for the spotlight. It’s out to care for its community, respect its history and make visitors feel welcome.

It’s amazing what we attract when we stay true to ourselves and create opportunity for others to do the same.

Thank you to Chevrolet for the invitation and sponsorship of the costs involved with this trip. All content, thoughts and opinions expressed remain 100% my own.

Have you been to Waco? What did you discover while there?

Featured Image via @wacobound

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9 comments

  1. As a Baylor student living in Waco, I can tell you Common Grounds is a far cry from a restaurant. The best they have are scones and those are sold out most days, but they do have awesome coffee (I rec the Mexican Hot Cocoa) and local performers can be found performing on the stage out back most weekends. Fair Warning- if you visit CG or Dichotomy in the evenings be prepared to encounter the cantankerous College Students in their natural habitat. Also, don’t leave without eating at Viteks, Clay Pot, Xristos food cart, Ninfa’s, and Twisted Root Burgers! If you’re more of the nature type check out Cameron Park or the Veteran’s Memorial on University Parks just past the food carts.

  2. Make sure to stop by one of the best social enterprises in Waco : Lovely Enterprises! Lovely exists to reduce recidivism into the sex trade by providing living wage jobs and launching micro business! We stand against exploitation from materials to manufacturing – fair trade, ethically sourced, socially responsible! OurLovelystore.com at 1500 Columbus Ave.

  3. “You can take a driving tour of the infamous fixer uppers located all over Waco”
    What makes the houses infamous?

  4. Lived there for 5 years….miss it SO very much! Hike the trails at Cameron Park!

  5. This is a lovely description of Waco! I’ve lived here for 12 years, and this makes me want to venture out and appreciate it more! Or, send it out to convince people to come visit me! Thank you!

  6. I grew up in that area, just a couple of hours from Waco, and it’s really amazing what that show has done for the town! A few years ago you would say Waco and everyone would just be like, “Wa-hoo??” I haven’t been back since the show has gotten really popular, but I’d love to see how much it’s changed!

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