kids playing on baseball field

A Family-Friendly Weekend in Waco’s Great Outdoors

kids playing on baseball field
Sep 14, 2023

Waco is chock-full of outdoor adventure sure to delight the whole family. Start planning your excursion with this three-day itinerary full of fresh air, discovery, and even a little learning for you and the kids.

Kid-Friendly Hotels in Waco

What’s the one thing kids care about in a hotel? A pool! Luckily, many of Waco’s best hotels come equipped with that all-important amenity. Here’s a list of local hotels with indoor and outdoor pools for year-round swimming.

Hotels with Outdoor Pools

Hotels with Indoor Pools

Friday on the Town

Begin your adventure in Waco with a mid-morning arrival on Friday. You can spend your first day in town exploring the Magnolia Silos and hunting for local art.

Stroll the Magnolia Silos

A few hours at the Magnolia Silos are fun for the whole family. This charming shopping and dining complex in downtown Waco is anchored by two historic cottonseed silos—hence the name. Owned by Chip and Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper fame, it’s a popular tourist destination.

Browse Magnolia Market and the other shops for home decor, skincare, apparel, and gardening goodies. Stop by the Silos Baking Co. for a cupcake and get an iced coffee at Magnolia Press. Let the kids run wild on the expansive green lawn, and play a game of wiffle ball at the mini ballpark. When you’ve worked up an appetite, there’s an impressive lineup of food trucks. You can enjoy pizza, sandwiches, hot dogs, and much more when you’re ready for lunch.

Want to get a better look? Take a 45-minute guided tour of the property to learn more about how this area went from defunct to delightful. The tour is kid-friendly, and kids under 7 are free! They’ll love the view from the roof of Magnolia Market—one of the tour stops.

Go For an Art Scavenger Hunt

Spend the afternoon searching for treasure, hidden in plain sight. Waco is full of public street art, from murals to sculptures to fountains. Use Creative Waco’s Public Art Map to hunt for specific pieces or works by specific creators, like French graffiti artist Blek Le Rat who has six pieces around Waco.

This is a great opportunity to help younger kids learn about navigation and direction! Challenge them to find different murals…without the help of GPS. Take a photo at each mural to commemorate your find. Tag your photos with #wacotx to share with other visitors!

Dinner at Ninfa’s Mexican Restaurant

Decorated with sparkling chandeliers, neon lights, and hand-painted murals depicting scenes from around Waco, colorful Ninfa’s Mexican Restaurant is a family favorite. Kids will find plenty of tasty options, including burritos, enchiladas, and quesadillas. Grown-ups will love their signature carnitas or crawfish enchiladas. The pechuga alfonso is another fan favorite—chicken breast stuffed with jack cheese, pico de gaillo, and ham, shrimp, or bacon, then topped with sautéed mushrooms and butter wine sauce.

Don’t skip a Ninfarita—their house margarita with homemade sweet n’ sour. Choose your favorite tequila or add a flavor to make your own custom cocktail.

A Slow-Living Saturday

You won’t have to bargain with the kids for a screen-free Saturday in Waco. With horseback riding and creative crafts on the agenda, they’ll be living in the moment.

Breakfast at Our Breakfast Place

Casual restaurant Our Breakfast Place is a welcoming spot to start the day. This family-owned eatery opens at 7:00 a.m., so you can get there as early as you like before you begin the day’s activities.

Their menu has plenty of options to satisfy even the pickiest eaters. Kids will love the big belgian waffles, chocolate chip pancakes, and french toast. A variety of eggs benedicts, breakfast skillets, omelets, and scrambles are also available for those who prefer savory over sweet. They even have a juice bar with seasonal selections, so you can drink your greens.

Morning on the Ranch

Kids can try out the life of the genuine cowboy or cowgirl at Brazos Bluffs Ranch. This family-owned and operated Texas ranch offers horseback rides through miles of scenic countryside.

Real ranchers and cowboys will give your party a lesson on leading their horses, and make sure everyone can mount and dismount. Then they’ll guide your party along the trails in the open country and under the shade of heritage trees. “The Rancher” is a 90-minute ride, suitable for all skill levels ages seven and up.

In the hot months, this excursion is generally limited to the morning hours for the safety of horse and rider. In the cooler months, afternoon rides may also be offered. Leave your phone in your pocket—your guide will take pictures for you and share them at the end of the ride.

Lunch and Learn at Homestead Craft Village

After your horseback riding adventure, head to Homestead Craft Village just a 5-minute drive away. This agrarian and artisan community specializes in handcrafted goods like pottery, woven baskets, wood furniture, and stone-ground flour.

Start with lunch at Cafe Homestead for scratch-made American food. You may find local cheese from Brazos Valley Cheese down the road, pasture-raised beef, and fresh produce from the onsite farm on their menu.

Once you’re full, wander the historic barns and restored farm houses dedicated to various arts and crafts, watching the craftspeople working with their hands the old-fashioned way. As you explore, inquire about “Make Your Own” projects for kids, like a brass spoon at Heritage Forge or a pinch pot at the Potter’s House. You can also pick up handmade souvenirs from beeswax candles to woven textiles to fresh honey and much more.

Wrap up your visit with a horse-drawn hayride, offered on Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. This 45-minute ride includes beautiful views of the farm from a scenic overlook.

Slow-Smoked Barbecue

For dinner, treat the family to some good old Texas barbecue. At Vitek’s Market, you can order a family-style feast for everyone to share. Choose from meats including brisket, smoked turkey, pulled pork, or homemade sausage. And load up on traditional sides including beans, coleslaw, three cheese mac, or potato salad.

For something unique, try their Gut Pak. This original creation is a smorgasbord of Fritos® Corn Chips, hand-chopped brisket, sausage, pinto beans, and cheddar cheese, served with pickles, onions, jalapenos, and white bread. Enjoy your meal outside on the covered barn-style patio or inside the laid back dining room.

Kid-Friendly Waco After Dark

If the kids are up for some nightlife, look to the Bridge Street Plaza area. The Bridge Street Plaza & Amphitheater is the city’s “front porch,” hosting live music and other community events throughout the year. If there’s no music that night, it’s still worth a visit to the Waco Suspension Bridge just a block away. This historic pedestrian bridge is a lovely sight after dark, lit up by strings of lights that reflect on the Brazos River. Kids will love it!

Sunday with the Animals

Round out your Waco weekend with a look at some Central Texas wildlife, both past and present.

Breakfast at Café Cappuccino

With tons of sweet and savory options, Café Cappuccino has something for everyone—thick belgian waffles in lots of flavors, omelets stuffed with meat and veggies, fluffy gingerbread pecan pancakes, light crêpes, and much more.

With locations both uptown and downtown, it’s easy to fit this family-friendly eatery into your itinerary.

Walk Among the Bones of Giants

In spring 1978, two friends went searching for arrowheads near the Bosque River. But they found something much more exciting—a huge bone. They brought their find to Baylor University, where staff at the Strecker Museum identified it as a Columbian mammoth femur bone.

Over the next two decades, a museum excavation team explored the area, uncovering the remains of 18+ mammoths. The primary grouping was a “nursery herd,” which included female and juvenile mammoths that all perished in a group event—possibly a flash flood. Crews have also uncovered a bull mammoth, Western camel, and other ancient animals at the site. This extraordinary find was designated Waco Mammoth National Monument in 2015 by President Barack Obama.

Start your visit at the Welcome Center, where you can join a guided tour every half hour. No reservations required! The tour will lead you to the Dig Shelter, where many of the fossils still lie where they were found. Learn about the Ice Age, the excavation process, and the importance of this unique site. Kids can dig for “fossils” to make some discoveries of their own!

The site is open daily, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Lunch at Jake’s Texas Tea House

Once you’ve worked up a mammoth-sized appetite, head to Jake’s Texas Tea House for lunch. Kids love this 50s-style diner for its fun gas station decor and the vintage cars right there in the dining room. When you arrive, let everyone in your party take a shot at the basketball hoops. If you make a basket, dessert is on the house.

Sunday’s lunch menu is a tribute to Jake’s mother and the meals that she used to make after church on Sundays. Your table will get bottomless side dishes to share family-style, including hand-mashed potatoes and gravy, creamed corn, black eyed peas, and green beans, plus their “twisted caesar” salad customized table-side. Order your entree from a hearty Sunday menu  with Southern favorites like bone-in fried chicken, fried catfish filets, and bar-b-que pork ribs.

“Classic Cruiser” meals for younger kids include mini burgers, chicken tenders, and grilled cheese sandwiches, served in a little cardboard car!

Go Wild at Cameron Park Zoo

After lunch, spend the afternoon at beloved Cameron Park Zoo. This 52-acre zoo has over 1,700 animals, from African giraffes and white rhinos to North American black bears and bobcats to Asian Sumatran tigers and orangutans (both critically endangered). A reptile house, an aviary, and saltwater and freshwater aquariums let you get a glimpse of wildlife from land, air, and sea.

Cameron Park Zoo was ranked among the 50 Best Zoos in the U.S. for 2021 according to TripAdvisor reviews. They work hard to recreate natural habitats for their animals to keep them happy and healthy!

Play in Cameron Park

If you still have time before you have to leave town, head out into greater Cameron Park for an afternoon of play. At the conjunction of the Brazos and Bosque Rivers, this popular park offers plenty to do.

Smaller kids will love the playgrounds like Anniversary Park and Northern Gateway Park, as well as the seasonal splash pad at Pecan Bottoms. Older children may enjoy hiking the many park trails and climbing to lovely lookouts like Lovers Leap, Emmons Cliff, and Jacob’s Ladder with beautiful river views.

After a full weekend of fun in Waco, you’ll be ready to pile into the car and return to “real life,” refreshed and reconnected with your favorite people!

Contact the Waco TPID

Waco Tourism Public Improvement District Corporation

424 Clay Avenue, Suite 2343
Waco, TX 76706
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