Blackland Prairie : Waco
Founded in 1849 near the site of an abandoned agricultural village of Waco Indians, Waco rose to prominence in the 1870's as a major junction for the transport of cattle; by 1871 between 600,000 and 700,000 head of cattle had passed through the city. As time progressed, Waco's location at the crossroads of major railroads and its location on the Brazos River helped the city grow and thrive. It is now home to approximately 125,000 residents, with 260,000 in the greater Waco MSA area. Waco has a number of worthwhile attractions.
The Colias Brothers founded the downtown Elite Café in 1919, which was open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. This original café partly burned in 1929 then closed in 1961. Between 1929 and 1961, the Colias brothers opened a second Elite Café on Waco’s famous Circle, the famous roundabout in town. The roundabout connects Interstate 35, LaSalle, Valley Mills, and Highway 77. The café was as busy as ever at its new location and eventually turned into the Elite that we know and love today.
Waco came to the world's attention, and is still remembered by many people, for the February 28, 1993 stand-off between federal agents (FBI, ATF) and the Branch Davidians, a Seventh Day Adventist offshoot religious group, led by David Koresh, the sect's leader. It resulted in the deaths of 86 people. The incident took place 15 miles outside of Waco, though - not in the city itself. When asked about the incident, most residents will answer; just realize that generally Wacoans are tired of the subject and would rather talk about something else.
Waco is best known in Texas for being the home of Baylor University, the largest Baptist university in the world, chartered during the Republic of Texas.
Passenger service into Waco goes through Waco Regional Airport (ACT). American Airlines and Continental both provide flights into and out of Waco. 
Waco is on I-35, thus allowing easy access by car from Dallas and Austin. On I-35, it is a 90 minute drive south of Dallas, and a 90 minute drive north of Austin. State Highway 6 is the preferred route to reach Waco from Houston, a three-hour drive.
Waco has a Greyhound  bus terminal located in the center of downtown.
The Brazos River flows through downtown Waco and empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Reaching Waco by boat will be a challenge due to the shallowness of this river, along with frequent dams and falls.
A more practical (and entertaining) way of reaching Waco by boat would be to launch a kayak or canoe at the Lake Whitney dam, (approximately 40 miles upstream) and float downstream to Waco.
The easiest way to travel around Waco is by car. The city of Waco does run a public transportation system, however, it has a limited number of stops and only runs during the daytime. Waco Transit 
Armstrong Browning Library, 710 Speight Ave. Phone: (254) 710-3566, .
Located on Baylor University's campus, the library contains the world's largest collection of works related to British poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The building contains 62 stained glass windows depicting themes from the Brownings' poetry.
Cameron Park, .
Cameron Park consists of over 400 acres of trees, trails, and nature that sit in the heart of Waco. Upstream from downtown Waco, the park is lined by the Brazos and Bosque rivers and the trails weave deep into the forest which are perfect for running, walking, biking, and horseback riding. Stationed throughout the park are pavilions, water fountains, fire pits, and public restrooms, making the park a haven for Waco families and visitors alike.
Waco’s zoo is in one of the country’s largest undeveloped municipal parks. The zoo is next to the Brazos River and has 52 acres of vegetation. The walkways of Cameron Park Zoo meander through lush landscapes and natural habitat displays featuring animals from Africa, Asia, South America, North America, and Madagascar.
Dr Pepper Museum, 300 South 5th Street, Phone: (254) 757-1025, .
Homestead Heritage, Halbert Lane off FM 933 north of Waco, Phone: (254) 754-9600, .
Homestead Heritage celebrates life by sweeping you back to what life was like in the 1800's.
Mayborn Museum Complex, 1300 S. University Parks Drive, Phone: (254) 710-1110, .
The Mayborn Museum is located across from Baylor University and walking through, you will walk through the natural history of central Texas.
Lake Waco was constructed by the Army Corp of Engineers in 1929. In the last 70 years Lake Waco has grown and become the city’s primary source of water.
Red Men Museum and Library, 4521 Speight Ave., Phone (254) 756-1221, .
The Red Men Museum and Library is a historical reference museum and research library pertaining to the Improved Order of the Red Men, an organization tracing its founding to 1765.
Suspension Bridge University Parks Dr. between Franklin Ave. and Washington Ave., 
The official museum of the Texas Rangers, this Hall of Fame contains a large amount of memorabilia from the long history of the Texas Rangers.
Texas Sports Hall of Fame, 1108 S University Parks Dr., Phone: (254) 756-1633, .
The museum features Texas athletes in many sports, including football, tennis, golf, baseball, basketball, horse racing, and others. The museum also houses the Southwest Conference's 75 year collection of memorabilia.
The Alico Building, 425 Austin Ave., Phone: (254) 297-2777, .
When completed in 1911, this beautiful 22 story building was the tallest in the Southwest. It is still used for commercial purposes on the inside but the outside is ready for pictures anytime, day or night.
The Martin Museum of Art is located on the Baylor campus in the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center. The art museum periodically features different artists from around the country. Outside of the actual museum, student paintings, drawings, sculptures, and more can be found displayed on the walls and in cases throughout the building. For specific exhibit information, see their website or contact them. • Address: 60 Baylor Avenue, Waco, TX 76706 • Hours:10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Tuesday – Friday, 12:00 - 5:00 p.m., Saturday • Contact: Karin A. Gilliam, director (254) 710-6390
The Art Center of Waco is a gallery as well as an interactive studio where the community can indulge in their own artistic endeavors. It is a great place to learn and grow artistically. Ways to get involved with the Art Center include festivals, adult classes (like pottery, calligraphy, fabric dye, hair bows, handmade soaps, photography, holiday cards, etc.), children’s classes, and working in their Artists’ Open Studio. For more information on upcoming exhibits, visit the website listed below. • Address: 1300 College Drive, Waco, Texas 76708
Practically Pikasso is a colorful, fun, family-and-pet-friendly atmosphere that offers a local artistic experience where you can choose your own piece on pottery and paint it however you’d like. Their friendly staff and fair prices are nothing compared to the amusement and enjoyment you’ll find when you’re painting, glass fusing, or building a mosaic with your friends. • Address: 4310 West Waco Drive Waco, TX 76710 • Hours: Monday-Saturday: Noon - 9pm, Sunday: Noon - 6pm • Contact: Koury Fadal, store manager
Waco Arts Initiative (WAI) is a special program created for under-privileged children. Art is used as an emotional and expressive outlet for children who could otherwise not afford art supplies. WAI believes that “this poverty goes beyond economics and is a problem that every human faces within the context of their own paradigm,” and they hope to “confront the poverty of the soul through the creative arts via a program of empowerment conducted by an inspiring staff.” • Address: Kate Ross Apartments, 1115 Cleveland Ave • Program Times: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 3:30-5:00pm • Contact: Grace Ladd, program director (214-695-1338)
Croft Art Gallery is a new Waco art gallery that opened in 2009. It features all different kinds of artwork of local artists. The owner, a Waco resident, says, “I got real tired of reading negative comments from people who lived here.” With her favorite quote “Be the change you wish to see in the world” on her mind, she “decided to pursue a dream of opening an art gallery.” Whether the art is for sale or not depends on the current artists’ preferences. • Address: 712 Austin Avenue Waco, Texas • Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays
With eccentric, artsy taste and provocative art hanging on its walls, Art Ambush proves to be one of Waco’s hidden treasures. Excelling in professional body art (tattoos) and piercings, Art Ambush also has occasional art exhibits featuring local artists. “Art Ambush is dedicated to displaying people’s artistic talents. Different works of art by local and national artists can be seen throughout the location.” • Address: 3523 Franklin Avenue, Waco, TX 76710 • Hours: Tues.-Thurs.: 2-10pm, Fri. & Sat.: 2-12am, Sun. & Mon.: call for hours (254-752-1242)
Many may be surprised to learn that, although Waco is a relatively small city, it does have a moderately rich theatrical life. There are several companies that produce performances throughout the year, including the Waco Hippodrome, Baylor University Theatre, McLennan Theatre, and Waco Civic Theatre. Additionally, the Waco Children’s Theatre operates seasonally and offers a theatrical outlet to local children during the summer.
• The Waco Performing Arts Company hosts a wide variety of touring shows at the Historic Waco Hippodrome Theatre each year. Since its creation, the Hippodrome has relied on the support of the Waco community in the form of monetary donations, business sponsorship, and a group of dedicated volunteers called the Hippodrome Ambassadors. In addition to hosting an array of touring Broadway shows, the Hippodrome sponsors a variety of musical events, special activities, and movie nights. Of all the theatres in Waco, the Hippodrome provides the most volume of shows and events to the public, usually offering a different event every week. For a full listing of events, and to purchase tickets, visit their Web site.
• The Baylor University Department of Theatre Arts is an elite program combining an excellent liberal arts education with rigorous training in both academic and artistic fields of theatre study. The department is ranked among the top 20 undergraduate theatre programs in the United States and is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre.
• Academics: Maintaining a cap enrollment of 125 undergraduate majors, and a select group of graduate directing students, the department provides small, focused classes, and ample opportunities to excel in areas including acting, design, direction, dance, management and craftsmanship.
• Faculty: The department supports teaching disciplines with ongoing research and artistic activities. The faculty engages a larger community of theatre scholars and artists through their extensive publications and through their work as professional actors, directors, designers, dancers, playwrights, and stage managers.
• Productions: The department produces five main stage plays and two to three summer graduate plays each year in which students perform and fill a variety of production positions. These plays include at least one musical theatre offering each year and a range of contemporary and period pieces. - In alternate years the Baylor Theatre sponsors the Horton Foote American Playwrights Festival, a celebration of American playwriting. At each festival, a different playwright is honored with an award named for our visiting distinguished dramatist, Horton Foote, one of America's foremost playwrights and screenwriters.
• The Mission of the Waco Civic Theatre, a non-profit organization, is to provide the Heart of Texas community with quality live theatre, to create an outlet for community education and participation in all aspects of productions, and to instill in the community a sense of pride and ownership in the theatre. • History: The roots of the Waco Civic Theatre date back to the 1920's when the work of many enlightened citizens combined to form the Waco Little Theatre (WLT), which operated from 1925 to 1936. In 1945, then chairman of the Baylor University Drama Department Dr. Paul Baker and a team of WLT participants worked to reform the organization that would take the shape of Waco Civic Theatre (WCT) three years later.
• Currently: Today, WCT produces six Main Stage Productions, ranging from works by Shakespeare to Neil Simon. Additionally, aspiring local artists and youth work in partnership to produce Studio Shows that are scheduled between Main Stage Productions and other events.
• The goal of the McLennan Community College Department of Theatre is to nurture a student's aesthetic sensitivities toward all aspects of the art of theatre, either for personal enrichment or in preparation for a career in this field. The Department of Theatre is committed to a broad-based training program that provides each student with thorough academic preparation and production experience. Students are expected to maintain an appropriate balance between classroom and experiential learning. The Department of Theatre is also committed to enhancing the cultural life of the McLennan campus, Waco and surrounding communities by providing exposure to a varied program of theatre offerings.
• Academics: MCC offers freshman and sophomore-level courses in performance, technical theatre and theatre history leading toward an Associates, Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Additionally, it features a full complement of freshman and sophomore-level movement and dance courses, and provides supporting coursework within the Visual & Performing Arts Division in music, including private voice instruction for theatre majors who qualify.
• Productions: MCC Theatre produces four fully mounted productions annually, including plays, musical theatre and originally conceived dance works; the Music Department mounts a fully staged opera.
• Serving Waco and the surrounding central Texas area, the mission of Waco Children’s Theatre is to help young people develop confidence, self-awareness and character through the performing arts.
• History: Founded in 1992, Waco Children's Theatre is a federally tax-exempt, nonprofit organization. Beginning with a vision and 35 children, Executive Director Linda Haskett, in partnership with other dedicated volunteers, continues to inspire thousands of children to discover and share their artistic gifts and talents. This vision is carried out through drama, music and physical expression. In a nurturing and accepting environment, children explore and share their creativity and uniqueness by serving behind the scenes and performing on the stage.
• Currently: Waco Children’s theatre allows kids to grow through drama, music and physical expression. In a nurturing and accepting environment, children explore and share their creativity and uniqueness by serving behind the scenes and performing on the stage. This children’s stage in Waco, Texas, prepares children for the stages of life – wherever they may go. Young people gain confidence and experience self-expression through activities such as, workshops, rehearsals, set design and stage performances. They also learn the values of teamwork: trusting oneself and others, setting goals, building bridges and bringing enjoyment to others.
If you’re interested in finding out more information about any of these theatres, including their current seasons and how to purchase tickets. Would you like to learn more about the Fine Arts in Waco? Visit entertainment editor Carl Hoover’s blog at http://www.wacotrib.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/communities/sound_sight/
The Waco Symphony entertains the greater Waco community throughout the year. Their performances are held at Waco Hall on Baylor University campus and the symphony is led by Maestro Stephen Heyde. Sunday Sounds Sunday Sounds is a concert series by the Waco Symphony held on Sunday afternoons at 3:30 p.m. Thirty minutes prior to each show, attendees can learn about the lives of composers and their music in the adjacent concert hall. After the show attendees can visit with the symphony musicians and enjoy refreshments provided by the Waco Symphony Council. Dress for Waco Symphony performances is casual. Attendees are encouraged to “come as you are” whether that be in formal wear or jeans
Begun in 1944, the Baylor Symphony is a part of the Baylor School of Music. The Baylor Symphony is conducted by Maestro Stephen Heyde and performs in Waco Hall on Baylor campus. Each year, the Baylor Symphony performs at least four concerts, full opera production, and a children’s concert series. Notable performances include: • Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina • National Convention of the American String Teachers Association • “Christmas at Baylor” a PBS Special that aired nationally in over 350 markets with an estimated audience of 6 million viewers
A performance schedule can be found on the Baylor Symphony website. Most performances are free of charge.
UpRoar Records is a local record label at Baylor University. It is the first student-run record label and entertainment group housed in the United States in a university business school.
Each fall, UpRoar Records holds auditions to find artists for the current fall year. Selecting 5 – 10 musicians/ groups, UpRoar Records then works with each artist to write, develop, rehearse, and finally record songs in a professional recording studio. UpRoar Records actively promotes their artists on Baylor campus, around the Waco community as well as in larger markets like Nashville, Tennessee and Los Angeles, California.
Current UpRoar Artists include: • Jillian Edwards • David Dulcie • Zoo Studio • Drew Greenway • Brin Beaver and Jacob Hooter
Common Grounds is a local coffee shop and site for many concerts, primarily of local artists and bands.
Past Performers include:
• Jillian Edwards • Trey Duck • Zoo Studio • Brin Beaver • Jacob Hooter • David Dulcie • Drew Greenway
• Waterdeep • Derek Webb • Phil Wickham • Robbie Seay Band • Shawn McDonald • Seth Philpot
• Canvas Waiting • Tommy Read • Loxsly • Dave Barnes • Andy Davis • Green River Ordinance • The Afters • Stephen Speaks
Common Grounds is located at 11123 S 8th Street Waco, Texas 76706 (close to Baylor University). The shop offers free Wi-Fi.
Bed & Breakfasts
Waco has a reputation for a higher-than-normal crime rate for a small to medium size city. Visitors should exercise normal caution. That said, most violent crime occurs in residential areas, away from most areas visitors may visit. If you do find yourself in such an area (usually for dining), use normal caution. Drive with the doors locked, do not draw attention to yourself, and do not make prolonged eye contact (i.e. stare at other drivers).
It is strongly advised not to be at Cameron Park at night unless you are with a large group.
Waco, and Texas in general, is not frequented by pedestrians as much as a lot of other places. If you decide to walk, be careful, as the drivers are not used to pedestrians and may not see you.
Tornadoes are not a frequent occurrence in Waco, but when they do hit, they tend to be very strong. Do not panic if a tornado warning is issued. If such a warning is issued, turn on the local news and keep updated. The weatherperson will explain what cautions need to be taken, and who should take them. If the weatherperson, any hotel staff, or public officials give you directions, follow them. It should go without saying that you should not go outside during a tornado. See the Tornado Safety section for more information.