When we get that itch to venture out and explore new places, we’re often quickly reminded of the reality of travel with kids — expenses, scheduling logistics, etc. Sometimes there’s nothing better than daytrips or easy weekends away within short driving distance. We recently got this feeling for close-by adventure, so we decided to venture north to Waco, TX.

Waco is located just over 100 miles north of Austin, (roughly a 1 hr. & 45 min. drive from central Austin.) It’s a small college town, home to Baylor University. But it’s also home to a really great zoo and super fun museums. There are many awesome things to check out with kids in Waco. So here are some notes about our highlights…

Fun Things to Do with Kids in Waco, TX:

1. Cameron Park Zoo: Friends had told us that the Cameron Park Zoo was definitely one to check out, and they were right. We were really impressed! This zoo includes over 1731 animals, representing 300 species. But it doesn’t feel like an overwhelmingly big zoo. It has plenty of shady paths and is easy to navigate within a few hours. Our kids really loved it! We got the chance to be up-close to river otters by going down a little slide right where they were playing in the water. The kids were so thrilled to see the massive size of bald eagles. We really enjoyed seeing the giraffes and elephants in the African Safari and the orangutans and komodo dragons in the Asian Forest. It was cool to spy a baby gibbon swinging through the trees. Overall, we had such a great time at this zoo. Such fun, in fact, we want to send a Do512 Family reader’s family to go check it out. Scroll below for the chance to win a 4-pack of tickets.

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2. Mayborne Museum Complex: We had the best time at this museum on the Baylor University campus. If you haven’t been before, be prepared for hours of enjoyment. The Mayborn Museum Complex features a natural science and cultural history museum with really cool walk-in dioramas including one on the Waco Mammoth Site, and exploration stations for geology, paleontology, archaeology, and natural history. Your kids will be in awe of the fossils, historic Texas homes such as a grass house, and more. In addition to the natural history exhibits, there are two floors of 17 themed kids discovery rooms for hands-on learning. Make giant bubbles, have a tea party, play dress up in clothes from cultures all over the world, see model trains, pretend to be a meteorologist and give a weather report against a green screen. SO MUCH hands-on fun for kids. You can also check out an outdoor historic village behind the museum, located on the banks of the Brazos River. And their current temporary exhibit is amazing for kids. Now through September 5, 2016, you can check out Imaginate  — a multi-activity exhibition that has the kids tinkering, building and creating. Click here for more info about this museum complex, including hours and admission fees.

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3. Magnolia Market at the Silos: We admit we’ve watched our fair share of HGTV, and yes, we’re pretty familiar with Chip and Joanna Gaines’s show Fixer Upper that takes place in Waco, TX. We knew we had to make a stop at their store, the Magnolia Market, because we had heard that this isn’t just a shopping destination but a hang-out spot as well. We were there on a hot, sweaty afternoon, and it was PACKED with people, but also well worth our time. There is a store, of course, but also a bakery/cafe, and a fun lawn full of yard games, balls, frisbees, swings, etc. that’s surrounded by food trucks. It’s a really lovely place for the kids to get some energy out, and it’s just a pretty area to kick back and enjoy.

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4. Waco Mammoth National Monument: The Waco Mammoth National Monument is home to fully preserved Columbian mammoths, and is one of the most important paleontological sites in North America. 45 min. guided walking tours take place every 30 min. for a small fee, and no advanced reservations are required. You’ll be led from the Welcome Center, down a 300 yard paved path to the Dig Shelter where the mammoth fossils are in situ. During your tour, you will learn about the Ice Age and how these fossils were discovered. Click here for hours and tour fees.

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5. Dr. Pepper Museum: We fully confess that we did not have time to visit the Dr. Pepper Museum on our recent visit, but everyone in town told us this was a great place to go, so we feel like we should note that. This is the site where the original Dr Pepper was created. This museum hosts nostalgic Dr Pepper memorabilia, and we’re told that you’re going to want to get a Dr. Pepper float while you’re there, too. Click here for museum hours, admission prices and more info.

13312600_10153652118422688_2367450286205481084_n6. Waco’s Suspension Bridge
When someone told us to take a walk along the bridge in the scorching hot summer temps, we weren’t 100% sure this was going to be worth out time, but we’re here to report that it was actually very cool. It’s the longest and oldest suspension bridge in Texas, and at it’s entrance you’ll find an amazing collection of oversized, bronze longhorn sculptures, crafted by Robert Summers, depicting their crossing the Brazos on the Chisholm Trail. Great spot for a family photo. Click here for more info about the bridge.
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For many more ideas of things to see and do in Waco, TX, you can visit www.waco-texas.com.

–> Giveaway: We have a family 4-pack of tickets to the Cameron Park Zoo to give away to a lucky reader. These can be redeemed anytime between now and July 2017. Enter below. Good luck! Entering the giveaway will add you to the Do512 Family email list, where we let you know about the best Austin family events each week.

This giveaway has ended. Thanks to all who entered.