54 Reasons to Love Waco

By Wacoan Staff & Contributors

When coming up with our Reasons to Love Waco this year, to say that it was difficult is an understatement. We got so many
amazing submissions from our staff and contributors, and narrowing it down was quite the task. There were clear standouts as we got multiple submissions for places like Cameron Park Zoo, Fabled Bookshop & Cafe, Be Kind Coffee and others, but we also had new gems that we discovered in compiling our list. Somehow, we narrowed down our 140 submissions, though if we had our way, we would include them all. There are many reasons to love Waco and we love sharing them with readers every year as Waco grows and new businesses take root and new voices give insight as to why they love Waco.

From new outdoors spaces to take the family this summer to international dishes from across the globe to the people that make this big city feel like a small town, we are excited to present the 54 reasons to love Waco. May this list inspire you to explore Waco and discover what makes this city such a special place not only to us but to all who have made Waco their home. To view lists from previous years, visit lovewaco.com.

Bella Richards, manager at Baskin Robbins

They say ice cream makes everything better. But at Waco’s Baskin Robbins, it’s ice cream served by manager Bella Richards that makes the difference. She’s the woman behind the cheerful smile that has been greeting customers for the past nine years and she said the best part about her job is the wonderful people she meets who come back time after time. But Richards is more than a manager, she’s a mentor to many young people who get hired for their first job, some who do not have a lot of support at home. “I try to encourage them and give them good advice,” Richards said. She said some employees have called her their “second mom” and that makes the hard work worthwhile. Former employees often stop in to say hello and Richards said she loves getting the scoop on where life takes them after BR. — Gretchen Eichenberg

Blue Corn Pancakes at Milo All Day

Milo’s is so easy to love, and their blue corn pancakes are my favorite example of putting a fun twist on a brunch staple. Not only are they delicious but the vibrant color is totally on par with the fun and quaint style of this beloved Waco brunch spot. — Mallory McKeever

Waco Suspension Bridge

Being a Wacoan, taking photos in front of the Waco Suspension Bridge is, well, just Waco. Alongside the ALICO building, it’s our landmark, here way before the Silos were even built. So for me seeing the bridge make its remodeled debut with a full-fledged cattle drive reminiscent of the Chisholm Trail was a beautiful moment. Even more impressive that day was the slew of families, individuals and businesses that were there. Kids pointing, cameras flashing and families strolling. A perfect day in Waco, and yes, of course I got my picture! — Michelle Johnson

Washington Avenue Bridge

While the Waco Suspension Bridge is a much deserved icon of our city, the Washington Avenue Bridge is also a very special piece of architecture that’s found here in Waco. Built in 1902, it’s the oldest and longest Pennsylvania through truss still in use in the United States. Anytime I have to cross the Brazos between East Waco and downtown, I turn down Washington to watch the black steel bars go by on the drive. The intricate crisscrossing and lattice of the beams create a stunning design and it’s tempting to slow to a snail’s pace to enjoy the view. You can also use the pedestrian walkways on either side to get an awesome view of the river. — Emily Ober


You can’t say the folks who run Tecovas aren’t friendly. We were barely in the store late one afternoon, and one of the employees was offering us a beverage. We had our choice of bottled water, cold beer, a product from Balcones and a few other choices. We browsed the beautiful handmade boots and Western clothes and accessories in the bright, airy space at 729 Washington Avenue without any pushy salesperson pressuring us to buy anything, And the folks there were happy to answer questions when we asked about a couple of styles of boots. We’ll be back when it comes time to do Christmas shopping this year. — Kevin Tankersley

The Farm Animals at World Hunger Relief Farm

The cute farm animals at World Hunger Relief Farm are the ultimate stress relief. Whenever I find myself having a rough day, or in need of a break, I’ll drive down to the farm and visit the animals. The fresh air, the open fields, goats, chickens, horses, oh my! — Skylla Mumana

Lunch at Sironia

Lunch at Sironia has been an event I have enjoyed throughout my life in Waco. In fact, I even had my high school graduation party there 30 years ago! A favorite spot to enjoy the Uptown Trio and delicious desserts with my friends. My Baylor daughter loves shopping for clothes at the various stalls around the restaurant. Any time I have met out of town women who are either new to Waco or are dropping their children off at Baylor, I like to introduce them to the best “ladies who lunch” spot in town. — Elizabeth Barnhill

Do Good Latte from Be Kind Coffee

Coffee is probably the one thing that keeps me going, literally. I need an iced latte in any and all circumstances. I’ve tried every coffee shop in Waco multiple times and the Do Good Latte from Be Kind Coffee is the winner. The lavender and honey mix perfectly with the oat milk and espresso to make the creamiest and most delicious latte ever. This latte never fails and I like to get it iced. I also love Be Kind Coffee because the service is impeccable and the owners do so much for the Waco community. — Avery Ballmann

Swimming at Proctor Springs

I almost didn’t want to write about this place as I consider it one of Waco’s hidden gems. One day, we stumbled across this beautiful overgrown location located just off Herring in Cameron Park and discovered a natural spring watering hole. It’s one of our favorite locations to cool off when our summer days reach triple digits. It is small, so it’s perfect for my young kids to enjoy without being overwhelmed. If you visit, please make sure you clean up and leave it better than you found it so we can all enjoy its beauty. — Breanne Johnson

Coach Darryl McCoy of Destined for Greatness

We were so blessed to find Coach McCoy and Destined for Greatness (D4G)! He has created an amazing basketball program for the youth of our community. His positive, faith based, non-profit organization has become a second home to more than 300 kids in Waco and our surrounding communities. The focus is to build the confidence of our youth by relating basketball to the game of life. D4G instills character building, overcoming adversity and creates an opportunity for all kids. As a non-profit, donations and sponsorship from the community provide for all kids who may not have this awesome opportunity. — Tori Hager

Don’s Smoked Old Fashioned from Lounge ‘93

When you visit Lounge ’93 at Legends Crossing, don’t settle for a plain Old Fashioned, you have to get Don’s Old Fashioned. And you have to get it smoked. Made with Garrison Brothers Bourbon, the first legal whiskey distillery in Texas, the drink is smooth and the sweetness is balanced when it’s smoked. The drink is delivered in a box with a clear glass so you can see the smoke infusing with the drink. It’s almost
as fun to watch the drink be unveiled as it is to enjoy your cocktail with friends. — Emily Ober

Baylor Tennis Matches

Supporting the Baylor Bears Women’s and Men’s Tennis teams at their matches at the Hurd Tennis Center is a favorite for our family. With an active kiddo who struggles to sit still for more than a few minutes at a time, it’s really nice to be able to attend a local sporting event that recognizes the unique needs of families. Our son can play with other kids in the bounce house while we supervise and keep an eye on the on-court match play. The outdoor tennis facility is a really great place to watch and play. The Cub Tennis program is a free tennis clinic prior to select home matches that is another great feature of attending Baylor tennis events. Children ages 3 to 11 are invited onto the court to learn basic tennis skills from Baylor players and coaches. — Morgan Strehlow

Cherry Crumb Pie from Tiny Pies

Whenever I find myself in need of a quick, after school treat, Tiny Pies here in Waco always hits the spot. I’m not a fan of overly sweet things, so the cherry crumb pie is my go-to. It’s small, it’s tart and most importantly, it’s delicious. — Skylla Mumana

The Trails at Cameron Park

The wife and I walk almost daily, and we love the trails at Cameron Park. The natural environment provides a refreshing change after being in the office all day. The breeze coming off the river, being surrounded by the trees and sounds of nature, it’s such a peaceful way to get in a workout. We tend to start on either entrance of the riverwalk trail and randomly venture off from there. We’ve ended up lost — trying to figure out how to get back to where we parked, but that’s part of the fun. Running into people in the ‘middle of nowhere’ is always entertaining. We’ve come across several students sitting up on the cliffs overlooking the Brazos reading, a couple having a picnic in the woods and people on horseback. There was one time we ran into a guy with a beer in one hand and the other controlling an off-roading remote controlled truck. It’s a little adventure nestled right inside the city. — Lonnie Bradley

Kid’s area at Fabled Bookshop & Café

The kid’s area at Fabled Bookshop & Café is absolutely adorable! Everything from the secret entrance to the fun chairs to the activities readily available to play with has been incredibly thought out with kids of all ages in mind. They have an amazing book selection and tons of games, coloring activities, puzzles and more. My kids and I enjoy every visit to Fabled! — Brittany Ross

Texas Music Cafe

In its 25 years of existence, the Texas Music Cafe has hosted some artists whose names you might recognize — folks like Willie Nelson, Johnny Gimble (and Dick Gimble and Emily Gimble as well), Lyle Lovett, Michael Martin Murphy, Gary P. Nunn, Billy Joe Shaver, Barbara Lynn (and if you’re not familiar with the music of this Beaumont native, you need to be), Jerry Jeff Walker and hundreds more. Texas Music Cafe shows aired on PBS television stations from 1997 until 2002, and again in 2015, reaching 94 million households across the country. TMC again has a physical space in downtown Waco, at 715 Washington Avenue, and hosts local, regional and national touring acts several nights a week. Texas Music Cafe is one of the true hidden gems in Waco. — Kevin Tankersley

James at the West Waco Library

James is a reminder of everything technology can never be. So many times I’ve entered my kids’ ages and interests into a book website or app, hoping it would give me a new book they would love, only to end up with a book that gathers dust on the shelf. Yet every time I go to James, describe my child’s age and his interest, he comes back with a stack of books that delivers hit after hit. — Anna Mitchael

Ashley “Hutch” Hutchison at Hemingway’s

Ashley “Hutch” Hutchison is a Waco staple. She is not only known as one of the best bartenders in Waco, she’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. You can find Hutch at the Salty Dog Sports Bar and Grill, Blue Dog Wine & Martini Bar and Hemingway’s Watering Hole serving up drinks and great conversations. She even bartends for private parties. Hutch’s positive and encouraging personality guarantees a great evening — and a terrific cocktail. — Leandra Humphreys

Cosmopolitans at Hemingway’s Watering Hole

The Cosmopolitans are icy, tart and totally refreshing in this small family-owned bar with friendly, expert bartenders. I only happened on it when I had an hour to kill after forgetting to make reservations at MOROSO Wood Fired Pizzeria next door, but now it’s a standing destination on its own when I want to meet a gal pal and unwind. It’s usually packed cheek-to-jowl — there are a lot of regulars, but not to the exclusion of newcomers. Not that I’m any kind of connoisseur, but I’ve tried Cosmopolitans in a number of places and none hold a candle to Hemingway’s. — Susan Bean Aycock

Dennis and Pam Phipps at Junque in the Trunk

Dennis and Pam Phipps have hearts of gold; I have heard this time and time again about the owners of Junque in the Trunk on La Salle Avenue. At their shop, they sell refurbished — sometimes new — furniture, and plenty of treasures to be found. Dennis and Pam have helped me on several occasions when I needed a new home for my furniture, or they knew who to call. — Michelle Johnson

Paintings by the Animals at Cameron Park Zoo

One of the best ways to bring home a memory from your day at the Cameron Park Zoo are the canvas paintings by the animals. The paintings provide enrichment activities for the animals and make for a unique piece that you can display at home. I have a lovely creation by one of the lions hanging in my office. The brushstrokes are as powerful and wild as the animal artist. These special pieces are available for purchase on the weekends on the Tree Tops Village and goes towards providing for the animals that we love so much at the zoo. — Emily Ober

Fun Atmosphere and Friendly Staff at Bitty & Beau’s Coffee

Bitty & Beau’s is a downtown coffee shop with an incredible mission to change the way people accept, include, see, love, respect and value others. The coffee shop is run by people with disabilities and as they say on their website, “Bitty & Beau’s Coffee is more than just a place to grab a cup of coffee — it’s an experience.” And let me tell you, it’s an experience worth checking out. This isn’t your average quiet coffee shop, this place is filled with dance parties, fun staff and great coffee. — Brittany Ross

The Carleen Bright Arboretum

When I first moved to Waco, the arboretum was one of my favorite places to visit. When they closed for the remodel, I was so disappointed but the wait was worth it! The newly renovated Arboretum is on par with places you’d find in big cities. No detail was left undone. From the gardens, kid’s pizza herb garden, the splash pad, trails, giant chess board, art and soccer field, there is fun to be had by all ages. I loved getting to celebrate the grand reopening at Arbo Fest and look forward to all of the picnics and fun we will have with friends. — Breanne Johnson

Spin Connection

Spin Connection is the only locally-owned record store in Waco and it is somewhere I frequent often. My record collection has grown over the years and Spin Connection has been my main supplier. I love the atmosphere of the store because of the friendly staff and the layout. The store is lined with rows and rows of vinyl all separated by genre and letter. They have new artists such as Taylor Swift and Beyoncé but they also have vintage albums. I always look forward to small-talk about music with the employees and receiving the electric blue bag and sticker when I make a purchase. Thank you Spin Connection, for creating a space for vinyl lovers. — Avery Ballmann

Barbacoa by the pound from Tortilleria Santana

Sometimes you need to pick up something delicious for dinner because you don’t have the time and energy to cook. But then other times, you’ve got plenty of energy and time, it’s just that the delicious flavor of barbacoa by the pound is calling to you from Tortilleria Santana. “Step away from the stove,” it sings straight into your ear, “and get extra tortillas while you’re at it.” To this day, the talking meat has not steered me wrong. — Anna Mitchael

Scooter Pals at Cameron Park Zoo

Get ready to turn heads! We rented a Scooter Pal the last time we were at the zoo and my daughter got such a kick out of it. She definitely felt like the coolest kid on the block! There are five different Scooter Pals to choose from, but our favorite is Nyx the leopard. — Brittany Ross

Kids’ Activities at The Baylor Club

The Baylor Club’s kids’ activities and family events have been a staple for our calendar this past year. When I purchased a Baylor Club membership as a gift for my husband’s doctoral graduation, we were surprised to find that our family membership offered us an extensive family-friendly social calendar year-round. From family pasta nights to movie nights to special Spring Break events to holiday-themed activities, there is never a shortage of fun and unique activities for us to participate in as a family. My favorite event from this past year was the gingerbread house-building night, where we were served delicious holiday treats and enjoyed a classic Christmas film while we decorated our houses together. The way the staff set up our gingerbread house stations made it so easy for all of us — even me — to just have fun and not worry about the mess. — Morgan Strehlow

Holidays in Waco

Waco becomes magical during the holiday season. I enjoyed every moment of it this past year with my daughter, starting with Junior League’s Deck the Halls Holiday Market and Waco Symphony Orchestra’s Nutcracker Ballet. The Cameron Park Zoo transforms at the Wild Lights where you can enjoy a peppermint hot cocoa as you walk the trails filled with lights. Waco Wonderland at Heritage Plaza is a weekend decked out with a Ferris wheel and the Snow Tube Hill. Mr. and Mrs. Claus make a special visit to the Historic Village at the Mayborn Museum with carols sung at the historical church. Magnolia Market comes to life with live music and shopping. The Waco Trolley takes you on a tour through neighborhoods decked out in lights, or you can take a quick trip to our neighbor with Waco Tours’ Lights of West tour. With so many events, you’ll be filled with holiday cheer in Waco. I can’t wait until this year’s holiday season when the North Pole Palooza comes to town. — Michelle Johnson

Wynn at The Grape

Most times I’m at The Grape, I find myself wondering what it would be like if I could bake desserts like Wynn. The answer is always the same: it would be dangerous, very dangerous. One bite of his daily creations is never enough. And even though I always agree that we need three or four forks for the table, inevitably I wish I was eating it all myself. I would recommend a few favorites but that would suggest some are better than others, which just isn’t the truth. All his creations are sugar-buzz worthy. — Anna Mitchael

The sound of the dripping stalactites in the Mayborn Museum

The dripping stalactites in the Texas Caves exhibit are the perfect ambiance for walking through the Cabinet of Curiosities. It’s my favorite sound of all in the Mayborn, especially when it mixes with the sound of the creaking wood floors and echoes off the glass display cases. — Mallory McKeever

Sunsets at Koehne Park

It’s no secret Texas has some of the best sunsets and one of my favorite places to enjoy a Waco sunset is at Koehne Park off Lake Shore Drive. It will never get old pulling up to the lake and watching the sky change colors as the sun falls below the horizon. — Breanne Johnson

Paletas at Helados La Azteca

This place reminds me of the paletas (ice cream or fruit ice pops) that I used to get from a pushcart vendor when I lived in Mexico for a decade — only La Azteca has a lot more flavors. I’m partial to mango and coconut, but right now I have a freezer stockpile that includes banana, strawberry, Thai tea, horchata and cookies & cream. When warm weather hits, I take my insulated cooler and buy a dozen at a time to keep my frozen fixes on hand. They also have aguas frescas (fresh fruit waters), Bluebell ice cream and the kind of bulk candy you put in piñatas. The Colcord location at 15th Street is the one I go to; look for the huge mural of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo across from World Cup Café. There’s also a location on Franklin Avenue — Susan Bean Aycock

Christian Fellowship at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church

Here, everyone feels welcome. I love the fellowship that the church provides through the exceptional music from the choir and organ, the vibrant Sunday School and Bible studies, the women and men’s socials, the children and young adult programs and for the multiple events it hosts for the Waco community. We learn from each other through participating in the programs and grow as a congregation. There are multiple Sunday services to suit your schedule and the clergy delivers thought-provoking and clear messages through their sermons. At St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, it’s about more than the Sunday morning service, it’s about the Christian fellowship. — Polly Brown

Snickerdoodles from Mo’s Cookies

The ultimate cinnamon-sugary cookie with a thick, cake-like texture awaits you at Mo’s Cookies. Whether you stop by for just one to feed a craving or a dozen to take as a gift, Mo’s Cookies never disappoints. But they are only open three days a week — Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m.–6 p.m. — so plan ahead. — Gretchen Eichenberg

White Hall Park

Having young kids, we are always looking for new outdoor places to spend time so we decided to try out White Hall Park after hearing of the new playground that had been put in. This playground is absolutely where it’s at! From a mommy and me swing to a full blown merry go round to a small play area for little kids all the way up to a three level rope climbing course for the big kids, this place has it all. My daughter has asked every day to go back. Vibrant colors, slides galore, fun for all, it’s sure to tire out your kiddos! I know we will be spending a lot of time here this summer. — Brittany Ross

La Fiesta’s Bar Snacks

Everyone knows you can’t go wrong with La Fiesta’s famous queso, but have you ever ordered any bar snacks? The Loaded Fiesta Fries are one of those guilty pleasures that you’ll thank me later for. Seasoned fries covered in queso, a variety of cheeses, bacon and avocado ranch. You can even get them half-price at happy-hour during the week. — Lonnie Bradley

Tommy Witherspoon at KWTX

When I talk to my beginning journalism students at Baylor about how newsrooms work, I explain that a “beat” is a particular area of news that a reporter covers. A good reporter knows more about his or her beat than anyone else in town, I explain. And I tell them that nobody in Waco has more expertise about what’s going on in the legal system than Tommy Witherspoon. Spoon was the courthouse reporter at the Waco Tribune-Herald for 39 years. He was part of the Trib team that was at the Branch Davidian compound, on that Sunday morning, Feb. 28, 1993, when federal agents attempted to serve search warrants and a deadly shootout ensued. KWTX-TV News 10 scored quite the coup when it hired him away from the Trib in March 2022. He is now the managing editor of KWTX, and is still outhustling everyone else in chronicling the goings-on in Waco courthouses. — Kevin Tankersley

Katie’s Frozen Custard

Everyone in Waco has to try Katie’s Frozen Custard at least once. It’s Waco’s OG custard. They only have outdoor seating which is perfect during those warm summer nights. It’s a great spot for families, for that first date or just going through their drive-thru after dinner for a take home dessert! My personal favorite is the chocolate with fresh raspberries mixed into it. — Leandra Humphreys

Art Center Waco

I loved the old Art Center Waco at McLennan Community College, but the new location in downtown Waco, with its modern lines and vibe, I am a fan. Any time I travel, even just a day trip around Texas, I try to take my kids to museums and art galleries. We often bring home something to bring up conversations for the future and I also try and support local artists. At the Art Center Waco, you can view regional and national artists as they change their exhibits throughout the year. Take your friends, and then make a day of it by visiting Cultivate 7Twelve, Martin Museum of Art and the Susan L. Sistrunk Fine Art Gallery. — Michelle Johnson

Bankston’s Comics and Collectibles

Bankston’s has been a longtime staple of the comic book culture in Waco. This family-owned establishment is a one-stop destination for collectors and comic book readers. I love the community around Bankston’s and seeing them support events like Central Texas Comic Con and hosting Free Comic Book Day every year, which includes bounce houses and fun activities for the family. After browsing the new releases, I like to stop next door for a plate of biscuits and gravy from their restaurant, Butter My Biscuit, and visit their backroom where they host game nights for King’s Landing. — Emily Ober

Crash at Infamous Ink

Waco has its fair share of tattoo shops, so when I decided I wanted a big piece tattooed on my right bicep, I started doing my research. I already had two small pieces — my kids’ names, and an outline of Texas with the state flag inside — neither of which were too challenging for any artist. But the next one was going to take some time and talent, and I didn’t want to take a chance on an inexperienced artist. We had bought a painting by Bruce Webb at his gallery in Waxahachie called Waco Cat, a side view of a man’s colorful head, wearing a black derby, blue shirt and red bow tie. His face was yellow, fading into orange around his mouth and blending into his neck. It’s bold and beautiful, like the two other pieces we had by Webb. My search for the right artist for this tat led me to the Instagram page tattoosby_crash, Crash being the artist, who works out of Infamous Ink. Two photos of his work that he posted a few years ago convinced me he was the right artist for this job. Both of the tattoos were flowers, one purple and orange, and the other a beautiful orange hibiscus with green flowers. Crash was excited about the tattoo I had planned, saying it was going to be a challenge. I sat through a couple of hour-plus sessions, and couldn’t be happier with the result. Waco Cat is still bright and vibrant on my arm. And after my daughter Sophie gave me a birthday card last year that featured her drawing of three small flowers, I had that tattooed on the inside of my right wrist. It was another great piece by Crash. — Kevin Tankersley

Shepherd’s Heart Food Pantry Mobile Distributions

You can find all the places their mobile distribution teams will be in a month on their website at shepherdsheartpantry.org. If your family needs food, you can visit two times a month. And if you’d like to help by making sure your neighbors in need can get food for their tables, volunteers are always welcome. It’s a great group that welcomes all and helps make a lot of worlds go ‘round. — Anna Mitchael

Mary Jo Robbins Clinic for Autism Research and Practice

Part of the Baylor University Speech-Language and Hearing Clinic, the Mary Jo Robbins Clinic for Autism Research and Practice provides affordable and accessible resources for adults and children with autism and other communication disorders and difficulties. We learned our son was autistic shortly after beginning speech therapy at Baylor and have seen his social communication skills improve by leaps and bounds after receiving specialized services through their new half-day preschool program. The therapists, graduate clinicians and staff are incredible. My son is always eager to get to the clinic and find out what is on his learning agenda for the day. As we prepare to relocate, we are realizing just how unique and special this resource is for our family and those in the Waco community. — Morgan Strehlow

Boat Slide at Little Land of Waco

This is my favorite rainy (or sunny) day place to go for my kids to burn off all their energy. I love that every area is kid-friendly with so many things to keep them busy! There is an incredible interactive sand table, huge light bright room, obstacle course, various swings, an area designated for babies and of course the pirate ship in the middle! Both my kids love the slide on the pirate ship. My son is at the age where he can get up the stairs and slide down by himself and it is so fun watching him smile and giggle over and over. We absolutely love Little Land of Waco! — Brittany Ross

Schmaltz’s Sandwich Shoppe

Mouthwatering goodness! If you live in Waco or you’re just visiting, Schmaltz Sandwich Shoppe is a must. Their amazingly fresh, baked in-house artisan bread has to be the best in town. That warm, cheesy, garlic-buttery, slightly crispy on the outside while soft in the middle, bread is simply perfection. Not to mention the wonderful aroma when walking inside. My personal favorite is the famous Cheese Sandwich — a delicious blend of cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan and veggies — with baked chips and a drink. Call ahead and skip the line! — Lisa Jaska

Taqueria La Milpa Food Truck

Who doesn’t love a late night taco run? Taqueria La Milpa is a food truck located on La Salle that only opens after 7 p.m. From taquitos to Elote, burritos, tacos, tortas and much more, La Milpa offers delicious Mexican cuisine after dark. After a late night study session, I love going with my friends and grabbing some food. The chicken flautas are my favorite! — Skylla Mumana

Meat Loaf Plate at Jess Soul Food

I can hardly get past the lunch plate with meat loaf, mac ‘n cheese and turnip greens with cabbage to try anything else, though sometimes I do mashed potatoes and gravy instead of mac. The portions are so big, there are always leftovers for a whole ‘nother meal. Mom Jessica (the café’s namesake) is the cook in the kitchen; daughter Brittany takes orders and runs the register, and they always want to know how you liked your meal. I’d go across town to eat there anyway, but it’s a bonus that my son David works down the street and it’s a convenient place to meet and has become our go-to place for a weekday lunch. Oh, and the cornbread is to die for. — Susan Bean Aycock

Lunchtime Workouts at REFIT Studio

Lunchtime workouts at the REFIT Studio in downtown Waco have been the most fun way to prioritize movement and exercise in the midst of being a working mom. I used to avoid group fitness classes because I tend to compare myself to others and will become distracted by my own self-consciousness. I don’t find that to be a problem when I walk into a REFIT class, though. The words displayed on the outside of the studio, Everybody Belongs, is more than just a mantra. Belonging and inclusivity is embodied by each instructor and studio member. It can be hard to make time for myself and my body in the thick of these early motherhood years, but REFIT classes make it a little easier to. I am finally starting to feel like myself again! — Morgan Strehlow

Caryn at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio

I don’t think my husband and I could have gone wrong with any of the teachers at Arthur Murray, but having Caryn as our first instructor was a gift. We showed up for country dance lessons, but thanks to Caryn’s encouragement, now have learned everything from ballroom to salsa and even some tango. I’m not sure where one goes to tango in Waco, but if a spot ever opens up, we’re ready. — Anna Mitchael

Pizza, Beer & Board Games at Southern Roots Brewing Company

Tucked away on 8th Street downtown, Southern Roots is a chill place to hang out with friends or family on weekends. With their selection of flagship craft brews — H.O.T. Blonde, West of Czech Pilsner, Gunfighter IPA, Surfside Wheat Ale and ALICO American Lager — there’s a local for every taste. Signature pizzas — including the Six Shooter (for cheese lovers), the Southern Belle (for a hint of sweetness) and El Diablo (for obvious reasons) — are handmade and hit the spot. There are lots of large tables that are perfect for one of the array of board games available at the place. Southern Roots also has Trivia Night every Tuesday. — Gretchen Eichenberg

The Waco Symphony Orchestra

I am very proud to support the Waco Symphony Orchestra, which just celebrated its 60th anniversary. Several times a year, the symphony hosts world renowned conductors, musicians and actors to perform alongside Waco’s talented musicians. Many members of our symphony have been a part of the organization for decades. “The Nutcracker” at Christmas has become a beloved tradition among parents and grandparents and their children. Waco Symphony also partners with the Baylor symphony to host fourth- and fifth-graders from the greater Waco area to enjoy a day at the symphony. This might be the only time these children are exposed to music of this caliber. Getting to dress up, eat an early dinner with friends and listen to beautiful music every other month is one of my favorite parts of Waco. — Elizabeth Barnhill

Faerie Fire Cocktail from One Day Bar

For a refreshing after-work experience, enjoy a Faerie Fire cocktail on the covered patio at One Day, surrounded by the sights and sounds of downtown Waco. This effervescent drink is made with strawberry infused rum, house made lemon grapefruit basil syrup, ginger beer and a smidge of salt. It’s a beautiful rosy color and always served in a vintage glass of some sort. — Gretchen Eichenberg

Atmosphere, pour steady coffee and cinnamon roll from For Keeps Coffee

For Keeps Coffee is new to the coffee scene but already making a huge impact being the only local coffee shop serving North and West Waco neighborhoods. I love how close it is to home which mean visits happen almost daily while I edit photos. Cameron and Danielle Philgreen have put so much thought and intention to create a curated space that inspires community and creativity. My go to is an iced latte and one of the freshly baked cinnamon rolls made in house. — Breanne Johnson

Schnitzel, Brussels sprouts and French 75 from Pivovar

Pivovar has become a new favorite spot for a night out. Offering traditional Czech dishes, it’s hard to pick just one. For a perfect dinner, the roasted Brussels sprouts made in their secret sauce are a great starter. For the entrée, the Czexan schnitzel is my go-to. The thin pork is breaded and fried and served over mashed potatoes. Pivovar makes a perfect schnitzel that is as close to the schnitzel I’ve had in Germany that you will find here in Waco. To pair with your meal, the French 75 is a light cocktail made of gin and sparkling wine that balances the rich dinner. — Emily Ober