waco — In the last few years, the City of Waco has seen a vast amount of growth in tourism. So much, that sometimes it’s hard to even find a vacant hotel. It’s no secret that the Magnolia Market at the Silos, and Chip and Joanna Gaines, is what brings people from all over the world to Central Texas.
“I’m a big fan of the Fixer Upper Show with Chip and Joanna Gaines. I’ve never missed an episode,” Tennessee Tourist Kelly Yates said.
Recently, Waco was named the number two travel destination for 2018 in TripAdvisor’s Travelers' choice awards for destinations on the rise.
The company Waco Tours take hundreds of tourists on a two-hour journey to provide them with everything they need to know about the city's uniqueness, history, and hidden gems. It takes them to see the Dr. Pepper Museum, homes that were featured on the HGTV series Fixer Upper, and to the many restaurants and places to shop.
“To me, it seems like a great small town,” said Yates.
Waco Tours owners Luke and Rachel Whyte and David Ridley saw tourism was increasing and thought it was a good idea to start a business that would welcome people to Waco.
“We wanted to create a fun experience so they could see a little bit of all of Waco and hear the stories of what’s going on here and what’s to come and to make something fun for them to do while they are in town,” Ridley said.
According to the guides at Waco Tours, Cameron Park is Waco’s hidden gem. The park is the second largest inner-city park in America and is home to the Cameron Park Zoo and the dangerously beautiful lovers leap.
Retired dentist Jeffery Ackey traveled here from Iowa with his wife. The "Fixer Upper" fan admits that before coming here all he could really remember Waco for was its tragic past. But, after taking the tour, he now see’s things a lot different.
“Obviously the history of Waco with the Branch Davidians and all that stuff in the past has been renewed,” Ackey said. "I don’t even think about that anymore.”
After seeing the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, the Texas Rangers Museum and even stopping by the Waco staple, Common Grounds, some tourists admit the small city between Dallas and Austin has a lot to offer.
“This tour brought about more than just what we came down here for,” Ackey said. "I would highly recommend this trip down to Waco. It’s just wonderful."
Tourists are spending a lot of money when they come to Waco looking for things to do and places to eat. In 2017, tax receipts from travelers totaled $9.4 million. The owners of Waco Tours are doing well too. They said two years ago, when they started the business, they only had one van, but the demand to go on the tours is so high they now have six.