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I'm the gal behind the lens, and the founder of paige elizabeth photography. 

If I'm not working you can usually find me exploring new towns, eating sushi, or cuddling with my pup and cat. Explore my blog to learn more about me, my couples, and even learn a thing or two!

Hey, there! I'm Paige.

WACO: Expectations + Experience

 

MAGNOLIA MARKET | Waco, TX
So, you want to go to Waco? Well I think just about most of us can relate to that! Ever since Fixer Upper came on the scene in 2013, Waco, TX has been put on the map in a whole new way. Chip and Joanna Gaines quickly became one of America’s favorite couples. Not only because of their talents in design, but their easy-going attitudes that give all of us those “they’re just like us” vibes.
 
One of the most significant impacts Chip + Jo have had, is on their local economy in their hometown of Waco. Before Chip + Jo, Waco was really only known nationally for the tragedy at the Branch Davidian compound in 1993. Fast forward to May 2013 and enter Chip + Joanna Gaines, all awkwardness and quirky jokes and the country is ready to give Waco another shot. The Gaines make us fall in love with Waco through gorgeous shots of Baylor University campus, the neighborhoods + homes they are fixing up, wide open farmland, and of course, their historic downtown area (who doesn’t love a cool historic downtown?!)
 
Waco gets even better in 2015 with the opening of Magnolia Market at the Silos, and now, over 1 million people flock to Waco each year just to visit the masterpiece that Chip + Jo created. And just a few weeks ago, I was one of those people. So I’m here to tell you all about what to expect on your visit, and some great tips we picked up on our time there!


WACO: WHAT TO EXPECT
So, I mentioned earlier how we all fell in love with Waco because of the beautiful shots that Fixer Upper showed us, right? And Fixer Upper wasn’t lying. Baylor University is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. The Suspension Bridge and the parks along the Brazos River are really neat, and I actually wish we’d had time to explore those more. And, yes, the downtown area really is super cool!
It’s funny, before I went to Waco, my sister (who lives in Frisco, TX – just north of Dallas and about 2 hours from Waco) told me that locals had said to her “There is literally nothing in Waco except Magnolia….Nobody goes to Waco except to go to the Silos or something to do with Magnolia”. And let me tell y’all I was NOT here for it. I didn’t listen to that one bit, brushing it off with a quick justification of “Ummm hello – have they watched Fixer Upper? It’s so cute! It’s supposed to be such a cool town!”. I was headed to Waco ready to fall in love with this town-on-the-rise and, honestly, was fully expecting to feel like I needed to come home and pack my bags and move my butt down there because I was going to be so in love. Boy was I in for a treat.
Now before you keep reading (because I think you may be able to sense where this is about to go) let me tell you this – I had a wonderful time in Waco, and I will definitely be going back one day. All things Magnolia are exactly what you’d expect and so much more – and I can’t wait to share my best shopping tips below! But what we very quickly learned when we got to Waco is this……Magnolia + Waco are not on the same playing field, and my expectations of a cute historic town on the rise, did not so much fall flat, as disappear altogether.

→ “To sum it up in one relatively harsh sentence: Waco is not cute.”

To sum it up in one relatively harsh sentence: Waco is not cute. I’m sorry to burst your bubble y’all, but I really wish I’d done my research better beforehand and knew what to expect. I’m hoping sharing this will help curb any of those expectations so you don’t feel let down. Maybe it was just me. Maybe I’m one of very few who took Fixer Upper at it’s word (yes that’s naive I know) that this was a super-cute-super-cool, fun place to live, and I would fall in love with it’s charm just like Chip and Jo always talk about on the show.
What Chip + Jo don’t explain super well on the show, is that the charming parts of Waco they are showing us viewers, make up the vast minority of Waco.
From the moment my Mom, Kyleigh, and myself drove into the city limits of Waco, we were surprised. We could see Baylor University in all it’s shiny brick buildings and manicured lawns glory on one side, and the shimmering Brazos River on the other, but everywhere else appeared to be (honestly there’s no other way to put it) a bit of a mess. Waco is very clearly a town that has always been quite run down with a less than booming economy, who has had to quickly and unexpectedly transform itself into a town that can handle over a million tourists a year. Chip and Jo have singlehandedly changed their local economy, and Waco just hasn’t quite caught up. Hotels and shops are scattered about in a disorganized way, and the majority of residential Waco is extremely run down. All the neighborhoods we drove around were homes that were just not maintained and were falling into disrepair. And that cute historic downtown? Yeah, super, super cute. But also super underutilized. There are a ton of empty building spaces, and Kyleigh and I, try as we might, could not find a single building that contained historic lofts or apartments. Instead, scattered around the downtown area outskirts, were new apartment buildings popping up like weeds.

→ “I am just giving you my unfiltered impression, to prevent you from leaving disappointed like we did.”

Now let me make one thing clear: I was in Waco for exactly 1.5 days. I did not spend a week here exploring, and Kyleigh and I searched for historic apartments though google/home app searches and looking for buildings with signs. There absolutely could be historic lofts available and we just didn’t find them. And there are certainly cute neighborhoods in Waco, but seemingly not a ton, and not any we were able to come across in our time there. So I am not saying any of this with the tone of “Waco sucks and my opinion is 100% accurate”, because again, I was only there 1.5 days. I am just giving you my unfiltered impression, to prevent you from leaving disappointed like we did.
What struck us all most about Waco was that there seemed to be so much untapped potential. The downtown area is, truly, really-freaking-cool! Wonderful architecture and layout, with tons of neat murals. So why weren’t there more businesses or apartments in historic buildings available? A lot of the houses that are run down are super cute and charming, but not maintained and showing significant wear. The strip malls and shopping areas that were clearly there before the 2015 economy boom? Run down with no real cohesion in look/design. And remember, we’re adding all this on top of lots of spread out, randomly-popping-up new businesses and residences.
It was very clear that Waco is trying to quickly catch up with it’s newfound fame and attraction, and I honestly think that it will get there one day. We all said when we left that we can’t wait to see what this town looks like in 10 years. And we had to remind ourselves, it’s only been 3, almost 4 years, since Magnolia Market opened. They’re going to catch up, they just need a little bit more time.

→ “They’re going to catch up, they just need a little bit more time.”



THE MAGNOLIA EXPERIENCE: A GUIDE

THE SILOS | MAGNOLIA MARKET
Okay, now to the fun part! MAGNOLIA. This is what you’re coming to Waco for, right? Let me tell y’all, it is NOT going to disappoint one bit. In fact, it’ll blow you away. So, let’s make sure you have a good game plan in place. I’m going to outline the spots in the order (I think) best to visit them, based on what we wished we had done and tips we got from the locals and Magnolia employees along the way! So let’s go:
1. Magnolia Table: Hours 6am – 3pm
Okay y’all, trust me, Magnolia Table FULLY lives up to the hype. The food is absolutely INCREDIBLE. I was definitely nervous about the food going in. I mean, I feel like it’s pretty rare for a restaurant to have it all: cute decor, great service, and great food? Come on. But Magnolia Table knocks all three of those out of the park. Our service was excellent. They have staff opening the doors for you, and our server was so sweet. But the food? Oh my goodness y’all. The food was so dang good. Those biscuits and strawberry butter everyone talks about? FREAKING. INSANE. My mouth is watering just remembering them. And this may be weird, but it was also some of the best sausage I’d ever had before. Like such a random thing to be so good, but it really was. Not too heavy or greasy, with just a smidgen of spice. Delicious.
Now for Magnolia Table, you’ll want to do this first and get there as early as you can drag your butt out of bed. Seriously. They open at 6am and if you can get there at 6am, do it. Luckily we were there during one of their “slow” (I say “slow” because it never actually is slow there) times, so when we arrived at around 9:45am, we were able to be seated right away. However we were told many times that is not the norm, and heard horror stories of people waiting 3 hours for tables (I mean…it is worth that wait I’m not going to lie). We ordered a round of biscuits and strawberry butter first and only had to wait about 15 or so minutes for our main dishes to arrive after ordering them. The atmosphere is wonderful. So friendly and relaxed. They have large farm-style dining tables everywhere and were sitting different family groups at them. It was so neat to watch strangers become friends over their meals.
After breakfast we went over to their “Take Away” section which is where you can grab food/drink items to go and of course, souvenirs. We got some strawberry butter to go and a couple of t-shirts and mugs before heading on our way.
2. The Little Shop on Bosque / Magnolia Warehouse Shop: Hours 10am – 5pm
We did not go to The Little Shop on Bosque next, but we really wish we had made it our second stop for many reasons: hence why it’s listed as the 2nd stop for you here.
Depending on when you went to breakfast, this little spot is probably open by now and ready for your shopping pleasure. One of the reasons we wished we’d gone here after Magnolia Table is that is closes earlier than Magnolia Market at 5pm- meaning that if you visit the Market first, you are also thinking in the back of your head that you need to leave in time to make it over here (it’s about a 10 minute drive to this shop from either Magnolia Table or from the Silos).
More importantly than that, this shop is where the sales happen. You’ll want to visit this shop first to get all the best deals for that day. If you’ve had your eye on something (like I did) on the Magnolia website for awhile, there is a decent chance it could be at this shop marked down. They sell discontinued items here as well as items that are slightly damaged at steep markdowns. For example, I’ve had my eye on this bag, literally since Magnolia Market first opened. I LOVE a good leather bag and this tote is my dream weekender bag. But it’s not cheap. When we visited, we ended up going to the Market first, and I almost bought that bag there for it’s full price. Luckily I just had a gut feeling to wait (and my Mom and Kyleigh to talk me into holding off), because when we got to The Little Shop on Bosque, they had several of these bags marked at 50% OFF!
Now here’s their trick: if you shop at Magnolia Market before you come to The Little Shop on Bosque, they’ll give you an additional 10% off your purchase (they ask to see your receipt to check, so if you go there first make sure to hold onto it!). So since I did that, I got the bag for 60% off it’s original price, and there is literally nothing wrong with this bag. I still cannot figure out why they marked it down. Some of them had sticky zippers, but sometimes I think they may just have too much inventory. Anyways, that’s their catch.
You can go here first and save yourself a ton of money from buying something you could be buying full price at the Market, or you could go to the market first and then save an extra 10% at the shop. The choice is yours, but from our experience, we highly recommend going to the Little Shop first (you can always come back after you’ve made a purchase at the market!)
3. Harp Design Co: Hours 9am – 5pm
Harp Design Co. is an excellent stop, and a great way to break up the day with something that’s cute like Magnolia, but also a little different with some other fun options. It’s only a 5-6 minute drive from the Bosque shop, and since it also closes at 5pm, it’s a great one to get out of the way earlier in the day.
Harp is a quaint, one room shop with lots of beautiful wood pieces and fun decor items for sale! They have some really fun displays, and it’s neat to be in the space and see what Clint creates. Plus it’s literally right next door to the house Chip and Jo did for the Harp family, so that’s fun to see in person! This will be a quick stop, we spent about 10 minutes in here and purchased a few fun things on sale before heading out.
4. Magnolia Market: Hours 9am – 6pm // Silos Baking Co: Hours 7:30am – 6pm

 

Finally, it’s Market time! I highly recommend saving this for last, and yes, it is the best. Magnolia Market is freaking HUGE. Like, way bigger than I expected it to be. I did not realize they had an entire warehouse section behind the main store part you always see on TV. Plus they have the Garden + Garden Shop (they call it the Seed + Supply), all the food trucks, outdoor lounge area (you’ll definitely need to lounge because you’ll be exhausted, plus you’ll just want to bask in all it’s glory), and of course Silos Baking Co.

Parking: They do have free parking areas around the Market which is awesome! But be prepared to either walk a little bit, or catch one of their shuttles they have available. Since we were there during “slow” season, we were lucky enough to get street parking on the same block as the Market, but this is not typically the case.
As far as what to visit first when you get to the market, that is totally up to you! If you’ve followed this schedule, you should have the whole rest of your day to explore every nook and cranny. We went to the market first, then the garden + garden shop, walked around the grounds and tried a hot dog from H.O.T Dog House (which is owned + operated by Keith and Annabeth Morgan – the couple from Season 4, episode 2 on Fixer Upper!), and finished things off at the Bakery.
Two things I will note about our experience at the Market:
1. Since we did not follow this schedule (we went to Magnolia Table first, then to the Market, then to The Little Shop on Bosque and Harp), we did not have quite as much time at the Market as we would have liked. Kyleigh and I would have been happy to spend hours lounging in the greens area outside, but we only had about 10 minutes while we ate our hot dogs to enjoy the outdoor area. If you’re traveling with kids especially, make sure you have enough time to relax,
2. Silos Baking Co. is not a normal bakery experience. You will not get to wander around looking at all the delicious baked goods and take your time deciding what you want. The line will (unless you get there first thing in the morning) pretty much always be around the corner and down the block. Luckily, they are pros at keeping it moving pretty quickly. You’ll be handed a card and pencil while you’re in line to check off your order and hand over to the cashier once you’re inside. Indoors, it’ll be roped off into a line to keep things moving, and it’s *super* tight in there. You have a few minutes while you’re waiting to take in the beautiful decor before you order, and have to squeeze yourself into a space to wait for your goods to be ready. At this point I highly recommend that only one of your party wait inside while the rest hang outside on the patio area, because there simply isn’t enough room for all of you to wait in there.
However, once again the Bakery fully lives up to the hype! We were very curious, yet again, how the food would be here- and it was melt-in-your-mouth-delicious. The cupcakes are SO DANG GOOD y’all. We got a crap ton of yummy treats at the bakery and we will definitely be loading up again next time we go back!
As for the market itself, I won’t speak much to that. Honestly it’s an experience all in itself and I don’t want to ruin it for you – but I will say it is absolutely amazing. Come prepared to take your sweet time, and leave with a bag full of goodies. (You better make sure you have room left in your suitcase for your trip home!)

 



TRAVEL TIPS:

We went to Waco on a Sunday afternoon and left the following Monday night. Lucky for us we came during the last week of February which seemed to be a pretty good time. We had great weather for the 1.5 days we were in Waco and we missed the crazy busy crowds that come with summer time or visiting during an event like Spring at the Silos. (Don’t get me wrong, Kyleigh and I have already agreed we need to attend one of these, but having our first visit be during a “non-peak” time, was really nice!)
A few last things to note: If you go Waco, or honestly pretty much anywhere in Texas on a Sunday, almost everything is closed. It took us a solid 20+ minutes of searching on Google and Yelp to find somewhere to eat on Sunday night because so many places were closed! However, we settled on this little Mexican restaurant called The Ranchito 5 and I would HIGHLY recommend it. It was freakin’ delicious and so cheap! $3 for a large guac y’all. Come on!
We stayed at the Home2 Suites by Hilton in Waco and the rooms were super large, beds very comfy, and it was literally right across the highway from Magnolia Table, and only 5 minutes from Magnolia Market!
If you’re lucky enough to have more than a day or two in Waco, some neat things that we were hoping to do but didn’t have time to do were: walk around the local parks, explore some of the downtown antique shops (there are a handful and look super cute!), and just explore and drive around the outskirts area more. Renting a car to be able to explore is definitely the way to go, so make sure to don’t miss out on that opportunity!


Fun Facts:

West, Texas
1. Along your drive to Waco you will begin to see signs for “Czech Heritage Capital of Texas”, also known as the town of West, Texas. Pull off and see this place. I’m serious. It is the tiniest, cutest, adorable little town I have ever laid eyes on. It has one row of historic buildings with a few local shops and things, nestled right along a train track. It seriously looked like the quintessential country western town right out of a John Wayne movie. Cue the tumbleweed blowing through the road and you’d be all set! 
It’s not much, but it really is a fun thing to see if you like exploring and seeing historic towns. We love to get off the main roads and see what lies around so we really enjoyed seeing this little spot.
2. THERE IS IN-N-OUT IN TEXAS.
This is not a drill. There is IN-N-OUT in Texas and yes there is one both on your way to, and in, Waco! If you’ve never been blessed with the glory of an In-N-Out burger and shake, please make a point to stop here. I thought these were only a West Coast thing and we all literally screamed when we saw the In-n-Out sign along the highway. Quick tip: don’t bother with the fries, they’re crap. Unfortunate, but true.
Okay y’all, that’s it! That’s everything you need to know about Waco and Magnolia from my experience and I can’t wait to hear what you think! I’m sorry if I upset anyone with my bit about Waco itself being a bit of a disappointment, but we all felt pretty strongly that I should share that with you because we really did feel bummed about that aspect when we left. And we fully recognize that it was the fault of our own expectations, not of the town itself. Hence sharing that reality with you so you can have the appropriate expectations going in!
I got a TON of texts and dm’s about Waco and so many of you said you have Waco trips planned for this year! I can’t wait to hear all about your trips.

→ Let me know what you thought of this post and if you think it will       help or not… and tell me – which spot are you going to visit first?

Happy shopping!
XO,
Paige

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