“Explain to me again, why are you going to Waco?”
That’s what our 5th generation Texan mother asked my sister, Lisa, and me when I told her we were traveling 3-1/2 hours to the town where our favorite HGTV show, Fixer Upper, is filmed. Even after trying to explain several times, we understood her confusion.
“You’re going to Waco because you want to see some remodeled houses and an old grain silo?” Mom asked, completely perplexed.
“Yep, that’s basically it,” we said.
But seriously, why were we (like thousands of other across America) making a pilgrimage to a relatively small town in Texas because of a television show? HGTV and DIY Network are full of home remodeling programs featuring dozens of charismatic, talented designers. What does Fixer Upper have that other shows don’t?
Chip and Joanna Gaines.
Every episode of Fixer Upper focuses on the importance of God, family, and home in their lives. They do this without literally preaching, but by showing people who they are as a Christian family. They treat their children with love and respect, and you clearly see it reciprocated in the moments they’re together as a family on the show. The love and goofiness between Chip and Joanne has caused a series of t-shirts to be created reading, “I want to be loved like Chip loves Joanna.” They have changed the entire design industry with people on other remodel shows now asking for very Joanna-like things such as “shiplap” and “barn doors” and “open concept kitchens.” But most of all, in addition to creating a wildly popular television design show, Chip and Joanna have literally grown the entire economy of Waco, Texas, creating jobs and causing Waco to become a major national tourist attraction.
So although our parents probably still don’t get it, if you are a fan of Fixer Upper like Lisa and me, you’ll completely understand why we drove as fast as we could to get to Waco.
Day 1, Friday:
After driving in drizzly rain, we began our tour at the amazing Magnolia Market and silos where Chip and Joanna have created a beautiful experience for the entire family. (601 Webster Avenue)
TIP: Regarding parking, when you get to the front of the silo area you’ll see several parking places that charge $10 (probably more in the summer). DO NOT PARK THERE. If you go past the silos and make a right you’ll see plenty of FREE PARKING directly behind the silos. We almost fell for it but luckily the $10 parking lot was full–we were making another turn around the block when we found the free ones. You’re welcome.
When you enter the silo area you’ll be struck by how large the silos are. Everything is spotlessly clean, very Disney-esque with great music blasting from speakers. One of the first things Lisa and I noticed was that although it continued to rain, lots of children were playing in the enormous grassy area and swinging on the swings (and as you can see in the picture below they aren’t just for kids). There’s a wooden holder filled with balls and games to play with, and covered picnic tables nearby. Chip and Joanna Gaines have pointedly made this a very family-friendly experience, adding lots of details that everyone can enjoy. Groups of very non-cynical looking teenagers were walking around holding small watermelons filled with pureed watermelon juice from Luna Juice instead of staring at their cell phones. (I got a healthy green juice from Luna later in the day–but not before some much-needed coffee from Common Grounds.)
The magnificent Magnolia store is to the right of the silos and it is enormous, almost overwhelming when you first walk in. Even though we were there early on a Friday, it was packed with people from all over the U.S. PACKED. As a fan, it was fun seeing all the very “JoAnne-y” things for sale, including products made of shiplap, her jewelry line (I bought a very reasonably priced pounded-copper ring), lots of $6 cotton boll branches, and of course a large assortment of clothing and hats with words like #Shiplap and #DemoDay.
The new Magnolia Bakery is in-between the silos and the store, but the line for Joanna’s cupcakes stretched around the block. Later the lines were even longer. As my sister likes to say, ‘No bueno.’ So we skipped it, and it was probably for the best. (Of course we peeked inside to see Dustin Anderson’s awesome glass cases and the beautiful parquet floors–but more about Dustin later.)
There is also a garden area where you can see some of Chip and Joanna’s beautiful gardens and flowers, and a store where you can purchase very unique gardening items.
The City of Waco also has an awesome FREE trolley system that will pick you up in front of the silos and runs from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. It takes you on a 10 minute loop of major attractions around the city, and you can also park your car in a FREE lot and the trolley will take you directly to the silos. Here’s a video from Chip and Joanna:
After high recommendations, for lunch we ate at Cafe Homestead which is about 20 minutes away from the silos in a beautiful Christian community called Homestead Heritage (they are described as “similar to Amish”). The grounds were stunningly beautiful and the the food was absolutely delicious. I had Jerk Chicken Tacos and Poblano Bisque, which was some of the best soup I’ve ever eaten. There are lovely stores with handcrafted items made by the folks who live at Homestead.
We could have explored Homestead all day but after lunch we headed back to Waco proper to stalk (er, find) Dustin Anderson at Anderson Glass (326 N. Industrial).
Fixer Upper fans will remember Dustin as the new “glass guy” who installed the glass cases in the Magnolia Bakery. More recently, after helping Chip create “antique” mirrors he let Chip use a sling shot to smash a giant sheet of glass. I warned Dustin via Twitter that Lisa and I were coming to Waco to find him and he fearlessly tweeted back, “Bring it.” So we did–and hanging out with Dustin at Anderson Glass was one of the highlights of the trip for us. He was one of the nicest guys you can imagine and since he’s new to the show his business wasn’t swarming with tourists–YET (as Clint Harp’s “Harp Designs” was, see below). You should definitely add Anderson Glass to your Fixer Upper tour because he has lots of very cool custom-created products for sale at very reasonable prices.
But best of all, Dustin let me use “Chip’s slingshot” to break my own giant sheet of glass! At first I used metal nuts which simply bounced off the tempered glass. After multiple attempts (Dustin even tried) they gave me a giant hammer which finally smashed the glass.
Lisa filmed the entire thing for Facebook Live, here it is:
And here’s the slo-mo version from Dustin’s POV:
For the record, Dustin said the reason Chip shattered the glass on his first shot was because he used a ball bearing. An interestingly side note, after the giant sheet of glass (finally) shattered it continued breaking, crackling and popping and breaking a few minutes after. Lisa and I brought home a few pieces home with us. Thank you again, Dustin–that was epic! (Update: My piece of glass, pictured right, was found in the bottom of my purse the next morning in about a gazillion pieces. Rats.)
Visit Anderson Glass at 326 N. Industrial and make sure to follow @Dustin_And3son on Twitter. And while you’re at it follow HGTV producer Michael Matsumoto @Matsumoto818 who we also would’ve stalked, er, looked for, if we had his address. Tell them Ann-Marie sent ya!
Our last stop on Day 1 was Harp Design (808 N. 15th Street). There were tourist’s cars parked all the way down the street taking pictures of the store as well as the Fixer Upper house next door where Clint and his wife once lived (they reportedly moved for privacy reasons, very understandable). It’s a great store with shiplap products and some of Clint’s beautiful tables and woodwork. Of course after playing with glass at Dustin Anderson’s place, we were really hoping to maybe carve some wood with Clint, but no such luck. He’s probably getting ready for the March 26 premier of his new show on the DIY Network, “Wood Work.” (Good luck Clint, we’ll be watching!) And the last picture (below) is another indicator of why so many of us love Fixer Upper via a card they put in your shopping bag at Magnolia Market. It says,
“Thank you so much for visiting Magnolia Market at the Silos! It has always been our dream to create a store that is more than just a place to shop, but a place where family and friends can gather together. We hope you enjoyed your time in Waco, come visit us again soon! BLESS YOUR HOME, Chip and Joanne”
Day 2, Saturday: Since the lines were so long on Friday, we decided to get an extra early start and have a breakfast of Joanna’s cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery.
We were wrong.
TIP: This is the same advice I give to anyone coming to my home state California when planning to go to Disneyland: AVOID WEEKENDS if at all possible, especially on holidays or when school is out!
If we felt a tad crowded in Magnolia Market on Friday, Saturday morning this was the line just to get into the store–and the line for the bakery was even longer.
Luckily we basically did everything we could at the silos Friday (other than eat those elusive cupcakes) so we decided to continue seeking other Fixer Upper landmarks. Our goal for the day was to find Lisa’s “holy grail” antique for her collection: a black rotary telephone. First stop was the oft featured antique store, Junque in the Trunk (910 La Salle Ave.). It’s a perfectly Fixer Upper-style place full of lovely accessories and I saw several pieces that I wish could fit into my suit cases–but no phone for Lisa.
Since many of the houses the Gaines’ update are scattered throughout several small towns, we left Waco and drove about 25 minutes to McGregor, Texas the location of Chip and Joanna’s lovely bed and breakfast, the Magnolia House (323 S. Madison Avenue). While we were there taking pictures another car pulled up and did the same thing; other than that, it was very quiet on their street (just across from the McGregor Fire Department).
Best of all, the Magnolia House is only a few blocks away from another Fixer Upper fixture, Cuppiecakes! (402 W. 3rd Street, McGregor, Tx) The most difficult part for me was trying to choose between Makin’ Bacon, Banana Pudding, or the Blackout Chocolate. Having just eaten a healthy lunch, Lisa opted out and while I admired her willpower tremendously, I ate all THREE cupcakes. Yes, I did, and I paid for it dearly later on. Trust me. (Moderation is something I’m working on…)
As someone who rarely eats sugar these days, I was now on the most intense sugar high possibly in my entire life when we drove to our next stop, the three Cedar Chest antique stores (31707 W. Highway 84, McGregor). We recognized several corners of the stores where Fixer Upper had filmed, but in case you miss them the store provides handy reminders.
The three Cedar Chest stores are side-by-side, each set up like antique malls but they are exceptionally well organized and very well lit.
TIP: With all-things Waco tour, we advise wearing comfy shoes. At one point (for MS reasons) I was really wishing I had brought my cane because of the uneven, sometimes rocky roads. Sugar didn’t help me, but that’s a moot point now…
Exhausted and ready to go back home, Lisa and I entered the last Cedar Chest store and lo and behold, there it was, displayed in one of the first spaces: Lisa’s antique phone. And at a very reasonable price, too.
On our way home Lisa took this picture of me in a field of Bluebonnets, the state flower of Texas. (Don’t worry, we were VERY careful not to step on any of them.)
Ultimately even if you’re not a super-fans of Fixer Upper like my sister and me, visiting Waco, Texas is a fun, wholesome experience for the entire family. In addition to the Magnolia Silos and Homestead Heritage (where we could have spent another entire day), there is a zoo, the Brazos River (which runs directly through the city) and Waco is also the “birthplace” of the unofficial state soft drink of Texas, Dr. Pepper.
So absolutely head over to Waco! And seriously, as a native Texan I’m still surprised I’m saying that–but it’s all due to Chip and Joanna Gaines.
(By the way, if you have any questions or would like any further tips or advice send me an email: [email protected])