The college town of Waco, Texas, may surprise you with its deep cultural scene and diverse nightlife, spanning everything from visual and performance art to live music and theater. This buzz of activity is centered around the downtown Cultural District, located along both sides of the Brazos River and easily accessible on foot or via the free Silo Trolley.
Whether you’re on the hunt for local art, have a yen for rock, or want to enjoy wine and a symphony performance — Texas style — this is the place. Early birds should peruse Saturday’s riverside farmers market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; night owls, take your pick of downtown after dark. For the best art, music and design finds in town, don’t miss these Waco discoveries:
Visual Arts with a Local Twist
A true community hub, The Art Center of Waco is a nonprofit gallery that dates to the 1970s and offers a regular series of free art exhibits. Part of its mission is to cultivate the arts through educational programs, and it offers many art classes for children and adults — think chalk lettering, watercolor and comic art.
Anthem Studios is a gallery, artisan market and collection of creative work spaces housed in the 100-year-old Praetorian Building. The antique transom windows and steel vaults provide the perfect backdrop for Waco’s First Friday soirees held the first Friday of each month. Visit then for music, drinks and small bites, as well as the chance to meet the artists.
Music Three Ways
The Waco Symphony Orchestra is now in its 55th season of live classical, pop and holiday music performances. Conductor Stephen Heyde leads the ensemble and world-class guest artists in its seasonal concerts and special events, such as The Nutcracker. This being Waco, you’ll see everything from formal wear to blue jeans at a performance — as with so much of the cultural scene here, it’s accessible for all.
At the other end of the spectrum, Truelove Bar is a rock ‘n’ roll spot, offering a mix of rock, alt-pop, bluegrass, rockabilly, folk and what owner Eric Mitchell calls “intellectual hip-hop.” Or for a quieter scene — and local acts skewing more towards jazz — head to Klassy Glass Wine Bar & Bistro for vino and small plates. The venue hosts live music most weekend nights.
Designs to Take Home
Waco is home to many independent shops offering artwork, handmade clothing and jewelry, as well as handcrafted items for the home. Start at The Findery, a collection of creative shops located in the historic 1898 Percy Medicine Building. Look for Jute Designs, with its eclectic collection of vintage chic and industrial furniture; the children’s store Wild and Free; lifestyle boutique House 82; and Hinge, with clothing, shoes and handbags.