Big Waco functions as a ‘regional hub’ of neighbors

By Ferrell Foster

People mean different things when they say “Waco.” Some mean the Waco of a few years ago (much smaller geographically); others think primarily of downtown and Baylor (where the action is), others mean the current city limits (reaching further and further out).

When I think of Waco, I think of what I call Big Waco and some call Greater Waco. I think of the city, plus Woodway, Hewitt, China Spring, Lacy Lakeview, Bellmead, Robinson, even all of McLennan County. Big Waco is big.

The national City Health Dashboard identifies 10 city types and includes 57 small to midsize Texas cities in their data. Waco is considered a “regional hub.” There are only three regional hubs in Texas — Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Waco. Nearby Temple is identified as a “working town.” College Station, Denton, and San Marcos are called “college cities.”

The regional hub designation, I think, captures the essence of Waco. We are different from a working town or a college city. We are more — for better or worse. 

The better part of being a regional hub is that people from surrounding communities come here to do business and to be entertained. Central Waco is like a magnet drawing people and resources to its core and helping all regional residents enjoy a better-resourced, more-connected life.

But there is a downside for regional hubs. The City Health Dashboard says this of the group: Regional hubs are “midsize ‘micropolitan’ cities that serve as hubs within smaller metro areas, with high inequality and large Black populations, where most residents work locally, and populations are decreasing.” Here are some characteristics of regional hubs:

— Great income inequality; “Black households earned 46% less than their White counterparts and this wage gap has been increasing.” (In Waco, Blacks earn about 40% less than Whites. In McLennan County, 47% less.)

— An average of 25% of residents live below the federal poverty line. (In Waco, 26.2% are below the poverty line. In the county, 19%.)

— Average life expectancy of 76 years at birth. (In Waco, 77 years.)

— Average rent burden of 54%, with an increase of 11.8% between 2000 and 2017
across cities.

(My thanks to the Prosper Waco research team for the local numbers.)

The future of Waco is captured in this simple picture. As a regional hub, we have a real opportunity for economic growth and lifestyle satisfaction. But, we should not be content with only a part of Waco and its region doing well. We need to care about racial, financial, and health inequities.

If we can address the downside challenges while we pursue the upside opportunities, we will be more than a regional hub; we will be a very good place to live, work, and do business.

I have two basic points here:

First, some people have a narrow view of Waco (the central city). I think it’s good for us to see this community more broadly, including acceptance of the surrounding towns and school districts as part of one whole. Each city/town, neighborhood, and school district is distinct, but we are connected — Big Waco.

Second, those who do not live in the parts of Big Waco that face serious economic and health challenges are still connected to those neighborhoods. In order for Big Waco to prosper, all of us are needed, especially in addressing our most challenging issues.

My faith tells me it is critical to love my neighbor. And love in that context does not mean an emotion; it is a commitment to serve. And neighbor is not just the person next door; it is anyone in need that I can help. Waco needs to be a place of good neighbors in the best and highest since of the phrase.

Ferrell Foster is acting executive director of Act Locally Waco and senior content specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Waco helping clean up dining adventures

By Ferrell Foster

Fifteen months into my life as a Waco resident, I’ve discovered something new — local restaurant food inspection scores. It’s on the City of Waco website.

KWTX channel 10 reports area restaurant inspection scores.

I ran across this when I saw a story about the scores on KWTX channel 10’s website. I do not totally understand why the scores in the KWTX report do not match up with scores on the city site for the same restaurant; I suspect it has something to do with the reporting day.

When it comes to restaurant scores, lower is better. On the city site there are many zeros (hooray!) and the vast majority have scores in the single digits (more subdued celebration).

The channel 10 report highlighted two Greater Waco scores of 90. Yikes! And the losers are: Burger King #3714 at 103 East Loop 340 in Lacy Lakeview and Cracker Barrel #166 at 4275 North IH-35 in Lacy Lakeview.

Wouldn’t it be nice if restaurants had to to post, in 12-inch lettering on their doors, their most recent score. You’re walking up to your favorite place, which has always in the past had a big “0” on its door, to find a “75.” Whoa! Better think before you open the door and spend your money. Thoughts: There is a new manager. Last time I was here the mashed potatoes didn’t seem right.

Well, restaurants do not have to post their numbers, but we can look them up online, so that’s pretty cool. (Of course, some people do not have Internet access, so they are at a disadvantage in getting this info. Inequities are real.)

I liked that channel 10, after outing the bad players, presented this week’s Clean Plate Award winner — Mamaka Bowls at 215 South University Parks Dr. in Waco, “which obviously got a perfect food inspection score.”

Mamaka’s has endless combinations, the TV station reports. “There are specialty ingredients such as almond butter, cacao nibs, coconut shreds, and spirulina, which is basically blue-green algae. Of course, if you like it plain and simple, items like The Mac with mango, strawberry, pineapple, orange juice, topped with the fruit and a little homemade granola could treat your taste buds right.”

Publicly posted restaurant inspection scores protect all of us from bad players and helps us find the good ones. There simply is no go way for consumers to know what’s going on in the kitchen without such scores. You can get some clues about the cleanliness of a restaurant from how it cares for it’s dining area and, especially, its restrooms. (I have a desire to visit a restroom before I order. Sometimes I regret I went after eating.)

Food is important. A big tip of the hat to the many, many restaurants who are working hard to keep it clean. We need to honor them with our dollars. There are options; we don’t have to do business with dirty eateries. Of course, I wish they would all earn a zero. That would be better for everyone.

Ferrell Foster is acting executive director of Act Locally Waco and senior content specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Home buyers are feeling the squeeze

By Jeremy Rhodes

My family and I are trying to buy a house here in Waco. In case you haven’t heard, that’s hard to do right now. Luckily, we have some generous friends who are allowing us to crash at their place for a few weeks while we get things ironed out.

We have made an offer on seven houses. (I think?… My wife would know for sure.) For at least two of the houses, we know we were the highest bid, but we lost out to some cash offers. 

The recent decision of our city council to limit short-term rentals should help the supply of housing for sale, but the impact of that change might not be felt for a while. For now, we are left at the mercy of sellers who we can only hope will see some value in our offers and take mercy on a family trying to finance their home.

Increasing home prices can have ripple effects on rental prices, as well. As my wife and I consider the possibility that we may have to rent for a few months and try to ride out this real estate wave, we are realizing that the cost of renting is rising along with the cost of buying. In some cases, the cost of renting is as high as the cost of a mortgage, but without the benefit of building equity on an asset. 

I imagine this squeeze is being felt especially hard for first-time home buyers, especially those who are looking for low-cost homes to buy. About once or twice a week, I hear rumors of West-Coast investors paying cash to snatch up homes to flip, but I’m not sure how or whether those rumors can be verified. The current difficulty of our housing market has more to do with the current low supply of homes for sale than with a surplus of potential buyers.

So please sell me your house, but only if it’s a house I’ll like. We’re not currently in the market for houses we don’t like.

Jeremy Rhodes is director of research and community impact for Prosper Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Driving in Waco: A confession and a warning

By Ferrell Foster

First, I should confess that I have a problem. I tend to get a bit aggressive when driving, especially regarding people who speed up to get ahead and pull in front of me and then break because they were going too fast. It’s especially irritating when there is plenty of space behind me.

I don’t mean to get aggressive, but I do. I think it’s part of getting older. I can no longer take out my competitiveness on a sporting field. My two human wheels no longer work so well, so I need to give my four automotive wheels a workout.

You’re probably wondering if I have an aggression problem in general. No. It’s really odd that the only time I really get wound up is when I drive around stupid people. And then I get stupid right along with them. (Forgive me, Mom; I know I’m not supposed to call anyone stupid, including myself. Moms haunt us even when we are 65.)

Now, for a public safety warning. It’s not a warning about me. I’ve only had one wreck in my 50 years of driving. Even when dealing with road rage, I tend to obey the laws.

Many of you know that I only moved to Waco last year and didn’t drive much in the early months because of the need to hide from other people due to COIVD. As things have gotten closer to normal, one thing has stood out vividly.

People in Waco like to run red lights. I don’t know if the yellow lights are shorter than in most places or if Wacoans are more impatient or more distracted by their phones. Maybe it’s just peer pressure; when everyone seems to be running red lights you feel a certain cultural pressure to conform and speed up on red. Check your rearview mirror if you are stopping under a yellow light; you may have to let off your brake.

Is this my imagination? Or is it just the traffic corridor that connects my office with my house — roughly the Extraco Events Center to near Hewitt?

Last year I wrote several pieces under the heading of being “New to Waco,” at the request of Ashley Thornton. I still feel new in some ways and thought I should warn those who are newer than me.

Of course, every town has its red-light runners, but they seem to have multiplied here. It seems with each light change it is more likely that someone will run a red light than that no one will. And I’m not talking about the light turning red while the car is already in the box; I’m talking about blatant red running.

So, for all of my love for this community, this is one thing that’s a little scary. When entering an intersection, be sure to look both left and right. There are people out there who are either color blind or cavalier about the meaning of a bright red light hanging from a pole in the middle of the street.

Let’s be careful out there so we can enjoy one another. And I promise I’m working on my driving. I’m seeking to make driving a moment of Zen so I can pretend the goings on around me are peripheral to reality. Of course, the truth is that Zen or no Zen, we can kill each other out there in a blink of the eye or a glance at a phone.

I’m loving Waco, even on the road.

Ferrell Foster is acting executive director of Act Locally Waco and senior content specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

New to Waco: The few, the brave, the early morning Wal-Mart shoppers

What does it feel like to be new to Waco?  What would a new person notice about our town?  What’s it like to try to find your place in our community?  Ferrell Foster is moving to Waco from Georgetown to become a part of the Prosper Waco team.  In this blog series he will share some of his experiences as a Waco newbie.  What will we see when we look at Waco through his fresh eyes?  Read along to find out!  To see all the posts in this series, click here: New to Waco. – ALW

By Ferrell Foster

Cue “Jaws” soundtrack. It’s early Sunday — 6:41. My daughter and I enter the “water.” No one else is in the “water;” they’re sitting safely on the “beach” (in their cars). It’s Walmart. We’re first in line.

Gradually others jump in, keeping at least six feet apart. We must look especially threatening; the guy behind us opts for 12 feet of unsocial distance.

Walmart employees buzz around beyond the closed glass doors. They all wear facemasks, but one guy, who kind of acts important, has his mask down on his chin — a rebel, for sure. Required to mask-up, he’s being passive aggressive in his resistance.

Doors open. Our presence is tallied on a digital tablet. The worker’s mask remains low, but my daughter and I are properly masked and rush past him to retrieve a freshly disinfected shopping cart. (No disinfectant injections offered.)

As a “high risk” person, it’s my first visit to a Walmart since things got dangerous. It’s also my first visit to a Waco area Walmart.

The other shoppers must be behind us, but I don’t look back. We are on a quest, and it’s important to keep your eyes forward while on quest. I’m reminded of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” — unsuspecting dangers lurk. We have no coconuts to clap together, but we move with purpose.

There is actually a sign marking the aisle where the grail should be. An obstacle! Not a physical one, merely a message on the floor — “Do Not Enter.” It’s a one-way aisle; we are supposed to go around. A long-time rule follower, I want to detour, but my daughter doesn’t hesitate and she knows this routine better than me. (She’s been my designated COVID-era buyer.) I follow.

I’ve heard the stories and seen the pictures of empty shelves, and there they are down the length of the left side — nothing. But wait. In the distance, there’s something different. Can it be? Yes, it is. The grail is there. I wonder if others are going to rush past us to reach it. But, no, it’s all a rather tame scene. We pick up our one package of toilet paper and proceed to the less-exciting parts of my first Waco shopping adventure.

Having missed the early days of pandemic shopping, I feel I have missed something. I have only one rather lame story to share while others recount thrilling tales of when there really was a toilet paper shortage… of which there really was not one.

Walmart shopping came back to me pretty quickly.  Like riding a bike.  Or more specifically like riding a bike as an adult after years of four-wheeling with a motor attached.

We got most of what we needed and some of what we wanted. And we left some digital money with the nice lady cashier. Another worker even bagged some of our groceries before suddenly disappearing mid-bagging.

I think it’s healthy to have some fun with tough times, but we all know these have been some very difficult days for many people and the struggles are not over. Our community has lost four of our residents, including a school principal, and others have barely escaped the virus’s death grip.

Our health care workers are exhausted. They’ve endured the physical challenges of long hours and dangerous circumstances. They’ve had trouble finding childcare, and they’ve worried about bringing home the virus to the people they love. I cannot fathom what this has been like for them, but I try and I cheer.

My sister-in-law is a health care worker in another town, and she has been in my thoughts and prayers a great deal. She’s had it rough at times, but I’ve noticed on Facebook that she also has had time for some laughs with her fellow heroes.

So I write these rather fun and frivolous words not because I do not hurt for those who have sacrificed so much but because in the midst of all of this it doesn’t hurt to smile.

Years ago, a famous guy said, “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” (It’s in a letter to some ancient Romans.)

These surely have been times for weeping, and they are not over, but I hope we also can find some happiness as we move forward. Otherwise, it seems, COVID wins, and that is just not acceptable.


Ferrell Foster is content specialist for care and communications at Prosper Waco. He and his wife, Trese, have five adult children and five grandchildren. He is a native Texan, having grown up in Dallas.

New to Waco: Where all the women are strong

What does it feel like to be new to Waco?  What would a new person notice about our town?  What’s it like to try to find your place in our community?  Ferrell Foster is moving to Waco from Georgetown to become a part of the Prosper Waco team.  In this blog series he will share some of his experiences as a Waco newbie.  What will we see when we look at Waco through his fresh eyes?  Read along to find out!  To see all the posts in this series, click here: New to Waco. – ALW

By Ferrell Foster

My first days in Waco brought to mind Garrison Keillor’s introduction to his weekly radio story. “Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

I know Keillor had his tongue firmly implanted in cheek, but he could have been truthfully referring to the women of Waco. When it comes to Waco women, strong leaders are easy to find.

This is not to negate the good qualities of Waco men. Shoot, we’ve got a mayor that I would put against any mayor in the country. But this is about our women.

I’m not going to name names, but a woman is leading that little school on the east side of I-35. Then there’s the head of the public health district. We’ve got two women leading two of our strongest foundations. Then there’s the woman who is in the middle of everything communicated in this town via the Internet. There’s a woman city council member who brings expertise, heart, and soul to meetings. I’ve tuned in online to hear a woman pastor who keeps many of us grounded in faith. A business-owning woman is a former mayor and is still active in city leadership. A woman leads our community-wide fundraising effort. Can’t forget the leaders of a local mental health facility and a substance abuse center. And, of course, my own boss is one of those leading ladies.

There are many other women providing leadership in our medical facilities, educational institutions, city government, real estate, and businesses. And, there are countless women leading their families (sometimes with a manly assist), and that is an especially important role in our stay-at-home times.

I have met all of the leaders referenced above and encountered women who fit into the next category in my short two months of working in Waco and one week of living here.

Back to Keillor’s intro, I don’t know about the handsomeness of Waco men, but the last phrase about above average children is an exercise in wishful thinking. Average is what it is, and it applies to all sorts of things. Each of us is average in some ways, and below and above average in others. But it’s also true that we can move up from being below average at many things.

One reason you get great leadership from boardroom to living room is because you stress quality education — from start to finish. Education is not just about book smarts; it’s about learning, and that takes many forms.

When I was in high school in Dallas ages ago, I took “distributive education” my senior year. I learned how the marketplace works, and I left school at lunch to work at a regular job — Sears, Roebuck & Co. The academic track eluded me. No one who knew me then, including me, speculated I would someday wear a hooded graduation gown.

Primary and secondary schools prepare us for all kinds of roles in life, and colleges and technical schools help students hone their skills in more specific ways. All of it is education, all of it is important, and all of it can be had right here in Waco.

Garrison Keillor was asked where the name, “Lake Wobegon,” came from. Keillor said the name had Native American roots meaning “the place where we waited all day in the rain [for you].”

I love that. The name, Waco, has a Native American lineage as well, and it gives me a very warm feeling thinking Waco can be a place where we wait all day in the rain for each other.

And to borrow the closing line from Lake Wobegon, “Well, that’s the news from Waco, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”


Ferrell Foster is content specialist for care and communications at Prosper Waco. He and his wife, Trese, have five adult children and five grandchildren. He is a native Texan, having grown up in Dallas.

New to Waco: East? Or Waco East?

What does it feel like to be new to Waco?  What would a new person notice about our town?  What’s it like to try to find your place in our community?  Ferrell Foster is moving to Waco from Georgetown to become a part of the Prosper Waco team.  In this blog series he will share some of his experiences as a Waco newbie.  What will we see when we look at Waco through his fresh eyes?  Read along to find out!  To see all the posts in this series, click here: New to Waco. – ALW

By Ferrell Foster

The late, great Albert Einstein and I have one thing in common — a fascination with compasses. Waco presents a problem for this handy device — compasses don’t seem to work exactly right here.

Let me clarify. Compasses work; they can just mislead you. North is not north; east is not east. It’s one of the first lessons I had to learn in moving to Waco.

I bought a house in what I would have called South Waco. But when I explained where it was to a friend, he said, “Oh, that’s Hewitt.”  Turns out that even though I have a Waco address, in Waco lingo I’m essentially in Hewitt.

Bryan, a coworker, explained that directions in Waco are best understood in relation to the Brazos: up river is north and down river is south. So, what I might have called North Waco or Northeast Waco, is, in Waco terms, East Waco, I think.

I even hesitate writing this for fear I will say something distinctly Waco-stupid, but I continue on despite my hesitation.

True to Waco directions, North Waco is to the west and northwest of downtown. Right?

Before I moved to Waco I introduced my friend, Jimmy Dorrell, at a luncheon as he received yet another big-deal honor. (He’s a big deal guy in the best way. If I have an unknown brother somewhere, I hope it turns out to be Jimmy.) Anyway, even though I know Jimmy pretty well, I read his official bio before giving the introduction. It spoke of years ago when he and his wife bought a house in North Waco. I now understand where that house is — it’s west of downtown. I think.

I may have to get counseling after writing this. Writing always helps me understand better what I know and don’t know. The more I write this, the more fear rises inside me that I am committing some Waco faux pas from which I will never recover.

I can see it now. I walk into some nice fundraising dinner and introduce myself. They “reply” with a look of recognition and a little grin. “It’s good to meet you, Ferrell,” is what they say, but what they’re thinking is, You’re the idiot who is clueless about Waco directions.

Writing this has kicked me out of the directional closet, and I need your love and acceptance. Everything I know about this place tells me you are loving and kind and care a lot about education (witness the green and gold bubble). So I appeal to my new neighbors — love me, accept me, and educate me.

Gosh, I love Waco. A city that has the gumption to throw away its compasses and say north, south, east and west are wherever we dang well want them to be, is my kind of town.


Ferrell Foster is content specialist for care and communications at Prosper Waco. He and his wife, Trese, have five adult children and five grandchildren. He is a native Texan, having grown up in Dallas.

New to Waco: Neighbors and Leaders

What does it feel like to be new to Waco?  What would a new person notice about our town?  What’s it like to try to find your place in our community?  Ferrell Foster is moving to Waco from Georgetown to become a part of the Prosper Waco team.  In this blog series he will share some of his experiences as a Waco newbie.  What will we see when we look at Waco through his fresh eyes?  Read along to find out!  To see all the posts in this series, click here: New to Waco. – ALW

By Ferrell Foster

Boxes and totes line the foyer. Bookshelves stand empty. One week before moving day and everything is chaotic in the Foster household. Those boxes, totes, and bookshelves do not know they will soon be traveling to the Heart of Texas — Waco.

Moving is always disruptive, and this one is happening during a pandemic. I wonder if our new neighbors will be glad to see us. I do not expect them to bring over cookies, but maybe we can wave from a safe distance.

Act Locally Waco is letting me share a little of what it’s like for one family to move to Waco. We move out of our Georgetown home on April 1 (we must be fools), sign the papers on April 2, and move into our Waco home on April 3. All things in the Foster house are pointing to those three days.

But there is a dark cloud hovering above us like a tornado-ripe storm — COVID-19. You keep your eyes on it; it would be dangerous to not do so. It’s swirling; the color is ominous; it threatens here and there. And you wonder if it’s going to bring a disaster.

We’ve been told that title and moving companies are providing essential services. They surely are essential to us, but we do not want to be too self-centered.

My biggest fear: the title company in Georgetown is open and we close on selling our current home but then get to Waco and we cannot close on our new one. Yikes! I hope my friends in Waco like my family and me enough to house us.

That’s just fear working in my head. Faith keeps us moving — no pun intended.

Since early February, I’ve been working in Waco and commuting the 70 miles along I-35. That is until we non-essentials needed to work from home.

I’ve been in and through Waco many times, but I have discovered so much more about the city the past few weeks. Like, the best small bookstore around — Fabled — and there is nothing more essential to making a town my home than a bookstore. I’ve been praying for them during this mess; they simply must survive.

My wife did most of the house hunting. I got called in for only the most promising possibilities. But even in those few visits the drives took me here and there in Waco. There is a lot more to this town than I-35 travelers or silo visitors ever discover.

I still recall some of the houses we visited. There’s the one with the beautiful, old live oak in the backyard. I so wanted to buy that house so I could climb that tree like the ones I did as a kid. I probably would have fallen to my death, so it may be good that we didn’t go for that one.

Then there was the really funky house that I loved because it was different and interesting. Only problem: The second-floor master bedroom looked over into a unkempt (and I’m being kind) backyard behind the house. We didn’t think a 20-feet-tall privacy fence would work.

And probably our favorite house sat behind a warehouse with giant, loud fans sucking the air out of the neighborhood. Put that house somewhere else, and it would have been ours. Every house search leaves you with at least one memory of what might have been.

I share this about house hunting to illustrate an important point about good communities — we are never alone. Trese and I moved from the country to Georgetown almost six years ago. We had to re-learn what it meant to be a good neighbor because in the country we could pretty much do as we pleased. Not so in town.

I suspect some people in this rooted yet emerging city would just as soon people like me stay away. They liked the “old” Waco. I suspect I would have liked the old Waco, as well. But there is no reason we cannot like the “new” Waco just as much.

Cities change by growing or declining; they do not simply remain the same. Most of us want to be part of where good things are happening, where we can have jobs and friends and sports and theater and parks and libraries and on and on.

A growing city can provide such a healthy environment for its residents and businesses, but it is also possible to have growth that is unbridled and destructive to the common good. What I have seen in my first weeks of work in Waco is that this city and county have the kind of leaders who want the best kind of growth and the best kind of environment for nurturing our lives, our families, and our friends.

COVID-19 will pass. It will forever change some of the ways we do things, but the leaders of this city and county have shown that they really do care about making Waco the best it can be, not just another city where the humanity of people gets lost in the mechanisms of government and commerce. It must be worked for; I hope to work with my new neighbors.

By the way, I’m not a Baylor alum, but I learned some time ago to Sic’em Bears.


Ferrell Foster is content specialist for care and communications at Prosper Waco. He and his wife, Trese, have five adult children and five grandchildren. He is a native Texan, having grown up in Dallas.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.

2018 Greatest Hits #10: Want to have a great time in Waco? There’s an app for that!

(During these last few weeks of December we will be reprising the Top 10 Most Opened Blog Posts for 2018 from the Act Locally Waco blog. I couldn’t possibly pick my favorites – so I used the simple (cop out?)  approach of pulling up the 10 blog posts that got the most “opens” according to our Google Analytics.  It is an intriguing collection that gives at least a little insight into the interests and concerns of Act Locally Waco readers. I hope this “Top 10” idea inspires you to go back and re-read your personal favorites.  There have been so many terrific ones… If you would like to see the Top 10 according to Google Analytics, here’s the link: Top 10 Most Opened Blog Posts of 2018.  Merry Christmas! — ABT) 

By Karen Rios

I became a Wacoan in January. Before that I literally only knew the Fazoli’s off of 35. I excitedly used my phone to explore my new home. However, I quickly got frustrated at all the articles and blogs that popped up on my search. Most revolved around Magnolia Market, and I knew that Waco had more than just the Market.

I really want people to know about an app that helped me learn about my new town. It’s called Waco & The Heart of Texas, and it’s free for Apple and Android. The Waco Convention & Visitors Bureau put together it together mostly for tourists, but I decided to give it a try anyway.

Savor

I love food! So, the first area I explored was the “savor” category. The app lists 141 food options. Through this, I discovered World Cup Cafe & Fair Trade Market, a locally owned business where you can eat with a purpose. I love their club sandwich. It’s a double decker with ham, turkey, bacon, American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and your choice of condiments. Did I mention it comes with fries?

Next, the app’s food list led me to Butter My Biscuit. If you see day old biscuits still available, just go ahead and buy them. They sell out fast! The two main biscuits to choose from are Buttermilk and Texas, which has jalapeño and cheddar cheese. They also offer the biscuit “of the day”, which was Rosemary when I went. Every day is something different. You can’t go wrong with these biscuits!

Finally, I enjoyed Moroso’s options for Neapolitan wood-fired pizza and other Italian dishes. A good margarita pizza is hard to come by, but Moroso’s hits the mark. The crust is crunchy and light. They put the right amount of sauce and cheese, and the basil tastes like they just picked it from the garden. It’s a good size pizza, most people share, but I think it’s a perfect personal size. I normally go during lunch to take advantage of their margarita pizza special. My mouth is watering just thinking about all this food.

Waco offers a variety of food options with Wacoan pride. As a local you may already know of the restaurants listed, but it’s always good to have something to reference in case you forget or need to share with friends or family from out of town. The app provides all the information you need. The hard part– deciding where to eat.

Other categories to explore

Perhaps you want something other than food. The app offers 15 different categories to help you show off Waco.

In the “See” category I discovered Cameron Park Zoo. My niece and I watched the lioness chase her cub around trying to bathe her. It looked like the scene from “Lion King” when Simba was trying to get out of his “bath time.”

One of their unique exhibits includes The Brazos River Country.  The exhibit shows you the journey of the early Spanish explorers who searched for gold along the Brazos. Throughout the exhibit you see different species that they could have encountered along the River. My niece enjoyed it because the river runs through Waco and we even walked around to see if she spotted anything.

Another of my go to categories is “Events.” You can see what events happen around Waco. For instance, on May 4th I saw First Friday Waco. That is an event on the first Friday of every month, where business in downtown offer discounts, live music and extended hours. I even learned the Dr. Pepper Museum has free admission on First Friday.

There are at least 300 listings, you just pick a category and go through the options. The app provides a brief description of the place, their website, other media outlet platforms, a contact number, and the address. If you come across an event you like you can add that event to your Google Calendar or iCal. The app is easy to navigate.  They did all the work for us, so all we Wacoans have to do is plan out the day.

Specials

I love being able to save money anytime I can, but I absolutely hate having to give my email address in exchange for coupons! I liked that Waco & The Heart of Texas didn’t make me input my email address to get their Specials. On their app they provide at least 54 different coupons that Wacoans can use. (Side note:  If you prefer paper coupons, you can find them at the Visitors Center at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame Museum, or at the Convention Center.

When my niece and I went to Cameron Park Zoo we used the coupon at least twice. The coupon gives you a free child admission with a purchase of an adult admission. I saved $7 dollars. You can keep using the coupons until December 31, 2018. Sure, it’s meant for tourists, but Wacoans can save money too.

Why should tourists have all the fun?

Wacoans can all benefit from this media platform. It provides a lot of options that you may know but not necessarily remember. You can plan a family outing and even save money. You can go on new bike trails. You can discover Waco history. You can provide more options to your friends and family. You can explore Waco in a different way. You can take advantage of the bus routes. You can try going to a winery. With over 300 listings, you are bound to find at least one new activity. Waco & The Heart of Texas might have been created for tourists, but Wacoans will know how to use it better!  (Free for Apple OR Android )


Karen Rios is a new Wacoan. She is currently attending MCC studying Digital Media. Although she is new to Waco, she is not new to the “small town” living. She loves exploring new towns and cities. She’s a sucker for hole-in-the-wall eateries. “Every day I discover something new about Waco, I realize how much beauty is here,” she says. “I like to brag about the scenery to all my city friends and family. I’m loving every minute of being a Wacoan.”