Just the Bear Facts

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Category: Waco

A Thriving Community

Despite some setbacks, Waco’s rejuvenation continues to be as strong as ever. New businesses are popping up all over town with tourists exiting I-35 by the thousands. A special part of the city, however, is how its full-time residents support their local businesses, as much as its visitors. There were a few extra-tasty openings over the summer that we are more than excited to check out (probably more than once). Here are the five that we’ll most likely visit by week’s end:

Alpha Omega and Pinewood Roasters

The dual-business team renovated a building on Franklin Avenue on the outskirts of Downtown that had sat vacant for over 50 years. Pinewood Roasters rivals Common Grounds and Dichotomy with an impressive specialty coffee menu, while Alpha Omega serves up some of the best Mediterranean food this side of Gibraltar. Mmmmm.

Brü Artisan Coffee

It’s no secret that Wacoans like their coffee and that the city is becoming a destination for coffee lovers and businesses, alike. Brü is located at the new Market Centre, which consumes the ground floor of the historic Praetorian in Downtown. Where is their espresso bar located you ask? Well, in the building’s century-old elevator, of course. It has to be good!

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Hey Sugar

Hey Sugar is a real treat for all of your senses! The brightly-colored shop sits on an ever-expanding Austin Avenue in Downtown and offers wide-eyed visitors hundreds of candy, soda, and ice cream varieties. We’re scared to go for fear of never being able to leave.

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Magnolia Flour

The Gaines’s positive influence on the city is incredible and their next business venture, Magnolia Flour, is a bakery already receiving accolades. Once we muster up enough guts to brave the crowd at the Silos, we’re going to make sure to stop in and get one of Joanna’s chocolate chip cookies. Just like anything else from the Fixer Upper couple, I’m sure we won’t be disappointed.

Oh My Juice

Located in the same shopping center as Spice Village, Crickets, and Ninfa’s, Oh My Juice provides an option for those looking to refrain from the caffeinated and spirited beverages. OMJ offers delicious, cold-pressed, fresh-made juices and smoothies, as well as salads and acai bowls for those looking for a healthy alternative from the burgers and nachos.

By Matthew Doyen

Nine Things to Know before Your First Semester in Waco

You know that a new year is upon us when the moving trucks start to out-populate the professors. It’s always nerve-wracking and a little scary moving to a new place, but fear not because we are here to help! We’ve compiled nine things that we thought would be handy for newcomers to know before moving to Baylor University and Waco, Texas.

If you hear someone yelling sic’em, then know you’re around Bears.

It’s a weird thing that we often yell that while sounding better than the hook’ems and gig’ems of the world, makes less sense. It usually is accompanied by a Bear Claw and originated from the football field, but has since become appropriate for just about anything Baylor. It’s meaning is essentially a mixture between admiration and excitement, and you’ll be saying it before you know it!

If you want a glimpse of our most famed alumni, then head to the Silo District.

To be honest, you’d have a better chance of seeing the Gaines’s picking up a pepperoni pie from Shorty’s than through the swarms at Magnolia. The Silo District still has a lot to offer, though. Stores like Magnolia and The Findery are bringing both tourists and fashionable home décor to the city. Also, Shorty’s is real good.

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If you love history, then you came to the right place.

Waco is a place of immense history that is restored, refurbished, and treasured. In fact, both Magnolia and The Findery are housed in nearly one hundred-year-old buildings. A block away is the Dr Pepper Museum, which showcases the town’s most famous invention. If you’re not impressed there are many more museums, as well as historic houses, hall of fames, and a National Monument.

If you’ve never had a Dr Pepper float, then enjoy having very happy taste buds.

A place that loves its history also strives to keep its traditions. In the Student Union, Dr Pepper Hour, which occurs every Tuesday afternoon, has been happening since the fifties. The Dr Pepper (also, never use a dot after the Dr in Dr Pepper!) floats that are served there are a heavenly combination of vanilla ice cream and the carbonated good stuff. After you’re first taste you’ll already be asking for seconds.

If you are still hungry after your delicious float, then don’t worry.

I thought I’d play a fun game where I visit a different restaurant every time I go out to eat. It’s been a year and I’m still nowhere close to the bottom of the list, which, like my appetite, is ever-expanding. There is everything here! Southern, Thai, BBQ, Vietnamese, Mexican, Indian, Mediterranean, Czech (kolaches!!) and American to name a few. The real struggle won’t be finding a tasty meal; it’ll be deciding what really great restaurant to go to for dinner tonight.

If you need to take a walk to digest, then head to Cameron Park.

Driving, walking, biking, running, riding, hiking through Cameron Park transports you to another world. The trees are lusciously green and overgrown providing shade from the beating sun. Lovers Leap provides an excellent view of the surroundings from its elevated position on top of one of the only large hills in the area. The Riverwalk catches the breeze from the Brazos River to make for a perfect destination year-round.

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If you see a tortilla floating in the Brazos, then head to the Suspension Bridge.

If there’s still a small glimmer of light left from the sunset on your way home, then you just may see something in the corner of your eye floating in the water that looks like a lily pad. Then, you see twenty more. Don’t be confused, it’s just a tortilla from another one of Waco’s strangest traditions. People throw them off of the Suspension Bridge hoping to land them on one of the old train track pillars a few yards out into the water. Why? Because it’s oddly enjoyable and you are bound to eventually agree!

If you like to stay out after the sun goes down, then walk two blocks south to Downtown.

Waco is a small town that has a lot of big city amenities. On the first Friday of every month, businesses Downtown stay open for longer hours to provide an opportunity for strolling on Austin and Franklin Avenues. There is a movie theater with excellent food, concert venues, restaurants, coffee shops, and more popping-up seemingly every other day. Once here, you won’t be thinking that there’s nothing to do for too long.

If you ever feel lost in Waco, then know you’re around family.

The best thing to know about Waco, though, is how friendly and welcoming the people are to life-long residents and newcomers, alike. Despite all of the city’s hard times, it’s still truly the epitome of Southern comfort and, quite frankly, you’ll never want to leave.

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So, welcome, sic’em, and don’t throw away that last tortilla!

By Matthew Doyen

Midday Crisis: The Best Dozen Places to Grab Lunch on your Campus Visit

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If you’re like me and Kev, then first lunch and second lunch are the most important meals of the day. When I came to visit Waco over the summer, I didn’t know where any of the good lunch spots were (or even if there were any), so I just settled for ultra feast at the familiar Olive Garden. While their bread sticks were delicious and consumed by the handful, I now know that there are so many other tasty choices available for my greasy little fingers. So, as procrastination is hitting a all-time high over Spring Break, we have compiled the best dozen places to grab a bite to eat while visiting Baylor.

1. Jasper’s Bar-B-Que (105 Clifton Street)

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Don’t let the outside fool you! This little gem is the oldest barbecue joint in the city and the food inside is a testament to their longevity. If you’re lucky enough to be around on a Wednesday, their $10.99 AYCE ribs are not to be missed. The Waco Tornado is also a classic that is sure to leave any barbecue lover pleased and stuffed. Hours – Mon-Sat: 10am-2 pm

2. Xcristo’s Cafe (202 South University Parks Drive)

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The only food truck to make the list is also arguably the best (and most confusing to pronounce) in all of McLennan County. Their lamb and beef gyros are seriously “opalicious.” Xcristo’s lunch special includes your choice of gyro, a healthy dose of french fries, and a drink for a tidy $10. Hours – Tues-Sat: 11am-7pm

3. Twisted Root Burger Company (801 South 2nd Street)

Being one of the newest eateries to branch to the city from the northern metropolis known as Dallas, it is hard to miss this colorful building from I-35. And, quite frankly, you shouldn’t because it has perhaps the strangest menu in Waco. Depending on the season, you could order a burger made of camel, beaver, gator, or kangaroo (sorry, Pooh Bear). Hours – Everyday: 11am-10pm

4. Poppa Rollo’s Pizza (703 North Valley Mills Drive)

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Opened by a Bear alum in 1969, Poppa Rollo’s offers some of the best pizza and calzones in the area. Although a little bit further away from campus than some would like, this pizzeria is sure to satisfy even the toughest critics. Hours – Everyday: 11am-11pm

5. Torchy’s Tacos (801 South 5th Street)

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Another newcomer to Waco (from Austin) that has already become a hit. Even in a city littered with great taco trucks and restaurants, Torchy’s “damn good” tacos and green chili queso always seem to be at the top of everyone’s list. Also, try looking up their secret menu before ordering! Hours – Everyday: 8am-10pm

6. Schmaltz’s Sandwich Shoppe (105 South 5th Street)

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Schmaltz’s is truly “Waco born and bread.” Their artisan bread is handmade everyday and is the staple to this downtown lunch spot. You cannot go wrong with a large Schmaltz, which contains multiple kinds of cheeses and meats, but has a smaller price tag at $8. Hours – Mon-Fri: 10-3

7. Dubl-R Old Fashioned Hamburgers (1810 Herring Avenue)

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If you don’t like red meat and sweaty cooks, then Dubl-R may not be for you. But if you like great burgers at an affordable price, then welcome home!  The drive out there will take you through some of Waco’s less traveled neighborhoods, but their Triple-Triple (triple patty, triple cheese) will quickly have you running back for more. Hours Mon-Fri: 10-6, Sat: 10-2

8. Vitek’s BBQ (1600 Speight Avenue)

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Vitek’s, home of the world-famous GutPak. Having opened more than one hundred years ago, this Baylor favorite has long since mastered all of their fixings. In fact, just a few years ago, they were named the country’s number one college eatery. Yes, it’s that good! Hours – Mon: 10:30am-3pm, Tues-Thurs: 10:30am-6pm, Fri-Sat: 10:30am-9pm

9. Clay Pot (920 South Jack Kultgen Expressway)

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It’s hard to imagine that Waco’s only Vietnamese restaurant is also one of Baylor’s favorite places for lunch, but it’s no joke! Warning: you may find yourself addicted to Clay Pot’s traditional cuisine (and seating) after just one meal. It’s still oh so worth it. Hours – Tues-Sun: 11am-10pm

10. Shorty’s Pizza Shack (1712 South 12th Street)

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Shorty’s Pizza Shack is just a few blocks off of campus and therefore has some of the most affordable lunch specials in the area for us poor college students. In addition, they have a different special everyday, as well as a rotating slice board. Make sure to try a pizza pillow and take a sticker on your way out! Hours – Everyday: 11am-11pm

11. Baris’s (904 North Valley Mills Drive)

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Baris’s is really the only authentic Italian restaurant worth talking about in Waco. If I only knew of its great lunch specials and healthy portions before I went to the Olive Garden! You know you’re going to get an excellent meal every time because Mama Baris doesn’t except anything less for her loving patrons. Hours – Tues-Sun: 11am-10pm

12. Lulu Jane’s (406 West Elm Street)

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The only restaurant to make both our top breakfast and lunch lists is West Waco’s Lulu Jane’s. A daily special each day that is made from scratch, in-house, with the best ingredients is one of the many things that makes this place so appealing. Hours – Mon: 9am-3pm, Tues-Sat: 8am-3pm

So, schedule a tour and come see us soon! If only for the food…

By Matthew Doyen

Waco: A Pleasant Surprise

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When I first started telling people that I was going to attend Baylor University, their response was all the same.

“Isn’t that in Waco?”

“Yes.”

“Waco, isn’t that where…”

“Yes.”

“Oh, well be careful!”

There is no hiding the fact that Waco has had its fair share of troubles. A quick scan though its free encyclopedia page shows paragraphs about the Waco Horror, the Waco Tornado Outbreak, the Waco Siege, and the Waco Biker Gang Brawl. It makes it sound like the Hill Valley that Marty finds himself transported to in Back to the Future II after Biff steals the sports almanac. But once you read between the lines, Waco does have a strong history and a thriving future.

Waco, the county seat of McLennan County, is the 23rd most populous city in the state. I know, not too impressive. But if you adjust for the everything-is-bigger-in-Texas inflation rate, then Waco would be the third largest city in my home state of Pennsylvania. And if you look at the actual population of the town (130,000) and the metropolitan area (around 250,000), then Waco starts sounding a little more legit.

Waco is actually the birthplace of the oldest soft drink in the country: Dr. Pepper. The company’s old factory now holds a museum based around the soft drink industry. In fact, Waco has over a dozen museums, which include the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, the Historic Waco Foundation, and the Mayborn Museum Complex. Its strong public institutions continue in the form of libraries (in the Texas Collection, the Waco Harold Tribune, and the Grand Lodge of Texas), a zoo (Cameron Park Zoo), and recently, a national park (the Waco Mammoth National Monument).

There are ample opportunities for recreation, as well. The local “playground,” Cameron Park, is one of the largest municipal parks in the state and has areas for hiking, biking, running, fishing, kayaking, disc-golfing, and picnicking. It also sports awesome views of the surrounding area and plenty of shade from the foliage for those hot Texas summers (and autumns, and winters, and springs). A path even winds along the river for easy access from downtown. Baylor’s Waco Hall is also a well-liked spot to spend free time. The building hosts the local orchestra, an enormous amount of plays and lectures, and concerts from popular musicians (recently including Yo Yo Ma!).

With the rebirth of the downtown area, choices for entertainment, dinner, and shopping have dramatically increased. As the businesses there continue to flourish, more and more of the area is undergoing renovation. In 2014, the Waco Hippodrome, a restored early twentieth-century vaudeville theatre, once again became a staple along Austin Avenue. Because of this movement, the city is starting to again become an area where people are proud to call it their home and where resident investors are capitalizing. The rising local spirit can be seen as the community gathers on Saturday mornings during the newly-established Farmer’s Market, on Friday nights during the city’s First Friday events, and, of course, on any and all days that Baylor has home football games.

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Some students may scoff at Waco and say that they can’t wait to leave, but these are often the students that are most involved with the city. They live at Dichotomy, have tried every flavor of ice cream sandwich at Pokey-O’s, and play trivia at True Love. They are immersed in the growing art scene and enjoy attending all of the festivals and the aforementioned events. They are the ones who will miss it the most (or the ones that will be sucked into Waco’s better-than-it-sounds “black hole”).

Even with its recent headlines, the truth is I have really never felt uneasy in Waco. I have never been bored. I have never wished that I would have gone to graduate school in another city. I enjoy being welcomed into the town by all the passionate people that call it home. It’s just a really fun time to be in Waco right now. I can take advantage of its recent success, but also watch as it continues to grow and become better. And I can be a part of it. I know that it may sound unnerving, and maybe even a little scary, coming to Waco, but as my one friend told me: “You don’t know how good Waco is until you’re here.”

And it’s true.

So don’t think of Waco as a challenge, think of it as an opportunity. And come see us soon!

By Matthew Doyen

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Top 4 Worth Waking Up For: Best Brunch Destinations in Waco

If you like brunch and crave it at least three times a day, then we have something in common. It’s kind of sad, but all week I look forward to the weekend where I can enjoy a nice brunch with even better company.

Brunch truly is the best of both worlds. Deciding on whether you want breakfast or lunch is the only tough question and then you can embark on the side of the menu that fits your craving. Am I making you hungry yet?

Fortunately for Baylor students and Wacoans, there are quite a few options when it comes to brunch cuisine. Since there are so many, I decided to seek out the top establishments and find the top four worth waking up for.

  1. The Olive Branch

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Tired after all that shopping at Spice Village? Just walk downstairs to The Olive Branch for a cozy brunch. With the old wooden beams and brick model it’s hard not to enjoy the atmosphere of this unique spot.

Along with the typical breakfast foods, The Olive Branch offers exquisite quiche and amazing croissants. If you’re looking for a snack later on, I hear that the cupcakes are pretty divine as well.

P.S. If you’re looking for a venue for a special event, you can rent out the Express Café!

  1. Waco Farmer’s Market

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I know what you’re thinking. Is this really a brunch place? Absolutely. If you haven’t had coffee and crepes at the Waco Farmer’s Market then you need put this on your calendar for next Saturday. Plus, think about all of the fresh produce that you can stock up on for the upcoming week!

Did I mention that the Waco Farmer’s Market is also pet-friendly? Yep! Bring your furry friend and adventure away. I mean, cute dogs are always an excuse to go anywhere, right?

  1. Lula Jane’s

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Looking for a quiet place to enjoy some good food with good friends? Lula Jane’s is the perfect place for you. Everything is made from scratch, in-house and with the best ingredients.

The breads and scones are amazing, but my personal favorite is the baked oatmeal with blueberries and a cup of coffee.

1. Café Cappuccino

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I bet you’re really hungry now. Yes, Café Capp is where you can get these to-die-for pancakes. Honestly though, everything here is simply amazing. I enjoy the caramel mocha lattes and every pancake they offer.

Bring your appetite and a large group of friends for a brunch you’ll never forget!

If you haven’t ventured out to try one or any of these brunch hot spots then you must go soon! Waco truly is a wonderland filled with all kinds of unique places to explore.

Interested in all of the exciting things going on here at Baylor University Graduate School? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

By Caroline Jerome

 

The 7 Wonders of Waco

By Ben Murray

During my time at Baylor, I’ve heard a variety of opinions regarding the city of Waco.  For many people, Waco is great.  They like the rural beauty, nice people and small town vibe.  Others, however, complain that there’s little to do outside of school and have even gone so far as to call this place downright boring.  Well, to all the Waco haters out there: maybe this city is boring.  Maybe it’s a run-down little town with nothing to do in it except stare longingly at the sky wishing you were in Austin or Dallas. A place where fun cannot be found, happiness is impossible, and good times are expressly forbidden.  Or maybe, just maybe, you’re a boring person who hasn’t given Waco a chance.  It’s time to remember that we live in a unique location with its own set of attractions.  It’s time to recognize the 7 wonders of Waco.

  1. McLane Stadium

In case you’ve been on a media fast for the last few years, let me introduce you to what has become the crown jewel of Waco.  I’m talking about an 860,000 square foot, $250-million-dollar shrine to the greatness of Baylor football. It is one of the most modern, high-tech stadiums in college football to date and it is where you can find more than 45,000 screaming fans every game-day during the season.  The new location features 93 acres of tailgate space, a 5,018 sq ft scoreboard, hundreds of concession stands, escalators, elevators, sail-gating and more—all within walking distance of campus. Though it has only been open for a year, McLane Stadium has already begun to make history as the site of the Bears’ second consecutive Big 12 Championship and what has to have been one of the greatest comebacks to ever happen in collegiate sports (61-58).  McLane Stadium is more than just a place to play football.  It is the spark of a revolution taking place at Baylor and in Waco.  The stadium is the largest project in the history of Central Texas and has the potential to transform the city—creating new hotels, restaurants, and shops for the game-day crowds along with nearly 6,000 jobs in its first year alone.

  1. George’s

One thing that big cities have over Waco is a vast array of dining options.  But who wants to go to some stiff, cookie-cutter, chain restaurant for every meal out?  Though Waco has several food gems, there is one place that stands above the rest.  George’s Restaurant and Bar has been filling the stomachs of Wacoans for 85 years.  With a track record that long, how could it not be awesome? The restaurant serves everything from burgers and fried chicken to quesadillas and catfish—all of which are good.  They’ve been in the same building all these years, so the atmosphere has a warm “broken in” feel that is just plain comfortable.  When you sit at one of the old, scratched up tables eating a placemat-sized chicken fried steak and gulping down a “Big O” (an Arthurian goblet of beer unique to George’s), you can almost sense the generations of Baylor students who did the same exact thing years before you.  To put it simply, George’s is a special place.  There is no better location to watch the game and have a few beers with friends.  Just make sure to get there early.

  1. Cameron Park

Many undergrads make the mistake of neglecting to explore the natural beauty that can be found in Waco.  One useful way to keep your head from exploding due to coursework is to take a trip to Cameron Park.  More than 100 years ago, the William Cameron Family donated the 400-acre park to Waco and residents have been enjoying it ever since.  Located right along the Brazos River, Cameron Park features a zoo, disc golf courses, picnick areas, hiking/biking trails and scenic views which are excellent for life contemplation.  The park also holds parties, festivals and other events on a fairly regular basis.  It’s a great place to go for a run or just hang out and it offers a much-needed escape from the daily grind.  If you’re not visiting Cameron Park on a weekly basis, you’re missing out—it’s a five minute drive from campus!

  1. The Hippodrome

Are you fond of food, drink, movies, live entertainment or historic buildings?  What if I told you that all of these great things could be enjoyed simultaneously in the same spot?  For those of you who aren’t aware, The Hippodrome offers all of these amenities to Wacoans every day of the week.  Here’s the coolest part: the theatre’s opening night was just over 100 years ago in 1914—featuring a live seal act, a magic act and a five-piece orchestra.   This stately theatre has gone through its fair share of closings and openings, but it seems to always land back on its feet. In 2012, local developers Shane and Cody Turner bought the place, renovated it, and re-opened its doors in 2014.  The Hippodrome now has a retractable wall that allows for two films to be shown at the same time.  It also features two kitchens, a concession stand, a full service restaurant and a bar on the 2nd floor.  So next time you’re looking for something to do, head on down to 724 Austin Ave. and catch a show!

  1. Dr. Pepper Museum

What is the oldest major-brand soft drink in America?  If you guessed Coca-Cola, YOU GUESSED WRONG.  Dr Pepper holds that claim and this beloved soda was originally concocted in…..you guessed it…. Waco, Texas.  The beverage was conceived at Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store in the late 1800’s by a young pharmacist names Charles Alderton.  The Dr Pepper Museum commemorates Alderton’s accomplishment and features a multitude of artifacts from Dr Pepper’s historic life.  Opening in 1997, the Museum is home to the W.W. Clements Free Enterprise Institute that educated people about the economic system that underlies American life.  Though I can’t say the Dr. Pepper Museum can provide you with hours of entertainment on a regular basis, it is certainly worth checking out.

  1. Suspension Bridge

As far as Waco scenery goes, this one has got to be near the top.  It sounds corny, but there’s a reason every single sorority event takes pictures here.  It is beautiful.  The 3-million-brick bridge spans 475 feet across the Brazos River and has been there since 1869.  To give you an idea of how old that is, travelers along the Chisholm Trail had to use a ferry to get across the river before it was built.  Today, the bridge is not as crucial as it used to be.  But it’s an awesome place to stare dramatically at a sunset, propose to a future spouse, or yell at boaters.  Also, for those grad students who aren’t familiar with Baylor traditions, I should probably mention tortilla tossing.  This activity is exactly what it sounds like and can be performed in three simple steps: 1. Buy tortillas 2. Go to the Suspension Bridge  3. Throw tortillas off the Suspension Bridge and try to land them on the pillars sticking out of the river.  If you’ve always wanted to insanely throw Spanish flatbread off a high place without judgement, now is your chance. NOTE: The Baylor Graduate School does not condone yelling at boaters, wasting food or staring at the sun.  These are merely a collection of possible activities that can be performed at the Suspension Bridge.

  1. Dichotomy

If you’re a coffee lover, you may surprised to hear that some of the best coffee in the U.S. can be found right here in Waco.  Then again, if you’re a coffee lover, you’ve probably already done your research and are infinitely more aware of the exact ingredients that go into Dichotomy’s drinks than I am.  All that aside, Dichotomy is a relatively new coffee shop/bar that has already begun to be seen on “greatest coffee shop” lists.  Though I’m no coffee drinker myself and know nothing about the process of making coffee, I can tell you a few things about the place.  First of all, it looks really cool inside.  The place has a 40’s drugstore vibe mixed with a modern aesthetic.  There’s a massive marble bar that covers most of the downstairs—complete with a bunch of brass, steampunk-looking contraptions and laboratory glassware that I can only assume are essential for crafting fine coffee.  The shop is manned by a team of friendly coffee fanatics who look like they would get along well with Mumford and all of his sons.  There’s also an area with tables that is great for studying and an upstairs porch that offers a scenic view of downtown Waco.  Bottom line: If you like coffee, you will like this place.

And there you have it: The 7 Wonders of Waco.  Now, get off the couch and start exploring!

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