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I’m not usually one to geek-out over TV shows, after all, I spend a lot of my time out of the country without access to most US TV shows. But in the past year, during the process of selling my long-time “starter home” and buying a new house with my husband, I somehow developed a bit of an HGTV addiction. Of the many wonderful shows on HGTV, my favorite (and my husband’s too!) is Fixer Upper.
Set in Waco, Texas, the show stars talented married couple Chip and Joanna Gaines who help house-hunters find and renovate the home of their dreams. The show not only features Chip and Jo but also their adorable 4 children and many of the local artists and businesses they work with in the Waco area.
But the breakout star of the show has been Waco itself. Remarkably, during the past two seasons, this popular HGTV show has managed to put this sleepy central-Texas town on the map as a travel destination…and not just for Baylor football games. Of course, until recently, there wasn’t much of the show for Waco visitors to see, aside from Joanna’s small retail store.
But that all changed last fall when the couple took on their largest renovation project yet by purchasing a decaying agricultural property in the downtown area that included two giant grain silos and a 20,000-square-foot barn. Last October’s “Silobration” marked the grand opening of both a massive new retail store (Magnolia Market) and a new family-friendly green space in the heart of the city. Known simply as “the Silos,” it has become Waco’s newest hot spot for locals and tourists alike.
Last week, my husband Dave and I took advantage of a business trip to Dallas to rent a car and make the 90-minute drive down to Waco to get the Fixer Upper experience for ourselves.
Our first stop, the newest addition to the Magnolia family…
Magnolia Market Silos
There’s no admission fee at the Magnolia Market Silos but you can expect to pay at least $10 to park nearby. We visited on a Wednesday afternoon and easily found parking in one of the pay lots across the street but I’ve heard the place gets ridiculously busy on Saturdays.
Since we arrived just before lunch time, our first stop was the food trucks that surround the lawn area. The crowd was light but built quickly around the lunch hour with a mix of tourists and local office-workers on their lunch break. The food trucks offer a number of choices including crepes, pizza, a juice bar and even a mobile version of the popular local coffee shop, Common Grounds. We opted for a grilled cheese and mac n’ cheese at the Cheddar Box truck and both were amazing.
After lunch we wandered around the grounds of the silos which include the main lawn area, a garden and a building that will soon be a bakery called Flour. The main lawn is a great space with beanbag chairs and a storage cabinet full of lawn games for the kids. On a typical sunny Saturday you can expect to find the main lawn packed with families playing games with their kids.
Finally, we headed in for some shopping in the main event, Magnolia Market. The warehouse-like shop is like stepping into one of Joanna’s chic farmhouse-designed homes. Elements of her style are everywhere from her favorite scented candle (yes, I bought one) to giant magnolia floral arrangements. I wanted to take home one of everything but since we had to purchase only what could fit in a carry-on suitcase, I had to economize. However, if I lived driving distance from this place it would have been a totally different story!
In addition to home decor, there are the requisite Waco, Magnolia Market and #demoday t-shirts, hats and accessories. I thought those were a little on the pricey side but they’d make a great gift for a fan of the show. Since Dave and I are big fans of Joanna’s design style we just enjoyed walking around the large shop and getting a little design inspiration for our own home.
If you visit, don’t miss Chip’s Corner (Dave’s favorite part of the shop), where he has some of his favorite items available for sale. Think beef jerky and slingshots.
You might even catch a glimpse of one of the show’s accidental stars like Jimmy Don, who does incredible metalwork art for some of Joanna’s designs. During our visit, we saw him hanging out by the food trucks working on a new sign for the garden area. And we even bought a smaller version of one of his designs to take home.
Harp Design Co.
Woodwork designer Clint Harp and his wife Kelly were featured on Season 1 of the show and the house that Chip and Jo renovated for them now serves as the office for their business. My understanding is that the number of fans driving by the house made it better suited for a business than a home. Clint’s retail shop is next door and we enjoyed exploring it with just a few other shoppers – much less crowded than Magnolia Market.
I was dying to pick up a few of the handmade candle sticks he’s famous for on the show but, while they do have them on display, they can only be purchased through his website. So, instead I settled for a set of wooden wine glass tags and picked up another set as a gift.
The owners of this trendy Baylor campus coffee shop were featured on the first season of the show and though we had stopped by their truck at the Silos, we wanted to see the actual coffee shop for ourselves. At mid-day, the shop was full of laptop-wielding students settled in to study or chat with their friends. The outdoor patio has a large stage and is one of Waco’s top live music venues. But there was no music during our afternoon visit so we settled for a glass of the Black & Blue cold brew on tap.
After hitting all of the downtown Waco stops on the Fixer Upper tour, there was just one more place we wanted to visit. Toward the end of last season, Chip and Jo bought a circa 1800s home that was barely still standing and transformed it into a charming vacation rental they dubbed “Magnolia House.” Though it has a definite bed & breakfast vibe, you can’t actually book an individual room, just the entire house for a minimum of a 2-night stay.
The first thing you should know about Magnolia House is that it’s in McGregor, Texas – a good 25-minute drive from the other Fixer Upper attractions in Waco. The other thing you should know is that if you want to stay here, you’ll need deep pockets and quite a bit of patience. Magnolia House is currently booked up through 2016. And if you do manage to score a reservation in 2017, it’ll cost you nearly $1,000 per night.
Luckily, that price gives you the run of the place and it does sleep 8 people making it more reasonable for a large family attending a Baylor home game or a weekend of antiquing with the girls. Of course you can’t stop in to visit the inside of the house but you can do a drive by and take a few pictures, which is what we did. Surprisingly, we were the only ones around on a Wednesday afternoon (but I bet that’s not the case on the weekends).
We even got a wave from the caretakers who occupy the manager’s cottage recently renovated on the show. It didn’t look like there was much to do in the immediate area but based on what I saw on that episode of the show, it’s pretty spectacular inside. And what better home base to explore all the local Fixer Upper nostalgia?
For the sake of the privacy of the families featured on the show, the addresses of the actual homes they’ve remodeled are a well-kept secret but Waco’s not that big of a town. I would imagine if you took the time to drive around for a while you’d stumble across one or two. It would be amazing if they’d do a “Tour of Homes” someday where you could actually see some of the projects featured on the show.
But I suppose their clients are entitled to their privacy and I certainly wouldn’t want to live with lookey-loos circling my home every day! Even without seeing the houses (except for Clint and Kelly’s) we felt like we really got the full Fixer Upper experience. After arriving in Waco at 11:00am, by 4pm we had seen everything on our wish list and hit the road back to Dallas.
It was a terrific day for a fan of the show and well worth the drive from Dallas or Austin or even a flight from wherever you live. Chip and Joanna have really created a special place for their own community to gather and the perfect spot for fans to enjoy all the things they love most about the show.