Waxahachie is named after the Waxah Indian tribe and the Coosaw tribe’s word hachie, meaning creek. It got its start in 1850, along the banks of the Waxahachie Creek as an agricultural town.
Waxahachie is a 30-minute drive from Dallas, less than an hour drive from Fort Worth, or a 3-hour drive from Houston, making this quaint “gingerbread city” a great tourist destination.
Waxahachie’s offerings appeal to lovers of history, art, architecture, and the Munsters. Here are the 11 best things to do in Waxahachie, beginning with an overview of its history.
1. Ellis County Museum
Located in an 1889 building across from the courthouse, the museum’s displays begin with prehistoric times, although the main focus is memorabilia and personal accounts from World War II.
In Waxahachie’s early years, it was an agricultural community with some cotton plantations. Railroads came to Waxahachie, followed by cotton gins. By the 1880s, Texas grew a quarter of the world’s cotton and Waxahachie boomed. Textile mills sprung into action.
The Great Depression ended most of the cotton business but the discovery of clay in the county’s soil led the town of Ferris, in northern Ellis County, to become the world’s biggest brick manufacturing town.
This, too, would end. Today, Waxahachie is a tourist destination and the Ellis County Museum — loaded with photos, donated collections of World War I and II weapons, a stunning collection of hand fans, quilts, and cotton of different grades (including fair to middling) give a great introduction to the area.
The museum does not charge admission but gratefully accepts donations. It is fully accessible. Allow an hour to tour the museum. It’s closed on Sunday.
2. Take A Historic Walking Tour
The walking tour highlights the downtown’s oldest, most notable, and historic buildings. In the course of the tour, you’ll get a good feel for all that Waxahachie has to offer as these historic buildings are now home to antique stores, galleries, boutiques, and restaurants. Print maps are available at the Ellis County Museum or Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce.
The tour points out 36 historic buildings and sites with a brief description of their significance in the map and accompanying brochure. The oldest remaining building in the area is the old Wyatt Office built around 1860.
On the other end of town, two train depots differ greatly even though they were built in 1907 and 1908. One is a passenger depot with an octagonal turret and contrasting colors of masonry. The Missouri-Kansas-Texas depot has more traditional architecture and as a bonus has a shiny, red, restored caboose parked in front.
The walking tour will take about 3 hours, but along the way, you’ll see a few more of Waxahachie’s attractions.
3. Ellis County Courthouse
This 1897 building is known as “number eight” because of its rank on Texas’ list of outstanding architectural achievements. Fully restored in 2002, the pink marble, red sandstone, and red limestone building has a clock tower that rises nine stories. Stone carvings on the building’s four porches were carved by German artists and depict human and lion faces that are typical of Romanesque buildings.
But another theory exists. One local legend says Harry Herley carved the face of a local girl, his love interest. She ignored his advances and as she did, he carved progressively uglier faces on the courthouse’s facade.
The courthouse is ADA accessible.
4. The Money Museum
The CNB of Texas Money Museum is home to $5,000 and $10,000 bills, but this is just the beginning. The museum, located in the bank’s lobby, displays Continental Currency printed in Philadelphia in 1776, Republic of Texas bills, and some of the most collectible paper notes — 1882 Brownbacks. Gold nuggets, and checks signed by the likes of Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Ralph Waldo Emerson and Presidents McKinley and Garfield are also in the museum.
The free-admission museum is open during bank hours, closing from noon to 1 p.m. for lunch. Touring the museum takes 30 minutes. The building is accessible.
5. Buy A Love Lock
No need to fly to New York, Paris, Seoul, or Moscow to leave a token of your love on public display. In keeping with the town’s slogan, “Waxahachie, A Place in the Heart,” the Ellis County Museum sells heart-shaped locks for $10 as a fundraiser. Couples attach their padlocks on a fence half a block away from the museum.
6. Appreciate Waxahachie’s Art
Along the same heart theme, giant decorated Hachie Hearts are scattered throughout Waxahachie. You’ll see many of them along the historic walking tour and the driving tour. Their titles, artists, and locations are available here.
Waxahachie artists have also painted murals around the city. Two are by Calina Mishay and one by Gonzo247. Gonzo247’s mural is across from the Ellis County Historical Museum and features Waxahachie’s slogan. A downtown mural by Mishay speaks to the town’s designation as the crape myrtle capital of Texas.
7. Enjoy A Bite To Eat
Waxahachie’s historic downtown is home to a number of delicious restaurants from barbeque at The Vault Smokehouse, Italian panini, salads, and dessert at Panza’s Tapping Italy, and Southern cuisine at The Doves Nest that specializes in hearty salads, sandwiches, and a chocolate bourbon pecan cake that is out of this world. The Doves Nest is located inside a shop with home furnishings and antiques.
If you’d like to buy a snack along the historic walking tour, Jordan E’s sells candy and dozens of sweet and savory flavors of popcorn.
8. Walk Or Bike Along The Waxahachie Creek
The 7.6-mile Waxahachie Creek Hike and Bike Trail mostly follows the Waxahachie Creek running from Lions Park, past the Old Cemetery, the train depots in historic downtown, and the Railyard Park with its oversized xylophone, drums, and chimes for you to play. The trail ends at Getzendaner Park — the home of the historic Chautauqua Auditorium. This octagonal building was constructed in 1902 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The trail is paved, ADA accessible, and dog friendly.
9. Tour Waxahachie, The Gingerbread City, By Car
In addition to a drive in the downtown area that echoes the walking tour, four historic driving tours are identified on the map provided by the museum or chamber of commerce. The West End Historic District includes Getzendaner Park and Victorian houses decorated with wooden filigree, often called gingerbread houses, that line Main Street.
Likewise, the North Rogers Street Historic District is filled with tidy gingerbread houses that have markers with the date of construction indicating their status as nationally registered historic homes. In the Oldham Avenue Historic District, 18 stately homes (aka mansions) date from the late 19th and early 20th century when cotton was king.
In sharp contrast, Wyatt Street Shotgun House Historic District is so named for the long narrow homes in which you could shoot a shotgun from the front door and the bullet would exit the back door without hitting anything in between.
Nearby, the Joshua Chapel AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church built in 1917 is on the list of National Register of Historic Places and has served the people of Waxahachie for over 100 years not only as a church but as a gathering place for graduations and celebrations in the Black community.
10. Take A Tour Of The Munster Mansion
Located in a newer area of Waxahachie, the McKees built the Munster Mansion as their primary residence after watching the show for hundreds of hours. The house was originally open for charity events which The Munsters cast members — Grandpa, Eddie, and Marilyn — attended. Now it is open for private tours.
Each room has been painstakingly re-created, right down to the dishes on the kitchen table. Sandra McKee has purchased pieces from the tv show’s set or found exact replicas. During a tour, you’ll see a life-sized Lily, Herman, Grandpa, and Eddie after you come face to face with Spot under the grand staircase.
Tours are by appointment only. The home is not ADA accessible.
11. Enjoy Waxahachie Events
Waxahachie has its share of events year-round including the Scarborough Renaissance Festival in April and May, the Gingerbread Home Tour in June, and the Crape Myrtle Festival and parade in July. November brings a Veterans Day/World War II remembrance with actors in period military and civilian costumes, weapon demonstrations, and military vehicle displays. During December, you can partake in Candlelight Home Tours and Bethlehem Revisited.
Plan your trip around an event or a murder mystery dinner at the Munster Mansion. Check the mansion’s webpage for details and reserve early. The small-group murder mystery events sell out quickly.