The Hunt. Apartment hunting in Waco takes a lot of patience and research. Due to the limited number of actual complexes and the high turnover rate from visiting students, landlords are less concerned with their tenants' health and happiness, and much less concerned with their actual rights. In cheaper complexes, you will get what you pay for: pest problems, crime problems, maintenance problems, problems from unresolved problems, and so on. If you narrow your search to $700 per month or more, then you will see some nicer apartments with better staff. However, if you can't afford this, then let patience, knowledge, and a healthy gut instinct be your guide.
Commute. No matter who you are, you've got to have a car to get around these parts. Buses and taxis are mostly used to avoid a DUI after a night on the town, or for travelling between cities when you can't afford to pay $100 to fill up your Texas-sized gas-guzzling, mud-ravaging monster of a truck. Driving is a breeze here, though. There's never traffic, except for the occasional accident on I-35, and you can get anywhere in town within 10-20 minutes.
Pets. Waco, like most Texas cities, is very pet-friendly. There are tons of parks, including the 400 acres of riverside hiking at Cameron Park. Plus, most apartments will accept dogs up to 50 lbs., and some will even bend the rules for you a little bit if you give it a try. I mean, nobody keeps a scale in the office to measure your dog when you sign the lease. All apartments will charge a hefty non-refundable pet fee, typically around $300. Some also charge a $15 pet rent.
Curing Boredom. Many residents fall into the typical shopping and sports bar scene, while forgetting all of the amazingly unique attractions Waco has to offer. First of all, you can't miss Brazos Nights, which features free blues, bluegrass, and country bands right on the river. Then, there is the Heart O' Texas Fair and Rodeo. For the too-hip-to-be-called-hipsters, there are plenty of swanky wine bars, grungy tattoo parlors, low-key coffeehouse concerts, disc golf courses, art shows, and dance clubs. Outdoors people can find salvation kayaking and hiking along the Brazos and Bosque Rivers. Wakeboarders can get their fix on Lake Waco. And, the kids have numerous spray parks, as well as the Waco Water Park, where they can spend all day at play.
Waco has a very wacky neighborhood breakdown. It has three main areas: the Northside, which is roughly the northwestern section of the city, the Southside, which is everything in the southeast of the city, and then there is the East Side, which is north and east of the Brazos River. The unincorporated communities of China Grove and Speegleville sit inside the city limits west of Lake Waco. On this side of the lake, you can catch some great down home music at the Hog Creek Icehouse, or spend a day on the lake at Speegleville Park. However, your apartment options are limited and very expensive.
North Side $ - $$$
Every city has its culturally-inclined, musically rich, hot-and-happening areas that have too much fun and scare well-off families far away into the suburbs. In Waco, this area is known as the Northside. While the region has suffered from the typical urban decay that is seen with the flight of higher income earners, it is still the place to be for live music, art shows, and wild country nights at the rodeo. The most popular neighborhoods include:
Brooks-Oaks. For the river views and the Cameron Park Zoo.
Cedar Ridge. For its coffeehouse concerts, river concerts, and community college concerts... plus the ability to go to class and go fishing in the same afternoon.
Heart O' Texas. For its rodeo.
North Lake Waco. For its beatnik coffeehouse with live music and its location right on the lake.
North Waco. For Cameron Park, which is a beautiful day spot for a trip to the river but can get sketchy at night.
Richland Hills. For its shopping, art, pool hall, and nice townhomes.
South Side $$$ - $$$$$
The Southside, southeast really, is home to Baylor University. Neighborhoods surrounding the university are in the Baylor Bubble, where rent is rarely below $1,000 a month. Just outside the Baylor Bubble is another world, where the scenery turns into bars, tattoo parlors, Mexican joints, and thrift shops. Popular neighborhoods include:
Alta Vista. For the Dr. Pepper wings, the hamburgers, and occasional live music on the circle.
Baylor. For the campus events, the Dancing Bear Pub, and live music at the coffeehouse.
Brazos. For the hookah bar, the sports bars, the barbecue, the fine wine, the art shows, the shopping, and the great blues, bluegrass, and country bands rocking out on the Brazos River from April through July.
Kendrick. For the country club and the mall-dwelling apartments.
University. For the cold beer and Big O's at George's Bar.
East Side $
There is little love felt on the Eastside. Just after its recovery from the devastating 1953 tornado, the area fell to decay once again when Paul Quinn College moved out of town. Residents see a lot of crime and violence, but remain proud as community leaders work at yet another recovery. There are three neighborhoods on the East Side, which include Carver, East Riverside, and Timbercrest.
So, that is Waco for you. It's full of hard tootin', boot n' scootin', son-of-the-gun Texans, simple church-going families, as well as a refreshing mix of young bloods creating their own wacky Waco culture. There are good times to be had. Happy hunting.
-By Kera Zacuto
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