Just a short drive from Temple right up I-35, in Waco Texas, lay the birthplace of a gastronomic legend and a flavor so deep and complex that few have been able to identify all of its 23 flavors. On this trip, we took the family out to visit the Dr.Pepper museum and learn the colorful history of the Texas born beverage.
Dating back to the early days of soda and the Jerks that handcrafted each glass, Dr.Pepper owes its creation to pharmacist Charles Alderton, who, in his corner drug store in Waco back in 1885, mixed the concoction to appeal to customers who were tired of drinking the typical flavors of the time, sarsaparilla, vanilla and lemon. Alderton experimented with new flavors and eventually settled on the combination of the 23 ingredients that make up the soda’s unique flavor. Customers would visit the store and ask to for a “Waco” when ordering the unique flavor blend and just about a decade later, The soda was introduced as a “new soda pop”…””Dr.Pepper” in 1904 at the Louisiana Purchase Expo and predates Coca-Cola’s entry into the soda market by 1 year and creating the first commercially available Dr. Pepper.
Itching to get out for a while we packed up the kids and headed north, with the plan to learn all there was to know about this Texas treasure.
Commemorating “the Doctor”, the Dr.Pepper museum is home to the one of the world’s largest collections of soda related artifacts, a majority of which are Dr.pepper, with sprinkles of 7-up, RC and a few others tossed in and is located in the historic Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling Company building and is in the National Register of Historic Places as the “Home of Dr. Pepper”.
Growing up mostly here in Texas, Dr.Pepper was a staple drink. At every BBQ, at every birthday party, and of course as a “treat” at the dinner table every so often, always hanging out in its bottle on the kitchen counter top, dark and complex waiting to glide across my taste buds. I do have to admit that there’s a special place in my heart for this drink, despite not following the doctor’s orders and drinking it at 10, 2, and 4.
The kids, all 5 of them, we’re stoked about the trip. Dreams of fizzy soda fountains of Dr.pepper flowing through the rooms, endless refills filling their bellies until they couldn’t do any other than lay and sleep, all spun around their heads and though I do wish their dreams had come true for them, they were still nonetheless colored impressed and happy with their time at the museum.
The museum sits right off of I-35, down 7th street in a vintage brick building with the words “Dr.Pepper museum” stamped into the red brick at the top. Immediately entering the grounds you’ll start to get some of the history of the beverage though signage, plaques and antiques right outside the door.
As soon as we walked in, the staff greeted us with a warm “Hello! Are you here for a tour?” naturally we were, and purchased our tickets, got our wristbands, and headed into history. Tickets range in price from free for 4 and under, to $10 for adults, there are also guided tours on a set schedule every so often, however we missed the last one that evening so we chose the self-guided tour.
Starting our self guided adventure, the first room we walked into was home to two antique saloon styled bars, and an animatronic “Dr.Pepper” himself, Charles Alderton, telling us all about the history of the drink, how he would craft it and how people would come from all across the state and nation to try his magic elixir.
Now, without revealing too much in hopes you’ll visit, we continued walking through the museum at first seeing some of the original bottles aged by the elements, and then on to some of the heavy industrial machines used to fill and bottle the soft drink. Upstairs, the kids played through a number of activities all designed to promote healthy eating, even doing jumping jacks for nearly a minute to burn off the calories of a small thimble sized serving of Dr.Pepper. Set up in a large room on a large TV, the kids loved watching old Dr.pepper commercials from the black and whites days through the 80’s 90’s and 2000’s. Moving Up another floor was a replica office, with several screens and an awesome pepper’s ghost delivery man.
This is a newer part of the museum where the kids played along to a taste testing, race pinewood derby styled cars, watch a bottle facility actually run bottles around, and then finally enjoying another Texas treat, A Blue Bell Ice Cream milkshake.
This made a great quick day trip for our family of 7, was educational, fun, and gave them a taste of the history of the community they’re growing up in.
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