McKinney is one of the historical gems of DFW. With plenty of beautifully restored or preserved houses and other buildings, McKinney is the perfect place to jump back into the past, whether that be to the 1900s or to the age of the dinosaurs. This cozy little town is also the perfect place to live in the moment, however, offering a number of experiences and attractions that encourage you to slow down and enjoy life to the fullest. This versatile city offers something for just about anyone, from the romantic, to the family-friendly, and even the thrill-seeking visitor.
Chestnut Square Historic Village
Just 30 minutes from Downtown Dallas, historic downtown McKinney makes for a great daytime or nighttime outing. Chestnut Square is a great place to start your journey. Enjoy one of their “Living History” days or go pick out some local produce at the farmer’s market while you take a look at the collection of six historic homes carefully preserved for generations yet to come. They also host an annual ice cream “crank-off” with old-style frozen treats that simply can’t missed.
The historic buildings include a chapel and schoolhouse worthy of any wild west gunslinging film. You can also take a look in the store, the blacksmith shop, a smoke house, and a reception house. The last of these also includes the reception gardens, which are lovingly tended to by the Heritage Guild of Collin County. It’s this same group that plans many of the events in the square, all with the mission of bringing people together to celebrate McKinney’s heritage.
Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary
If you have children of any age, the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary is a must, but even if you don’t, the museum has proven itself time and again to be educational at any age. Consisting of a 289-acre wildlife sanctuary and a museum dedicated to the purpose of teaching the youth of today about preserving the Earth of tomorrow, there is so much to see and do packed into this museum that it feels like a clown car of natural knowledge.
The real reason you want to come, though? That would be the dinosaurs. Just trust us on this one, the real fun is outside with the life-size prehistoric creatures. And yes, you can climb on them, at your own risk. You’ll also want to take a walk through the park on one of their outdoor trails, because you might see some pretty birds or some deer. Though we can’t guarantee you’ll spot a duck, we can guarantee you’ll see some dinos (they don’t move too much).
Rohr Balloons Hot Air Balloon Rides
Who doesn’t love the gorgeous sight of a hot air balloon slowly floating through the sky like a little multicolored jewel? Too many people think they have to travel to a remote place to have a hot air balloon ride, but that’s often not the case, as with Rohr Balloons. So if this one’s on your bucket list, reach for your pencil, because checking this one off is going to be far easier than you think.
Many people associate hot air balloon rides with being the perfect date, and we’ll agree with them, it’s a great way to spend some time with your partner (especially when they offer an engagement package that includes pictures and a champagne toast upon landing, just fyi). Don’t discount it for a fun excursion with the kids too, however. When you’ve got something so close, you don’t even have to have to say it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, because many people find themselves hooked and thinking about their next booking immediately after the first one.
Hutchins BBQ and Catfish
It’s Texas- which means we all get a hankerin’ for some barbecue at least once every three days, so you best believe the DFW area collects some of the best meats in the state. That’s certainly true for Hutchins BBQ and catfish. If you’re unfamiliar with that combo, that’s because you’ve never been to a lake in Texas, where the catfish are abundant and the oil to fry them in runs freely. If it can be fried, a Texan will fry it. We didn’t make the rules.
It’s hard to pick a best part about Hutchins, but we’re going to argue that it’s the all-you-can-eat barbecue buffet. When Hutchins first made the list for Texas Monthly’s top 50 BBQ joints in Texas, we’re sure this buffet had a lot to do with it. Pick from lines of fresh smoked meats and grab some classic sides like mac n’ cheese or fried okra, and you’re all set. Hutchins is a great place for family dining, with a cozy and intimate atmosphere in a space that is just large enough that you’re not bumping into your neighbors.
Heard-Craig Center for the Arts
Built in 1900, the Heard-Craig Center for the Arts was originally built to be the home of Stephen and Lillian Heard, a local couple. The house is 7,000 sq. feet and has four floors which were fitted with the finest wood accents and a wrap-around porch supported by rows of short columns. When you first approach the Heard-Craig house, you’re stunned by how cheerful it looks with its pale yellow exterior. The Center is a popular wedding venue, and the gardens outside make for a gorgeous wedding scene, but you can enjoy them any time of the year with or without a bride or groom to walk the aisle.
Those Victorian style gardens surround a home that is still filled with all of its original lavish furnishings. As one of the most well-preserved historic buildings in McKinney, you would be missing out if you chose to pass this place up. Enjoy their beautifully displayed art collections as well as the assortments of Heard family memorabilia within the home. You can also visit the reception and performance halls as well as the carriage house. The center frequently puts on fun community events, so be sure to check their calendar when you’re planning your visit!
Mitas Hill Vineyard
The owners of Mitas Hill Vineyard describe the place as a “slice of heaven,” and we find it difficult to argue with that. If you’re a wine lover, you must take advantage of this lovely little piece of Texas wine country at some point. The vineyard is on an idyllic sun-speckled hill and full of grape vines which provide some of the best wine-makings in the DFW area.
Mitas Hill is home to nearly five thousand vines and seven varietals, leaving their visitors with quite a selection to choose from. As a family affair, every generation of the Mitas clan pitches in their work each year, from the harvest to the accounting, to bring forth wines that are made with love. Try out their restaurant, serving top-tier American Wagyu beef steaks, or book a tasting. As a relatively new winery, they’ve already made a splash with their Tempranillo Reserve, the first reserve wine made from the vineyard’s first harvest in 2010!
Meet the Frogs
Nobody really knows why frogs somehow become the unofficial mascot of the town of McKinney, but nobody is complaining. Silly little green faces will greet you throughout Downtown McKinney, popping out in front of shops, restaurants, and wineries. Each has its own unique style, and the number of frogs only seems to grow each year.
Each of these businesses have their own little painted frog statue, set out around their doors to greet their guests. Everybody in McKinney has a favorite frog, but it’s okay if you have a hard time choosing, because they’re all very charming. Some of our favorites include the entirely yellow frog in front of Antique Company Mall as well as the posh gentleman frog outside of Garret Art Gallery.
Towne Lake Recreation Area
Imagine, if you will, a perfectly picturesque city park, and you’ll have the Towne Lake Recreation Area. Surrounding a lovely lake are grassy fields with lush green trees and other flora where squirrels and ducks are often found lazing or racing about. Among the sights often caught at this charming greenspace are the beautiful multicolored hot air balloons mentioned previously in #3. So even if you have a fear of heights, you can still see the balloons in their full splendor.
Towne Lake is a wonderful place to pack up a picnic and enjoy a pleasant evening out with a few friends or the family, especially with covered picnic areas that protect everyone from getting a little bit too much of that Texas sun. You can also enjoy a game of sand volleyball or two in the provided courts or even try your hand at horseshoe pitching. In the afternoon, one of the best ways to spend your time here is by grabbing something yummy from the concession stand before taking a paddleboat out into the water. Moreover, there’s hiking and biking trails surround an 18-hole disc gold course! No matter how you like to enjoy the outdoors, you’re sure to enjoy your time at this cozy little spot.