Eats, drinks, shopping, and local charm make McKinney a must-stop while in North Texas.
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McKinney, TX
Credit: Xtreme Heights Productions

Thirty minutes north of Dallas, you'll find McKinney, Texas, a town oozing with charm. There's plenty of shopping, dining, and entertainment in the historic downtown area, and nature enthusiasts can find a moment of zen at the sprawling Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary too. History buffs will appreciate learning about McKinney's pioneer past at Chestnut Square and the Collin County History Museum, while thespians can enjoy live performances through the McKinney Performing Arts Center. Whether you're wanting to spend your time outdoors, on a patio, or immersing yourself in the past, it's all possible in McKinney. 

Here are our favorite things to do in McKinney. 

Take a Stroll Through the Heard

Set across 289 acres, the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary is a great place for wildlife watching while getting a bit of education. The Heard is home to more than 240 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, plus almost 150 species of wildflowers and plants. There's also a 50-acre wetland on site, complete with an outdoor learning center and observation deck, a floating study laboratory and boardwalk, a Science Resource Center, an outdoor amphitheater, and a ropes course. Take a stroll on the Animal Encounters Trail to see screech owls, lemurs, bobcats, and tortoises, or check out Magic Planet, a 4-foot, interactive globe that allows you to explore the solar system. 

Step Back in Time at Chestnut Square 

Six historic homes, a replica one-room schoolhouse, a chapel, and a store make up Chestnut Square Heritage Village. Set on 2.5 acres near downtown McKinney, Chestnut Square is a great place to learn about the past while engaging in hands-on activities. The grounds also include a smokehouse, blacksmith shop, and gardens. On Saturdays, a farmers market is held, where around 75 vendors sell everything from homegrown produce to local honey. Kids from grades 3-8 can enjoy Heritage Workshops here, which teach about pioneer life and include activities such as soap making, food preservation, weaving and sewing, and even blacksmithing. Looking for something a little on the spooky side? Check out the Ghostly Hauntings tour, which takes guests through the historic homes of Chestnut Square in the dark for ghost stories on past residents. 

Hang in Historic Downtown McKinney

Since 1848, McKinney's downtown district has been a favorite for locals and visitors alike. It's one of the oldest and largest historic districts in Texas, and includes more than 120 shops including boutiques, art galleries, antique stores, and more. Fair and Square Imports is the place for memorable greeting cards, funky earrings, and handmade gifts, while Etienne Market offers artisan coffee beans, spice blends, kitchen gadgets, and fun cocktail mixers. Loads of dining options abound here too, so you can be sure to find something to please everyone. Grab dinner and a glass of wine, do a bit of shopping, or unwind while visiting an art gallery. It's all here in downtown. 

Learn Local History at the Collin County History Museum

Located inside the historic 1911 post office building, the Collin County History Museum gives visitors a look into how the town of McKinney grew to what it is today. See historical artifacts, diaries, maps, archival newspapers, land records, and more to learn what life was like in the early days of McKinney. In the downstairs gallery, check out an exhibit about Collin McKinney, the man who McKinney and Collin County were named for. Here, check out the scale model and historical photos of McKinney's home, and learn about his role as a settler and member of the committee that drafted the Texas Declaration of Independence. 

Check Out a Local Brewery

It's always a good idea to grab a pint from the local brewery, and McKinney's options don't disappoint. Tupps Brewery, located at the historic Cotton Mill, put out phenomenal brews such as Full Grown Scallywag, a rich, roasty imperial stout with coconut and vanilla, and Juice Pack, a New England-style pale ale packed with fruity flavors. Franconia Brewing is dedicated to German-style beers and offers varieties such as kolsch, dunkel, wheat beers, lagers, red ales, blondes, and more. Special events take place at both breweries throughout the year, so don't be surprised if there's a celebration going on when you stop by. 

See a Show at the McKinney Performing Arts Center

Whether it's a famous musician or a local theater performance, the McKinney Performing Arts Center offers numerous types of shows that appeal to everyone. Comedy and sketch shows, concerts, and off-Broadway performances are all done here. The Center is home to two theater groups and is set in the historic Collin County Courthouse, where maple flooring, marble hallways, and large windows combine with over 400 seats to create a space you'll want to visit over and over again. 

Visit the Mediterranean via Adriatica Village

You'll feel as if you've left Texas and been transported straight to a Croatian town at Adriatica Village, a 45-acre oasis in the middle of the Stonebridge Ranch development. Aside from homes and businesses, Adriatica Village is also great for shops, restaurants, and even has an entertainment and events venue. Visit Guitar Sanctuary to see some of the finest guitars on the market, or visit a boutique to find trendy apparel and gifts. For a range of delectable dishes, check out Harry's at the Harbor, and for delicious Neapolitan pizza, Cavalli Pizza is a must. Lots of weddings take place at Bella Donna Chapel, but it's the perfect place to snap a pic for the 'gram.

Shop for Vintage Treasures at Third Monday McKinney Trade Days

Held on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday before the third Monday of each month, Third Monday McKinney Trade Days is the oldest and largest monthly trade days in North Texas, dating to the 1870s. Here, bargain hunters, vintage treasure seekers, and those looking for unique items find a variety of home and outdoor decor, antiques, clothing and accessories, garage sale items, pet supplies, health and beauty finds, and even fair food. There's also an air-conditioned and heated mall, restrooms, ATMs for cash-only vendors, and 18 acres of parking. This is the perfect place to find a unique souvenir, holiday gift, or something special.