5 places to explore in McKinney, a Dallas-area hidden gem

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Many people think McKinney is just another DFW suburb, but no matter how close McKinney is to Big D, it’s well worth a day trip. McKinney has history, a vibrant space, and plenty of personality to keep and feed a traveler all day long.

Collin County History Museum

The pioneer Collin McKinney was such a central figure that the county took his first name and the city his last name – an accolade not even Sam Houston or Davy Crockett can claim. Located in the old post office from 1911, this museum combines new technology with precious artifacts to create an interactive history lesson. With the touch of an iPad, old photos are transformed into modern landscapes. Be sure to explore the basement with an old boiler and antiques from the classroom.

The yard

Just a few blocks from the square is one of the best restaurants in town. The Yard is in an old house with seating on 3 acres in the background. Here, locals eat delicious food on the Texas ranch, drink local craft beer, and play cornhole and table tennis outdoors. Grab a plate of smothered pork and queso waffle fries and pass the hours like you were in your own backyard – but with much better food.

Heritage Village in Chestnut Square

Two blocks of town are home to more than half a dozen historic homes and buildings, including the Faires House from 1854, the oldest house in McKinney. These structures come alive with reenactors demonstrating everything from forging a horseshoe to hitting an old-fashioned peach cobbler. If you have a sweet tooth, check out the world’s largest collection of ice cream freezers in the old general store. Take a stroll on the scary side and take a guided ghost tour – just be prepared to lose sleep that night.

Owned natural science museum and nature reserve

Brave the urban sprawl by walking to this 300-acre sanctuary with hiking trails, ponds, and towering trees. An indoor museum features rescue animals and exhibits about dinosaurs, the solar system and everything a science nerd like me could possibly want. If you need to get your day into full swing, head to the high ropes course and see if you have the courage to climb the giant ladder or conquer the power pole.

Local Yocal BBQ and Grill

While this local butcher’s shop smokes a mean brisket, the menu goes way beyond the typical three-meat platter. Start your dinner with an amazing red pepper smoked allspice cheese, then move on to a 20-ounce dry-aged wagyu rib eye on the bone that is cooked to perfection. Finally, wash off with a bourbon with a barrel and a piece of banana pudding pie. It’s not a traditional Texas barbecue, but that’s not a bad thing!

Whether you follow my footsteps or go your own way, I hope to see you on the road.

Chet Garner is hosting the Daytripper® travel show on PBS. To watch the Taylor episode, visit thedaytripper.com. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @chettripper.

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