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Leave Your Heart in Frisco

Written by June Naylor.

Dismissing Frisco as another one of Dallas’ flourishing suburbs would be too easy, and foolish besides. I confess I was once tempted to do that, thanks to lingering childhood memories of the little farm town we’d pass through en route to my great-aunt’s home in Sherman.

My perception began to change over the last decade. First, Mariano Martinez—the Dallas restaurateur credited with creating a new-fangled machine some 30 years ago that would dispense frozen margaritas—elected to establish his first Southwestern restaurant, La Hacienda Ranch, in Frisco in the mid-’90s. At around the same time, Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl hero Troy Aikman chose Frisco as a place to build his dream home.

And boy howdy, were those guys onto something. Today, Frisco exemplifies a happy explosion of art, shopping, dining, and entertainment, with more than enough to go around for the bustling local population (growing at a rate of about 800 people per month) and the throngs of visitors now realizing that Frisco makes a great overnight getaway.

In fact, Frisco’s offerings warrant a long weekend stay, with plenty of choices for big and little budgets. Here’s the perfect itinerary to follow; just be sure to allow extra time for the increasing traffic, now that word of Frisco’s bounty is spreading.

Friday: Plan your arrival in time for a leisurely late lunch (bistro opens at 3 on Friday) to ease you into a laid-back frame of mind. That’s the only way to savor the goods at Farpointe Cellar Wine Store & Wine Bistro, a mid-price-range place to chill and learn, all at once. Order a so-called flight of wine, such as a trio of chardonnays from the Sonoma Valley, Italy, and Chile, and ask the staff to help you pick the perfect accompaniments from a menu of American and European cheeses and cured meats or salads, grilled paninis, and Greek- or French-inspired pizzas. At 4 p.m. every Friday, there’s a different tasting to help you boost your wine acumen, too.

Then, walk off your indulgences a few blocks away at Stonebriar Centre, a fabulous shopping complex anchored by Nordstrom and Macy’s, with an NHL-size ice rink, along with Coldwater Creek, Clinique, Coach, and other boutiques.

If you’re watching your wallet, check into the Hampton Inn & Suites. Unlike any other inexpensive hotel you’ve ever seen, this one will remind you of a ranch lodge, with its stone floors, gas carriage lamps, lobby fireplace, and Old West artifacts. A hot breakfast is included. If you’re ready to splurge, go wild at the Westin Stonebriar Resort, a lavish getaway with a comfy lobby bar, high-end fitness center, full golf pro shop, and luxurious rooms overlooking the Tom Fazio-designed golf course.

And speaking of spoiling yourself, do it up right at Randy’s Steakhouse, a landmark restaurant inside a historic home in the tiny, vintage downtown. Start with a shrimp platter, combining shrimp rémoulade and shrimp marinated in Creole spices, then follow with a conscience-bending tenderloin filet, stuffed with crawfish and slathered in a cognac-bordelaise sauce with creamy potatoes au gratin on the side. If that’s not sinful enough, top off dinner with a smooth brandy Alexander.

With or without kids in tow, you’ll want to catch a Frisco RoughRiders game at Dr Pepper Ballpark. Opened in 2003, this standout among all the country’s spectacular new minor-league baseball stadiums serves as home to the Texas Rangers’ AA affiliate. Wide open, yet somehow intimate, the setting offers a surprisingly old-fashioned feel, with pathways cut through parklike landscaping, porches for eating and drinking, and a friendly proximity to the field and dugouts. If you plan ahead, you can rent the stone-rimmed swimming pool perched on a patio just above center field for your group.

Saturday: After breakfast at your hotel, either tackle the Stonebriar’s 18 holes or submit to the magical hands employed at Face & Body Spa, across the street from the Westin. If you spend your life glued to your desk, curled around your laptop, the sports massage here will make you feel better than you ever have.

Thus fortified, you’ll have the strength to make decisions for furnishing your kitchen, bedroom, office, or playroom with style and efficiency at IKEA. The 310,000-square-foot wonderland of Swedish design allows you to park your kids in a supervised playroom for an hour while you figure out better ways to make your home spaces work. Before leaving, treat yourself to one of the snack bar’s divine cinnamon rolls with a cup of fresh-roasted coffee. A few feet away is another shopaholic nirvana, the new Sam Moon Trading Co. store, which stocks unbelievable buys in jewelry, purses, scarves, and other accessories.

Head north on Preston Road to Main Street, and stop for a late lunch at Abbey Grill, a welcoming hangout that occupies a 1904 church building. Behave yourself with a grilled salmon or tuna garden salad, or graze on goodies like spinach-artichoke dip. Now turn west along Main Street and explore the new Frisco Square, a pretty sprawl of a complex that combines shops, bistros, apartments, and offices in an arrangement that evokes images of upscale urban centers from the east or west coasts. You’re just a few blocks from the fabulous Pizza Hut Park, where you can take in an FC Dallas soccer game—or maybe a concert starring the likes of George Strait and Kenny Chesney.

Before calling it a day, wander back east along Main Street and pull in at Double Dip, an old-fashioned soda shop inside a renovated Dairy Queen. Tuck in-to an all-beef hot dog, Frito pie, or chicken-salad sandwich, but be sure to leave room for an old-fashioned ice cream soda (the chocolate rocks!) or a “caliche,” a frozen custard creation incorporating add-ins such as key-lime syrup, Oreos, apple pie, fresh mango, or hot fudge.

Sunday: Head out early for a wagon-load of art, which costs absolutely nothing to enjoy. Frisco’s outdoor sculpture scene has critics’ tongues wagging over the stunning selection of public art, much of which is found at the Texas Sculpture Garden at Hall Office Park, close to the Westin and the Dr Pepper Star-Center ice rink. Billed as the largest private collection of contemporary Texas sculpture displayed for the public, this place may be the biggest surprise in all of Frisco. Dozens of magnificent large-scale pieces rise from the lovely landscaping, next to willows and crape myrtles, beside ponds, and above sunken walkways, while another 100 pieces of sculpture—several of which are kinetic—populate the business park at large. Look for a giant metal fish jumping from a pool, enormous roses, a huge, rusty horned frog, and dancers. Inside the Hall Financial Group Building lobby, smaller pieces include a folk-art wooden panther, a coyote, and an office party.

A few blocks away, in the shopping complex called The Centre at Preston Ridge, you’ll find an immense bronze cattle drive, paying homage to the Longhorns, cowpokes, and chuck wagons that trudged along the Shawnee Trail, which passed through here on the way to markets in the Midwest. Immediately west across Parkwood Drive, still more bronze Longhorns appear, this magnificent herd moseying alongside waterfalls and across rock and cactus.

Such cultural enlightenment has surely earned you the right to a big lunch. At the Westin, Wiley Bates III (food and beverage director) and his crew will knock you out with braised mussels, Caesar salad, bacon-wrapped salmon, and red-velvet cake. If you’re hoping to finish off the weekend with some zing, head to Tres Méridas, a Latin American restaurant that will pamper your palate while illuminating the pleasures of foods from Spain, Venezuela, and the interior of Mexico. Tex-Mex, too. High marks go to the tostones, griddled plantain patties topped with ground beef and queso fresco with a side salad drizzled with passionfruit vinaigrette; arepas, crispy corn pockets stuffed with ham and cheese; and pabellón criollo, rice-pilaf dressed with pulled beef, sweet plantains, and black beans.

Whether or not you decide to extend your stay another day and lounge around your hotel’s pool the rest of the afternoon, you’ll certainly be planning a return getaway by now. It’s a good thing all these distractions weren’t around when I was a kid, or we’d never have made it to Aunt Elizabeth’s house.

Contact information (The area code is 972 unless otherwise noted.)

Dining

La Hacienda Ranch, 4110 Preston Rd.; 335-2232; www.laharanch.com.

Farpointe Cellar Wine Store & Wine Bistro, 1125 Legacy Dr.; 214/618-9882; www.farpointecellar.com. Call ahead regarding hours.

Randy’s Steakhouse, 7026 Main St.; 335-3066; www.randyssteakhouse.com. Dinner with wine, about $50 per person.

Abbey Grill, 7185 Main St.; 335-3812; www.theabbeygrill.com. Lunch $15 per person.

Double Dip, 7511 Main St.; 377-8668. Sandwich and custard, $10 per person.

Tres Méridas, 2809 Preston Rd.; 334-0937; www.tresmeridas.com. Lunch, $10 per person.

Lodging

Hampton Inn & Suites, 3199 Parkwood Blvd.; 712-8400; www.friscolegacypark.hamptoninn.com.

Westin Stonebriar Resort, 1549 Legacy Dr.; 668-8000; www.westinstonebriar.com.

Art: Texas Sculpture Garden at Hall Office Park, 6801 Gaylord Pkwy.; 377-1100; www.texassculpturegarden.com.

The Centre at Preston Ridge, Gaylord Pkwy. at Preston Rd.; 668-2986.

Shopping

Stonebriar Centre, 2601 Preston Rd.; 668-6255; www.shopstonebriar.com.

IKEA, 7171 IKEA Dr.; 712-4532; www.ikea-usa.com.

Sam Moon Trading Co., 2449 Preston Rd.; 214/297-4200; www.sammoon.com.

Frisco Square, 6136 Frisco Square Blvd.; 469/633-1721; www.friscosquare.com.

The Centre at Preston Ridge (see above under “Art”)

Spa: Face & Body Spa, 1221 Legacy Dr.; 668-6108; www.faceandbodyspas.com. Massage, $55-$150; facial, $60-$160.

Entertainment

Dr Pepper Ballpark, 7300 RoughRiders Tr.; 731-9200; www.ridersbaseball.com.

Pizza Hut Park, 6000 Main St.; 214/979-0303; www.pizzahutpark.com and www.fcdallas.net.

For more information, contact the Frisco Convention & Visitors Bureau, 7601 Gaylord Pkwy., Ste. 100, Frisco 75034; 877/463-7472; www.visitfrisco.com.

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From the September 2006 issue.

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