Chet Garner stands in front of a neon sign welcoming visitors to downtown McKinney, Texas

© Todd White Stills and Motion

Many folks think of McKinney as just another DFW suburb, but no matter how close McKinney is to Big D, it’s worthy of a day trip all its own. McKinney has history, a lively square, and plenty of personality to keep a traveler entertained and well-fed all day long.

Collin County History Museum

Pioneer Collin McKinney was such a pivotal figure that the county took his first name and the town took his last name—an accolade not even Sam Houston or Davy Crockett can claim. This museum sits inside the old 1911 post office and mixes new technology with treasured artifacts to create an interactive history lesson. With the touch of an iPad, old photos morph into modern landscapes. Be sure to explore the basement, complete with an old boiler and schoolroom antiques.

The Yard

You’ll find one of the best restaurants in town just blocks from the square. Situated in an old house with seating in the three-quarter acre out back, The Yard is where locals come to eat delicious Texas ranch food, drink local craft beer, and play cornhole and outdoor pingpong. Grab a plate of waffle fries smothered with pulled pork and queso, and pass the hours just like you were in your own backyard—but with way better food.

Heritage Village at Chestnut Square

On two city blocks sit more than half a dozen historic homes and buildings, including the 1854 Faires House, the oldest house in McKinney. These structures come alive with reenactors demonstrating everything from how to blacksmith a horseshoe to how to whip up an old-fashioned peach cobbler. If you have a sweet tooth, check out the world’s largest collection of ice cream freezers inside the old general store. For a walk on the spooky side, go on a guided ghost tour—just be prepared to lose sleep that night.

Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary

Defy urban sprawl by heading to this roughly 300-acre sanctuary filled with hiking trails, ponds, and towering trees. An indoor museum features rescue animals and exhibits on dinosaurs, the solar system, and everything a science nerd like me could want. If you need to kick your day into high gear, head to the ropes course and see if you have the guts to climb the giant ladder or conquer the power pole.

Local Yocal BBQ and Grill

While this local butcher shop smokes a mean brisket, the menu goes far beyond the typical three-meat plate. Kick off your dinner with some amazing smoked red-pepper pimento cheese, then move to a dry-aged 20-ounce bone-in wagyu rib-eye cooked to perfection. Finally, wash it down with a single-barrel bourbon and a slice of banana pudding pie. It’s not traditional Texas barbecue, but that ain’t a bad thing!

So whether you follow my footsteps or forge your own path,
I hope to see you on the road.


Chet Garner is the host of The Daytripper® travel show on PBS. To view the Taylor episode visit thedaytripper.com. Follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @chettripper.

From the December 2020 issue
The July 2021 cover of Texas Highways Magazine, "Hill Country Oasis"


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