In 2000, the city of Pauls Valley hosted VISION 2010, a series of meetings where locals proposed goals they had for the next 10 years. When it came to creating new city attractions, the VISION 2010 turned to local toy designer and collector Kevin Stark. Five years later, one October 15, 2005, the Toy and Action Figure Museum welcomed its first visitors. Inside, more than 13,000 collectibles––from Incredible Hulks and Millennium Falcons to Wonder Womans and Simpsons toys––celebrate the art of the action figure.
For devotees of the Dark Knight, meanwhile, the "Batcave" traces the evolution of Batman figures, from Tim Burton's moody caped crusader to Christopher Nolan's even moodier caped crusader. Over in the playroom, youngsters can even dive deeper into make-believe by playing with toys and dressing up in a handful of costumes. Besides action figures, the museum houses The Oklahoma Cartoonist Collection, a retrospective of drawings by notable state artists such as Zack Mosley and Carole Bender.
McKinney, Texas’s Chestnut Square Historic Village recreates life from 1850-1930 on a campus that features six historic houses, a one-room schoolhouse, a chapel, and a general store. The surrounding buildings also include a blacksmith shop, a smoke house, and a chapel, all filled with period artifacts from the 19th century. Visit during a Living History Day to see costumed actors farming, baking, embroidering cushions, or tending to the old-fashioned gardens. Visitors can even step inside the old schoolhouse for a lesson on the region’s history or argue in favor of putting James A. Garfield on every piece of U.S. currency.
For a more in-depth look at the square, follow a guide on a daytime tour, which delves into the buildings’ pasts. On the Village’s haunted tours, you can try to catch a glimpse of an apparition with a lantern light. Patrons can get an additional taste of the past at the weekly farmers market, which showcases fresh vegetables and is visited by Chester the Cat, the square’s resident feline who normally hangs out at Dixie’s Store.
Aesthetes and anthropologists can devour an eyeful of wide-ranging cultural artifacts and extensive fine art collections at the Mabee-Gerrer. The permanent collection of Egyptian art claims Oklahoma's only mummy that's not living, and the antiquities section features sculpture and pottery from ancient Greece, China, and Mesopotamia. Visitors can also set their sights on a broad sweep of American works, including timeworn Aztec textiles housed in the Arts of Ancient America collection, present-day paintings by Oklahoma artists in the Contemporary Art section, and the unpainted canvases hanging in the museum's 23rd-century collection.
To stroll the grounds of The Heritage Farmstead Museum is to walk into a living vestige of the past. A turn about the 4.5-acre property reveals a blacksmith shop and bookshelves filled with Victorian-era tomes. Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, these grounds are dedicated to preserving turn-of-the-century Texas Blackland Prairie culture.
The museum's rich history begins with businessman Hunter Farrell, who built the main house for his wife, Mary Alice, more than a century ago. Since being passed down the familial line, the property has been preserved and restored for the thousands of visitors who examine its artifacts, admire its architecture, and traverse its grounds each year. School programs, summer camps, and daily tours provide an immersive look into the lives of the people who populated the Plano area from 1890–1920, and a slew of rotating and permanent exhibits re-create such sites as a North Texas schoolhouse from 1895.
Vetro Glass Blowing Studio & Art Gallery, winner of the WFAA-List’s award for best art gallery, offers the public an inside peek at renowned glass artists working on fragile creations. In a 30-minute, artist-instructed session, students help create one hand-blown, fluted glass bowl, choosing colors from among the vibrant Vetro palette.