Bessie Heard dedicated years of her life to philanthropic efforts throughout the McKinney area, helping plant hackberry trees along downtown streets and establishing an American Red Cross chapter during World War I. However, she accomplished her greatest feat in 1967 when the Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary opened to the public. With 289 acres of rolling space, the sanctuary functions as a testament to the diversity of local flora and fauna, educating visitors and urging them to protect those species for future generations.
More than 6.5 miles of unpaved hiking trails wind throughout the sanctuary, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in habitats that range from tall-grass prairie to limestone slopes. The grounds shelter more than 150 varieties of wildflowers and plants, as well as more than 240 species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. In addition to the trails, the sanctuary also features an extensive garden of native trees, grasses, and perennials, as well as a treetop ropes course (reservation required; additional fees apply). Indoors, interactive exhibits and collections impart valuable information on north-Texan geology, marine life, and venomous snakes.
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.
Dallas Fort Worth Air Tours' pilots love to show off their city; they just do it from several hundred feet in the air. They lead airborne tours of the urban landscape, using planes and helicopters. They cruise along waterfronts, observe ripples of light across steel and glass sky scrapers, and provide a bird's-eye view of the interplay of concrete and greenery in the city's parks.
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.
At The Gentle Zoo, youngsters feed pigs, pat ducklings, and interact with the other fuzzy residents. Elsewhere on the zoo’s 10 acres, guests can leap about on the bounce house, blast corn from the corn cannon, navigate the maze, or enjoy a leisurely ride on the tractor train. Such attractions enthrall kids at onsite birthday parties, while the mobile petting zoo’s 12–15 staff-supervised animals offer nuzzles and create memories in children's minds. The creatures also hit the road for the animal-encounters program, which combines hands-on animal contact with educational 45-minute presentations. The Gentle Zoo donates its proceeds from the program to its Creature Connection, Inc. nonprofit, which rehabilitates rescue animals before they participate in outreach programs for foster children and at-risk youth.
While attending Austin College, two important things happened to Kirby and Kristi Carmichael: they fell in love with art, and with each other. When Kirby moved to Italy after graduation to expand his pottery education, Kristi followed. During that time, she discovered she had a knack for majolica painting––a craft that Renaissance-era artists used to decorate vases, jars, and plates, all of which Leonardo da Vinci invented. The couple realized they had a sturdy link between their talents, and eventually returned to the United States jobless, engaged, and ready to share what they'd learned.
In October 2005, the Carmichaels opened Quiggly's Clayhouse, where potters and painters alike have since been crafting masterpieces and sharpening their skills with lessons. The studio's flexible walk-in availability encourages artists to visit whenever inspiration strikes—be it for painting pottery, sculpting clay, fusing glass, or forging mosaics. Frequent themed events also bring groups together in the name of casual creativity, including adult wheel nights, ladies’ nights, and kids’ nights.