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.
The Hall of Flame Fire Museum showcases the history of firefighting with nearly an acre's worth of exhibits and restored pieces of firefighting equipment that date as far back as 1725. Visitors can check out a Rhode Island fire engine from 1844 that was capable of pumping 250 gallons of water per minute to put out fires or 250 gallons of sarsaparilla per minute to fuel citywide block parties. The Hall's 400 fire helmet collection presents 400 protective headpieces from around the world, and in the museum's sixth gallery, the National Firefighting Hall of Heroes honors firefighters who were decorated for heroism and those who have died in the line of duty.
At Deer Valley Rock Art Center, visitors walk a quarter-mile trail that leads to thousands of Native American carvings. The ancient artwork includes more than1,500 petroglyphs, which were created between 7,000 and 500 years ago. Inside, a museum teaches about the prehistoric population who once inhabited the area.
For lunch, visitors can head over to outdoor picnic tables or an amphitheater area. They might also spot local wildlife such as roadrunners, jackrabbits, and red-tailed hawks.
Although classrooms can be vibrant centers for learning, they’re usually stocked with pencils and notebooks instead of a forest of suspended green noodles or a flying bathtub with wings. At the Children's Museum of Phoenix, both of these engage young minds alongside other hands-on exhibits that have earned the museum a glut of awards, including a place among Parents magazine’s 10 Best Children’s Museums in 2011. The museum fosters creativity and skill development in children from birth to age 10 with open-ended play activities that range from bouncing orbs in the Grand Ballroom to building forts with a wealth of safe construction materials, instead of mom’s favorite sheets and a nail gun.
Perhaps the most eye-catching feature of the museum can be found in the atrium, where the Schuff-Perini Climber soars high into the air. Created from standard building materials, found objects, and out-of-context items such as its flying bathtub, the structure entices youths and inspires their imaginations. Another impressive contraption makes up the Whoosh! exhibit, where children feed scarves into a jumble of tubes that suck the fabrics up to heights of 20 feet before spitting them out to float gently down and be caught in waiting fingers. At each of these exhibits, a baby zone keeps the tiniest museum-goers safe, and they can find a space especially for them in the Place for Threes & Younger.
When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, reports The Arizona Republic, it sparked John Edwards' passion for Star Trek. He began amassing action figures and memorabilia into a collection that has since mushroomed into the more than 13,000 toys, comic books, and posters that put the experience into the Arizona Pop Culture Experience. According to the Phoenix New Times, the nonprofit museum is divided into rooms based on heroes and stories, such as the DC room and the Marvel room. Hundreds of action figures, custom-made for John, have earned the museum top honors in the _ Phoenix New Times’_ 2010 “Best Places to See Action Figures”, and the only spot on The Action Figure Makers’ Guild Magazine’s list, “Where are All my Action Figures?”
The rest of the space covers the last 50 to 60 years of popular culture, from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and the music of The Doors to current crazes such as Twilight and Harry Potter, the saga of a wizard who relinquishes his wand to make earthenware. The museum also doubles as a comic book store where new issues hit the shelves every week.
It had been a long time since a pie was seen inside the building that once housed Bragg's Pie Factory. That is, until Bragg’s Factory Diner took up residence within the edifice listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and its chefs decided to revive the factory’s legacy by whipping up classic comfort food—using only vegetarian and vegan recipes. Pie lovers can now relive the heyday of the city's pastries with fresh, inventive desserts such as pear-mulberry cream tarts, plum tarts with a gingersnap crust, and rosemary-apple pies with crust cutouts shaped like cacti.
In addition to the diner's decadent desserts, the chefs serve up hearty yet healthy breakfast and lunch dishes. Their unique recipes put a modern spin on classic dishes, infusing waffles with a coconut-curry flavor, adding sweet corn to biscuits drizzled in poblano gravy, and remaking the reuben sandwich with portobello mushrooms. The chefs close up shop at 2 p.m., making the mint-colored, mod-meets-country-home diner the perfect spot for a lunch date or fitting in some practice before your evening pie-eating contest.