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.
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.
In 2007, the North Texas Event Center underwent a renovation that transformed a former call center into four fairytale ballrooms and a museum for classic cars. The gleaming Gull Wings, Alpha Romeos, and M6s catalyzed the project, as their owners sought a way to share their collections with the public. This desire dovetailed with the designs of city officials, who wanted to create an enduring cultural institution in Richardson and a way to see the cars without masquerading as stop signs. In order to realize this dream and reverse signs of aging in the 1980 building, contractors installed gleaming parquet floors valued at $2 million, and built out rooms with vaulted ceilings, broad stages, or bars. A crew of event planners oversees the chambers, which range from 1,883 to 14,000 square feet, and contain surprises such as 360 degrees of white drapes and a marble gazebo.
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.
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.