The Best Things to Do in Historic Downtown McKinney in 2024

Did you know that Historic Downtown McKinney is one of the oldest and largest historic districts in Texas?

If you haven’t visited yet, I think you’re going to fall in love with the charm of this historic downtown area. And if you’ve already been, then you probably know what I mean by that!

Here I hope to give you a glimpse into all that it has to offer.

This guide will cover parking, the best ways to get around, and the best things to do in Historic Downtown McKinney.

Historic Downtown McKinney

First off, McKinney is the third largest city in Collin County TX, just after Plano and Frisco.

Its historic downtown, meanwhile, derives its rich atmosphere from its history, small-town vibes, and beautiful storefronts.

The town has been around since 1849 but blends its history with contemporary shops and attractions to provide something for all its visitors.

Historic Downtown McKinney is home to over 120 shops, from boutique clothing stores and home decor shops to art galleries and local breweries.

With dozens of restaurants, cafes, and pubs, you’ll have plenty of eateries to choose from.

Whether you just want to stroll around its charming square or participate in an activity (like catching a show at the theater or taking a pottery class), Historic Downtown McKinney is perfect for both!

And it is a perfect place to visit for both daytime explorations and nightlife thrills. There are many fun things to do here with friends, your significant other, or your family.

Getting Around Historic Downtown McKinney

The easiest way to get to Historic Downtown McKinney is by car or rideshare.

It’s located about 33 miles north of Dallas (roughly 32-52 minutes away, depending on traffic), 34 miles away from DFW International Airport, and 35 miles from Dallas Love Field Airport.

But once you arrive, the best way to see this area is simply by walking. It’s an incredibly walkable town square with its shops organized around the McKinney Performing Arts Center. Most shops and restaurants are located on Virginia St, Louisiana St, Kentucky St, and Tennessee St.

If you get tired of walking, there used to be a free shuttle called the DASH, standing for Downtown Area Shuttle. (It was a six-passenger shuttle service that did on-demand pick-ups and drop-offs within the Cultural District.) At the time of writing, the DASH is unfortunately unavailable, but check here for any updates!

Parking in Historic Downtown McKinney

There is plenty of free parking around the town square.

Many street parking spots are “three for free,” where you can park for three hours. There are also 13 uncovered public parking lots where you can park all day. Additionally, there are two covered parking garages located to the north and south of the square on Davis Street and Chestnut Street.

You can learn more about parking here!

Now that we’ve covered the basics, here’s a list of the best things to do in Historic Downtown McKinney. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’ll show you some of the neatest spots and shops. Let’s get to it!

The Best Things to Do in Historic Downtown McKinney

Honestly, this is my favorite town square out of all I’ve visited in Texas.

Each time we go to Historic Downtown McKinney, we are greeted by adorable storefronts, friendly people, and a ton of things to do!

Here are the best things to do in Historic Downtown McKinney this year.

Explore Art Galleries

There are a few art galleries in Historic Downtown McKinney, like Last Art Gallery and Kim Guthrie Art Studio. You can also take art classes at the nearby McKinney Art House.

You’ll find a variety of art styles and mediums.

Take A Pottery Class

You can try your hand at crafting your own pottery at Walls of Clay pottery studio. Don’t worry if you’re not very good at throwing clay; the instructors will help you and make sure you go home with a piece you love! You’ll even get to select colors; they’ll fire the clay and paint it for you!

This is a great activity to do as a date, an activity with kids, or with friends.

Dine in Historic Downtown McKinney

The best part about dining in Historic Downtown McKinney (in my opinion) is that many eateries here serve up farm-to-table style food with locally sourced ingredients.

Our favorite food stop in Historic Downtown McKinney is Square Burger. It’s right near the center of the square and has a really cool aesthetic. You can enjoy your burger while surrounded by a mosaic of blue and white tiles with classy, tall ceilings – you don’t find that everywhere! (I love to get the parmigiana burger salad-style!)

But there’s a wide variety of food options: barbecue, Cuban food, Pizza, sushi – you name it!

Some of Historic Downtown McKinney’s best restaurants include:

  • Harvest
  • Rick’s Chophouse
  • Local Yocal BBQ & Grill
  • Cadillac Pizza Pub
  • The Guava Tree Cuban Cafe & Cantina
  • Hugs Cafe

Grab a Sweet Treat

Finish off your meal with some dessert! Stop into Miruku Creamery for ice cream made in small batches from local ingredients! They only have a few flavors at a time, but that’s because they’ve been perfected.

Layered serves up yummy pastries alongside their cafe fare and coffee menu. The last time I went in, I got a giant rice krispy treat and it was delicious!

Looking for sweets with a twist? In Historic Downtown McKinney you can get something you won’t likely find anywhere else… alcohol-infused ice cream! At Cocktail Creamery, you’ll find flavors like White Chocolate Macamania (infused with macadamia nut liqueur) or Salted Butter Caramel Crazy (infused with Baileys and caramel bourbon whiskey)!

Browse Apparel and Jewelry Boutiques

There is no shortage of trendy boutiques in Historic Downtown McKinney! You’ll find a wide variety of styles and a wide variety of price points.

Some of my favorite apparel and jewelry boutiques include:

  • Sharla’s (pictured above)
  • Willow House Boutique (I got my baby shower dress here!)
  • Landry Kate
  • The Little Red Hen
  • Now that I’m a mom, I love stores that sell baby items like Rockin’ AB, and Joss + J the Boutique

Go Antiquing

As you might expect from a historic square, there is great antiquing here! There are four different antique stores in Historic Downtown McKinney:

I’m a sucker for a good antique store and I love how each of these shops has its own vibe.

Also, Historic Downtown McKinney holds Third Monday Trade Days – the largest and oldest trade days in North Texas. It’s held on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday before the third Monday of each month in the historic Buckner Community.

On those days, you can shop for practically anything that various vendors sell. Clothing, antiques, accessories, food, cooking equipment, the works! You can check out more information about it here.

Shop for Home Decor

This is my personal favorite type of shop since I love home decor and interior design! There are several home decor and gift shops in Historic Downtown McKinney.

Birds & Words, Petals & Vine, and Casa Benedetta are great shops to explore. And Patina Green combines home decor with a sandwich shop if you want to do a bit of shopping and dining all in one!

Go Winery Hopping

Texas has a fascinating relationship with wine. It was home to the first vineyard in North America, which Franciscan priests planted around 1662. And it ranks fifth in wine-producing states after California, Washington, New York, and Oregon.

As a result of this Texas wine culture, it’s not surprising that there are several great places to go wine tasting in Historic Downtown McKinney:

Mitas Hill Vineyard was another great one, but they permanently closed in 2020.

I especially love Barrons Creek because we’ve been to their vineyard in Fredericksburg multiple times and I love knowing exactly where the wine is grown!

If you haven’t made a trip to the Texas Hill Country, it’s full of hidden gems like water holes, crystal clear rivers, and caves in addition to these vineyards. You can check out my Texas Hill Country road trip itinerary here.

Catch a Show at the McKinney Performing Arts Center

Can you believe the Collin County Courthouse has been around since 1876? It has since been renovated and updated to become the McKinney Performing Arts Center. It opened in 2006 and since then, entertainers have performed here in various comedy sketch shows, concerts, and other live shows.

But when you catch a show here, just know that a lot of history has happened within these walls – it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

You can see what’s on the calendar and get show tickets here!

Shop for Global Artisan Goods

As a travel blogger, some of my favorite things to buy are authentic, hand-crafted goods from all around the world. And you can find exactly that at Fair and Square Imports.

Honestly, it’s my favorite shop to explore in Downtown McKinney. It has gorgeous one-of-a-kind items from countries around the world, and its goal is to help develop the economy by buying and selling local goods.

I especially love that it helps support small-scale artisans and farmers across the globe.

Relax at a Spa

Whether you want to get your hair done, get a manicure, a massage, or another spa treatment, there are multiple places where you can do that here, including LUX McKinney, Rayfield & Company Salon and Spa, Pavitra Organic Day Spa, and Spa Esoteric.

You can also relax by doing a yoga class at North Texas Yoga. You’ll have to pre-register for a class here, and it costs $15 to do a one-time class.

Shop for a New Hat

If you’re a hat fan like I am, Historic Downtown McKinney is where you can go for a bit of hat heaven. While there are several shops that sell hats, McKinney Hat Company is my favorite!

They’ve got Stetsons, Charlie 1 Horse, and Resistol hats available to purchase.

If you’re looking to find a Derby-style hat or one-of-a-kind designs, Bay Willow Design is just a short drive away. The kind owner of this hat shop, Jenny, showed us the ins and outs of her craft. Jenny hand-makes the hats in her store using classic millinery techniques and they are brilliant! She also offers hat-making classes.

Grab a Drink

You can grab all sorts of drinks in Historic Downtown McKinney, like a pint from The Celt Irish Pub or a coffee from Filtered Craft Coffee & Culture (I love their matcha latte!). Square Burger also has a lot of different beers on tap.

We talked winery hopping a bit earlier, but if wines are not quite your thing, Tupps Brewery is worth visiting and Room One Eleven is a speakeasy at Layered that serves up delicious cocktails! You can also check out Franconia Brewing Company for their beer selections.

If you’re ever in Historic Downtown McKinney in time for Oktoberfest, you’ll definitely be in for an exciting time! It’s a celebration of local beer breweries and their traditional craft after all. You can read more about this festival here.

Picnic at Central Park

Grab some food to-go and bring it to Central Park for a little slice of nature. There’s a pavilion that is first-come-first-serve – it’s perfect for a picnic! There’s green space here that’s great for playing catch, though at .5 acres it’s not enough for a full sports game.

Enjoy the Outdoors

Erwin Park has 212 acres and large open spaces – perfect if you’re looking to enjoy the sun and the outdoors. It has 10 miles of biking trails, playgrounds, natural wooded areas – even picnic pavilions and campfire sites!

A fan of golf? You can check out Oak Hollow Golf Course, which is great for golfers regardless if you’re experienced or not!

Towne Lake Park is another option for you outdoorsy types. It has play structures, Towne Lake Disc Golf Course, a fishing pier, volleyball courts, and baseball fields as well.

Crape Myrtle Trails of McKinney World Collection is also a notable destination! This 7-acre park allows guests to see so many varieties of crape myrtle, which is a tree or shrub typically cultivated in warmer climates around the world. June and August are the ideal months to visit this place – that’s when their flowers bloom so beautifully!

Get Fresh Produce at Historic McKinney Farmer’s Market

The Historic McKinney Farmer’s Market is filled with a ton of fresh produce, meat and eggs, and specialty products. I am a big fan of handmade soaps and gluten-free treats you can find there!

The market is held at Chestnut Square Historic Village every Saturday morning. From April to December, it’s there from 8 am to noon. The hours change to 9 am to noon from January to the end of March.

(Psst! While you’re at Chestnut Square, you can check out its Heritage Village. It’s a collection of six historic homes, a chapel, a general store, and a replica of a one-room schoolhouse. The whole area feels like it’s been taken from history books!)

Visit Science Museums

Historic Downtown McKinney isn’t lacking in museums either! There are several you can visit if you want to enrich your knowledge while having fun.

There’s Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary, which is great to visit to explore nature and develop an appreciation of the environment. Visitors can go join a hiking trail to see various wildlife. They even offer night hikes! You can find more information about tickets and pricing here.

There’s also the Collin County History Museum, a place to see historical artifacts, documents, manuscripts, old newspapers, and photographs of Collin County. It also features an exhibit about Collin McKinney, one of those committee members who drafted the Texas Declaration of Independence.

Stay Overnight

If you are looking for Historic Downtown McKinney hotels, there are two fantastic places to stay overnight here: The Grand Hotel McKinney and The Neathery Estate Bed & Breakfast.

The Grand Hotel

You’ll be right in the heart of Downtown McKinney at The Grand Hotel!

The main structure at The Grand was built in 1885 and had 14 rooms in addition to the restaurant and ballroom. It has since expanded to 45 rooms and serves tasty food and drinks at Rick’s Chophouse and Harvest Seasonal Kitchen.

Fun fact: each room has a unique selection of curated art (books, textiles, artwork, and more) that you can actually purchase if you want!

Neathery Bed & Breakfast

Located just a short walk away from the square, this Bed & Breakfast is dedicated to Southern Hospitality.

There is a big emphasis placed on relaxation and refreshment with plants, fresh foods, organic spa products, and more.

And of course, what’s a B&B without a big breakfast? The Neathery serves up a multi-course breakfast with seasonal ingredients every morning.

It also has a saltwater pool that is accessible in spring, summer, and fall!

The only downside is that there are only four suites, which means they can book up quickly. Be sure to make your reservation ahead of time to increase your chances of getting a room!

In conclusion…

If you haven’t visited Historic Downtown McKinney, I don’t know what you’re waiting for!

Whether you’re a McKinney local, are escaping the hustle and bustle of Dallas, or are visiting from another state, you’re going to have a great time.

I hope this list has given you some insight into all of the things to do in Historic Downtown McKinney! If you have questions or comments, drop them below!

Also, here are some more posts you may enjoy:

Happy exploring!


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About the author
Picture of Jasmine Alley

Jasmine Alley

I'm a Dallas-based, full-time travel blogger with a serious case of wanderlust! Through my website and Instagram, I hope to help others plan picture-perfect trips to the most beautiful places in the world! When I travel, I like to emphasize nature, hidden gems, and unique places.
Picture of Jasmine Alley

Jasmine Alley

I'm a Dallas-based, full-time travel blogger with a serious case of wanderlust! Through my website and Instagram, I hope to help others plan picture-perfect trips to the most beautiful places in the world! When I travel, I like to emphasize nature, hidden gems, and unique places.
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