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Downtown McKinney is a shopping destination for antique hunters and boutique shoppers. Dozens of stores and boutigue shops are nestled around the historic Collin County Courthouse along with several restaurants ranging from sandwich shops to upscale Italian. The third Monday of each month shopping opportunities expand with the Third Monday TradeDays. Watch for annual festivals such as the JazzFest, Wild West Days and Dickens of a Christmas when the downtown merchants come together to transform the square into a pedestrian only festival with additional vendors, live entertainment and multiple diversions for the kiddies. The centerpiece of the square, the historic courthouse, how been completely renovated and is now the McKinney Performing Arts Center. There is almost always something of interest scheduled in the way of plays, musical performers and special interest series.
Step back in time with a number of tours of homes and buildings preserved from the 1800’s. Chestnut Square Historic Village offers a collection of restored homes and buildings from the 1850’s gathered into one location and open to the public for tours. Nestled in shade trees, vintage gardens offer wonderful photographic opportunities. The Heard-Craig House offers a wonderful tour of the restored home of one of McKinney’s founding families and foremost benefactors. Happy Trails Carriage Rides offers horse and buggy rides through the residential historic district surrounding the downtown square. The Collin County Museum, located in the historic Post Office building downtown, houses a collection of historic housewares and artifacts from the founding of McKinney as well as an archive of clippings and records for genealogical and other historical research. The Convention and Tourism Bureau has maps for walking tours of downtown and the adjacent historic home district.
Several historic bed and breakfasts house visitors within easy walking distance of the shops, the most notable of which is the Tartan Thistle. The Thistle is a beautifully restored neo-classical Victorian home within a few blocks of downtown. Several of the bed and breakfasts have a fascinating history in and of themselves. Thomas Bingham, the original owner of the Bingham House, was so taken by the design of a Georgia plantation he saw while there as a soldier in the Civil War that he drew a sketch of the house and had it commissioned upon his return. The Dowell House is famous for its role as the haunted house in the classic movie Benjie.
The Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary is a nature preserve dedicated to returning its land to its native flora and fauna and preserving it in that state. They have several trails that are easy, short hikes and you are almost always sure of seeing a red tailed hawk overhead. This is native Texas flora, though, so don't expect lush gardens. This part of Texas is a grassland, so that is what you will see. There is an impressive rehabilitation center for injured raptors. The main building houses an interesting exhibit on one of McKinney's most philantropically prolific benefactors, Bessie Heard. An independent woman, she led pioneering efforts in conservation and beautification well before they were buzzwords.