heard natural science museum and wildlife sanctuary

McKinney is a city in north Texas that sits in the Dallas suburbs. It has a long history and was once the largest town in Collin County, of which it is the county seat. It has a thriving community with a historic downtown and many parks and outdoor places for you to explore as the summer approaches. You can enjoy getting out on hiking and biking trails, playing sports like softball and volleyball, and picnicking with your family. If you are looking for some fun things to do outside in McKinney, then here is a list to get you started.

Erwin Park

Erwin Park is located to the north of McKinney, just 17 minutes by car from the historic downtown. This 212- acre park is a popular spot for hiking and biking, with 10 miles of mountain-biking paths to explore. This loop trail is rated as moderate, and takes you through natural wooded areas, expanses of open fields, and features a river where you can fish. In the spring and early summer the fields team with wildflowers, while the native hardwood forests provide a welcome respite from the sun. The bike trail is maintained by the Dallas Off-Road Bicycle Association.

Amenities at the park include three picnic pavilions, one of which has electricity, two restroom facilities, several playgrounds, 10 designated campfire sites, and two bike repair stations with air pumps and tools for minor repairs. You’ll also find nine campsites where you can rent a spot to pitch a tent or camp from your car. The pavilions are reservable on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and first-come-first-serve the rest of the week. Erwin Park is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The bike path is single-lane, so go in a clockwise direction to keep with the flow of traffic.

Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary

The Heard is a 289-acre nature preserve and museum that offers many events and programs to help people connect with, learn about, and enjoy nature. It’s located just 10 minutes south of downtown McKinney, making it convenient and easy to get to. The admission cost is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and children over three, while children two and under are free. General admission will get you access to their hiking trails, native gardens, and permanent and seasonal exhibits. They are closed on Mondays, open from 1-4 p.m. on Sundays and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. the rest of the week.

One of their exhibits is the Pioneer Village, a collection of eight outdoor playhouses where children can learn about life on the prairie in the late 1800s while playing in this child-sized village. Not included in the Heard’s general admission but worth checking out if you’re feeling adventurous is their zip-lining and ropes course. Trained instructors will ensure that you have a fun, safe, and unique experience. Looking for something more mellow? A stroll through their native plant gardens will have you relaxed and learning about the local plant life. The butterfly garden features a changing selection of native butterflies.

Towne Lake Recreation Area

Located just over 2 miles from downtown Mckinney, Towne Lake Recreation Area offers you many ways to participate in outdoor activities. If you have kids be sure to check out the large play structures that include two giant slides and a climbing wall to keep children active and engaged. For the frisbee enthusiasts, there is an 18-hole disc golf course accessed by a bridge over Wilson Creek which also runs through the course creating a more challenging, interesting course. Nearby you’ll find the Grady Littlejohn Softball and Baseball Complex, which offers six lighted fields as well as facilities and concessions.

Towne Lake itself is a 22-acre lake that offers fishing from the pier, and paddle boat rentals so you can get out on the water. A 1.3-mile hiking and biking trail through grass and shady trees circle the lake. You’ll find plenty of picnic shelters to stop along the way and enjoy a picnic as you take in the serene views. Look for geese and ducks that frequent the lakeside, and turtles can be seen sitting on floating logs. There are also sand volleyball courts you can use to play games, as well as horseshoe pitching courts.

Third Monday Trade Days

If shopping is more your thing than sports you’ll want to check out McKinney’s Third Monday Trade Days. This long-running outdoor trade days and flea market happens on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday before the third Monday of each month throughout the year. It is the oldest and largest event of its kind in North Texas, with over 400 vendors selling everything from cute clothing and country-fair style food, to unique antiques, original art, and much more. You’ll find it located in the historic Buckner neighborhood, just 10 minutes from downtown McKinney.

If you’re looking for a special gift, why not support local makers and traders while giving something unique? Look for small-batch soaps and body products, handmade metal earrings and other jewelry, and even handcrafted wooden dog homes for the special dog-lover in your life. Amenities include ATMs, restrooms, mobility cart rentals, and an 18-acre parking lot that is free on Friday and after 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Parking is only $5 the rest of the time. The Trade Days opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 4 p.m. on Friday and 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

McKinney is a great place to live, surrounded by parks and nature, with the big city life only a short drive away. So if you’re lucky enough to call it home then why not get out and take advantage of the many outdoor activities that are available to you. Whether you love playing some sports, riding your bike, or taking a leisurely morning stroll in a beautiful setting, there’s somewhere in McKinney to do it. Here at Huffines Kia Mckinney, we’d love you to tell us which activity on this list has you excited for summer. 

Image via Flickr by Judy Gallagher


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