Head about 40 minutes north of Downtown Dallas, and you will find one of the most incredible cities in Texas, McKinney, TX. What started as a small settlement in the mide-1800s has blossomed into a beautiful and unique town just waiting to be explored. Brimming with small-town charm, McKinney is a great juxtaposition between historic and modern.
A visit to Downtown McKinney immerses you in a modern art and culinary scene while being surrounded by glorious historic buildings. Venture outside of Downtown McKinney and you find a city that embraces nature and the beauty of our Texas landscape, welcoming its residents and visitors to explore the great outdoors. This contrast is the perfect setting for a romantic weekend getaway.
Marty and I discovered so many great things to do in McKinney and we are so excited to share them with you! Keep reading and you will see why we think McKinney, TX is a MUST-VISIT Texas town!
Disclaimer- We were invited by Visit McKinney to feature their city. As always, the opinions expressed are unbiased and honest based upon our experience during the trip.
Where to Stay in McKinney
While there are many choices when considering where to stay in McKinney, we recommend staying at Springhill Suites by Marriott.
Springhill Suites is conveniently located right off of South Central Expressway, making it perfect to explore Downtown McKinney, Adriatica in McKinney, Towne Lake Park, and more.
One of the first things I noticed was all of the great parking that the hotel provided. Upon entering the building, we were greeted by a friendly staff member that was very attentive to our needs and even offered us an upgrade to the top floor. The reception area was large and very clean. The hotel also had a large “pantry” area containing all sorts of snacks, cold drinks, and necessities for sale.
In addition to this, there were several tables and areas to sit in this communal space. This area is also where the free breakfast is served every morning. Springhill Suites is offering a “grab-and-go” breakfast right now (due to the pandemic) which consists of things like fruit, packaged muffins, cereal, breakfast bars, and individually wrapped biscuit sandwiches. Of course, you can also get fresh hot coffee, hot tea, juice and milk, making this a delicious way to start your day!
After a quick and easy check-in, Marty and I were on our way to our room. I love that all of the rooms at Springhill Suites are exactly what the name says, suites. You enter into a cozy sitting area complete with a couch and a desk/workspace before entering the bedroom area. There is also a small refrigerator, a microwave, and a coffee station. All of the comforts of home!
The bathroom at Springhill Suites is a good size and contains plenty of counter space to utilize (which I love). They also offer Paul Mitchell Tea Tree bath products which smell heavenly! Matter of fact, we now use these same products at home thanks to Springhill!
The hotel also offers a gym, and outdoor pool, and a great outdoor sitting area complete with a fire pit and 2 gas grills. We love staying with Springhill Suites and are members of the Marriott Bonvoy rewards program because they are such a great brand.
Things to do in McKinney: Downtown McKinney
Historic Downtown McKinney began as a small settlement in 1841, and then became the county seat for Collin County in 1849.
The town experienced an economic boom in 1872 when the town found itself on part of the Houston and Texas Central Railroad lines, allowing the farmers to quickly get their cash crops to market. While the crops included grain and corn, the true moneymaking crop was cotton.
The economic insurgence attracted other businesses to the area like banks, retail stores, newspapers, and even telephone exchange centers, thus developing the downtown McKinney area. Many of these buildings are still in existence today and illustrate a seamless co-existing between historic and modern in McKinney’s downtown area.
Enough about the history! You are here to read about all of the great things that McKinney has to offer for you and your sweetie, so let’s get to it!
Head to the McKinney Visitor’s Center
Start your weekend by getting to know the city a little bit. The McKinney Visitor’s Center is the perfect place to explore the great things to do in McKinney.
We always begin our research by visiting the city’s tourism website, and lucky for us, Visit McKinney has a plethora of information. The Visit McKinney website allows you to discover McKinney based upon your interest. There are links to local business, suggestions of where to stay, shop, and eat, and printable maps to help you along the way.
Of course, popping into the visitor’s center allows you to chat with the local experts and get information on their favorite spots in town to visit as well, so be sure to pop in, say “hi”, and ask for some recommendations.
Take a Food Tour in Historic Downtown McKinney
When we visit a new place, we love learning about the history and culture of the area. Understanding the history helps to bring the city to life by helping you connect to the roots of the town. And, of course, part of learning an area’s culture always includes learning about the food!
Well, friends, there is no better way to combine a little history with a lot of food than a great food tour, and lucky for us, Food Walks of Texas is happy to provide this service!
Lali and “Tall Paul” Miles founded Food Walks of Texas in 2017. Their desire to share their love for McKinney and the community’s food scene shines through as “Tall Paul” warmly greets you and takes you on a guided tour around Downtown McKinney.
We participated in the Historic Downtown McKinney Food Tour and had a great time with Paul and our four other new friends. During our tour, we had amazing food and cocktail samples from six of McKinney’s fabulous eateries.
If I can give you a word of advice…COME HUNGRY! Our tour started with a fabulous ham sandwich from Patina Green. I know you are probably thinking, “Really, Michelle, a ham sandwich?” YES! This is not an ordinary ham sandwich. This sandwich was named ‘The Best Sandwich in Texas’ by the Food Network, and it really is an incredible ham sandwich. Different from any ham sandwich I have ever had!
This is the perfect example of the surprises that McKinney has in store for you. It truly is a little gem of a city!
I don’t want to give away the entire food tour. Just know that you are going to visit some fun establishments, eat great and learn some interesting history about McKinney. Not only that, but you will probably make some new friends as well!
In addition to the Historic Food Tour, Food Walks of Texas also offers a Quarantini Cocktail Tour, a Brunch Tour, and a Farmer’s Market Walking Tour.
Go On a Shopping Spree in Downtown McKinney
Shopping is definitely one of the top things to do in McKinney. The shops in Downtown McKinney include cute boutique clothing stores, awesome home furnishing stores, antique shops, specialty shops, jewelry shops, and loads of places to pick up some sweet treats and other culinary goodies.
All of this variety means that it is easy to spoil your significant other during your romantic weekend in McKinney.
Head into Fair & Square Imports to find the perfect handmade gift, or to the Spice & Tea Exchange to find some unique spices to take home with you. The Groovy Coop is another fun store with an eclectic feel that is full of nostalgia from the 1960s and 70s.
Antique lovers will feel right at home in the Antique Company Mall where you are sure to find the perfect little treasure. While you are browsing items from the past, do not miss the opportunity to visit Barron’s. Not only is Barron’s full of nostalgic treasures, but the building itself is a treasure. Be sure to pop in to view all of the great estate jewelry and to check out the bank vault that is located in the rear of the store.
Do a Fun or Romantic Photo Shoot in Downtown McKinney
Downtown McKinney is full of great places to capture the perfect photo of you and your sweetie. You can hire a photographer or do what we did and grab a tripod to help you take your pictures.
We had so much fun exploring the streets of downtown, looking for the perfect photo opportunities.
The numerous murals around McKinney are a great starting point. On the south wall of Cadillac Pizza, you will find a great piece highlighting McKinney’s history. This mural shows McKinney’s past with the cotton industry and some of the popular Texas wildflowers. On the north wall of The Guava Tree restaurant, there is a colorful “Viva McKinney” mural. (It’s hot pink, so it’s hard to miss!)
A great mosaic mural adorns the side of the parking garage located on the north side of downtown. There are two large wall murals in town also. One is in the alley next to Fair and Square and the other is across Louisiana on the same alley. There is also a fun mural inside of Red Zeppelin Records.
In addition to all of the murals we just mentioned, there are other great areas for photos as well. The historic brick buildings make for a great backdrop as do the stairs that are located on N. Tennessee Street in between Barrons and the Local Yocal.
We also found that the iron gates behind the old jail make for a great backdrop as does the fountain and nature in the Dr. Glen Mitchell Memorial Park.
Head to our Instagram page to see the highlights of our trip to McKinney and some of these photos.
Find Some Treats at the Saturday Farmer’s Market
Be sure and leave your Saturday morning open so that you can make your way to McKinney’s Saturday Farmer’s Market. Located in Chestnut Square, the Farmer’s Market features specialty items from numerous vendors for you to enjoy.
The market features handmade and one-of-a-kind products like artwork, jams, baked goods, and honey, as well as a wide variety of locally-grown fruits and vegetables. Several of the vendors offer free samples and are more than happy to chat with you about their products.
In addition to all of this, there are several pop-up restaurants and food trucks. We loved trying the African beignets, also known as puff puffs. They were very different from a beignet that you get in New Orleans, but we loved them just the same!
Tour Chestnut Square
If you found the Saturday Farmer’s Market, then you found Chestnut Square. If not, then just head a couple of blocks south of Downtown McKinney and you will find it.
Stepping into Chestnut Square quickly transports you back to the early days of McKinney. Here you will find yourself surrounded by historic homes, an old school, a chapel, a general store, and an old boarding house.
Not only do you get to see the historic buildings, but you also get to see how everyday life was as volunteers dress in period costumes and put on demonstrations for visitors.
Do a Wine Tasting
Your sweetie will love spending time with you in one of McKinney’s fabulous wineries.
Lucky for you, McKinney has a few wineries in the downtown area for you to visit. Lone Star Cellars is a fabulous little winery highlighting Texas wines. Here you can try one of their flights or order a glass and a great food item to accompany it. We loved the atmosphere of this cozy winery, and the service was top-notch. Be sure and check out the live music that Lone Star showcases on the weekends.
McKinney is also home to Landon Winery. Here you can sample your way through their wide variety of award-winning wines. Landon’s great selection of reds, whites, dry wines, and sweet wines will ensure that you and your sweetie both find a wine to enjoy. Pair their wines with a great charcuterie board while you sit on their patio on the McKinney Square under the warm Texas sun!
A recent addition to the Downtown McKinney is 4R Ranch Winery. Offering a nice selection of reds, whites, and rose wine, 4R Ranch is sure to delight any Texas wine lover. We also love visiting their vineyards in Muenster, TX. The views from their deck are incredible!
Check Out an Art Gallery
Did you know that McKinney is a thriving art community? It is true! There are several art galleries and studios located here.
While you are visiting Downtown McKinney, be sure to stop by the LAST Art Gallery. LAST prides itself on displaying the work of dozens of local artists. Pick out the perfect painting for your home, or buy your sweetie a pair of hand-made earrings while visiting.
In addition to all of the great art on display, LAST also has studio space. If you’re lucky, there might be an artist there working when you visit! They also offer art classes and workshops. Now, that would be a fun date for sure!
Enjoy Some “Adult” Ice Cream
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream, right?! Well, you will scream for this ice cream for sure. Especially when I tell you that this is an “adults-only” ice cream!
Why? Well, you see, the ice cream that husband and wife team, Ted and Sharyn, turn out is infused with booze! Yes, you read that correctly, boozy ice cream! This means that you have to be 21 to partake in the ice cream in this shop. (They do offer non-alcoholic chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, too.)
You will find the Cocktail Creamery inside of The Pantry Restaurant in Downtown McKinney. Once inside, you can witness for yourself how great their alcohol-infused ice cream really is. They use only the best, freshest ingredients to make their homemade ice cream, and then hit it with high-quality liquor prior to freezing it, creating incredibly rich and delicious ice cream.
After checking out the chalkboard menu, ask for a tasting of a flavor or two if you are undecided. I know we certainly did! Actually, I was THE FIRST one to try Ted’s latest creation, “What’s Up Doc.” This creation consisted of carrot cheesecake ice cream infused with Captain Morgan spiced rum. It was delicious!
I also tried the following flavors: Eat a Peach, Salted Butter Caramel Crazy, Jack and Coke, Butter Bourbon Pecanator, Almond Joyfully Delicious, Apple Schtroodle, and Maple Bourbon Baconator. Needless to say, I was pretty full after all of these samples, so I settled on a small scoop of Salted Butter Caramel Crazy.
Marty was going dairy-free during our visit, so he sampled the sorbets. He noted that his favorites were the Bullfrog (lime) and the Spiked Melon.
Cocktail Creamery is such a fun place, making it one of the unique things to do in McKinney that has to be on your list!
Play Games at Arcade 92
I am going to show my age a little here, but Marty and I were definitely part of the arcade generation. I remember spending hours (and a load of quarters) playing Pinball, Ms. Pac-Man, and Dig-Dug!
That is why we had to include a visit to Arcade 92 during our time in McKinney!
Arcade 92 is even better than the arcades of old. For you see, you pay one admission fee and then you get to play unlimited games for the rest of the day. Yes, you read that correctly- the rest of the day! They give you a wristband once you purchase your admission. This wristband allows you to come and go for the entire day. How cool is that?!
We had a great time playing all of the nostalgic arcade games. I think I even beat Marty a couple of times. LOL!
What makes this place even better is that Arcade 92 becomes an “adults-only” (over 18) arcade after 9 p.m. on Saturdays.
They also offer a full bar and a kitchen that turns out yummy treats like pizza and nachos and desserts, too, so come hungry.
Bond Over Some Great Cocktails
After a fun day exploring Downtown McKinney with your sweetie, relax over some fabulous cocktails. Now, I don’t know about you, but I LOVE a good craft cocktail.
Without a doubt, CT Provisions served up some of the best cocktails we have ever had!
We had the pleasure of visiting CT Provisions on a Friday evening. Walking in, I immediately fell in love with this place. The sophisticated 1920s atmosphere was right up my alley. From the Edison-style lights hanging on the wall to the copper-lined wall behind the bar, it is as if CT Provisions allowed me to step back in time to the days of speakeasies, flapper dresses, and prohibition. I was hooked!
After finding the perfect seat at the bar, we were immediately greeted by Matt, the Head Barman (who I now say is my favorite bartender ever). Matt wowed us with his mixology skills for several hours that evening as he created several amazing cocktails for us. I love the fact that I could just tell him a flavor profile that I liked, and he would mix me up an awesome concoction.
At one point, we ordered the house dessert, “chocolate”, and I asked Matt to hook me up a cocktail that would pair well with it. I honestly do not know what he made, but it paired perfectly with the rich chocolate ganache dessert.
Of course, they have a cocktail menu as well. The featured drinks during our visit were awesome. They included the Sazerac, an Old-Fashioned, a Buck Nasty (vodka, ginger beer, lime, and soda), the Loose Lips (Rittenhouse Rye, Drambuie, fresh citrus, and honey), and more!
Honestly, I am still dreaming of these cocktails!
We enjoyed several hours at CT Provisions, bonding with Matt over our love for New Orleans, making new friends with the other guests at the bar, and learning all about CT Provisions and the town of McKinney.
I must say that this was the perfect ending to the first day of our romantic weekend in McKinney.
Downtown McKinney Restaurants
Of course, your romantic weekend in McKinney has to include some of the FABULOUS Downtown McKinney Restaurants.
I do not know if you noticed, but I really stressed the word FABULOUS there. This town is a foodie’s paradise (and we would know because we are foodies for sure)! Everything we ate in McKinney was great.
Marty and I agreed that we would make a special trip to McKinney just to eat at the Downtown McKinney Restaurants!
Located one block off the square, Cadillac Pizza is a favorite local hangout, and after only one visit, we could see why. Walking into Cadillac Pizza, you find yourself surrounded by an exposed brick building with great windows, a big bar, and several cool neon signs. The vibe really reminded me of New Orleans!
Looking around, I noticed some interesting old items hanging from the ceiling that looked like pulleys. I later found out that this building was previously home to a newspaper and these items were used in the printing process. That made me love this place even more.
Cadillac Pizza has a wide selection of cocktails and beer in addition to a great menu. Of course, Marty wanted to open with a pretzel (you know we try them everywhere) so I had to pair it with a great Hefeweizen from Altstadt Brewery in Fredericksburg. The pretzel was different than any other we have ever had. It was a little denser, but super chewy and loaded with melted butter and salt. The pretzel is served with spicy house-made mustard and a delicious marinara sauce. We would definitely order it again.
In addition to our pretzel, we had to try one of their pizzas. Cadillac Pizza uses only locally sourced ingredients to make pizzas, including homemade dough and all-natural sauce. While they have some cool pizza combinations, for this trip we chose the All-American, which was loaded with pepperoni, bacon, Italian sausage, fontina cheese, and mozzarella. The wood-fired pizza tasted amazing and was the perfect size for the two of us to share. We even had leftovers of our pretzel and pizza!
Be sure and check out their happy hour specials and their live music lineup as well.
Celt Irish Pub
The Celt Irish Pub is another one of the great downtown McKinney restaurants. Walking into The Celt put a smile on our faces immediately. Marty and I looked at each other and said, “This reminds me so much of our time in Scotland and Ireland.”
You could tell that the building itself carried an awesome history with its exposed brick and old wooden staircase. Doing some research, I discovered that I was right. This building was a brothel in the late 1800s! The entire atmosphere was exactly like some of the pubs that we experienced in Dublin, making us feel right at home.
The menu at the Celt did not disappoint either. We immediately saw all of our Irish favorites: fish and chips, the full Irish breakfast, shepherd’s pie, Guinness Irish stew, and bangers and mash.
Since we were visiting for brunch, I chose the full Irish breakfast. Let me warn you, this is a lot of food! The Full Irish consists of two bangers (sausages), two eggs, bacon (ham), sautéed tomatoes and mushrooms, hash browns, toast, and baked beans. It was delicious.
Since we were visiting for brunch, I chose the full Irish breakfast. Let me warn you, this is a lot of food! The Full Irish consists of two bangers (sausages), two eggs, bacon (ham), sautéed tomatoes and mushrooms, hash browns, toast, and baked beans. It was delicious.
Marty went for the fish and chips. This plate consists of one (on the small order) or two (the large order) pieces of fresh Icelandic cod dipped in a house beer batter served up with chips (French fries) and homemade tartar sauce. Marty and I agree that the fish and chips was awesome! The batter is crisp and the fish is flaky and fried to perfection!
The Celt Irish Pub is definitely one of the fun things to do in McKinney!
Now I know we mentioned CT Provisions above, but that was for cocktails. Now, let’s talk about why CT Provision is one of the must-visit Downtown McKinney restaurants.
Offering a handcrafted menu using fresh, seasonal ingredients, CT Provisions will have your taste buds singing. According to the CT Provisions website, Executive Chef Carlos Mancera focuses on the need to “nurture our local farm relationships.” This relationship is apparent in the dishes that you experience at CT Provisions.
A meal at CT Provisions offers you the opportunity to enjoy a Chef Mancera’s spin on late 1920s American cuisine. During our visit, the menu consisted of items such as raw oysters, delicious small plates like crisp chicken, fresh seasonal salads, TX Wagyu Bavette steak, Cornish game hen, and a bone-in Duroc pork chop, and other incredible sounding season dishes.
We were delighted to see that CT Provisions offers happy hour specials that include not only drink specials, but also specials on a selection of their oysters and small plates.
Marty and I had the pleasure of enjoying a Sunday brunch at CT Provisions. Our meal started with a fabulous mimosa and a great little pot of French Press coffee. For food, we selected the French toast and the steak and eggs.
Friends, when I tell you this brunch was incredible, I am not exaggerating! First off, the French toast is the perfect food to feature on your Instagram. Two pieces of perfectly grilled bread were layered together with a delicious vanilla cream cheese, citrus zest mixture, and topped with Chantilly cream and an assortment of fresh berries. After snapping the perfect pictures, we then poured a house-made pecan syrup on top. Perfection!
The steak melted in your mouth and was accompanied by farm fresh eggs, amazing home potatoes, and a tomatillo chimichurri.
It is apparent that everything created at CT Provisions is curated with a love for the ingredients. From the perfectly crafted cocktails to the amazing food, this is definitely a restaurant that we will visit repeatedly!
Things to do in McKinney: Outside of Downtown
While you could easily spend your entire romantic weekend in Downtown McKinney, we suggest that you venture out a little as well. There are many other great places to explore in McKinney that are not found in the downtown area.
Painting With a Twist McKinney
A super fun activity to add to your romantic weekend in McKinney is to take your sweetie on a date at Painting With a Twist. Grab your favorite beverage (adult beverages are welcome) and head about 10 minutes from Downtown McKinney to make this date happen.
Painting With a Twist is a fun venue that allows you to sip your favorite beverage while you enjoy painting your own masterpiece. Don’t worry, there is a teacher there guiding your painting along during the process. It is super fun and not hard at all, so don’t overthink it.
Painting With a Twist McKinney hosts several fun events, including a “date night”, which is the activity we did. The studio provides everything you will need to create a great masterpiece, including the canvas, painting supplies, and step-by-step instructions. Head to their website to see their calendar of paintings you can create.
We had the best time with our artist, Cody, doing one of their couple’s canvases. Cody jokingly walked us through creating two separate canvases that when put together made a complete work of art. It was so fun to see how Marty and I tackled the painting completely differently, yet we wound up with a cute and complementary work of art.
Adriatica in McKinney
Did you know you could experience a little taste of Europe in McKinney, TX? It’s true!
Adriatica in McKinney is a European-style village located right in McKinney. This picturesque community is the perfect addition to your list of things to do in McKinney.
Allow the cobblestone streets and the European architecture to serve as the perfect backdrop for your romantic weekend in McKinney. Time in Adriatica could easily include a couples photo shoot (thanks to the awesome scenery), followed by lunch or dinner at one of the many restaurants that call this area home. Top off the day with a little wine from Zin Zen and you have the perfect day in Adriatica in McKinney.
Towne Lake Recreational Area
For another great escape outside of the Downtown McKinney area, head to Towne Lake Recreational Area. This park has a large lake with a fishing pier, numerous trails, and a playground area.
If you are into sports, Towne Lake is the place to be. You can challenge your sweetie to the disc golf course, a game of volleyball, or compete to see who is best at horseshoes as Towne Lake has them all.
You could explore this recreation area for days and still not cover all 108-acres!
Final Thoughts on our Romantic Weekend in Downtown McKinney
I hope we have shown how easy it is to have a great time in McKinney. There are truly so many things to do in McKinney that you could easily stay a week or longer! Whether you are exploring Downtown McKinney’s fabulous restaurants and shopping, trying your hand at painting, or getting out in nature, McKinney has something for everyone.
I know that we have only scratched the surface of all of the things that we want to see and do in McKinney. We will definitely be visiting again!
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About the Author
Michelle Snell is a travel writer, history buff, wine lover, and enthusiast of different cultures. While she is a professional educator by day, her passion for travel has her jet-setting all over the world during her free time.
Michelle enjoys bringing places to life through her informative writing style on her blog, That Texas Couple. Her practical tips and suggestions help make travel dreams a reality while immersing her readers in the history, culture, and food of a region. She is happiest sipping wine in Italy or chilling on a beach with her husband, Marty.