Collin County Suburb Snapshots :: McKinney

what is mckinney tx like?Are you moving to McKinney? This is for you. Do you live here and are just looking for something new to do? This guide to McKinney is also for you! We have lived in southwest McKinney for over four years now, in the area that is often referred to as the four corners: where McKinney, Frisco, Allen, and Plano meet. We, along with many others moving to McKinney, live in one city but feed into the schools of another. So we are of the many who can call McKinney home, but attend Frisco ISD.

The family lifestyle of McKinney is really the drawing point for many who are moving to McKinney. If there was one thing I would want someone to know about McKinney it is that you can always find a family-friendly activity to do. We spend a lot of our weekends hunting new parks, trying out breakfast spots (our favorite is Starwood), and checking out events that are always going on. I really am amazed at how many parks there are in McKinney. Most every neighborhood has them and then the city of McKinney has created these amazing playgrounds everywhere you go. We are an outside family, but a low-effort, outside family, which makes a park the perfect adventure for us.  

When we were looking at different neighborhoods to live in when considering moving to McKinney, we really lucked out. We had never heard about Stonebridge Ranch’s amazing little world, Tucker Hills’ big plans for the future, or any other neighborhood for that matter. We knew that we wanted exemplary schools and a house we could grow into. We got both and so much more. The neighborhood we live in is Brookstone; we back up to four or five other neighborhoods on all sides and have friends in each of them. We are in walking distance to the elementary school our kids will attend; we can actually stand on the front lawn and see the school, which is a major perk found to moving to McKinney. The houses and schools are SO close that you can truly walk your babes to school.

I know I keep bringing it up, but the hidden gems around us are the parks. We can walk to four different parks within five minutes, including the elementary school’s park. Bonus: there are so many walking paths and trails around us. Make sure to check here and see if you are living on one of the many trails in McKinney. In our neighborhood, there is a mom’s group that meets every other week or so. If your neighborhood doesn’t have a FB page or a moms group within it, start one! Keep it simple: meet at the park or go for a walk, just do yourself (and other moms) a favor and get out there.

Below is a guide to McKinney and some of our favorite spots:

McKinney Date Night Spots 

Downtown McKinney 

  • Rick’s Chop House Rick’s is on the main four streets of the square in downtown McKinney. It is the perfect date night or day date spot. We have been for lunch and dinner and neither disappointed. If you want a relaxed atmosphere where you feel a bit fancy, then Rick’s is for you. They have a great bar in the back where you can get comfy in a big leather chair and pick one of their amazing cocktails. There is something for everyone and every budget.
  • Harvest Harvest is a fabulous farm-to-table restaurant supporting local business all over McKinney. Owned by the same people as Rick’s, Harvest is the perfect girls’ night spot. Harvest is the place we always take people who come in from out of town. You are greeted with a very knowledgable staff and so many yummy and creative food combos. They have a very cool drink list as well. Because it is a seasonal kitchen, items on the menu are always changing, but you know that the staples will always be there.
  • Sugar Bacon Sugar Bacon is one of the newer restaurants in downtown McKinney. They combine creativity with a bit of southern comfort. I will be the first to tell you, being from New Orleans, I am very hesitant to try certain southern dishes, such as shrimp and grits. I have had theirs a few times and enjoyed it each and every time. They have a really great wine list, including wines I don’t typically find other places. If you are looking for a casual, but yummy date night or girls’ night, then I highly recommend you check out Sugar Bacon. Every time I have been, we end up spending hours after the meal just sitting and talking; their environment just invites you to hang and stay awhile!
  • Square Burger Square Burger is not your average burger joint. They have so many cool spins on the regular old burger! Their sweet potato fries are so yummy, and come with an aioli that is magical. They have more than burgers, too—I have had one of the best pork chops ever from there. Make sure you end your meal with a yummy ice cream cookie sandwich!
  • Movie House & Eatery If we are not venturing to downtown McKinney where the choices are endless, then we hop down 121 to Movie House. What is better than sitting in a comfy seat (that you can adjust to your personal comfort) and eating things like soft pretzel sticks dipped in queso, or French fries covered in bacon, corn relish, sour cream, and queso? I have even taken myself here on a “me date” after dropping my kids at school and explored their brunch menu. Make it a family date or take one of your kids for a special time; their kids’ menu doesn’t disappoint, either. Movie House is definitely the most versatile movie theater I’ve ever been to, and I actually haven’t gone anywhere else since it opened!

McKinney Sweet Shops

  • Nom Nom’s Ice Cream Handmade ice cream—yum. They get creative in their flavors, too: triple chocolate, Samoa and Thin Mint (so you get the Girl Scout cookie season for a whole lot longer), and so many more! You can get pints to go or even try out one of their yummy popsicle flavors. Nom Nom’s has never let my sweet tooth down!
  • Nothing Bundt Cakes Not much needs to be said here…think small individual bundt cakes of varying flavors with yummy cream cheese icing. The End. Oh, and they give you an excuse to go in each month for their new flavor sample!
  • Andy’s Frozen Custard There is a lot to love about Andy’s. The fact that you don’t have to get out of your car is a big win for me. Drive-thru frozen custard, thank you very much! Andy’s is super yummy and likes to surprise you with their seasonal treats. They has a pretty simple menu: vanilla or chocolate custard, then you add the toppings and create your masterpiece. Or you can choose from the Andy’s menu full of their tried-and-true favorites. If you do want to get out of the car and eat there, there’s a walk-up window and a few benches. Make sure to ask about their seasonal menu; they have custard blended with a whole slice of pie!
  • The Donut Kitchen If specialty donuts and yummy sandwiches are your thing, then make sure to pop into The Donut Kitchen. I am blown away each time by the creativity of their donuts. Think any dessert you’ve ever had (s’mores, banana pudding, or Texas sheet cake in donut form) and chances are they have a donut that fits your sweet tooth’s needs. Every donut I have had there was a cake-based donut and the perfect size. Make sure you stop in for lunch to get a yummy sandwich! They also serve breakfast, salads, wraps, and soups. 
  • Emporium Pies Um.yum.pie. No guide to McKinney is complete without mentioning this spot! I first had Emporium Pies down in Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff. It was worth every sinfully delicious bite, but I could not justify the drive down for a slice. When they opened one up here in downtown McKinney, I just knew my waistline would never be the same. They typically carry around seven different types of pie. They are super creative in their seasonal pies and you really have to check back often or you may have to wait a whole year for one of your seasonal favorites. In July they did a fun “Christmas in July” special and had a limited number of their winter pies for one day. It was so fun! Their cute little shop is a cozy place to take yourself for a date or maybe meet a girlfriend for coffee. If you really like your kids that day, maybe even treat them to a slice. The bottom line is I have never met anyone who doesn’t give Emporium a big thumbs up!

McKinney Play Date Spots

  • Play Street McKinney Of all the Play Street locations, McKinney just happens to be my favorite. The farm theme is never-ending fun and my boys always have a blast. The bonuses for this mom are close proximity to our house and that it always seems calmer than the other locations. I am not sure if it is the design or maybe we just hit the right times, but we always enjoy our PS McKinney visits!
  • Heard Museum We have only been to the Heard Museum a few times, but each time has been fun-filled and enjoyable. You forget that you’re in McKinney and feel like you’re in the forest somewhere. After you have walked the trails and checked out the animals, make sure to stop into the little village and let your kids investigate. There are 7-10 little houses with various cooking utensils throughout for the kids to explore and play in. It was really fun for me to get to see the creativity come out as my boys played with a bowl of rocks and spoons on our last Heard adventure.
  • Chick Fil A (Eldorado/Ridge & 121/Custer) It never fails that when we have no ideas and need to get out of the house, we head to Chick Fil A. Not only are you greeted with incredibly friendly and helpful people, but you can order ahead of time and they bring it to your table (mom win = no tray- and children-balancing for this mama!). The staff always comes back to check and see how they can help you. After your kids shovel their food in because the enticing play area is calling their name, you get to sit and enjoy the rest of your meal while they get some wiggles out. Everyone wins!

McKinney Parks

  • John M. Whisenant Park I am partial to this park as it is our home park. We are here four-seven days a week and just adore it. My boys go through phases where all they do is climb the “big green” park, race cars and trucks down the “little green” park’s slides, swing, play in the dirt, or run in the endless fields. I love how this park is designed—your kids can play on the structure that is appropriate for their size while you sit on one of the many benches or picnic tables and supervise.
  • Dr. Mack Hill Park Located on Westridge between Custer and Independence, Mack Hill Park has an endless amount of climbing, fun, and a really cool splash pad. Like many of the McKinney parks, they smartly designed a smaller park for littles and a bigger park for the older kids. The design team was genius when they laid this park out. The swings, both play structures, and the splash park make a square around a very well-covered (i.e., shade from the Texas sun) picnic table area.
  • Stonebridge Ranch Aquatic Center: Little Blue & Green Park (not an official name, this is just what we call it). Really, any of the Stonebridge Ranch parks are worth checking out. The majority of them are small neighborhood parks, but if your kids are like mine, all they need is a little dirt, some cars, leaves, sticks, and anything else from nature and they can have a blast.
  • E.A. Randles Park We like to think of this park as a super bonus park. There are a few different play structures all within 20 feet of each other. Hang out and play at one or check them all out and “park hop” between them.
  • Finch Park (near downtown McKinney) We’ve only been here a handful of times because its a little bit of a drive for us. But it is a park worth stopping at if you ever bring your kids to downtown McKinney. It is smack dab in the middle of the woods so the fun is endless. There is nature for days as well as two play structures to keep those kiddos busy. If you have a tree climber, this is an excellent park to visit.

McKinney Family-Friendly Restaurants

  • Nom Nom’s Mexican Grill If there was one staple place that out family could not live without, it would be Nom Nom’s! From the friendly staff, to island-y feel of the restaurant it is a place we frequent often. You cannot beat Nom Nom’s fresh and inexpensive food. I have already told you about their ice cream. So there is no reason you should not be loading the family up now and heading there!

  • Hat Creek Burgers  The newest and clearly popular family restaurant to join McKinney is out of this world cool. The geniuses behind the concept of burgers, fries, and a play set are my new favorite people. We have only had the chance to venture to Hat Creek once since it opened, and we loved every second of it. It was nonstop busy and very well-staffed. The boys loved getting to play for a few minutes while we waited for food and then again after they ate their dinner. Their menu is simple and yet delicious.
  • Scotty P’s  I personally think Scotty P’s is under appreciated and not well enough known. It is a little bit of a drive for us, but we are never disappointed with their food when we go. Scotty P’s food is super fresh and beats a fast food burger any day. They also have chicken, hot dogs, salads, and soups. I give their cheese fries two thumbs up!

  • Starwood CafeAdriatica We have only been to Starwood for breakfast, but man is it yummy! I do not know what they do to their bacon, but it is out of this world. Nestled in the middle of the beautiful Adriatica, Starwood makes for the perfect start to any weekend morning! I have taken my boys during the week to meet some mom friends and am always just as pleased with the food and service. Take some time after you eat to walk around the harbor at the Adriatica for its beautiful views.
Julie Janes
Julie is a NOLA girl at heart who is setting down roots in Texas. She is married to her high school sweetie, Christopher. They are raising their sweet boys Harrison (Oct. 2014) & Douglas (Feb 2016) and their baby girl Colette (Dec. 2017). We cant forget their crazy GSP puppy Liuzza. They live in McKinney and spend their weekends yelling "Geaux Tigers & Who Dat" wherever they are!. Julie lives for play dates, mom dates, friends, and family. She can be seen watching her DVR'd shows (even if it takes days to get through one show), reading the same book for months, playing outside with her kids, taking nice relaxing bubble baths with a warmish cup of tea, cooking her newest pinned dinners, starting 17 different crafty projects and just enjoying what life has to offer.