Though Dallas is distinctly Texan (and proud of it), its fast-paced city atmosphere often overpowers its simpler Texan roots. But outside the city center, many North Texas suburbs have held onto their historic downtowns and haven’t let them lose their magic. Each one has a little something for everyone: They transport us back to a simpler time with pie, city squares around the courthouse and people who’ll remember your name if you make a good (or bad) enough impression. Founded in the late 1800s and revitalized around the 1980s, each area's culture reflects its city at large. Here’s a list to help you find the one that’s right for you.
Historic Downtown McKinney has something to offer any audience. You can access your inner grandma by learning how to knit at McKinney Knittery or your inner child with some arcade games at Arcade92 Retro Gaming Bar. This downtown has expanded well beyond its old-timey courthouse and even offers a parking shuttle for especially busy times, like the McKinney Bridal Show; the Krewe of Barkus dog parade and fundraiser; or Classics on the Square, when classic cars gather around the square on the last Saturday of the month. Downtown McKinney is a happening place. We recommend you visit on a Second Saturday event, when shops stay open late and the street lights will charm you.
If you’re willing to make more of a drive for an ol' Texan feel, you’ll feel it pay off when you drive toward Weatherford’s stunning courthouse. This downtown sprung up as a popular pit stop for ranchers and pioneers going west. It is so distinctly Texan, it even holds the Parker County Peach Festival in July. Take home a bit of the past by visiting one of their many antique stores, like Mother Lode Antiques or Hammer and Heels Antiques. This downtown's popularity is sure to be on the upswing because the Historic Baker Hotel restoration is underway. In 1929 the 14-story hotel seemed a little ostentatious for such a tiny town, but Weatherford hopes that upon its reopening in 2022, the hotel will hold onto its historic charm and increase visitors to this growing area. Be sure to drive by to check its progress; it'll only excite you for what's coming.
This historic downtown made our list because it fuses the cool Denton artsy quirkiness with its historical past. Stay cool by eating Thai food at Thai Square, rock climbing at Summit Climbing gym and digging for all the records you can find at Mad World Record and Recycled Books, Records, CDs. Access your inner artist with classes at A Creative Art Studio or your inner rocker at The Ghost Note drum store and music shop. You can also admire all that Denton can do at The Denton Independent Maker Exchange (DIME), which features goods made by Denton and Texan natives. Finish off your visit with great drinks and live music at LSA Burger Co, Wine2 (the most punk rock wine bar), or keep it classic at Beth Marie’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream.
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You could say it’s in the name: downtown Grapevine is a place for wine lovers of any kind. Get a flair for Texas wineries by visiting one of five tasting rooms, or go to all of them on a wine tour bus. Downtown Grapevine is the only place you’ll find access to wine exclusive to Texas, a 1920s vintage railroad and 9-foot-tall Glockenspiel (you heard us right). You can also catch a classic movie at the old Palace Theatre. This center features regular events, like the upcoming Main Street Fest, but this place has enough to offer on any day. A ride on their vintage railroad is great, whether you’re traveling with the kids on a “Day Out With Thomas the Tank Engine” or keep it classy on a Jazz Wine Train.
Downtown Waxahachie is the best place to admire funky relics, starting with their Junk in the Trunk flea market, where every quarter, locals rent a parking space and set up shop around the town square. The Sims Library has been around since 1905 and houses unique collections, genealogies of the town’s heritage and the stunning Lyceum theater. Make sure to visit on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon to stop by the Webb Gallery. This quirky art gallery crossed with an antique/rare book store takes you to another world. Space out your visit to these worthy sites with a walk to get a cup of coffee at White Rhino Coffee, a beer at College Street Pub or barbecue at The Vault Smokehouse.