Located just twenty miles north of downtown Dallas, Plano, Texas, is a charming spot to spend a day, or longer. Getting there is easy even without a car as it’s commutable from Dallas via the DART train in under an hour. Plano’s been around since the 1840’s when it was founded by European settlers who named it after the Spanish word for “flat.” It has a historic downtown with plenty of things to see and activities for the whole family. Its bustling arts district has vintage shops, galleries, clothing stores, activity centers, and many excellent places to eat and drink.
Plano’s historic downtown has been recognized as one of the best in the country. You can stroll along brick-lined 15th Street with its shops and dining. While you’re there, enjoy taking in the sights of its historic buildings. Haggard Park is a five-and-a-half-acre park with play areas, walking paths, and picnic spots. You can take a walking tour of downtown Plano to learn about the town’s history or explore museums and galleries. There have been recent renovations to preserve its iconic red brick roads. Many of the following attractions are in this beautiful, walkable area.
Interurban Railway Museum
The highlight of the aforementioned Haggard Park is the Interurban Railway Museum celebrating the Texas Electric Railway. It is located at the edge of the park in a restored depot that once served as a rail station and post office. This fun and free museum is an excellent outing for the whole family. You can spend time exploring the exhibit rooms, learning about the history of Texas’s electric railway, see interactive exhibits on science and electricity, and read about the history of Plano. There is a guided tour through Historic Car 360, a refurbished rail car from 1911.
Also located in the Haggard Park Historic District is the Courtyard Theater. This large brick building was built in 1938 by the Works Project Administration. It was formerly known as the Cox Gymnasium when it was part of Cox High School. The theater regularly hosts performances throughout the year, as well as other events both private and public. The proscenium-style theater seats 321 and is a treasured landmark representing the history of Plano. Its central location makes it a must-see stop on your tour of Plano.
The Texas Pool
A swimming pool shaped like Texas? Sounds like fun. This unique 168,000-gallon saltwater pool opened in 1961 as part of a Plano development project by famous Texan Herbert Hunt. Enjoyed by Texans for generations, it eventually fell into disrepair. But, in 2007 it was renovated to its former glory and continues to be enjoyed by families from all over. It is on the National Registry of Historic Places and is the first Texas-shaped pool in existence. It is open for the summer season from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Built in 1906 by Celestine Saigling, Saigling House was one of the first brick houses in town. This historic house is now home to the ArtCentre of Plano, a local nonprofit group promoting artists and featuring art exhibitions and programs in the house’s grand rooms. If you want to learn about Plano’s thriving art community, this is the perfect place to start. You can also rent the venue for special events. It is situated near beautiful Haggard Park where your guests can wander among the old-growth trees. Inside, they can enjoy exploring the galleries featuring local art. This attraction is open from Tuesday to Saturday each week.
Heritage Farmstead Museum
The Ammie Wilson House is a Victorian farmhouse built in 1891 in the Blackland Prairie, and it’s the heart of the Heritage Farmstead Museum. This living museum sits on 4.5 acres and features multiple historic houses and outbuildings furnished with real artifacts and equipment. There are archives from the time when it was built, and you can watch demonstrations of historic farming techniques. You can learn about the life of Ammie Wilson, who was a long-time owner of the farm and renowned sheep breeder in a time when the industry was male-dominated. Multiple exhibits teach you what life was like in the late 1800s into the 1920s.
Quincentennial Bur Oak
Rising to a height of 90 feet, this impressive tree stands in Bob Woodruff Park. The oldest and largest tree in the city it has long been recognized for its age, bearing witness to the region’s long history. It was thought to be over 240 years old, growing since the country was young. Then, in 2006, winds blew down a massive branch 40 feet up on the trunk. Upon examination, it was discovered that the tree formerly known as the Bicentennial Bur Oak was over 400 years old! You can stand under its massive branches, with its crown spread of 103 feet, and look up at the stately tree.
Whether your interest in historic places is academic or cultural, there is something to delight and inform anyone in the diverse city that is Plano. With these suggestions as a guide and jumping-off point you are ready to head out on an adventure through the centuries as you walk the brick streets, take in the shade of ancient trees, and enjoy art created and collected through the ages of Plano’s past. You’ll be glad you decided to explore all this city has to offer.
We at Huffines CJDR Plano hope you have enjoyed this list of fun historical sights and activities for the whole family. If you have been considering a visit to Plano, Texas it might just be time to make that dream come true. With all these historical sights and so much more to see and do, you’re bound to have a fabulous time in this fun and friendly town in north Texas. Is there something in particular that you’d like to see next time you’re in Historic Plano? Have we missed your favorite Plano sight? Let us know what that might be!
Image via Flickr by nan palmero