Explore Plano: 5 Ways to Rediscover Our Neck of the Woods

You’ve hiked a volcano, slept amongst elephants and swooped over ancient valleys in a hot-air balloon. Here’s the thing: That adventurous spirit you pack to unfamiliar cities doesn’t have to be restricted to exotic locations. We often follow the same routines in our hometown and forget to seek out new experiences in everyday life.

The good news? Plano is chock-full of local gems you may not have taken advantage of yet. Whether you’re planning a spring break staycation or just looking for a way to spend a Saturday afternoon, we’ve got a few ways to get you thinking about Plano in a new way.

Arbor Hills Nature Preserve // photo by Jennifer Shertzer

1. Imagine a friend from out of town is coming to visit.

Immediately, a list of not-to-be-missed spots probably starts dancing around in your head. What this process may reveal is a tad embarrassing, but totally fixable: You haven’t even done half of the things on your “locals-approved” itinerary. Heed your own advice and visit these favorite stops.

Want to make it more interesting? Plan different itineraries based on the type of traveler. Where would you tell a friend who loves the outdoors to go? (Our minds instantly jump to Arbor Hills Nature Preserve.) What about that friend who is obsessed with bowling? (Think Pinstack or Plano Super Bowl.) And let’s say this friend also has children in tow. (Kid-friendly stops Whirly Ball and Aqua Shop can’t be missed.) And just like that, you have a list of activities for whatever mood strikes.

Plano Balloon Fest happens every September // photo by Jennifer Shertzer

2. Think about what Plano is known for.

Are you living in Plano but have never attended the annual Plano Balloon Festival in September? You know that you can’t really consider yourself a Planoite–or Texan for that matter–until you’ve tried the barbecue at Lockhart Smokehouse, right? And please tell me you’ve spent at least a few aimless hours wandering through the Shops at Legacy.

Sure, it’s cliché, but avoiding trademark experiences only because everyone else has already done it doesn’t make you any more enlightened. As one magazine writer puts it, “This is akin to skipping dinner because the meal has gotten so popular.”

Aqua Shop Indoor Surfing // photo by Esther Huynh

3. Stop by our local visitors center. 

Visit Plano is full of clued-in employees that are on a mission to promote our city and ensure people have a great time, so who cares if you’re not a visitor? Someone is always on duty Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm, so feel free to pick the receptionist’s brain on lesser-known attractions and browse the free pamphlets. Even better: The storied tales the employees may share can likely rival any big town.

Lockhart Smokehouse in Historic Downtown Plano // photo by Jennifer Shertzer

4. Venture out solo.

When you explore on your own, you have no one else’s schedule to consider. Go ahead, strike up an hour-long conversation with the slightly off-kilter waiter at your local German restaurant. (We’re looking at you, Jorg’s Cafe Vienna.) Rummage through that charming antique furniture at Sutton Place even though you may have no intention of buying anything today. No one is going to stop you. Walkable neighborhoods like historic downtown Plano are the perfect setting to explore. Set no agenda, and you might be surprised where your own curiosity will take you.

The bar at Love and War in Texas // photo by Jennifer Shertzer

5. Sit at the bar.

Usually, bartenders are masters in the art of small talk. Pull up a chair and act like you would if you were visiting a new place: Ask the bartender what he or she enjoys about your city, and you’ll likely glean some terrific pointers. A few places we’ve met the friendliest bartenders? Love and War in Texas, Taverna Rossa and The Holy Grail Pub. Bonus: Besides the perk of getting your drink faster, sitting so close to other patrons and chatty bartenders gives you unspoken permission to chime in on each other’s conversations. What that means for you? Shared stories, (maybe) shared food, and a shared experience that is anything but routine.

For more information on each business listed, click on the business names in the story above. 

Itching to do something fun with the kids during spring break? Check out our story on the best bets for spring break fun in Plano.

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