Written by: Kristi Roe Owen. Originally published on TulsaKids.
Ah, the sounds of summertime in Oklahoma. Birds sing from the dense, green summer canopy. Harleys growl by leaving a wake of testosterone and Barbasol. Firecrackers remind you that you’re still not sure if you live in the best neighborhood.
But it’s never truly summer until your house is filled the sweet sounds of “Stop touching me!” and “MOM! He destroyed my LEGO car!”
Whether you need a break from the Shakespearean theater of tween bickering, you’re worried about Minecraft slowly digesting your children’s neurons, or you’re just looking for an exciting family adventure that doesn’t involve a mouse and a second mortgage, a trip to Plano may be just what the doctor ordered.
Part of the Dallas metro area, Plano is less than a four-hour drive down I-35 from Tulsa or a mere 45 minutes by air. Plano is like Dallas’s classy little sister. A major corporate hub, Plano has all the amenities of the larger metro and is brimming with family-friendly recreational options, which means there’s plenty to keep your tweens unhooked from the digital demons that are slowly turning their minds to cyber-mush.
Arthur and I were invited on a sponsored press trip this past weekend by the Visit Plano folks. If you’re not familiar with the term, a group press trip is when you join up with other media and get to check out the local sights. It’s a bit of a whirlwind, but it gives bloggers and press members a chance to report back on all the cool sights in a locale.
A huge thanks to our hosts and the other media folks along for the ride who made this weekend super chill. We had the most magical weekend of macarons, markers, and monkeying around.
Here are a few of our favorite things from our visit to Plano.
This lovely Legacy West hotel manages to be upscale and disarming at the same time, bringing together elegance and charm without getting jalapeño face about it. The result is a warm, gorgeous space filled with Tex-Pan-Asian eye candy decor that still manages not to be so stuffy you feel out-of-place bringing your kids there.
Fantastic amenities abound: Toasty plush bathrobes. Feather pillows by the gazillion, as the good Lord intended. Large flat-screen TV. An enchanted shower I would sell my soul at a crossroads for, in case anyone is listening.
But as most parents know, it’s how the staff responds to your needs that makes or breaks a family experience. That’s why I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how the staff responded when, as Murphy’s Law dictates, crisis struck.
Arthur got hit with a bit of a stomach bug when we first arrived, and the responsiveness and empathy of the staff blew me away. I called down to ask where I could buy some medicine, and the staff sent up water bottles, ginger ale, and hot tea service. Everyone we encountered asked how he was doing and if we needed anything else at all. In a world where kids are often treated as a liability or nuisance, it was beyond touching to see that level of care for our family’s experience.
If you only went to Plano to shop, you wouldn’t have to stray far from your hotel if you didn’t want to. Right outside the door of the Renaissance is the splendor of Legacy West, a high-end mixed-use shopping center where folks from all walks of life come to shop and dine and people-watchers can catch Dallas’s beau monde milling about amid long rows of Maseratis while industrious Millennials in business casual shuffle between working lunches.
Whether you’re a window shopper or you’re there for a well-deserved splurge, you’ll find plenty to look at including a few of my favorite guilty pleasures like Coach, J. Crew, Johnny Was, Sephora, and MAC.
Legacy Hall is a food hall with an emphasis on local chefs and artisan foods. It’s a visually stunning mecca for foodies with its very own Box Garden, a live music venue/beer garden created from shipping containers with a massive 24-foot LED screen. In the center is a safe space for kids to play while adults enjoy artisanal food and libations.
Be sure to check out my post next week to learn what we tasted while we were there.
Plano is home to Oak Point, an 800-acre park and nature preserve with five miles of soft surface trails and eight miles of concrete trails, and housed within Oak Point is Go Ape!, a super fun high-canopy ropes course complete with obstacles and zip lines.
For our weekend adventure, I gave Arthur the choice of horseback riding or Go Ape!, but I honestly didn’t expect him to choose the ropes course. A small part of me was worried that he would have a hard time with the instructions for checking his gear and moving the trolley along.
As Kristen, our incredibly competent Go Ape! guide, explained how to connect our rigging and carabiners to the ropes, she exuded a reassuring confidence in our ability to handle the equipment.
To my great relief, the course started off low, giving us a chance to go through the steps from close to the ground. I fretted over Arthur, who came in right at the minimum height requirement for the course, as he moved his trolley along the rope, but Kristen was right there below us glancing at his rigging and confirming that everything was completely safe. Seriously, give that woman a raise because she’s amazing at her job.
In my maternal paranoia, I followed Arthur closely, inhaler at the ready, only to realize I had underestimated my kid as usual. The boy buzzed through the first obstacle course and down the small zipline, which wasn’t dissimilar from one he had tried when the Camp Kanakuk folks visited town a couple of years back.
Pretty soon, it was clear the course had not come to play. Before we knew it, we were zipping across a stream forty feet below. It was pure magic.
The best part? Seeing my erstwhile YouTube zombie engaged with nature and challenging himself physically, his face beaming with accomplishment. If you’ve got tweens, this course is a can’t-miss experience. Be sure to wear decent gloves; mine were fingerless, and I ended up with some mighty rope burns. #worthit
There are arcades, there are bowling alleys, and then there’s Pinstack, a next-level bowling alley with a super sweet arcade, laser tag, rock-climbing wall, and more.
When I was a kid, bowling alleys were smoky, dusty affairs that smelled of spilled beer and worn shoes. And they were still wondrous places. That’s because bowling is a classic family activity because it’s an activity that lets you talk to each other and break bread—er, cheese fries—while you play.
With its gleaming lanes, Angry Birds scoring option, grown-up snack trays, darling cake pops, and signature cocktails, Pinstack does a fantastic job of bringing together details to please all members of your family.
But if you’re not a bowler, Pinstack’s arcade is killer. Arthur and I had a hard time pulling ourselves away from one of our favorites, The Walking Dead arcade game, but we managed to spend some time on a giant Connect Four game, hit up some skeeball, and team up for some Halo Fireteam action.
But it was the Rabbids VR experience that blew our heckin’ minds. With a completely built-out world everywhere we turned our heads, this completely bananas motion-simulator ride felt uncannily real for a cartoon world populated by zany alien rabbits. We laughed so hard we couldn’t breathe and genuinely had to drag ourselves away from it.
For our family, one of the best things about summer is having a place to relax outdoors with friends while the kids play off some energy. The Boardwalk at Granite Park is a waterfront retail and dining spot where kids can play while adults chill out with a cold brew on one of many patios.
While we were there, I noticed some construction underway and learned that they’re in the process of building a waterfront stage. That means pretty soon, you’ll be able to join friends for local live music without having to worry about getting a sitter. And they can even fill up your tank while you’re parked there.
If I lived in Plano, I would take my kids here all the time. The Crayola Experience is a colorful interactive experience where kids get to try out all kinds of fantastic art projects. While we were there, we created our own custom crayon wrappers, made Crayola drip art, colored some fuzzy little animals called Scribble Scrubbies, made wax toys, and marveled at all of the amazing Crayola products and projects.
As art supply lovers, Arthur and I went bonkers over the gift store, where you can mix and match crayons and markers in your own custom Crayola tin. We picked up some awesome Art of Edge Five Nights at Freddy’s coloring pages for Lucy and mentally noted all the things we need to add to our Amazon wish lists, like these dreamy Crayoligraphy items.
Texas-Sized Fun in Plano
Plano is a town where you could visit often and still not run out of things to do, like the Dallas Museum at Southfork Ranch. All in all, we had a fantastic weekend. In next week’s post, I’ll talk about everybody’s favorite subject: food. It gets its own post because there was way too much incredible food to share in this post. I’ll talk about our favorite places to eat while we were in Plano and dazzle you with my food photography skillz, so be sure to come back.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Plano? Leave me a comment below and share your favorite Plano tips. Thanks for reading, and have a beautiful week!
Cover photo credit: Visit Plano
Article photo credit: Kristi Roe Owen