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March 27, 2019 / Millerann Moya / , , , , , , , , / Comments

Exploring Plano Solo

Written by: Jessica Festa. Originally published on Jessie On a Journey@jessieonajourney

There are so many unforgettable Plano attractions to explore as a solo traveler — particularly when it comes to fun Texas food experiences and trail-filled parks.

What’s interesting:

I’d never heard of this Lone Star State city before being invited by Visit Plano to explore its offerings!

Now that I’m home in NYC, my mind keeps wandering back to the decadent Instagram-worthy donuts, burning off calories from fresh sushi laced with homemade wasabi by trekking through prairie lands, and sipping rose while perusing the local stores in Downtown Plano.

Ready to plan your own trip to Plano, Texas?

Keep reading, as I share my Plano itinerary and travel tips below!

Renaissance Dallas At Plano Legacy West Hotel

I’ll admit I spent a good chunk of my time visiting Plano at this beautiful — and very Instagrammable — property.

The theme of the Renaissance Dallas at Plano Legacy West Hotel is “East-meets-West,” and it’s infused into the decor of the public spaces and the guest rooms.

For instance, in my room there were pillows that said “Cowboy” and “Samurai” in beautiful script, while the dresser showcased a Chinese lucky cat and a cowboy (or cowgirl!) hat.

Moreover, public spaces abound.

Saddle up to the gorgeous black granite bar serving whiskeys blended with housemade bitters, or read a book in the bright and spacious lobby lounge.

There’s also a darkened library-esque space with shelves illuminating Japanese cultural books and bonsai trees in a red glow, and an onsite restaurant serving Asian fusion dishes beneath Japanese birdcages dangling from the ceiling.

Actually, it’s in their OMA Restaurant where I spent each morning of my Plano trip indulging in avocado toast topped with two sunny side up eggs and unlimited coffee.

In the evening — at 6pm sharp — I’d head to their Whiskey Moon Bar for the nightly Punch Ceremony, where they ring a gong and imbibers head eagerly to grab a glass of the night’s cocktail, scooped with a ladle from a giant punch bowl.

And the main highlight:

The third floor pool, complete with cabanas, a hot tub, lounge and rocking chairs, and even curved chaises that sit in the shallow end of the outdoor pool. This is great for when you just to get a little wet.

On sunny days, bartenders mix drinks while music adds to the ambiance.

Starting Rate: $160/night.

Plano Attractions & Activities

My trip to Plano was short — two nights and three days; though I was able to pack a lot of great Texas activities in.

To help you plan your trip, here are my top recommendations for things to do in Plano, Texas.

EXPLORE BEAUTIFUL PARKS IN PLANO

Some of the top Plano attractions include parks and nature preserves. A few of my favorite experiences:

1. HIKE THE TRAILS IN ARBOR HILLS NATURE PRESERVE

Featuring 200 acres, Arbor Hills Nature Preserve has a variety of trails taking you through three distinct landscapes. These include Blackland Prairie, Riparian Forest (along creeks and rivers) and Upland Forest (the higher elevation woodland).

For my non-geologist readers, let me tell you this:

I saw a snake!

Being from New York City, I have only seen wild snakes a few times in my life — once in India (a giant corn snake), once in Namibia (the snake was dead in a parking lot), while hiking in California (I saw over 10 rattlesnakes) and a few times at my family’s hunting camp in upstate New York.

It was neat to start the day with a wildlife sighting, especially after one of the locals on the trail confirmed it was not venomous.

I also saw a number of birds and turtles, and just generally enjoyed being in nature and breathing in the fresh air.

In total, there’s three miles of paved trail, three miles of unpaved trail and almost three miles of off-road biking trail.

Isn’t Arbor Hills in Plano beautiful?

One not-to-miss hiking trail in Arbor Hills:

The observation tower trek.

From the top you’ll be looking out over the trees to West Plano and Carrollton.

If you have children, this nature preserve is definitely family-friendly.

Most of the trails — at least the ones I wandered — were flat. Moreover, chaperones brought a large group of children to play at a small beach in the woods.

Click here to download an interpretive trail map of Arbor Hills.

2. TREK THE TRAILS OF OAK POINT PARK AND NATURE PRESERVE

Another option for trail-filled parks in Plano, Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve features 800 acres and tons of options for hiking and biking.

What I loved about this Plano park:

Immediately upon exiting the visitor center you have a gorgeous view of a lake.

You can actually trek around the entire body of water in less than one mile, traversing a flat paved path.

There were so many birds flying non-stop above the lake, and at one point I even saw a giant hawk gliding above the trees.

The main highlights for hikers include the lake as well as the prairie, depending which trail you choose.

Looking for a true Texas adventure?

GoApe Plano operates a zip-line and ropes course park here. This is a bit different from typical zip-lining as you’ll actually learn how to attach yourself into the system, and will need to complete aerial challenges — like Tarzan swings and shaky wooden steps — suspending you up to 40 feet in the air!

Where To Go Shopping In Plano

There are three main shopping areas that I visited while exploring the fun things to do in Plano TX, which I detail below.

3. SHOP IN PLANO AT THE MODERN LEGACY WEST

Actually, the Renaissance Dallas at Plano Legacy West Hotel is within Legacy West.

This district is brand spankin’ new, opened in June 2017.

I say “district” because they’ve built it in such a way that it feels like you’re walking through a neighborhood.

Actually, they call it a “250-acre lush urban destination,” which is the perfect way to describe Legacy West.

Fountain- and garden-lined sidewalks showcase stores like Madewell, Coach, Lululemon, West Elm, Sephora and Sprinkles — including their quirky cupcake ATM.

And if your pockets are feeling fat, you can even buy a Tesla!

Interspersed between all these international brands are local eateries — many with al fresco patios — and even a multi-level food hall selling everything from poke bowls to Texas burgers and even brewing their own beer.

More on that below!

4. EXPLORE PLANO STORES AT THE SHOPS AT LEGACY

While this is a separate complex from Legacy West, it’s actually just across the highway, which is easy to cross safely thanks to traffic signals for pedestrians.

Sure, the complex is older, but it has the same neighborhood feel with lovely sidewalks, outdoor patio-adorned restaurants, and stores showcasing local and international brands.

Some of the shops you may recognize include Benefit Cosmetics and Urban Outfitters, though you’ll also find more Texas-based options like the independent Firefly Trends women’s clothing store, and the mainly Texas-based clothing boutique chain, The Impeccable Pig.

You can explore both Legacy West and The Shops at Legacy in one full day, taking breaks for meals, coffee and cocktails.

5. SHOP AROUND (AND GET CREATIVE IN) THE HISTORIC DOWNTOWN PLANO ARTS DISTRICT

In terms of Plano attractions, the Downtown Plano stores you can frequent definitely make the cut.

Downtown Plano was my personal favorite of the three shopping areas, due to the many locally owned and operated boutiques.

And wow, were they cute and creative!

A few personal favorites:

Lyla’s Clothing, Decor & More. This shop had everything: paint supplies, rustic furniture, clothing, candles, inspiring wall signs, decorations with clever sayings. Actually, I bought two dish towels, one depicting a coffee pot that reads “Pot Head” and another showcasing a taco that says “Live every day like it’s Taco Tuesday!”

Baxter’s Salon & Boutique. Part salon, part boutique, here you can get your hair done before perusing the large selection of plants, garden decorations, candles and hippie-inspired garments.

Pipe & PaletteThis shop is set up like a gallery, in that each section of the store showcases handmade items and art supplies from a different local vendor. You can buy everything from art supplies to handmade jewelry, and they offer creative classes like Paint & Sip, Paint Your Pet and Calligraphy On Wood, to name just a few.

In between shopping, re-energize at the many local restaurants, bars and cafes that line the main strip of 15th Street.

Get Creative In Plano

It’s not just the Downtown Plano stores that are creative in The Historic Downtown Plano Arts District; actually, there are other ways to explore art in this neighborhood, including:

6. TAKE IN PLANO’S PUBLIC ART

There are a number of places to explore public art in Downtown.

For instance, at the corner of 15th & Ave. K you’ll find a piano painted from top to bottom.

Next to that is a public work depicting the word “Plano” made into echowaves.

If you head to Georgia’s Farmer’s Market, there is a giant mural by Will Heron as well as Sarah Duke of the WHERON Collective.

The piece is part of the Downtown Plano Mural Project, started in January 2017 to “celebrate Plano’s rich history.”

This mural does just that, telling five stories of Plano heritage — including narratives focused on topics like oil, cotton and railroads — through art. Interestingly, the free-to-enter Interurban Railway Museum is just across the street from this mural.

These Downtown pieces are just a few of the numerous Downtown Plano attractions for public art lovers. For more ideas from Visit Plano, click here.

7. ATTEND THE MONTHLY DOWNTOWN PLANO ART & WINE WALK (PLANO EVENTS)

Each month from April through December there is a Downtown Plano Art & Wine Walk that I highly recommend you attend. It takes place on the second Thursday of each month.

Honestly, it’s worth planning your trip to Plano around!

Here’s how it works:

Tickets are $12 in advance or $18 at the door.

You’ll check in to receive your Wine Walk glass. Additionally, you’ll receive a map showing you which local shops and galleries are participating. Usually there are about 18-24 stops in total.

Participating stops not only open their doors until 9pm, but each serves a specific wine. Moreover, many of the shops offer special Plano Wine Walk discounts.

There are also various performances and special events within the larger event, too.

For instance, the theme of the walk I attended was “Dog Days Of Summer,” and there was a doggy costume contest and a live band called The Poor Dogs.

I loved that the event helped to raise money for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), who was there trying to get pups adopted.

One little guy jumped up on me and licked me for 15 straight minutes. I would have taken him right home if I didn’t live another state!

8. PERUSE PLANO’S DOWNTOWN ART GALLERIES

If you’re an art gallery lover like me, you won’t want to miss the following spots.

First is the Art Haus District Gallery, which you can visit during the Downtown Plano Art & Wine Walk — or simply when you’re exploring the Downtown Plano attractions.

You likely wouldn’t find this gallery on your own, as it’s tucked into a small alley off 15th Street.

I met the artist who owns the space during the wine walk, and he was super friendly. His offerings are mixed media, ranging from professional portraits to paintings to practical housewares featuring abstract designs.

There’s also the ArtCentre of Plano, also on the Wine Walk route.

Here, you’ll find a small array of rotating exhibits — usually in a variety of mediums — and even a theater.

They’re located within a historic home in Haggard Park, so the setting itself is lovely with a wooden bridge extending over a pond. In fact, they even host a number of weddings here throughout the year.

Best Restaurants & Bars In Plano

There’s only so much you can eat and drink in three days, though I certainly tried — and did a darn good job, if my belt has anything to say about it.

Here were some of my most memorable dining experiences from my Plano trip.

Eco tip:

If you’d like to lessen your impact while traveling, do remember to ask for your drinks without straws! #SayNoToStraws

DOWNTOWN PLANO BARS, RESTAURANTS & CAFES

Downtown Plano dates back to the 1840s when it was initially settled, though it was officially incorporated in 1873.

While much time has passed, the aesthetic of the neighborhood remains largely unchanged. I felt like I’d stepped back in time, as the charm of the area washed over me.

Pro tip:

Along with enjoying the architecture, you’ll want to come with an appetite to savor the slew of great Downtown Plano bars and eateries.

While here, make sure to…

9. GET CAFFEINATED IN A PRETTY SPACE

Attention fellow Instagrammers:

You will not want to miss having a Mason jar iced latte in the industrial-meets-modern XO Coffee Company.

Not surprisingly, Linda McCall — who opened the space with her husband, David Martin — has interior design experience.

Along with lots of bright pinks and green plants against exposed brick, the original ceiling of the 100-year-old building adds a nostalgic touch.

And there’s more:

When they were gutting the original structure, a lot of the wood was reclaimed to create the bar, shelving and other accents.

 

Linda’s attention to detail shines through not only in the Plano cafe’s design, but also the menu.

For instance, they use coffee from locally beloved Novel Coffee Roasters. Along with standard java drinks made with coffee nerd gadgets, you can add one of XO Coffee Company’s house-made syrups — in flavors like vanilla and lavender — for a creative twist.

A full menu also serves up omelettes, soups, salads, sandwiches, pastries, tacos and more.

Free wi-fi is available.

10. MUNCH ON CRISPY PIZZA WITH A VIEW

At Urban Crust, you can choose to enjoy tasty food and beverages inside or on their rooftop, making it one of the best Downtown Plano bars and restaurants, at least in my opinion.

Their specialty is wood-fire oven pizza made using homemade dough.

As it was a hot day, I opted for a more traditional, cooler pizza option:

The “Buffalina”.

Atop their pizza dough sits Buffalo mozzarella imported from Italy, marinated tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and a sprinkling of shaved grana padano cheese. Yum!

Make sure to also check out their Pizza Of The Month, which was topped with roasted Hatch chilies and sliced sirloin when I was there.

If you’re looking for a great happy hour in Plano, you’ll want to come Monday through Friday between 4-7pm.

During this time, you’ll score draft beers starting at $3, house wines for $5, shots for $1 off and frozen drinks for $4 (yes, that includes Froze!).

Enjoy it all on the rooftop with a view looking over Downtown Plano!

Fun fact:

Urban Crust is housed in a historic 19th century saddle shop. When you visit this tasty Downtown Plano restaurant, keep an eye out for nods to this past — like the saddle near the staircase!

11. EAT, DRINK & PLAY ALL IN ONE SPACE

If you’re a solo traveler looking to make some friends over food, booze and fun, look no further than Hub Streat.

This was my favorite restaurant in Downtown Plano. Actually, it was one of my favorite Plano attractions all together.

Why?

Because Hub Streat is more than an eatery.

It’s a “culinary entertainment center” offering food truck-inspired eats, craft cocktails, weekend brunch complete with a Blood Mary and Bubbly Bar, and a dog-friendly patio showcasing picnic tables sitting beneath strings of bare bulb lights.

Across their indoor and outdoor spaces — which includes a rooftop — there are also games like Giant Jenga, cornhole and pool tables.

On weekends, live music gets added to the line-up, as well!

RESTAURANTS IN SHOPS AT LEGACY

As stated above, the Shops at Legacy were within walking distance from my Plano hotel, the Renaissance Dallas at Plano Legacy West Hotel.

Within this Plano shopping destination, I satiated my appetite through the following experiences.

12. SAVOR FRESH, SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD

If you favor sustainably-sourced ingredients transformed into delicious dishes and served in an ambient space, The Keeper ticks all the boxes.

As soon as I walked into the Plano restaurant, I was greeted by the beautiful floor tiles spelling out “Jump In” and a spacious dining room.

While the eatery is also a tiki bar — yes, I’ll take a tiny umbrella in my Mai Tai — it also has a more sophisticated feel than the typical sea-themed bar.

Sure, there are nods to the ocean throughout the decor — like pop art paintings of storybook captains and mermaid-shaped door handles — rich jewel tones and a gorgeous garden-topped gold-accented bar set a refined feel.

This being said, because it was a sunny Texas day during my visit, I decided to sit on their plant-lined patio.

Lucky for me, it was time for happy hour in Plano; or, as they call it at this eatery, Keeper Hour.

Perusing the iPad menu — complete with food photos — I noticed that Monday through Friday from 4pm-7pm The Keeper offers $6 drinks and $6 appetizers. I took advantage of this delicious deal by ordering a locally brewed “Deviant Behavior” wheat beer from Unlawful Assembly Brewing Company with a plate of mussels served in a coconut lime broth.

For my main course, the “Napa Cabbage Wraps” were so full of grilled fish, rice and avocado crema I felt satisfied after just a few bites.

Bonus:

It feels good knowing the chef truly cares about sourcing sustainability. Many of the dishes even feature Gulf-sourced seafood!

Craving something sweet?

The Keeper offers a number of delicious desserts, like the “Sundae Funday” that dresses up vanilla ice cream in everything from rum butter to pineapple to sponge-cake.

Another Plano dessert idea:

Pop over to nearby Kilwins, a domestic chain serving up ice cream — including their own Original Recipe — homemade fudge and chocolate treats since 1947.

RESTAURANTS IN LEGACY WEST

Within a 15-minute walk you can be exploring the delicious restaurants in Plano’s Legacy West. Some not-to-miss meal experiences include:

13. HAVE A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING

Why choose from one menu when you can choose from 22 different food stalls?

Legacy Food Hall — one of the top Plano attractions for foodies — is a multi-level food hall with everything you could want.

And it’s all local.

Some unique dishes I saw on offer:

  • DIY dunked, drizzled and sprinkled organic ice pops from BerryNaked Pops (Hint: The Cherry Mascarpone looks gorgeous on Instagram; pictured center here!)
  • A Roasted Coconut Curry Short Rib naan wrap also stuffed with cilantro turmeric basmati rice
  • A homemade waffle topped with ham, smoked turkey, white American cheese and blackberry jam

I opted for a tasty poke bowl made with fresh seafood — a new shipment comes each day — and multi-grain “super rice”.

The second floor where I dined allowed me to look out over the market, which was a neat experience.

All the spaces within are hip, with clever wall signs and even large brewing vessels from Unlawful Assembly outlining the space.

At the brewery, you can sample beers like an “Idol Time” passionfruit pineapple wheat or a “Smoke Screen” American smoke brown ale with notes of tobacco and cinnamon.

And if you’re exploring Plano on a budget, Unlawful Assembly has a great happy hour from 3-7pm offering $3 draft beers!

Out in the back is an al fresco dining space called the Box Garden — part concert hall, part beer garden — where a stage hosts live shows and special events.

If you’re looking for a great happy hour in Plano, Legacy Food Hall features nine bars from which to order your libation.

14. SIP & SAVOR IN (WESTERN) STYLE

When I walked into Haywire Restaurant in Legacy West, I had the idea that I wanted to sit on the third floor patio; however, as I walked through the multi-level Plano restaurant I became undecided.

There were so many options!

Should I sit on the first floor wrap-around porch? On chocolate leather couches near the fireplace under dangling bare bulbs? In the library-esque whiskey lounge? On the rooftop overlooking Legacy West? Which, by the way, also has an Airstream trailer for private events!

I decided to keep it simple and stay on Level #1, which had a Western steakhouse-meets-hipster hotspot feel.

The menu had some true Texas flavor, with dishes like black-eyed pea hummus, spicy elk tacos and a giant 33-ounce Tomahawk ribeye served with smoked chili butter.

Hey, I’ve always heard things were bigger in Texas!

Fortunately, I went during happy hour in Plano, and was able to score a guacamole appetizer and a spicy “Front Porch Swing” cocktail for just $12 total.

The drink features vodka, Aperol, grapefruit, pineapple, lime and simple syrup, and was very refreshing on a hot Texas day!

OTHER PLANO RESTAURANTS & BARS

And that’s not all for solo travelers — or any travelers — wanting to satisfy their craving for unique concept eateries. Elsewhere in Plano, you’ll also want to…

15. INDULGE YOUR SWEET TOOTH (CREATIVELY)

Wow is right!

If you love Insta-worthy treats that also taste amazing, you’ll want to visit Wow Donuts and Drips.

Walking into the retro chic space, I was immediately greeted with a long translucent bakery case full of wildly creative house-made donuts adorned with everything from bacon to rainbow sour candy to Oreo crumbles.

My pick:

The “Pina Colada”.

This cakey creation was dense and sweet, with tropical fruits and a cocktail umbrella transporting me to a Caribbean island.

If you’re a photographer or iPhoneographer, the Plano donut shop displays adorable decor like mint green and pastel pink walls, planter-topped tables and sleek wooden benches under dangling gold lighting. Hot orange chairs and deep green ferns add to the ambiance.

At the entrance, wall shelves showcase pastel planters and dainty tea tins, while a small brick-backed lounge features a hunter green couch and coffee table with accents perfect for a flatlay photo.

Oh, and if you love hot drinks, their coffees and teas are made with an Alpha Dominche Steampunk brewing system for a cleaner taste. Fancy!

16. TRAVEL TO JAPAN IN PLANO, TEXAS

Within the 100 Legacy Drive shopping center and its surroundings, you’ll find numerous spots highlighting Japanese culture, particularly restaurants.

Your first of these must-eat restaurants in Plano:

Kura Sushi.

This is where you can partake in the fun that is the sushi train — on a budget. In fact, each roll is only $2.25!

As the rolls make their way around, you simply pull out the plate, dropping it into a slot on your table when you’re finished.

The menu also features dishes like Beef Udon, Japanese poke, soft shell crab tempura and a shrimp stuffed baked avocado.

Yes, you read that right. SHRIMP. STUFFED. BAKED. AVOCADO.

Bonus:

Instead of using powdered wasabi, they use real grated wasabi to make theirs. I love mixing it to some soy sauce and dipping just the edge of my sushi into the spicy concoction for a moment of sinus-clearing goodness.

A few doors down is also Mitsuwa Marketplace.

Along with a Japanese grocery store, the marketplace has stalls selling everything from fresh fish to matcha-laced goodies wrapped up so pretty you can give them as gifts.

It’s also a nice spot to savor ready-to-eat meals like sushi, ramen, soba and mochi!

Pro tip:

These Plano restaurants are right near to Oak Point Park & Nature Preserve, so consider spending the morning hiking before heading here for lunch to re-fuel.

17. HAVE AN ELEVATED WINE-PAIRING EXPERIENCE

My absolute favorite Plano restaurant of my Texas trip:

Sixty Vines.

As a solo traveler who is also a certified sommelier, I loved sitting at the bar and chatting with the bartender about what would pair best with which dishes and why.

For my meal, I opted for the oregano-chive brushed chicken and wild mushrooms served atop a cheesy polenta cake and dressed in a chardonnay jus.

To pair, my server suggested a Taittinger Champagne, as the intense bubbles would cut the fat.

What I loved about this Plano restaurant was the elevated service complemented by a laid-back vibe. Within the sleek minimalist space with its high ceilings, exposed beams and bright white accents you’ll find iPad menus and servers pouring wines from their 60+ on tap options!

As a solo traveler, I also appreciate the chance to treat myself to a truly sensory experiences.

When alone in a restaurant, I’ll often order the least expensive item and then hop right on my phone; however, here I decided to put technology away, sidle up to the bar, and just enjoy every bite of a truly gourmet meal.

#WorthIt

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Visit Plano, but all experiences and opinions are her own.

Photo credit: Heather Johnson @jessieonajourney