Day trips offer amazing opportunities to spend time together as a family while exploring something new. The area surrounding McKinney has so many great places to visit — so many, in fact, that it can feel like a challenge to pick the right place for your family’s needs. So, to help take the guesswork out of planning your next outing, Crème de la Crème of McKinney put together this list of five great places just a short drive from McKinney that you have to check out!

Dinosaur Valley State Park

A fossil of a dinosaur foot at the dinosaur park near McKinney, TX

Dinosaur track” licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr by mcdlttx

Think you can’t plan a day trip to please the whole family? Think again. If your kiddos get excited by the mere idea of dinosaurs, imagine how they’ll feel when they get the chance to spot dino tracks for themselves! That’s right. Dinosaur Valley State Park, located just under two hours from McKinney, lets you walk where dinosaurs walked. The bed of the Paluxy River here has the tracks to prove it.

There’s plenty of other activities to keep your family entertained for the day, too. Pack a picnic lunch, and plan to spend some time hiking, biking, geocaching, swimming, fishing, paddling in the river, or just watching for wildlife. The park features an interpretive center to help contextualize your visit as well.

When you’re ready to look for the tracks, just head over to the river. Long ago, dinosaurs walked along the ancient ocean that was here, leaving behind footprints in the mud. Keep in mind that because the tracks are in the riverbed, they aren’t always visible, and trails can be closed because of weather or wet conditions. Before you head out, contact the park to determine current trail status and dinosaur track visibility. Fortunately, the park is so easy to get to from McKinney, so you can plan your trip to take these factors into account.

The entrance fee for adults ages 13 and up is $7, and kids 12 and under can enter for free. If you’re interested in visiting various state parks in our home state, you might also consider getting the Texas State Parks Pass. For $70 per year, this pass gives you unlimited visits to 80 state parks, plus discounts on things like camping.

Lake Texoma

Lake Texoma, known locally as Texoma or Texomaland, is a surefire bet for an easy day trip whether you’re into rest and relaxation or action-packed adventure. The lake is located between Texas and Oklahoma on the Red River. The huge size of this lake coupled with its convenient location makes it a popular spot, and it brings in around 6 million visitors every year.

You’ll see why so many people love Lake Texoma as soon as you arrive. From hiking to horseback riding, swimming to fishing, and just about any water sport you can dream up, Lake Texoma has it all. The lake is ideal for nature lovers, and you can easily start your day at the lake from Eisenhower State Park.

Adults over 13 can enter the park for $5, and kids 12 and younger get in for free (or, you can all get in for free if you got that Texas State Park Pass!) You can explore Lake Texoma’s shores from the park, visiting high bluffs, swimming coves, or fishing spots where you can real in catfish, crappie, and striped bass. Keep your eyes open for fossils as well as gorgeous Texas wildflowers, and enjoy a day in nature close to home.

Fort Worth, Texas

If strolling around a city is more your vibe, just make the trip to Fort Worth. The downtown area alone boasts more than 75 dining options, from modern cuisines to Texas barbecue and beyond. Located less than an hour from our hometown, Fort Worth really has something for everyone, making it easy to plan a whole day here.

Looking for a taste of the old West? Just head over to the historic Fort Worth Stockyards, where you can check out wooden corrals and original brick walkways. If you visit on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday afternoon, you can take part in the Fort Worth Herd Experience, an interactive, free experience that both kids and adults will love.

Want to get up close and personal with mammals, reptiles, and birds? Spend some time at the Fort Worth Zoo, home to upwards of 500 different species. Entry for adults 13 and older is $16, entry for kids between 3 and 12 costs $12, and children 2 and under can enter for free.

Tyler, Texas

You can’t go wrong by making the drive out to Tyler, located under two hours from McKinney, if you’re looking for a fun way to spend a day. Known as the Rose Capital of America, Tyler boasts the most extensive municipal rose garden in the country.

The Tyler Rose Garden features hundreds of rose varieties over 14 acres — and admission is always free. If you time your trip for October, you can enjoy the annual Rose Festival, a yearly celebration of these amazing flowers.

Turner Falls Park

Though you have to cross state lines into Oklahoma for this next day trip, you can still make the drive in less than two hours from McKinney. It’s well worth it, as Turner Falls Park is home to the largest waterfall in Oklahoma. You’ll have beautiful scenery surrounding you wherever you go in this park, making it a great place if you’re looking to escape the summer heat or just connect with nature at any time of the year.

The park spans 1,500 acres and includes geological features, caves, and nature trails. The park has a maximum capacity, so buy your tickets in advance to ensure you don’t miss out when you have a day trip penciled into your schedule. Rates vary depending on whether you go on a weekday or weekend and whether you’re visiting during the winter or summer season, but kids under 5 always get in for free.

There you have it, Crème de la Crème of McKinney’s roundup of amazing day trips from our area. Did we miss a day trip you love taking with your family? Drop us a line so we can add it to our list!