The Lone Star State is home to more than 140 species of mammals, including some that are found exclusively in Texas. With such an abundance and diversity of wildlife, the area offers nature lovers the rare opportunity to get up close to unique animals, from pronghorns and armadillos to bats and badgers. Our Crème de la Crème team has put together this guide on some great places where you can see wildlife around McKinney.
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
The Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary is a nonprofit that opened its doors in 1967. This organization’s mission is to connect visitors with nature and inspire everyone to deepen their environmental appreciation. The 289-acre facility offers a protected area for birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals to live and grow. Guests have reported seeing deer, armadillos, and various birds, including prothonotary warblers, right on the grounds.
Spending time outdoors is not only fun for kids — according to the Child Mind Institute, it can also boost their well-being, improve their attention span, and reduce anxiety. That’s why many parents enroll their kids in the sanctuary’s Summer Nature Camp where they delve into the wonders of nature, meet animal ambassadors, and explore topics such as the difference between a reptile and an amphibian and the purpose of bird beaks, feet, and feathers.
The Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary is a great place to bring the family for an outdoor excursion anytime. Your kids will love exploring the beautiful Native Plant Garden and Native Texas Butterfly House. For the best wildlife experience, visit the Animal Encounters Trail, which teaches you about the essential role animals play in nature.
- Location: 1 Nature Place, McKinney.
- Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Bonnie Wenk Park
Help your child develop a stronger connection to the natural world at Bonnie Wenk Park. Locals love this 216-acre spot for wildlife watching and other activities, such as jogging and biking. The two nearly half-mile trails connect residents with the Towne Lake and Creekview Estates neighborhoods. Bring your fishing pole to drop your hook in the 5-acre pond, or take a walk around it to watch the fish and birds that spend their time there.
There’s also tons of room for the kids to burn off some energy, with five play structures and an outdoor fitness court for adults. There’s even a lakeside amphitheater where you can enjoy a summer concert or movie and a doggie splash pad for your four-legged friend.
- Location: 2996 Virginia Parkway, McKinney.
- Park Hours: 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge
The Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge has been providing migratory birds and native wildlife with a safe habitat since 1946. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the preserve, which is home to species such as white-tailed deer, feral hogs, and wild turkeys. There are many ways to see the local wildlife, and you can start by taking a ride along the 2-mile Wildlife Drive. Head out at sunrise or about an hour before sunset for the best chances of spotting critters. The road follows the shores of Lake Texoma and provides the chance to spot northern harriers in the marshes.
Next, stroll along the hiking trails. There are five to choose from, and each one offers you the chance to listen to the sounds of songbirds and buzzing bugs as you make your way through the uplands. Each season brings new sights and sounds, so remember to grab a wildlife guide before you hit the trails to identify which species to look for during your visit. For example, if you visit during the summer, you’ll likely see great blue herons and painted buntings.
Finally, don’t leave the refuge without stopping by the Butterfly Garden. You can also try your luck and go fishing for all types of bass, from largemouth and smallmouth to spotted and striped.
- Location: 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman.
- Hours: Refuge lands are open from dawn to dusk daily. The Visitor Center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Rescue & Educational Center
You can spot examples of majestic wildlife at unexpected places in Texas, such as the In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Rescue & Educational Center in nearby Wylie. This nonprofit organization was officially established in 2000, and for more than two decades, its staff has cared for neglected and abused exotic cats.
Stop by and take a tour of the facility to meet its resident felines, including lions, tigers, cougars, leopards, and cheetahs. Spend a few hours this weekend learning about the rescued animals, including creatures such as Quisto the ocelot and Noodle the lynx. Explore at your own pace while checking out the signage that tells the story of each cat and provides info about the different breeds.
You can also book a 90-minute guided tour of the rescue facility — just make sure to schedule it at least a week in advance. Consider planning your trim around one of the organization’s outstanding wildlife events. Upcoming festivities include the Big Cat Birthday Bash (June 10), Watermelon Toss (July 8), and Pancake Breakfast (Aug. 19).
- Location: 3430 Skyview Drive, Wylie.
- Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Lift your spirits with a wildlife encounter at Erwin Park. Another gem of McKinney’s public park system, this spot is perfect for nature lovers who want to spend the night under the stars. More time outside means more opportunities to spot local wildlife, and with 12 dedicated sites, it’s one of the best camping spots near McKinney. Pitch a tent close to the park’s natural prairie land and wooded areas that provide a home for native wildlife. It’s just $12.50 a night for McKinney residents.
This 212-acre park also features world-class amenities for mountain bikers, such as 10 miles of trails, a skills course, and a repair station. There’s a large expanse of open space, and thanks to three pavilions, Erwin Park is also a great place for a picnic or outdoor family get-together.
- Location: 4300 County Road 1006, McKinney.
- Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Well, there you go, some of the best places in the McKinney area to see local wildlife. Did we miss your family’s favorite? If we did, let us know so we can share your ideas with other Texas parents.