As the weather continues to warm up, Frisconians may gaze hopefully beyond the borders of their amazing enclave for some easy-to-get-to destinations where they can spend a day or two outdoors in unfamiliar surroundings.
Whether they look east to McKinney, west to Lake Lewisville, or south to Plano, Addison, and Dallas, everything will seem pretty much “been there, done that.” Is there anything to see to up north, other than acres of empty plains?
If you head north on Preston Road, you’ll first see the amazing growth Prosper has been experiencing. By the time you get to Celina, the neat subdivisions will give way to ranches and open land. You’ll see longhorns grazing lazily by the road, and just as you cross over into Greyson County, you’ll realize you’re no longer in DFW.
The towns you’ll breeze through on your way are tiny. There’s Gunter, where you may find a nice pumpkin patch in October. There’s also Pottsboro – they might be having Frontier Day at Friendship Park.
If you’re into corporate team-building on a massive scale, tell your coworkers about Extreme Sandbox, just off the road – you and your friends get to play with construction equipment! How’s this for an incentive… The employee of the month gets to crush a car with a bulldozer!
What happens when Preston Road ends?
Pretty soon, Preston Road narrows down and becomes Preston Bend Rd as it gets closer to Lake Texoma. You’ll drive past Preston Bend Park and enter a small community of water sports enthusiasts. You’ll see tackle shops, a marina or two, and many boats of all sizes parked in driveways. Eventually, Preston Bend Rd ends in a beach, on the shores of the Red River.
Alas, a lot of this area is private, so you’ll need to double back, unless you’re there with a boat of your own. If you time things right, you may catch Hannah’s BBQ as it opens. It’s less of a restaurant, and more of an Airstream trailer converted into a barbecue joint. They didn’t make it on the Texas Monthly’s list of 50 best BBQ places in the state, but they hit the proverbial spot with accuracy and satisfying force.
And so you turn east, toward Eisenhower State Park. About an hour from Frisco, this park has miles of hiking and biking trails, several camping sites, numerous picnic areas, and even a swimming beach, which is usually well-visited.
The views from the limestone cliffs are outstanding on a clear day (you can see Oklahoma, obviously!), and you may catch a few glimpses of some imposing private properties. This area is famous for its fossils, so look around for shark teeth and other cool finds. You might even consider getting a Texas State Parks Pass.
While you’re up there, visit the mighty Denison Dam, which transforms the Red River into Lake Texoma, grab a few photos at the spillway, and then turn south toward Denison. As every sixth grader knows, that’s where the 34th President of the United States was born, and you’ll find Eisenhower’s Birthplace and Museum just outside the downtown area.
It’s small, but cozy, and very well put together. You can follow Ike’s distinguished military career, and then his reluctant political career, in dozens of documents, photographs, artifacts, and videos. Don’t forget to visit the nearby statue and maybe get an “I like Ike” button or sticker.
Speaking of downtown Denison, its Main Street is a classic old-school town center, with lots of shopping (antiquing is huge here), various other businesses, and a few nice restaurants and cafés. I recommend CJ’s Coffee Café, where you can get not only a coffee, but also a tasty homemade soup and a bread-and-cheese plate, as well as a variety of sandwiches.
Eventually, you’ll get back in your car and head south, toward Sherman, the Greyson County seat. The courthouse dominates the central area of downtown in a way that will look familiar if you’ve been to Denton or McKinney. Downtown Sherman is also home to a Jazz Museum, the Sherman Museum, and a Touch of Class Antique Mall, an indoor mall populated by small shops and a handsome restaurant.
You’ll probably want to grab a burger at the Old Iron Post right on the corner and wash it down with a variety of adult beverages. If you eat that burger on their patio, you’ll spot a perfect place for dessert right across Travis Street: Gelati’s Ice Cream Parlor. You won’t find gelato much better than this unless you buy a plane ticket to Italy.
The best reason to visit Sherman might be the Ironroot Republic Distillery. It was built by two brothers, Jonathan and Robert Likarish, and they make every spirit you’re likely to ask about. You can take a tour, try some samples, even take a bottle or two home. They have a variety of excellent whiskeys, but on my visit, I came away with a bottle of gin, which offers a welcome alternative to the juniper-heavy British gins. There’s much more to the story of Ironroot, so stay tuned.
Provided you didn’t take too many Ironroot samples (or that you have a designated driver), you’ll hop on State Highway 75, which will take you back to Collin County, and by that point, you know the way. If you skipped Preston Road on your way north, slide over for the more scenic trip south. Once you see construction cranes, you’ll know you’re back in Frisco.
What are your favorite spots to visit north of Frisco? Sound off in the comments below.