Escape to the burbs

Frisco, Plano brimming with things to do.


There is fun to be had and great food to be eaten in Frisco and Plano.

Hey. Let’s spend the weekend in the burbs.

Hear me out. There is fun to be had and great food to be eaten in Frisco and Plano, the suburbs north of Dallas where the population is blowing up faster than a marshmallow in a microwave. It’s easy to put together a kid-pleasing trip or and adult shop-and-dine-a-thon.

Let’s start with Frisco for a family weekend. My 10-year-old grandson Aiden was revved about a plan that included sports, video games, trains and even a little history.

You probably know that the Dallas Cowboys have moved their practice facility and headquarters from Valley Ranch to Frisco. Called the Star, it’s a fan-friendly compound, with a miniature football green outside that’s always open for frolicking. Public tours take us inside not only the indoor and outdoor practice fields (where, by the way, Frisco high schools also get to play), but also the war room where players are drafted, the room where players are interviewed, a display of past and present uniforms, the Super Bowl trophies, the rings and the Cowboys cafeteria. I even spied owner Jerry Jones strolling through the lobby.

Retail’s taking root across the street, including an insanely popular outpost of the Cane Rosso pizza place that pays homage to the Cowboys with a clever pizza-calzone combo with mozzarella, pepperoni, tomatoes and arugula in the middle and corners folded in over ricotta to form the shape of a Cowboys star. Nice, fresh ingredients, but our star pizza, alas, arrived cold.

Also in the Star complex: a health club, a glitzy fan store and the new Omni Frisco, a sleek hotel with Cowboy touches such as football-themed art and drinking glasses etched with the star. The Cowboys stay here the night before home games. The hotel restaurant, Neighborhood Services, is a kid-pleaser with juicy burgers and, for breakfast, PB&J pancakes.

Into baseball? Frisco has the AA RoughRiders, and their stadium is major-beautiful for a minor-league field. It has a huge scoreboard and even a lazy river, populated mostly by adults on Thursdays (dollar beer night) and mostly kids on Saturdays (dollar ice cream night). That you can hang out in the water while watching the game means somebody noticed this is sultry Texas. Good job, RoughRiders.

What kid doesn’t love video games? The National Video Game Museum off Cotton Gin Road is packed with thousands of vintage video games on play stations including Sega, Nintendo, DS, Wii and more. Aiden and I played “Pong” (“It’s actually fun,” he said after knocking around the 1970s bouncing ball) as well as “Space Invaders” and numerous “Pac-Man” versions. He got to play Nintendo’s first “Super Mario” version on the same machine his mother used in the ’80s (and I used after they left for school every day). At one point I caught Aiden actually jumping up and down, so this museum’s a big win.

Then it was train time. The Museum of the American Railroad, right next to the video game museum, shows off 40 cars and engines that used to be at Dallas Fair Park, many dating to the late 1800s and early 1900s, including Pullman cars from the ’20s. The 1941 Big Boy steam engine lives up to its name, a hulking chugger. You can walk through several trains, and Aiden had fun clambering around the outside of others, peering into engines and coal cars.

We were ready to fuel up, and Babe’s Chicken Dinner House did the trick with big orders of chicken tenders, Aiden’s favorite.

Right next door, the Frisco Heritage Museum tells everything you need to know about Frisco, founded in 1902 and named for the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway. Half a dozen turn-of-the-century buildings have been moved here to tour, and a replica 1900 schoolhouse has been built. Aiden liked the century-old piano inside the 1904 Lebanon Baptist Church.

All that’s enough to wear a kid — and grandma — out, but it’s a delightful weekend.

Sometimes, though, you want to leave the kids and do an adult weekend. I took my two 30-something daughters, Tyree and Miranda, to the new Legacy West mixed-use development in Plano. We checked into its new Renaissance hotel and set off to explore the food, drink and shops.

Shopping, the official sport of Plano, is huge at Legacy West. I immediately scored a great sweater at Madewell, and my daughter found sports bras on sale for $9 at Fabletics. We browsed furniture at West Elm and window-shopped the Tesla showroom.

This is a foodie place. Legacy Hall, a food hall whose 20 food stalls will include some from Dallas celeb chefs such as Tiffany Derry and John Tesar of “Top Chef” fame, should be at least partially open by the time you read this. (It was supposed to be for our visit, but having a lot of cooks sometimes slows the broth.) Barnes & Noble has launched its restaurant, B&N Kitchen, here, and I enjoyed a gooey grilled cheese accompanied by a creamy tomato soup.

For dinner, the three of us scarfed pasta and truffled garlic bread at North Italia (dancing lighted fountains outside made it feel like a mini-Bellagio), then joined the line at Sprinkles for cupcakes. My vanilla coconut was perfect.

Then we decamped for girl talk at the Renaissance Dallas at Legacy West, which includes a pool deck with a vast view of Plano and a sweeping two-story lobby with a graceful staircase by a wall decorated with paper maché cow skulls.

The hotel is an eye-popping mashup of Texas and Asia, because the Moon family, owners of the Sam Moon accessory stores, made this hotel happen. It sounds like a strange design combo, but it works. Birdcage light fixtures and fan-shaped wood tables in the Asian fusion restaurant (where we had a lovely breakfast, including smoked salmon bao and perfect eggs Benedict) somehow meld nicely with branding irons over the bar.

Rooms feature cowboy hats hung on pegs and a quotation from George W. Bush scrolled artfully along the corners of two mirrors: “Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger, which Texans call ‘walking.’”

We weren’t at the hotel for an event, but we were glad we bothered to check out the second floor, where halls surrounding ballrooms and meeting rooms are graced with clever art such as portraits created with floppy discs.

It’s official: The burbs aren’t boring anymore.

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