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Seasonal spike: Downtown McKinney draws increased business, tourism over holidays
Photo courtesy of the City of McKinney - Dickens of a Christmas is just one of several holiday traditions in downtown McKinney that bring in tourists from all over North Texas and beyond each year.
This time of year makes the source of McKinney's lifeblood fairly obvious.
Historic downtown - the city's heart - sees an influx of tourists and increased activity that leaves little doubt.
"It just has that homey, nostalgic feel," Beth Shumate, of the McKinney Convention & Visitors Bureau (MCVB), said of downtown. "It showcases what's unique."
Two actual holiday showcases every year highlight just that to out-of-towners. Ty Lake of McKinney Main Street expects close to 30,000 visitors downtown this weekend at the Dickens of a Christmas celebration, and next weekend's Holiday Tour of Homes is in its 39th year.
Coupled with post-Thanksgiving shopping sprees, the downtown square livens significantly with the first winter rush. This year's participants could use northtexasshopping.com, an all-encompassing guide to gift and eatery options in Allen, Frisco, McKinney and Plano, the four cities behind it.
With online and mobile access, the site lists locations, descriptions and discounts for each city's exclusive hot spots. Users can also join the running for the year's final sweepstakes, a North Texas getaway weekend including a tour of Southfork Ranch.
And McKinney has as good of a shop-and-dine option as any, Shumate said.
"Downtown is just so neat; it's not just your average boutiques," she said. "You can pick up anything from stocking stuffers to designer clothing, stuff you're not going to find at 'Big Box' stores."
The annual Holiday Tour and Shannon Cole's Happy Trails Carriage Service, going on its fifth holiday season, help broaden attraction around the square, throughout the historic district.
The Holiday Tour consistently brings in visitors from around North Texas and beyond, said Cindy Johnson, executive director of the Heritage Guild of Collin County. PayPal ticket orders for this year's tour, which account for almost half the sales, show that about one-third are from buyers outside the county and another third are from outside McKinney. People are coming from Arkansas and Oklahoma, and one woman's coming all the way from Australia, Johnson said.
"We have people who came to the first one who still come on the tour," she said. "A lot of people are just curious about the east side, and new people want to see the city's historic side."
About 1,500 tickets were sold last year, with inclement weather preventing what likely would have been a record-high in sales, and tour numbers have increased by about 30 percent the past five years, she said.
Happy Trails gives similar historic district tours year-round, but the holiday season is easily its busiest time. Tour bookings between September and now are up 25 percent from last year, said Cole, who facilitates 12 rides a day and "hundreds of rides" between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.
"A lot more people have moved up here in recent years, and they want to see downtown and how wonderful it is," Cole said. "Everybody who did it last year has booked this year, too."
Some carriage-ride tourists have switched their holiday destination from Highland Park to McKinney, she said, because "there's more for them to do and less traffic."
Downtown stays busy, though, and not just over the winter. Lake said business is up around the square, thanks to 98 percent occupancy - about 42 property owners in a 12-block radius - a rate she said is "unheard of" for downtown districts nationwide.
An extensive infrastructure project in 2008 started a downtown turnaround that continues each year, she said. Oktoberfest, another of McKinney's downtown festivals, brings in around 28,000 visitors, but the ensuing attractions are what continue the draw through the end of each year.
McKinney's heart pumps hardest for the holidays.
"Downtown is definitely something people look at," Lake said. "There's something for everyone down here, and we're always in for something new."
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