by D. Fran Morley
I was intrigued by the invitation to visit Plano, Texas on a recent press trip. I was curious about the city, located just north of the Dallas metroplex (and about 20 minutes from the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport). I’d been reading good things about Plano and its explosive growth over the past decade or so (it’s home to at least six Fortune 500 companies), and I welcomed the opportunity to see some of the new developments. But I have to admit, I was most looking forward to what the invitation promised: a chance to “sip, shop, and savor” the town. Who could refuse an offer like that?
Our destination was Legacy West, a recently opened 225-acre development anchored by the magnificent new Renaissance Dallas at Legacy West Plano. Like Legacy, its older sister property a couple blocks over, Legacy West is a true multi-use development, home to the headquarters of major corporations such as Toyota North America, Liberty Mutual, JP Morgan Chase & Company, and FedEx Office, as well as many smaller businesses, combined with high-end retail and nearly two dozen fine and fun dining and drinking establishments. We learned that the offices (now open or opening soon) will employ nearly 30,000 workers. Many of them might choose to live in one of the 800 apartments that will soon dot the campus. To say all this makes for a jumping neighborhood is an understatement.
Plano is an extremely diverse city with a sizable Asian community, and that influence is seen at the 288-room Renaissance, where every design element highlights a delightful East/West fusion. The design also honors the owners, Korean-born David Moon and his two sons, Sam and Daniel. (The Moon family owns Sam Moon Trading Co., a wholesale accessories and handbags retail store, with locations throughout Texas.)At the Renaissance Legacy West, the lobby coffee shop was replaced with the Texas Tea House that serves custom-blended Asian teas—and coffee too, of course. In the lobby a stunning Austrian crystal chandelier in the shape of a half-moon greets guests. In the guest rooms, a cowboy hat hangs next to a custom-made lucky cat statue, and pillows on the beds proclaim “Samurai Cowboy.” Bespoke artwork throughout the hotel’s public areas, event spaces and even the restrooms continues the theme. Outside one ballroom there’s a two-dimensional image of an ancient Ming Dynasty horse that when viewed from the other direction is an image known to all Texans (and most Americans): Roy Rogers’ horse Trigger. Also intriguing was a large piece of art in shades of gray that when viewed from a distance looks like a watercolor face of a beautiful Geisha. But step up close, and you see that the image is created with hundreds of recycled computer discs.
At Legacy West, shops and restaurants line Windrose Avenue, otherwise known as Plano’s own Rodeo Drive. A signature restaurant, Haywire, had only been open three nights when my group visited, and had been sold out almost from the start. Waiters buzzed around the three-level restaurant, which includes a whiskey bar, wraparound patio, glass-enclosed wine cellar, and unique private dining areas, including a 1950s airstream trailer. In the open-view bakery, we watched pastry chefs pull breads and crackers from the oven and put final touches on an amazing multi-layered chocolate cake that we would enjoy later. Then we turned around to watch the work of chefs and sous chefs in the open-view kitchen. If the staff had any lingering opening night jitters, they weren’t evident.
Next to Haywire, Legacy Food Hall was having a family and friends test opening during our visit, so all we could do was walk around and watch everyone else enjoying the food and drink. Also three levels, this venue has 30 food and drink “stalls,” with artisan food prepared on site, plus a craft brewery and an indoor and outdoor entertainment area. Cash is not accepted at the Hall; guests visit an ATM-like machine to buy a “Hall Pass” in varying amounts to use at any of the outlets and reload when necessary. I can imagine a group having fun with this by providing attendees with prepaid Hall Passes to use on any of the options (all of which are a foodie’s delight) and then meeting up later for music or other fun at the Box Garden entertainment venue.
My fellow journalists and I agreed that it would be easy to spend an entire visit just at Legacy West, but restaurants and attractions abound in Plano. John Klukan, director of sales and marketing for Renaissance Dallas at Legacy West, said the hotel’s “navigators” go through a six-month training period, and regularly are tasked with exploring the area for attractions in four categories: sip, savor, shop, and see.
“This might be anything we think our guests will enjoy: a fun new donut shop, a one-of-a-kind jewelry store, or a perfect spot to sip a cup of coffee,” he said. “If there’s some hidden gem that our guests will enjoy, we want to know about it and point them there.”
So while some of our sipping, shopping, and savoring was enjoyed at the Renaissance and Legacy West, we also ventured beyond. The original Legacy is a couple of blocks away (we were told a convenient connecting walkway is in the works), and while it offers more fine opportunities to shop and dine, it has a more settled-in feeling. I love real neighborhoods (even newly constructed ones) where residents can easily walk to work, shopping and dining. I was pleasantly surprised to find this in Plano, and not only at Legacy and Legacy West but in Plano’s downtown with its brick main street (original or not, I’m not sure, but it is a very pretty touch) lined with a dozen or so shops and restaurants, a farmer’s market, museum, and several new apartment buildings designed to match the traditional architecture of the downtown. To make all this even more accessible, there’s a downtown train station for DART, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit system.
Just on the edge of Plano’s downtown, we enjoyed a menu-ranging meal at a fun establishment called Hub Streat (yes, that’s how it’s spelled: think Street and Eat). The owners at Hub Streat based their menu on street food they enjoyed around the world, and they pride themselves on using local products for their made-from-scratch meals and custom drinks. Hub Streat would be a fun stop for a group, with separate spaces for meetings and dining as well as a large beer garden type entertainment area.
Long before it was a corporate headquarters mecca, Plano was famous as the site of Southfork, the ranch the Ewing family called home in the 1970-80s TV classic, Dallas. The picturesque ranch is open for tours (apparently it is very popular with foreign visitors) and is an event venue with meeting and reception space. Another space that sounds fun to me is Plano’s soon-to-open Crayola Experience, a 60,000-square-foot, hands-on adventure site where creative planners can let their imagination run free with team-building experiences.
As I discovered, “sip, shop, savor” is a promise that Legacy West, the Renaissance at Legacy West and all of Plano delivers on!