MacDonald Plains is named after Henry MacDonald, an explorer of the region. The original name for the area was The MacDonald Plains, with a 'the' prefixed (this was later dropped from the name). Before that, the area was known as Cursed Plains due to the poor fertility of the soil. The capital D was replaced with a lower case D.
Macdonald Plains was the name of a large region spanning from what is now Dunheved in the east to Keyn Plains in the west. The Allandale District was previously named MacDonald Plains District which included what is now the Penrith District as well.
Though not specifically serving the suburb itself, the nearest NotchRail station is Macdonald Racecourse on the NotchRail Allandale Line. The station is located in the Macdonald Racecourse and is lightly used. Trains only stop at the station on weekends by demand only, and on race days, which have timetabled stops at the station.
Macdonald Plains is mainly known for the Macdonald Racecourse, a oval-shaped boat racing course with an extremely large seating capacity.