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Located in the southern tip of Texas in the Rio Grande Valley, the city of McAllen is best known for its thriving Tejano culture, which can be seen in the local music and food scenes. Because the town shares a border with Mexico, you’ll read and hear a blend of English and Spanish almost everywhere you go. The climate here is one of the hottest in the entire country, making this a popular place to spend time outdoors in winter, with summers mainly spent inside or on the water. You can rent a paddleboard to explore the tiny Town Lake at Firemen’s Park to cool off in the summer, or take a walk through the McAllen Nature Center during the cooler months.
Palm trees line the streets of McAllen’s downtown area, where you’ll find Tex-Mex restaurants, shops ranging from big-name brands to independent boutiques, and a vibrant nightlife. There’s live music in town every night of the week, and you can catch a show at one of the local theaters. Learn about American and Mexican borderland heritage and the way these cultures have intertwined over time in this region at the Museum of South Texas History.
The closest airport is McAllen International Airport (MFE), 15 minutes away, which serves a handful of U.S. cities. You can rent a car at the airport, which is the easiest option for your stay at McAllen vacation rentals, or take a taxi or ride-hailing service. Once you reach McAllen, there is a limited public bus service around town. If you plan on exploring neighborhoods like the Arts District, consider renting a city bike for a daily or hourly rate. However, you will need a car to cover greater distances or spend time at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park.
McAllen enjoys a subtropical climate and experiences two distinct seasons: summer and winter. Temperatures can spike from May through October, so it’s always a good idea to bring sun protection and limit your time outside during the hottest parts of the day. September also brings the possibility of hurricanes from the gulf. In late October, Fiesta de Palmas sees two days of live music, artisan markets, food trucks, and a pumpkin patch. The day after Halloween, this city celebrates Day of the Dead, making the first days of November an especially lively time, as families celebrate the memories of their departed loved ones with elaborate parades, costumes, and offerings at special altars. Winters are short here, and although temperatures are still pleasant during the day, you’ll want to layer up in the evenings.
More than two dozen independent art galleries can be found on North Main Street, the site of McAllen’s arts community. Attractions include a large Spanish mission-style gallery specializing in antiques and art from the border, artists’ studios, and performance spaces where you can experience live music and dance. Take a painting class or grab a table at one of the many nearby restaurants. From May through September, join the art walk that takes place on the first Friday of each month.
From cantinas and food trucks to taquerias and upscale restaurants, McAllen’s food scene is filled with Tex-Mex delights. Chow down on Tex-Mex favorites like chimichangas, gorditas, hand-rolled burritos topped with melted cheese, and tacos filled with slow-cooked brisket and barbacoa. After you indulge, wash it all down with a refreshing agua fresca made with mango or pineapple.
Fifteen minutes from the center of town lies this protected park with more than seven miles of trails. There’s hiking and biking galore, and a tram runs through the park on weekends. Bentsen-Rio is also a great location for birding, with more than 360 species calling the park home, including roadrunner, groove-billed ani, and the great kiskadee. Stay alert while on the trails, as bobcats are regularly seen around the park.