Best Places to Live

McAllen, TX

Population: 147,688
Michael Conti

Located on the southern tip of Texas just a few miles from the Mexican border, McAllen's exciting downtown embraces the arts and has Spanish Colonial architecture that creates a distinctive setting. With geography and a World Birding Center site to its credit, McAllen's a favorite among birding enthusiasts. Yet it is downtown that draws flocks of music, food and drink fans, thanks to its multiple music venues, bars and restaurants.

Basics: In 2007, the City of McAllen and a nonprofit group joined to revitalize the downtown, eventually creating the 17th Street Entertainment District. More than 30 restaurants, bars and live music venues line the street today including the historic Cine El Rey, which hosts bands, comedians, plays and films. People from all over the Rio Grande Valley, including Mexican nationals, visit the district on weekends.

Details: In total, more than 60 bars, restaurants and coffee shops do business in downtown McAllen, according to McAllen's Heart of the City group. Meanwhile, McAllen Arts District on Main Street contains more than a dozen art galleries anchored by the Nuevo Santander Gallery. This area also includes the new 30,000-square-foot Art Village, a Tuscan-style retail area with four buildings of galleries, studios and restaurants. Residents go to downtown's Archer Park for city-sponsored outdoor movies, festivals and art parties. gives the downtown McAllen area a score of 53 – low compared to the national average but high for Texas. Residents access the city's transit system on the north side of downtown.

Don't Miss: Cine El Rey for shows, Alhambra for dinner