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Colorful, Creative, Laid-Back South Texas Living in McAllen

Top draws include vibrant arts scene, excellent climate, urban attractions.

By Lauren Caggiano on August 10, 2019

McAllen, TX
McAllen / Nathan Lambrecht

When it comes to quality of life, McAllen residents will tell you they enjoy a place with the whole package, broadly encompassing a colorful, thriving arts scene, an excellent climate and many ways to enjoy them both.

For Laura Robles, it is the inspiration drawn from a community that avidly supports artists and the arts that makes McAllen unique. That is something she is passionate about in her role as creative arts coordinator for the McAllen Chamber of Commerce.

“The concentration of the arts is more vibrant here, and that quality of life is what attracts new residents,†says Robles.

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McAllen’s Arts District, which runs along Main Street in the heart of the city, is a one-stop shop for galleries and more. The area is home to the McAllen ArtWalk the first Friday of the month from 6 to 10 p.m. September through May. In addition to visual and literary art and music, the area is home to several popular eateries, making it perfect for a night out that pairs dinner with connecting to the local arts scene.

While the arts district best exemplifies community support for local art, residents here also enjoy access to creative works, events and productions from throughout the world.

National & International Arts

A shiny new addition to the local arts scene in recent years is the McAllen Performing Arts Center, which opened in 2016 and is making performing arts even more accessible to the community. The nearly $45 million venue seats about 1,880 people and brings a wide variety of nationally recognized productions of music, dance and theater. Recent productions have included “The Sound of Music,” “Les Misérables” and performances by the Shen Yun Performing Arts and the Valley Symphony Orchestra.

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Another cultural institution and local gem is the International Museum of Art & Science (IMAS) which has earned the reputation as the premier art and science museum of South Texas. Visitors participate in hands-on science exhibits and view and ponder art exhibitions from around the world. The museum’s permanent collection features European paintings from the 16th to 19th centuries, Japanese prints, lithographs by Pablo Picasso and the country’s largest collection of Mexican folk art.

Art doesn’t have to be confined to the indoors, of course. McAllen Convention Center’s Sunset Live monthly outdoor concert series occurs the first Saturday of the month and features a picnic vibe with live local music ranging from jazz to pop. The approximately 6,000 attendees for each event can sample delicious menus at local food trucks and shop for unusual handcrafted items at the artisan market.

Parks, Trails & Natural Attractions

Speaking of getting outdoors, residents looking for fresh air and a chance to burn some calories know they can easily find outlets for that throughout the city’s robust parks and trails system. The city’s parks division maintains an exercise and fitness trail system at various parks located throughout the city. The system offers routes as long as more than two miles for walking, running, skating and cycling.

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In the warmer temps of the summer months, locals know there are plenty of places to cool off. While beaches are within easy reach (McAllen is just about a 90-minute drive from vacation mecca South Padre Island), one doesn’t have to leave town to entertain the kids with affordable options, including Zinnia Splash Park and Palm View Splash Spray Park. Meanwhile, Town Lake at Fireman’s Park is a favorite destination for pedal boating, kayaking, or standup paddleboarding, and the park offers guided public programs like standup paddleboard workouts, learn-to-fish classes and family overnight campouts. Custom group programs for fishing and camping are also available.

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For those who enjoy golf, McAllen has you covered. Considered by many to be among the premier golf courses in the state, Palm View Golf Course is an 18-hole, public facility owned and operated by the city. The course has earned acclaim for its wide and generous fairways and challenging terrain.

Historical Urban Sanctuary

Locals also know a place to get up close and personal with nature and immerse themselves in a setting with long local history at the same time: Quinta Mazatlan is a former Spanish Revival residence turned urban sanctuary, whose mission is to educate people about birds, plants and environmental stewardship. The bronze-sculpture-laden native gardens provide a look at the ecological diversity of the Rio Grande Valley, and tours provide an educational look at the gardens, birds, bronze sculptures and interpretive displays about the history of the community.

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