Spend a Day in McAllen, TX

Check out this 24-hour agenda for your visit to McAllen, TX.

Laura Hill
On Friday, August 10, 2012 - 06:00
McAllen, TX Things to Do

Got 24 hours to spare? We recommend a busy day, well spent, in McAllen, where you can fill every available hour with interesting sights, delicious cuisine and fun activities.

"McAllen is a beautiful multicultural city with plenty to do and see," says Gerry Garcia, vice president for special projects for the McAllen chamber. "From shopping in the most popular stores in the nation or unique, one-of-a-kind shops, to fine dining and plenty of family outdoor activities - you can do it year-round here."

Midnight to Noon in McAllen

Where to stay? McAllen has nearly 3,600 hotel rooms, from luxurious traditional hotels to new motels with all the contemporary bells and whistles. The Renaissance Casa de Palmas, a four-star hotel on Main Street, was built in 1918 and lavishly restored into a luxury property featuring Mission architecture that recalls McAllen's past. Or try the Spring Hill Suites, just off the expressway, for a more modern take.

After a comfortable night, start the morning off with breakfast at Jimmy's Egg, a new outpost of a longtime Oklahoma favorite. Here, enjoy nearly any kind of egg you can imagine for breakfast "“ or atop a burger at lunch. Go further south of the cuisine border at Las Cazuelas Grill, another popular new eatery, for Chilaquiles con Huevo or Molletes.

The hike and bike trail at on Second Street and another on Bicentennial offer the chance for a leisurely 2.3-mile stroll around town "“ you've got work off that breakfast, after all. And then head over to the International Museum of Arts and Sciences, where a wide variety of changing art and science exhibits always offers something interesting.

Another must-see is McAllen's new public library, which at a whopping 123,000 square feet is the largest single-floor library in the U.S. This former Walmart building underwent a total transformation into an aesthetically pleasing community resource that's already gaining attention worldwide for its colorful, open and functional design. Opened in December 2011, the facility has already won first place in the International Interior Design Association's 2012 Library Interior Design Competition.

Lunch and Later

"We've got over 600 restaurants here," says chamber president and CEO Steve Ahlenius. So, since it's noon already, try the locally owned House Wine & Bistro for a leisurely lunch, perhaps some flatbread, salad or risotto. Or, for a Latin flavor, try KoKo's for delicious Mexican fare.

In McAllen, a day without shopping would be sad indeed. The Plaza Mall is the most visited mall in the country, and Palms Crossings at the Convention Center offers eating and shopping destinations.

"After I finished shopping, I'd spend the rest of the afternoon at Quinta Mazatlan (an historic home that also offers nature trails and legendary bird watching)," Ahlenius says. Or you might try kayaking or catch-and-release fishing on Town Lake at Firemen's Park.


McAllen After Hours

You're not tired are you? Good, because after freshening up back at your hotel, it's off to a night on the town. Mexican food at popular Costa Messa on 10th is a great option, as is the Mediterranean menu at Frida's Grill and Cantina (the cucumber martinis rate high praise) in the lively 17th Street neighborhood.

After dinner, stroll down 17th to catch the flavor of McAllen after hours. Or catch a show at the historic Cine El Rey theater, where comedy and live music take the stage. Finally, Santa Fe Steakhouse beckons for a nightcap or a late-night snack in its quiet, upscale bar, "where you can actually carry on a conversation," Ahlenius says.

Then, to bed. Where, after a good night's rest, you might just want to get up and spend yet another great day in McAllen.

Check out more fun things to do in McAllen.


Laura Hill is a former reporter/columnist for the Tennessean and a contributor to Journal Communications publications since 1996.