Quinta Mazatlan
© Courtesy of Quinta Mazatlan

McAllen is a moderately-sized city in the Rio Grande Valley, in the southernmost part of Texas. McAllen has fine shopping, nightlife, museums, outdoor recreation areas, a science center, as well as many locales where birdwatchers can find endemic and migratory species. The city focuses on promoting the work of local artists; art walks and galleries abound in the downtown historical district of McAllen.

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» Quinta Mazatlan

Quinta Mazatlan
© Quinta Mazatlan

Quinta Mazatlan is a 1930s Spanish-style mansion and grounds which is a center for birdwatching and environmental education. More than 230 species of birds have been spotted here in the Rio Grande Valley, some of them are migratory, others year-round residents. Quinta Mazatlan is the only known habitat of the rare Buff-bellied hummingbird, and attracts many other varieties of this tiny species.

The estate is also a hotspot for migratory butterflies. A peaceful refuge only twenty minutes from downtown McAllen, Quinta Mazatlan offers extensive educational programs for children and adults, gives historical and themed botanical tours, and has several nature trails for visitors to explore.

600 Sunset Drive, McAllen, Texas 78503, Phone: 956-681-3370

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» International Museum of Art & Science

International Museum of Art & Science
© International Museum of Art & Science

The International Museum of Art & Science provides educational programs, cultural events, and exhibits primarily focused on the ecosystem of the Rio Grande River. It has an interactive science playground in which children can crawl, climb, and slide their way to discovery about the Rio Grande, the award-winning Watershed exhibit which invites hands-on discovery about the water cycle, and a weekend science presentation designed by NASA which displays celestial and planetary systems as seen by space probes, satellites, and the Hubble Space Telescope.

An outdoor sculpture garden displays large statuary from the U.S. and Mexico. Summer camps, school programs, and guided tours are available.

1900 W. Nolana Avenue, McAllen, Texas 78504, Phone: 956-682-0123

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» McAllen Nature Center, McAllen, TX

McAllen Nature Center, McAllen, TX
© McAllen Nature Center

McAllen Nature Center is a 20-acre nature park close to downtown McAllen, Texas. Originally designed to give the community an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, the McAllen Nature Center has become a prominent bird-watching site, and offers many programs for children and adults. There are nearly a mile of ADA-approved nature trails, a cactus garden, forested acres, meadowlands, and a wetland ecosystem. Ample parking is available, and the Nature Center also has picnic tables and restrooms.

Birds spotted here include the greater roadrunner, the Great Horned Owl, Yellow-Headed Parrots, Black Phoebes, and a large variety of water birds such as teals, ducks, egrets, and herons. Additionally, Yoga and tai chi classes, as well as bird and nature walks are available on the grounds of the Nature Center.

4801 W. Business 83, McAllen, Texas 78501, Phone: 956-681-3333

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» McAllen Heritage Center

McAllen Heritage Center
© McAllen Heritage Center

The McAllen Heritage Center is a museum of McAllen's history and culture. Opened in 2008, the Heritage Center contains interesting artifacts, pictures, and videos of the area's long history. Murals with historical themes grace the walls of the Center. The McAllen Heritage Center examines the earliest European discovery of the Rio Grande Valley, by Alonso Alvarez de Pinada, in 1519, the first organized settlement in the area, started by Jose de Escandon in the 1740s, and the founding of the town in the early 20th century.

The first buildings in McAllen were a rail siding, erected in 1905, and a post office, which opened in 1906. Visitors will find free parking behind the museum, and guides to help tourists make sense of the many exhibits in the museum.

301 S. Main Street, McAllen, Texas 78501, Phone: 956-687-1904

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» McAllen Farmer's Market

McAllen Farmer's Market
© McAllen Farmer's Market

The McAllen Farmer's Market is the place to buy organic, produce and other organic farm products grown and made in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. Every Saturday, from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m., residents and visitors may stop by and purchase fruits, vegetables, free-range eggs, natural honey, nuts, dried fruits, and an array of natural health and beauty products.

Flowers and plants are sold, as is grass-fed beef, pork, and lamb. The vendors of McAllen Farmer's Market use cooking demonstrations and student presentations to help educate the public about the benefits of healthy eating.

4001 N. 23rd Street, McAllen, TX 78502, Phone: 956-255-0190

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» Nuevo Santander Gallery, McAllen, Texas

Nuevo Santander Gallery, McAllen, Texas
© Nuevo Santander Gallery

Nuevo Santander Gallery is a family owned and operated shop selling museum-quality items, particularly artifacts relating to the American Old West. The gallery sells Old West arms, military uniforms, spurs, and saddles, and other objects representing the history of the Rio Grande Valley and Colonial Mexico. Fine Mexican collectibles can be found here, as well as antique furnishings and religious pieces.

Nuevo Santander Gallery also sells fine paintings by established local artists, focusing on art grounded in traditional realism, and in a variety of media: pastels, oil, and watercolor. The gallery's doors are 150 year old ironwork from Colonial Mexico, and the interior is adorned with regional mesquite walls and floors.

717 N. Main Street, McAllen, Texas 78501, Phone: 956-618-4959

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» La Plaza Mall

La Plaza Mall
© La Plaza Mall

La Plaza Mall is the largest enclosed shopping mall in southern Texas. Only five minutes from the Mexican border, La Plaza Mall offers over 150 specialty retailers. Here shoppers will find everything they are looking for, from clothing, to cosmetics, sporting goods, electronics, toys, and housewares. La Plaza Mall has full-service banks, salons, a spa, and a children's play area that holds holiday themed parties and supports educational play.

If you've worked up an appetite shopping, you can take a seat in La Plaza Mall's dining area, which has food options such as pizza, salads, sandwiches, cookies, coffee, and giant pretzels. This upscale mall has valet parking, complimentary Wi-Fi, and stroller rentals.

2200 S. 10th Street, McAllen, Texas 78503, Phone: 956-972-5454

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» Earth Born Market, McAllen, Texas

Earth Born Market, McAllen, Texas
© Earth Born Market

Earth Born Market is a specialty farmer's market offering 100% organic, sustainable produce. The store sells only local, organic, fresh, raw produce. The Holbrook family owns the market, and owns the farm, South Tex Organics, in Mission, TX, from which most of the produce is sourced. The market sells organic fruit, citrus, vegetables, and fresh juices.

Both native and exotic fruits are available; some of the exotic fruits available include kumquat, persimmon, dragon fruit, jack fruit, passion fruit, and plantains. Fruit gifts can be bought at the market, or shipped anywhere in the United States.

4508 N. Taylor Road, McAllen, Texas, Phone: 956-682-2980

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» McAllen's New Park and Spray Ground

McAllen's New Park and Spray Ground
© McAllenTX/Facebook

McAllen's New Park and Spray Ground is located at the corner of North 29th and Zinnia Streets, and is a popular park that has water jets for community kids to cool off in. As well as the water jets, the park has a sand volleyball court, a basketball court, a skateboard area, walking and jogging trails, and athletic practice fields.

Shaded areas and picnic shelters are available to shield park-goers from the Texas heat. Picnickers can make use of the park's barbecue pits, and there are restrooms on-site. The park is extremely child friendly, and dogs are welcome as well.

5201 N. 29th Street, McAllen, TX 78504

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» McAllen Art Walk

McAllen Art Walk
© Courtesy of Roman Sigaev - Fotolia.com

The McAllen Art Walk takes place on the first Friday of each month between September and May, and highlights the culture of the city of McAllen. The art district of McAllen is in an historic part of the city, and includes venues on Main Street between Pecan Boulevard and Business Route U.S. 83.

Residents and visitors are invited to stroll through area galleries, art studios, museums, and the recently-founded Art Village, and to dine at restaurants in the vicinity. Archer Park is a lively part of Friday night art walks, where there are live musicians, buskers, artists, jewelry makers, food stands, and performing cosplayers to visit.

1009 Laurel, McAllen, Texas 78501, Phone: 956-490-5507

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» Palm View Golf, McAllen, Texas

Palm View Golf, McAllen, Texas
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Palm View Golf is a par 72, 6,771 yard golf course. Its wide, rolling fairways, fourteen man-made lakes, and carefully-maintained Bermuda grass make it a popular favorite among locals and visitors alike. The course has a lighted outdoor driving range, with eleven target greens, and an indoor hitting room with computerized swing analysis.

There is a Pro Shop on site, in addition to The Dining Room Grille, a full-service restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and featuring short-order meals and a wide variety of beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. A meeting and banquet room which holds up to 64 people is also available at Palm View Golf Course.

2701 S. Ware Road, McAllen, TX 78503, Phone: 956-681-3444

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» Veteran's War Memorial, McAllen, TX

Veteran's War Memorial, McAllen, TX
© Veteran's War Memorial

The Veteran's War Memorial of Texas is a five-acre site dedicated to the memory of Texans who sacrificed their lives for the sake of their country. Its central memorial building has a roof which is reminiscent of an eagle's wings in flight, and a 105' high spire jutting through the roof heavenward.

Soldiers of the Vietnam War, the Korean War, WWI, and WWII are memorialized here, their names engraved on granite walls. The War Memorial does not just seek to memorialize, but to educate and inform Texans of current and future generations about the great sacrifices that American veterans have made. All Texan Medal of Honor recipients are honored at the War Memorial as well.

8609 N. Ware Road, McAllen, Texas 78504, Phone: 956-631-2571

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» 17th Street Entertainment District

17th Street Entertainment District
© 17th Street Entertainment District

The 17th Street Entertainment District is located in the heart of McAllen, and features dozens of bars and upscale restaurants, all with their own vibe and entertainment options. Mostly frequented by younger residents, the district has something for everyone, whether you wish a quiet dinner with friends, a bar night with live entertainment or a DJ, or venues in which you can dance the night away.

This interesting party scene is monitored by security guards, offers plenty of parking, and pedi-cabs are available for hire for those who want to drink but not drive afterwards. The entertainment district includes cinemas and the hippest places in the city to dine.

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13 Best Things to Do in McAllen, TX