You don’t need to know the difference between a Green Kingfisher and Green Jay to enjoy McAllen, a top birding center and Texas border town. Lakes, nature trails, wildlife and authentic Mexican cuisine make this hidden gem in the Rio Grande Valley a unique and family-fun destination.
If you are a birder, this town is for you. Nearly 530 species have been documented in the McAllen area. But even if you’re not, it’s fun to spot birds in McAllen’s many wildlife havens. You never know, this could be your family’s new hobby. Tip: Pack binoculars, walking shoes and sunscreen. Be sure to pick up bird lists from the following attractions to help you identify birds. It makes it much more fun.
At Quinta Mazatlan, one of nine World Birding Centers, we took a pleasant walk along the Forest Sculpture Trail where we spotted rabbits and birds, including many native Chachalacas (birds that call out “cha-cha-lac”). Bronze sculptures of deer, coyotes, squirrels and other wildlife represent creatures of the thorn forest.
The Edinburg Scenic Wetlands, a 40-acre habitat to birds, ducks and other water-loving creatures, has scenic paths with viewing platforms for better spying. We even spotted a Green Kingfisher, a resident bird that makes a rattle sound. (Green Jays make a frog-like sound).
The 760-acre Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park is a top U.S. birding center home to more than 325 species of birds. There are also butterflies, dragonflies and wildlife. We saw a bobcat lounging on a log and three javelinas – pig-like mammals – crossing a path. You can ride a tram or ride bikes to explore the park. We rented bikes and, with map in hand, peddled through the scenic park, which has a two-story platform for viewing hawks. Visit the nature center for trail maps and souvenirs. Bring water and snacks to enjoy along the way.
Museum of South Texas History
This interactive, very visual museum tells the region’s story with unique artifacts and state-of-the-art multimedia. Check out prehistoric fossils, ancient tools, Spanish colonial treasure and battlefield relics. The exhibits are outstanding. Families can walk onto a steamboat exhibit, and through a replica train station.
The Republic of the Rio Grande restaurant serves enchiladas and fajitas in addition to sandwiches and pizza.
With its casual atmosphere and delicious Mexican dishes, the Palenque Grill makes a great lunch stop after a morning of fresh air and exercise.
At family-owned Delia’s Tamales, you’ll find the biggest and best selection of stuffed corn tortillas. From sweet to spicy, the tamales are muy bien.
If you’re visiting without the kids, be sure to stop by Roosevelt’s At 7, McAllen’s first ale house with 45 unique microbrews and select imports on tap. Friendly service and cozy ambiance make this a worthwhile visit.
Lodging in McAllen, Texas
Springhill Suites is a budget- and family-friendly hotel with a free breakfast buffet and afternoon snacks.There’s also an indoor swimming pool.
For more information about McAllen, visit www.mcallencvb.com.