Rio Grande Valley
- Brownsville - The southernmost port city of the continental US is an important border city.
- Harlingen - This is also has a barge port (with the Arroyo Colorado as the waterway). Several shrimp farms, orchid operations, and other things are around Arroyo City (between Harlingen and the bay (Laguna Madre)
- McAllen - The City of Hidalgo is the border town, McAllen is about 10 to 12 miles from the border with Reynosa, Mexico.
- Weslaco, Progresso - Weslaco is in the Mid-Valley and close to Progresso, which, as a sister city across the river, is also known as Progresso in Mexico.
- Edinburg - It is just north of McAllen. The 4 county area of Cameron, Hidalgo, Willacy, and Starr are generally referred to as the Rio Grande Valley
- Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge
- South Padre Island, including Isla Blanca State Park
- Edinburg Birding Center, including Park Areas
- Other birding Centers
The Rio Grande Valley, sometimes known as the RGV by locals, encompasses the coastal areas south of Baffin Bay down to the Rio Grande River, which serves as Texas' border with Mexico.
Brownsville, Harlingen, and McAllen Airports have commercial service with daily flights or drive down Highway 77, or Highway 281 (future I69), but be mentally ready for a long drive. Texas is about 800 miles north-south and about 800 miles east-west depending on your route. A 10 hour drive from here will take you to Mexico City or to Dallas: they are about equally far.
Take breaks from driving: Whataburger makes a good stop (or Dairy Queen in either Three Rivers or George West, the story-telling capital of the world)
If arriving from the south, take Highway 40 from Mty (short for Monterrey, [[Mexico]#]), or Highway 180 to Highway 97 North from Victoria, Mexico. Highway 180 continues on to Matamoros/Brownsville, while 97 splits off for the Reynosa/McAllen area.
Be sure to have the appropriate passport and other documents for entry to the USA.
Brownsville is the only major city to have a complete bus system, McAllen has started a bus system: currently with limited routes and schedules (about once an hour with only 4 lines).
The pickup truck is king on the Texas Roads, and you can even rent one from the car rental agencies either at the airport or in town. Europeans might be amazed at what Texans drive as average vehicles--reducing our carbon footprint is an ongoing thought--and summer of 2008's $4 gas helped get our attention. Of course, where else can your 4 door pickup truck haul a 15,000 lb boat and trailer while also carrying 6 people in comfort?
Bicycling is possible, but traffic has its hazards--even the bicycle lanes are regularly violated by cars and trucks turning right.
The car/pickup-dependent culturemeans that sidewalks are not consistent through towns and cities, forcing pedestrians to walk eiter on uneven ground or on the street. The hot climate is not well suited to long walks: if walking for any distance, you should consider a camel backwater supply system.
Distances are fairly large between attractions in the are. Blue Town, on old Military Highway, was named for the location where troops from Fort Brown would meet Troops from Fort Ringold for joint drills.
Birdwatch, in many areas of the Valley, parrots, egrets--many birds visit the area each season--along the coast, flamingos stop by as well/
Fish: Laguna Madre (our bay) is a shallow bay, and a great place to run aground while fishing- this is why most of the bay boats you will see have tunnel hulls, and motors that can lift (usually a jack-plate). Just be careful, if you are used to freshwater fishing, to keep your fingers out of the mouths of the fisASh many have sharp teeth.
Offshore Fishing: there are captains that charter (6 pack or larger) and take folks out to the snapper banks (60 miles) or other offshore fishing.
Scubal: while the Gulf of Mexico often has a "murky layer." there are artificial reef areas set aside specifically for scuba (these have several features sunk for divers to experience) and in the upper layers of water; the visibility is quite good.
Discussions and explorations of re-opening Delta Lake for recreational use are underway (north of Edcouch-Elsa, and the Monte Alto area).
There are many eating options across the RGV area, new to the McAllen Mission area, is the entire zone around the McAllen Convention Center- several restaurants from PF Changs, to the more local Kumori Sushi exist here alongside our more traditional Tex-Mex or RGV food. Local dining stands are sometimes small, with hamburgers and traditional tacos around (a normal order is 6 small format tacos).
On South Padre Island, Blackbeards has been serving up half pound burgers, shrimp and even steaks for more than 30 yearsl the back room is the original restaurant seating area. The Island has been recovering from Hurricane Dolly (2008) and from the own bridge collapse in 2001 (a barge hit it). There are many places to eat at the Island, from Beachside to Bayside; many places on the bay are excellent spots for sunset watching.
Many people enjoy a beverage while watching the sun set. Pelicans Wharf is one such spot, as is 202, Louie's backyard, and many more. By the time you arrive, there could be a new one you should try out.
The food options extend to both sides of the border: just be sure to bring your passport. Garcias, Arturos, La Mansion, La Fogata, and many other high service food options are just across the border, or for the adventurous, several Calle de Taco options are out there.
Many of the great local places have grown out of walk up stands- to full service places and even adding on rooms for special events like weddings and such. One is Trevino's in Edinburg (north of the Courthouse on Business 281). Even in the last 14 years, it has expanded twice.
La Jaiba Shrimp House has several locations around the Edinburg area. There are also several new places on North 10th in McAllen as you approach the Trenton cross street. Many of these are being influenced by new chefs, trying out new concepts. The churn rate has been high, so by the time you eat out they will be very good or very new.
Drink plenty of water as this is a very hoy climate. Dehydration will make your trip a bad one.
Most bad things happen between midnight at 6 am, so you could try Benjamin Franklin's advice: "Early to bed, early to rise," but then again, you may be here for late night fun.
McAllen's downtown has been revitalized: with relatively new parking options (a parking tower) and nightlife--riffraft has been cleared out a few years ago creating a much safer environment that is more tourist friendly.
Crime statistics are out there: it seems to be no less safe here than most other metropolitan areas, and despite the narcotrafficking violence, it seems at least as safe as Texas's other major cities and Metropolitan Statistical Areas.
Highway 83 follows the border out of the Valley to Laredo area through historic Zapata county. "Better to die on your feet than live on your knees" is the famous saying of it's namesake.
Highway 281 and Highway 77 go north out of the RG.
Mexico's Highway 40 goes south to Monterrey , Saltillo, Torreon, Durango, and ultimately Mazatlan
Highway 97 goes south to Victoria and Tampico towards Veracruz Mexcico.
If you are departing by water, it is possible to leave the RGV from either Port Mansfield (a scenic fishing and small boat port) or Port Isabel. (Port of Brownsville is for ships, while Port of Harlingen is for barges). If you are heading to Florida, sail east for 600 to 1000 miles; if to Cancun, go southeast for 600 miles.
By air, you can depart by commercial air service from Brownsville, Harlingen, or McAllen.
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