McAllen, Texas, located on the southern tip of the Lone Star State, is a birding hotspot—it even has its own official bird, the beautiful Green Jay.
Among the area’s best spots for birding is the Quinta Mazatlan estate. One of nine World Birding Centers in the Rio Grande Valley, the estate surrounds a 1930s Spanish Revival hacienda. Special programs and events here include birding tours on the estate’s nature trails, which wind through more than 15 acres of birding habitat including native woodland and tropical landscaping. A casual walk here is liable to turn up everything from Gold-fronted Woodpeckers to the Buff-bellied Hummingbirds which are found here year-round.
Another top birding spot, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, is headquarters of the World Birding Center–here visitors can spot more than 300 species of birds. I
enjoyed watching birds from the two-story Hawk Tower,which is handicapped-accessible and offers a stunning view clear across the Rio Grande into Mexico. The park is home to tropical birds found nowhere else in the United States, including “Valley specialties” unique to the area. Seven miles of trails complete with bird feeding stations and water features give visitors ample opportunity to take advantage of the richest birding north of Mexico.
Visitors who want to explore the great indoors can take advantage of McAllen’s reputation as a regional shopping destination. La Plaza Mall offers more than a million square feet of shopping ecstasy. Downtown, the vibrant Main Street Shopping District includes local specialty retailers and boutiques with a South Texas flair—including the Yerberia Mexicana, where shoppers can find everything from herbs to charms designed to alleviate money woes. (The “Dinero Rapido” spray has its devoted fans.)
The area offers a range of accommodations to suit the traveler. The Embassy Suites Hotel McAllen is centrally located and popular with birders as well as shoppers. Amenities include a complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast and evening manager’s reception in the spacious tiled atrium.
Restaurants in McAllen range from the popular Palenque Grill, with its full-service selection of authentic Mexican specialties to the small and quaint house.wine. & bistro offering 130 wines. Lansky & Brats, an elegantly-appointed steakhouse, also serves the freshest Pacific seafood. The atmosphere is a little more laid-back at Delia’s, which specializes in tamales ranging from the traditional bean and pork to sweet (loaded with pecans and coconut, they reminded me of baklava).
Thirsty? Roosevelt’s at 7, a cafe and alehouse located in McAllen’s Arts District, has more than 45 unique microbrews and select imports on tap, along with bottled beers from around the world.
McAllen is located on U.S. Highway 83 at the extreme southern tip of Texas, and is served by daily flights into Miller International Airport.
For more information on visiting McAllen, check out the McAllen Convention and Visitors Bureau website at www.mcallencvb.com.