Despite its reputation as a mere border town, McAllen, Texas, is a very vibrant metro area and a major center for retail, international trade, tourism and manufacturing. A high quality of life, an abundance of medical facilities and young, bicultural communities are additional draws.
McAllen brandishes a warm and receptive population. Every year, thousands of winter Texans arrive to the Rio Grande Valley, where McAllen is located, during the mild fall and winter seasons, injecting more than $710 million into the local economy.
The metro area is also a haven for those crossing the border from Mexico to Texas. As of August 2015, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, along with the Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, have helped more than 23,000 people looking to make a new life for themselves in the U.S. As a result, Hispanic culture is strong in the area, with numerous Mexican restaurants found throughout the region and Mexican festivals taking place during the year.
U.S. News analyzed 100 metro areas in the United States to find the best places to live based on quality of life and the job market in each metro area, as well as the value of living there and people's desire to live there.
McAllen, Texas is ranked:
#94 in Best Places to Live
#6 in Best Places to Retire
METRO POPULATION: 819,217
MEDIAN AGE: 28.8
UNEMPLOYMENT RATE: 7.7%
AVG. ANNUAL SALARY: $33,810
AVG. MONTHLY RENT: $661
AVG. HIGH/LOW TEMPS: 85.9/65.2
AVG. ANNUAL RAINFALL: 22.2 inches
AVG. COMMUTE TIME: 22.1 min.
McAllen is one of the least expensive metro areas to live in the nation. Residents spend less than the national average on home purchases and monthly rents, as well as everyday expenses like food, transportation and heath care.
McAllen experiences year-round sunshine, and residents enjoy the 80-degree winters. On the flip side, the summers are scorching, with temperatures reaching into the 100s in July and August. High humidity is also prevalent throughout the year, and like all metro areas in the state, rain is rare.
McAllen residents rely heavily on cars to get around. Even so, the median commute time from home to work is just 22 minutes. For those who don't own a car or live near the city center, the Metro McAllen public transportation intracity buses run on seven routes throughout the metro area and offer paratransit services. The metro region has emphasized its green agenda by introducing a couple electric buses. The buses feature a zero-emission propulsion system and charge wirelessly. The buses are the first of their kind in Texas.
Plus, the metro area's bike-share program, BCycle, is a low-cost public transit option for citizens. Eighty bicycles are stationed in eight locations around the region, providing a convenient and healthy transportation option.
The McAllen Miller International Airport, which recently underwent a major expansion, is just 2 miles from the city center. The airport is serviced by major airlines like American Airlines and United, which offer daily flights to both national and international destinations including Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Las Vegas and Mexico City. Ground transport is provided by charter bus companies like Greyhound.
McAllen's population is young, with a median age of about 28. Close to 80 percent of McAllen residents are part of family households, and nearly 40 percent of households in McAllen are comprised of families with children under 18 years old. Additionally, thanks to the metro area's location along the U.S.-Mexico border, the community is largely bilingual and bicultural.
However, the region is also one of the poorest and most densely populated in Texas. Nearly 27 percent of people in McAllen fall below the poverty level, which is much higher than the statewide average of 17.6 percent.
Overall, Hidalgo County, in which the metro area is situated, is largely Democratic, but has an emerging number of voters registering Republican. Catholicism is the predominant religion in the region.
Located 70 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, McAllen attracts those who enjoy the water. Weekend pastimes range from pedal boating or kayaking in the metro area's Town Lake at Fireman's Park to taking day trips to the beach. But there are other ways in McAllen to enjoy the outdoors. Since the Rio Grande Valley is a major bird migration corridor, bird-watching is a popular activity too.
McAllen is often referred to as the retail center of Southern Texas and Northern Mexico. In fact, the region's La Plaza Mall makes the most sales per square foot than any other shopping mall in the country. McAllen also has the largest single-floor public library in the nation, offering everything from a children's play area to an art gallery to a cafe. And the metro area's International Museum of Art & Science is an interesting excursion for adults and kids alike.
Annual festivals, including the state's biggest lighted holiday parade and the Palmfest International Folklife Celebration in the fall, draw residents together. As far as nightlife goes, a mix of nightclubs, pubs and trendy restaurants comprise the metro region's entertainment district on 17th Street.