On the face of cities of the stature of Houston and Austin, McAllen is merely reduced to a border town.
But the residents beg to differ. Living in McAllen, Texas, can be just as enjoyable, rewarding, and fulfilling as in any major city in Texas. McAllen tops the charts in many factors, from a thriving industry to affordable living cost to culinary delights.
So, if you’re thinking of moving to McAllen – either temporarily or permanently, for professional or personal reasons – this comprehensive guide is for you. Learn what the Texan border town is like and whether making the move is right.
McAllen at a Glance
As already said, McAllen is more than a border town. But let’s start with its reputation as a border town.
The city of McAllen is located in the southern part of Hidalgo County and extends as far north as Reynosa, Mexico. It is home to the two border crossings with Mexico: McAllen-Hidalgo and Anzalduas International Bridge.
McAllen is rather small, with a total size of 48.6 square miles. As of the 2020 census, it had a population of 142,210, making it the fifth most populous metropolitan area in Texas.
The city’s history can be traced back to John McAllen, an Irish merchant and stockman, who donated his land for railroads in exchange for a guarantee that the railroad would cross the area. It was the year 1904. By 1970, McAllen was a major trading center in the region, and the border crossing was set up around the mid-1980s.
The city is 238 miles from San Antonio, 60 miles from Brownsville, and 148 miles from Laredo. Also, the Gulf of Mexico is 70 miles from the city, making it a geographically attractive location.
The city has earned the nickname ‘The City of Palms’ because of the tropical vegetation dominated by palm trees and thorny shrubs.
A Melting Pot of Cultures
McAllen is a melting pot of cultures with a rich history that has shaped its unique identity. The city’s diverse population brings together people from different backgrounds, creating a welcoming and inclusive community. This cultural tapestry is reflected in McAllen’s culinary scene, festivals, and other aspects of life.
As already stated, the founder had an Irish background. The prominent figures that followed had Spanish, Mexican, and French roots. All of this is reflected in its current status as a multi-cultural city with a strong Mexican influence.
As of the latest data, 50% of the population is white Hispanic, 8.88% is non-white Hispanic, 17% is mixed Hispanic, and 2.71% is Asian.
Notably, 26% of the residents were born outside of the US and thus are classified as immigrants.
A Thriving Self-Sufficient Economy
McAllen has come a long way since its founding as a railroad location. However, the seeds for its economic prosperity were laid a few years prior when irrigation was introduced in the Rio Grande Valley in 1898. Today, it is a thriving city supported by a local, self-sufficient economy.
The city’s strategic location on the U.S.-Mexico border plays a major role, making it a thriving trade environment and a hub for businesses and entrepreneurs.
International trade is one of the biggest contributors to its economy. It’s common to spot trucks making trips back and forth between the US and Mexico.
The other sector is retail. The city is often referred to as Southern Texas’s retail center. The La Plaza Mall is located near the border entrance. You can find similar shopping malls and distribution centers throughout the city.
Lastly, it’s the tourism that creates wealth for the region. Millions of people visit McAllen on their way to explore Rio Grande Valley.
The strong economy is reflected in its low unemployment rate of 5.8% in September 2023.
In terms of employment, the sector that tops the chart is education, followed by health. Employers like the McAllen Independent School District, South Texas College, and the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley employ many residents.
Reasonable Cost of Living
One of the standout features of McAllen is its affordable cost of living. Housing, utilities, and everyday expenses are notably lower than the national average, allowing residents to enjoy a high quality of life without breaking the bank.
The average cost of living for a family of 4 in McAllen is approximately $3,325. The figures only go down when you move to less-influential neighborhoods.
This affordability and the city’s economic opportunities make McAllen an ideal choice for individuals and families looking to thrive without compromising on their lifestyle.
The affordability also compensates for the city’s below-average pay rate of around $39,380. This is well short of the national average of $58,260. But at McAllen, you won’t feel the crunch.
A Somewhat Competitive Housing Market
McAllen is growing rapidly. It has a vibrant economy and a stable political environment. This contributes to its competitive housing market. In fact, reports reveal people choose to rent a home rather than buy real estate in McAllen.
The median sale price of a house in McAllen is about $287,711, which is up 17.5% Y-o-Y.
But savvy investors seize the opportunity and buy real estate properties even in this competitive market. As the price will only trend upwards, room for making a loss is negligible.
Food lovers rejoice in McAllen, where the culinary scene is a delightful fusion of Texan and Mexican flavors. From family-owned taquerias to upscale restaurants, the city’s diverse dining options cater to every palate.
McAllen’s food festivals and events celebrate the richness of its gastronomic offerings, making it a haven for those who appreciate the art of good food.
So, if you’re coming from outside Texas, prepare for some tantalizing Tex-Mex cuisine.
Typical Texas Year-Round Sunshine
Just like the rest of Texas and typical of the Rio Grande Valley region, McAllen experiences a subtropical climate. The summers are hot, winters are mild, autumns are pleasant, and the climate remains dry.
In the summer, the temperature can rise to 100s°F (above 37°C) with high humidity. The city receives 223 sunny days in a year, which is above the US average.
Residents and visitors alike can enjoy favorable weather conditions for the majority of the year, making it an appealing destination for those who appreciate a warm and sunny climate.
A Bird Watcher’s Paradise
Situated along the banks of the Rio Grande, McAllen offers easy access to the region’s natural beauty. Residents can explore the nearby Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, known for its bird-watching opportunities and hiking trails. The city’s commitment to preserving the environment ensures that residents can enjoy the serenity of nature without venturing far from home.
The city has several prominent bird-watching hotspots, including the Santa Ann National Wildlife Refuge, Sabal Palm Sanctuary, and Estero Llano Grande State Park, all within the realms of McAllen.
The year-round sunshine only aids the bird-watching experience. So, grab your binoculars and put on the birdwatcher’s hat when you’re in McAllen.
City of Bugs!
The not-so-good thing about living in McAllen is the bugs that also hold the McAllen residency. Like many places in Texas and the southern United States, McAllen is home to various insects.
The warm and humid climate, typical of the region, provides a favorable environment for insects to thrive.
Mosquitoes, ticks, cockroaches, termites, and wasps are some of the common bugs you may have to befriend. Rest assured, there are many pest control companies in the area.
In conclusion, McAllen, Texas, is more than just a city – it’s a thriving community that embraces diversity, celebrates culture, and provides its residents with a high quality of life. Whether you’re drawn to the economic opportunities, the rich cultural scene, or the warmth of the residents, McAllen welcomes you with open arms. If you plan to get settled here and dream of having your own home, contact Guzman Construction today.