Harlingen, Great Vacation for Any Budget

02/21/2012  |  By Harlingen Convention and Visitors Bureau

Then and Now

Harlingen, Texas was destined to become a crossroads from the moment Lon C. Hill placed his frontier town next to the St. Louis, Brownsville, and Mexico Railway track in 1904. Railroad crews had nicknamed the rugged settlement Six Shooter Junction before the train even arrived. At the center of fertile farmland laced with irrigation canals, Harlingen weathered bandit raids and floods to become an unrivaled agriculture shipping center by the 1920’s. World War II brought an aerial gunnery school followed in 1952 by Harlingen Air Force Base — whose property has since been redeveloped into Texas State Technical College, University Articulation Center, and Valley International Airport – the region’s largest and busiest airport. Today, Harlingen’s palms, parrots and picture-perfect subtropical climate welcome visitors to a fun-filled getaway. Enjoy year round golf and amazing bird watching. Go shopping at Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, or in Jackson Street’s antique district. 

Visit the Iwo Jima Monument and Memorial — this stunning outdoor sculpture is on the grounds of Harlingen’s Marine Military Academy, and is the original from which the monument in Arlington, Virginia was cast. Explore the World Birding Center brimming with colorful Green Jays, wild Parakeets, and chattering Chachalacas — all this and much more, only minutes from the beaches of South Padre Island and the legendary Laguna Madre Bay.

A One-Stop Shop

Harlingen is home to the newest Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, America’s most popular outdoor store. This store is a perfect combination of a museum, art gallery, aquarium, outdoor conservation education and entertainment. Each store is uniquely themed to the region in which they are located so that no two stores are alike. The Harlingen store offers three and one-half football fields of shopping excitement, and a unique underwater themed restaurant and bar with 12 bowling lanes. The outdoors are brought inside with distinctive flora and fauna including massive log and rock work, large aquariums and water features stocked with native fish species, and beautiful hand-painted murals throughout.

In contrast, Harlingen’s Historic Downtown brims with boutiques, antique shops, and restaurants. If you still haven’t had enough retail therapy, Harlingen also offers Valle Vista Mall and other retail developments. Just a few minutes down the road in Mercedes, Texas are the Rio Grande Valley Premium Outlets. This 140-outlet mall is the premier destination for shoppers looking for impressive savings on designer brands like Burberry, Polo Ralph Lauren, Sakes Fifth Avenue Off 5th, Brooks Brothers, Coach, Banana Republic, Gap Outlet, Juicy Couture, Lacoste, BCBG Max Azria, and much more.

Location is key when visiting the Rio Grande Valley (RGV). That is why Harlingen is a magnet for visitors and Winter Texans alike. Centrally located between the two other major cities in the RGV — McAllen and Brownsville — Harlingen is the ideal place to stay while experiencing what the entire Rio Grande Valley has to offer whether it is spending the day on the beaches of South Padre Island, visiting the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, shopping at the RGV Premium Outlets in Mercedes, or catching a White Wings baseball game — Harlingen’s own professional baseball team — at Harlingen Field.

Outdoors 365

With an average temperature of 75 degrees during the winter months Harlingen is an outdoors destination 365 days a year. A birders paradise, Harlingen is one of nine World Birding Centers in the Rio Grande Valley. The Arroyo Colorado/Hugh Ramsey Nature Park is a lovely 55-acre tract with photo blinds, nature trails, a picnic area, ponds and streams. The Harlingen Thicket is a 40-acre tract with hiking trails, a remnant of Tamaulipas native brush, and an impressive plant variety in an urban setting. Both are excellent places to see the more than 30 species of birds that can only be seen in South Texas including the Altamira Oriole, Green Jay, Harris’s Hawk, and the Great Kiskadee.

While all of Texas is home to some great hunting opportunities, Harlingen’s rich landscape and year-round greenery help develop some of the larger specimens to be found in the state. Nearby ranches offer professional hunts overseen by some of the best guides in the area. Wild game in the area include White-tailed deer, Javelina, Wild hogs, Dove, Quail, Ducks, and the exotic Nilgai — originally imported from India by the King Ranch.

Anglers will enjoy all of the sport fishing available along the Gulf Coast, whether it is Redfish, Snook, Tarpon or Marlin, South Texas has them all. This tropical fishing experience is unlike anything else in the U.S. offering the same angling experience that fisherman travel the world to find. Fish the ankle deep flats in the Laguna Madre on Friday and explore the sapphire waters offshore in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday. A combination of Harlingen’s convenient and affordable lodging and the professional guide services available are sure to make lasting memories. The Texas International Fishing Tournament is held August. In the last seven decades the tournament has become the largest on the Texas Gulf Coast, and is ranked in the top ten billfish tournaments in the world.

Harlingen is also the perfect destination for golf. In fact, according to a poll by the National Golf Foundation, the Rio Grande Valley has more playable days of golf per year than anywhere else in the United States. Harlingen has four public golf courses and one private course. Just down the road are two 18-hole championship courses at Rancho Viejo Resort and a picturesque course along the Laguna Madre Bay — the South Padre Island Golf Club.

Harlingen is #1

Ranked number one as the least expensive cities in the United States by the Council for Community and Economic Research, Harlingen offers a great vacation opportunity for any budget. Harlingen allows visitors to stay in affordable-quality accommodations, and dine in a variety of unique restaurants as they sit back, relax, and experience the best of South Texas — 365 days a year.

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