Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Harlingen, TX

  • Published 2023/04/18

In the heart of the Rio Grande Valley and just 30 miles from Mexico, you’ll find the city of Harlingen, Texas.

The city is filled with nature and adventure and is more than ready to welcome any visitor.

There’s a lot of history there too, and since it’s so close to Mexico, you’ll find an exciting mix of cultures.

There’s a lot to do there, and the large area is both an adventure and an experience you won’t forget.

Here are the best things to do at Harlingen, TX:

Pay Respects at the Iwo Jima Monument

Daytime view of the Iwo Jima Monument

Fred LaBounty /

On February 19, 1945, a group of soldiers followed orders to assault the island of Iwo Jima in Japan during the Second World War.

After more than a day of fighting, soldiers were ordered to capture Mount Suribachi.

They reached the mountain peak to erect the American flag on the morning of February 23.

Photojournalist Joe Rosenthal’s photograph of this event became an iconic image of World War II.

This photo moved sculptor Dr. Felix W. de Waldon to commemorate the event in stone to make sure people remembered it.

Close view of the Iwo Jima Monument

Roberto Galan /

He labored on his piece for more than nine years, with some soldiers from the fight posing for him before fully casting it in bronze.

In 1981, the statue was donated to the Marine Military Academy to inspire young cadets.

At this time, the Iwo Jima Monument is still at the Marine Military Academy.

It proudly commemorates the brave soldiers who put up the flag in defense of freedom.

Explore Pendelton Park

Pendelton Park is located near Morgan Boulevard, and it’s an excellent place for a beautiful and quiet place to relax and catch your breath.

The area has a beautiful scenic fountain, and it’s hard not to fall in love with the picturesque sight and relax near it.

There’s also a pavilion where you can rest after a long day of traveling and sightseeing.

Once you’re done, you can also stop by the veteran’s memorial on the grounds and pay your respects to the fallen dead.

Join the Jackson Street Market Days

Market Days are significant events to mingle and have fun with locals and other visitors.

You’ll hear some live music, try out the local cuisine, purchase some antiques, and see artworks from local artists.

It’s a great time all around, especially if you’re visiting with family or friends.

Check out as many stalls as possible and try something new and unique; moving out of your comfort zone in this situation is not something you’ll regret.

These market days are held year-round, too, so you won’t have to worry about missing out on the fun due to scheduling conflicts.

Dine at Colletti’s Italian Restaurant

It’s hard not to love Italian cuisine, and the flavors are distinct and varied enough that there’s at least one dish for every palette.

At Colletti’ ’s, you’ll find a wide variety of options that you won’t even know where to start.

From pizzas to pasta, choose what catches your eye first and start there, and if you find yourself craving more, you can always order again.

The restaurant also has an open pizza oven, giving its patrons a more intimate dining experience.

Visit the Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum

Exterior of the Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum

Roberto Galan /

The Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum is a one-of-a-kind place in the Rio Grande Valley.

It should be at the top of the list of places you will visit in Harlingen.

The museum comprises three historical buildings: the historic home of Harlingen’s founder Lon C. Hill, the Paso Real Stagecoach Inn, and the first hospital in Harlingen.

You’ll also find the historical museum on the grounds, formerly used as the base of the Air Police Squadron and the Harlingen Air Force Base.

The establishment offers guided tours, so book one to learn as much as you can about the history and culture of the area.

Jump around at Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park

The Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park is the ultimate indoor adventure park.

You won’t miss out on this place if you’re looking for some fun and a good adrenaline rush.

There are new and exciting things to do at every corner, and you’ll find a fun activity no matter your tastes.

Maybe you want to explore new worlds through ultimate virtual reality or compete with your friends at laser tag.

You can also try wall climbing, rope courses, a warrior course, and a climbing hill.

If you’re not feeling that adventurous, you can also hop around on the basic trampolines; it’s no less exhilarating than anything else.

It’s an excellent place for people with a lot of energy and not many places to spend it.

Unleash your inner child and let yourself play around as much as possible.

Don’t worry about the people watching since everyone is there to have as much fun as possible.

Visit the Downtown Murals

Harlingen’s downtown area is decorated with a wide array of creative and exciting murals, providing a visual treat for visitors to take a few pictures.

These murals portray different aspects of Harlingen arts and culture, and you’ll get an insight into the place just by seeing them.

Some paintings portray famous artists or musicians, while others are abstract designs that’ll enchant anyone.

You’ll also find murals on different cultural festivals and traditions.

Whatever you see, admire them for as long as you need and snap a few photos.

They’ll undoubtedly make a great story to tell your family and friends once you get home.

Wander Rangerville Park

Rangerville Park is a vast area and an excellent destination for travelers looking to do some exploring on their trip.

There’s a ¾-mile-long trail that you can follow.

While you’re there, it’s hard not to appreciate the scenery around you and contemplate the silence and beauty of the area.

You’ll find grills and barbecue pits in the area, meaning you can more than happily show off your cooking skills to the world.

The place is also ADA accessible, so there’s no worry that your friends and family with disabilities would feel left out.

Go Birdwatching at the World Birding Center

A woodpecker on World Birding Center's feeding station

Warren Price Photography /

Harlingen is an extraordinary place for all bird enthusiasts since it’s the gateway to the entire World Birding Center.

You can find it in the Rio Grande Valley, a long-recognized birding destination.

Two redwinged blackbird at World Birding Center

Warren Price Photography /

A wide variety of birds live there, and it’s the perfect spot to visit if you want to see them in their natural habitats and learn more about them.

Go there with your family and friends, and you’re guaranteed a wonderful time.

Enjoy hanging around outdoors, seeing the natural world at work, and spending time with your loved ones.

Woodpecker on a tree at World Birding Center

Warren Price Photography /

Head Over to Lt. George Gutierrez Jr. Park

Harlingen has no shortage of public parks, but that doesn’t mean the Lt. George Gutierrez Jr. Park doesn’t have its unique charms.

The city was named after a Vietnam war veteran, occupying two acres filled with different amenities to keep visitors entertained and comfortable.

Picnic tables are scattered around the area, for example, if you want to share a meal with your traveling companions.

You can also find a playground for your younger traveling companions to run around and have fun with new and old friends.

Try Authentic Mexican Dishes at La Playa Mexican Cafe

It’s almost a requirement to try some Mexican food while you’re in Texas because of its proximity to Mexico.

If you’re looking for authenticity, head to La Playa at the Sunshine Strip.

When dining there, try the family appetizers and share the meal.

Then, choose from their vast array of dishes for your main meal and experience the authentic taste of Mexico.

See a Play at Harlingen Performing Arts Center

Immerse yourself in as many cultural events and participate in different activities as you can during a vacation.

At the Harlingen Performing Arts Center, you’ll see a variety of things that will pique your interest and make you fall in love with the city.

The place typically hosts several shows for people to enjoy, so check out their schedules while you’re there.

Some past shows they’ve staged include Peter Pan, The Nutcracker, Heathers, Matilda, and Legally Blonde.

Sometimes, you’ll also see a concert or orchestral performance.

You may end up watching a show or musical that’ll change your life forever.

View the Murals at Centennial Park

The biggest and most crucial part of Centennial park is the history of Mexico and the Mankind mural there.

The Mexican artist Raul Esparza Sanchez created the piece, comprising a series of ceramic panels painted with murals of various designs and symbols.

It portrays the history of Mexico, starting with the pre-Hispanic cultures, the Mayan Calendar, before moving on to the arrival of the Spanish to Mexico and the country’s eventual independence.

Go Fishing at Lake Harlingen

Lake Harlingen is an excellent spot for fishing, both for the beginners and pros.

Pack up your fishing rods and zip up your bags.

Get ready to make the journey with your traveling companions and savor the area when you get there.

The most common fish in the lake are the channel catfish and the largemouth bass.

However, note that fishing regulations in the area can change, so make all the necessary arrangements before you go on your trip.

Follow the Trail in the Harlingen Thicket

In Urban Harlingen, you’ll find a 40-acre property with a Tamaulipan thicket and an impressive variety of plants.

It’s truly an adventure to explore this trail, giving visitors the impression of being an old-school adventurer wandering through the undiscovered wilderness.

You can watch out for some birds and other wildlife animals.

If you fancy yourself an expert, you can even try to identify some of the plants around you.

The trail starts at the park, where you’ll have all the amenities you need for a safe journey.

Enjoy the Outdoors at Hugh Ramsey Nature Park

The Hugh Ramsey Nature Park stands at a 55-acre piece of reclaimed land, and it’s a fantastic destination for people looking to hang out in nature.

The park staff is constantly working to restore the park’s environment to its natural beauty, showing a genuine appreciation for the land that’s hard to find anywhere else.

The park hosts several bird species, making it a prime destination for bird watchers.

You can also find several butterflies if you’re looking for that kind of thing.

There are designated wildlife viewing areas so you can protect yourself and the animals.

At the same time, visitors come to appreciate the creatures in their natural environments.

Once you’re done exploring, you’ll also find several picnic tables in the area where you can take a break and catch up with your traveling companions.

Share a meal with them and talk about the different experiences you’ve had and the things you still want to do and see in the park.

Find Collectible Items at The Antique & Artisans Emporium

Whether you’re an avid collector or a fan of vintage items, you’ll surely find great bargains at the Antique & Artisans Emporium.

Visit the shop on East Jackson Avenue and meet several vendors selling rare items along with custom-made pieces.

The store has been operating in downtown Harlingen for over 20 years and offers an array of changing stocks each time, so patrons will find something new on every visit.

You can drop by from Monday to Saturday and check out their items on display.

Browse through the advertising collectibles and brand-name products to add to your collections.

For your home, they have classic furniture pieces and fixtures like lights lamps, and more; likewise, you’ll find rows of glassware and pottery and other household and kitchen collectibles.

Or if you’re fond of Native American art pieces and folk art items, photographs, prints, or different ephemera, just go ahead and for sure you’ll find something you’ll love.

You can also look through assorted books, magazines, and collector’s items from comic books to magazines, first-edition prints to trading and playing cards.

Without a doubt, the Antique & Artisans Emporium is a vintage collectors’ haven.

Enjoy a Friendly Golf Game at Tony Butler Golf Course

For some enjoyable golfing experience while you’re in the city, head out to Tony Butler Golf Course on South “M” Street.

This public golf course was named after the PGA Champion and Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame inductee who made a great contribution to golf in the region.

Golfers of any skill level will surely enjoy playing in this 27-hole golf facility which features a driving range, chipping, and putting greens.

The fairways also have enough challenges like sand traps and water hazards to challenge and help improve your game.

If you’re looking for golf gear and accessories, drop by the Pro Shop and choose from a full range of golf equipment and apparel from popular brands like Adidas, Nike, Titleist, Taylormade, and FootJoy.

When you get hungry after playing, head out to the Kitchen for tasty menu items including fresh sandwiches, breakfast tacos, delicious cheeseburgers, and hot dogs, along with other snacks and refreshments.

Have a pleasant golfing experience at Tony Butler Golf Course.

Race to the Finish at the Harlingen Marathon

Get ready to race and have fun at the Harlingen Marathon.

This all-inclusive event happens every February with the race formally starting at Hill Park on Fair Park Boulevard.

The race is open for runners of all ages and fitness levels, so it’s truly a race for everyone.

You can sign up for the 26.2-kilometer Boston Qualifying full marathon, or join the 13.1 Half Marathon; likewise, the 5K race is also open to athletes of all levels.

If you’re coming with family or friends, you’ll have a fun time at the 4-Person Relay and 2-Person Relay.

More than enjoying the race, you’ll also discover the beauty of Harlingen’s downtown attractions and landmarks, and experience the warm hospitality of locals cheering you to the finish line.

A day before the Harlingen Marathon event, you can get your packet, and also mingle with other participants, catch some vendors, and enjoy the food, music, and photo ops.

Strike the Pins at Creasey’s Bowl

For some classic bowling fun, you can bring the family to Creasey’s Bowl.

This family-owned venue is located at Ed Carey Drive and has been in the business for over 50 years.

Enjoy playing at this 24-lane bowling center from Tuesday to Sunday and choose from their daily rates and you can rent bowling shoes, too.

Catch their daily happy hour and have more fun Glow Bowling on the weekends.

Join the leagues and show your bowling skills, have a good time, and meet new friends while playing; leagues are open for everyone so even beginners can join to play.

You can also enjoy video games in the arcade room or play billiards in the full bar area.

Likewise, you can hang out at the 300 Reasons Lounge to enjoy some drinks or watch sports on TV.

Have fun and enjoy at Creasey’s Bowl!

Watch the Birds at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Fest

Harlingen is popular for its birdwatching sites and sightings of unique bird species.

And it’s only fitting that the Rio Grande Valley Birding Fest is celebrated in the city every November.

The annual event started in 1993 with activities happening at the Harlingen Convention Center.

Be sure to attend the Welcome Reception to meet other birders from all over the country and enjoy some music, food, and drinks, too.

Hear from keynote speakers, watch the presentations, and catch the Birders Bazaar; likewise, you can also join the huge silent auction and get souvenirs and mementos at the booth.

You’ll also get inspired by wonderful art and photographs made by local students.

Over 120 field trips run for five days during the fest, and you can have different experiences on different trips you’ll choose.

You’ll be awed by the wide array of bird species you’ll see from traditional birding spots to various habitats in nearby areas.

Your family will surely enjoy the Rio Grande Valley Birding Fest.

Final Thoughts

Harlingen is a patient place, and the many sights there have withstood the test of time.

Don’t go out in a rush.

Instead, take the time to appreciate everything you see as they come.

Book your Harlingen trip today!

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