Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in McAllen, TX

  • Published 2022/11/21

McAllen, Texas, is the biggest city in Hidalgo County and can be found in the southernmost portion of the Rio Grande Valley.

While it is known today for its warm weather and tropical breeze, McAllen was considered the oil, agriculture, and tourism center in the 1970s.

From being a farming-focused community to now being one of the swiftest-growing cities in the country, McAllen also boasts numerous must-see attractions.

From the iconic Quinta Mazatlan property to the massive La Plaza Mall, this city has many destinations that locals and tourists flock to regularly.

McAllen is also home to various free attractions, making it a great place to visit if you don’t want to spend a dime.

If you need more proof, here are 15 free things to do in McAllen, Texas:

Commemorate the Lives of Brave Heroes at the Veteran’s War Memorial of Texas

Sunset behind the Veteran’s War Memorial of Texas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Veteran’s War Memorial of Texas is a beautiful and moving monument that is a tribute to the brave men and women who have served the country.

Based on Galveston Avenue, this memorial features statues and plaques which tell the story of the brave heroes who laid their lives for the nation.

Perhaps the most eye-catching structure at the memorial is the American Spire of Honor, a spire that towers over the rest of the other structures and is 105 feet tall.

This spire symbolizes Americans’ respect, gratitude, and honor for the veterans who have passed away.

Visit the Veteran’s War Memorial of Texas and remember the lives of the veterans who defended the country.

If you go here on Veterans Day, Pearl Harbor Day, or Memorial Day, you might even be able to join events and show your support for the veterans in the community.

See All the Enchanting Flora and Fauna at the McAllen Nature Center

The McAllen Nature Center is a lovely spot for anyone who enjoys spending time outdoors surrounded by the beauty of nature.

This 33-acre center features walking trails, gardens, and birdwatching areas where you can see different birds flying about.

This facility was known as the McAllen Botanical Gardens before being rebranded into a nature center.

Hike through trails that go for 1.6 miles while taking in the beauty of the greenery and wildlife.

Ready your cameras as well because you’ll want to take pictures of the enchanting environment.

If you’re lucky, you might spot rare birds and extraordinary amphibians during your hike!

You can also see beautiful and colorful butterflies flying around this center.

McAllen Nature Center is a must-visit if you love everything related to nature and the environment.

Dive Deep into the History of the City at the McAllen Heritage Center

Come explore the McAllen Heritage Center to learn more about the city’s incredibly colorful and rich history!

Located on Main Street, this center features exhibits on people and events that have shaped the city into what it is today.

You’ll see different artifacts, documents, and photos that will help you better understand the different important events in the history of McAllen.

Roam around McAllen Heritage Center and gain a deeper appreciation for the culture and heritage of the locals in the city!

You can also check out exhibits that feature prominent figures in the history of the whole county and read about the many initiatives they set in place in the past.

Strike a Pose at Mural Lane on 17th Street

Prepare your best poses and wear your most vibrant outfits before going to Mural Lane on 17th Street to take Instagram-worthy photos!

McAllen is filled with numerous public artworks, but this mural lane is the one you have to visit if you want to take cool pictures or see exceptional works of art!

Located on the southern end of 17th street, this mural lane features stunning colorful artworks that each depict different images, including portraits of famous actors and intriguing abstract art.

Even though each artwork has a unique subject matter, everyone can appreciate the colors and composition of each piece.

Pose with the different artworks on the wall and snap numerous photos with these colorful murals as your backdrop!

Be as creative as you can be as you take pictures with each artwork.

Make sure to share photos of Mural Lane on 17th Street with your loved ones so they can also see how talented the art community is in the city!

Inspect Vintage Artifacts and Collectibles at Nuevo Santander Gallery

Head to Nuevo Santander Gallery to check out antique items and collectibles reminiscent of the Old West!

This gallery and store on North Main Street serves locals and tourists looking to acquire unique artworks, sculptures, and other expensive vintage items.

Although they sell museum-like items, you don’t have to purchase one to see everything they feature here.

Explore the gallery and check out their wide collection of rare antiques!

From military uniforms and guns to furniture and sculptures, Nuevo Santander Gallery houses vintage items that show the history of life on the border of Colonial Mexico and the Rio Grande.

When you visit this establishment, you won’t only get to see unique items, but you’ll also discover more about the area’s history.

Some antiques and books from Europe are also for sale at Nuevo Santander Gallery.

Stop by this gallery and feast your eyes on extraordinary vintage items!

Stroll around Archer Park

Take a break from your daily routine and have a leisurely stroll around Archer Park!

This public park on North Main Street is one of the best places in McAllen to relax and appreciate nature.

Archer Park is named after one of the city’s first mayors and features the oldest historical landmarks in the city.

Walk around the park and find the iconic bandstand, which dates back to 1918 and is now being used as a gazebo in the park.

This park also features walking trails, picnic areas, and beautiful greeneries that add to the serene atmosphere of the place.

There are also numerous benches throughout the park where you can rest and take a break from your walk.

If you visit at the right time, you might even catch an exciting event here since the park also hosts many events in the city, including Shakespeare in the Park performances.

Whenever you feel like taking a break from your busy day, stroll around Archer Park!

Bond with Your Furry Best Friend at McAllen Dog Park

If you want to let your furry best friend run and play freely, head to McAllen Dog Park.

This dog park on Tamarack Avenue is the perfect place to bring your pet to socialize with other dogs and have fun.

There are two sections in the park, one for small dogs and another for larger breeds, so you can be sure that your pup will always be safe.

You don’t need to worry about your dog running loose from the park because it is fenced and double-gated.

Spend quality time with your beloved pet and run around with them at this dog park!

If you get tired, you can sit by the benches and meet other dog owners in the park.

Water fountains are available all over McAllen Dog Park, so you don’t need to worry about yourself or your dog getting dehydrated.

Make sure to clean up after your furry companion whenever you come here!

Immerse Yourself in a Book at the McAllen Public Library

Exterior of the McAllen Public Library

Loslazos, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The McAllen Public Library is open to the public seven days a week and features an impressive collection of books, magazines, newspapers, and DVDs.

There are also free public computers and Wi-Fi access, making it the perfect place to spend a couple of hours if you need to get some work done or want to curl up with a good book.

Roam around the numerous shelves filled with books and other literary works before choosing one to immerse yourself in!

You can also check out their movie collection and find a film you haven’t seen yet.

If you need to work on some research or academic work, you can hang out in their study rooms and accomplish your work without distractions.

Make sure to stop by McAllen Public Library on North 23rd Street if you want to spend an afternoon, or maybe even one whole day, letting your imagination loose by reading!

Take Photos in front of Cine El Rey

Cine El Rey is an iconic movie theater in McAllen that has been around since the 1940s.

Like their short biography says, they have been “entertaining you, your mom, and your mama’s mama since 1947”.

Cine El Rey means “The King Cinema” in English.

This movie theater on 17th Street is one of the oldest entertainment establishments in downtown McAllen and one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations.

In fact, this cinema is the only establishment considered a National Historical Landmark owned by a private entity!

On your visit, you’ll see how this establishment is reminiscent of the Modern Art Deco architecture prevalent during the 1920s.

Wear your best vintage clothing pieces and stop by this establishment to take photos that look like they come from another time!

Watch the Sun Go Down over the City at Oval Park

Oval Park is one of the best places to catch a beautiful sunset in McAllen.

Located on Convention Center Boulevard, right next to McAllen Convention Center, this park features captivating palm trees and a reflecting pond that enhance the tropical atmosphere as the sun sets.

You can bring your friends or your significant other and stroll around the beautiful park, gazing at all the enchanting native trees and flowers.

You can also sit by the pond and engage in meaningful conversations while waiting for dusk to fall.

If you visit at the right time, you might even catch some of the fun outdoor events and celebrations held at the platform in the park.

End your long and stressful day with a peaceful walk around Oval Park as you watch the sun go down with your loved ones!

Feast Your Eyes on the Stunning Stained-Glass Art at Sacred Heart Catholic Church

Sacred Heart Catholic Church is a beautiful worship place with a stunning architectural style and breathtaking stained-glass art.

Located on South 15th Street, this church is a popular destination within the city because of its magnificent facade and interiors.

Established in 1911, it features a massive spire that towers over the streets at 60 feet and bears a cross on its top.

Architecture buffs will be in awe of this church once they lay their eyes on it!

Sacred Heart Catholic Church’s most eye-catching characteristic is its beautiful stained-glass artwork.

Step inside the church and marvel at the two colorful stained-glass windows beside the crucifix on the altar.

There are also many other stained-glass works at the side windows of the whole church.

Have a Picnic at Cascade Park

Cascade Park is a great place to have some fun under the sun with your family and friends.

This park features a playground for the kids, a walking trail for fitness buffs, and a volleyball court for those who want to break a sweat.

If you want to have a delicious meal with your family while basking in the sun’s rays, you can pack up your lunch and have a picnic here too!

Groups of friends and families can also come down to this park and grill food because there are grillers and barbecue pits within the park’s premises.

You can also go birdwatching and see some wildlife here since Cascade Park is home to several local wildlife.

If you have extra money, you can check out the pool next door to the park!

Take in the Sights of the Waters at Town Lake at Firemen’s Park

If you want to take a break from all the touring and walking around, you can go to Town Lake at Firemen’s Park and soak in the peaceful atmosphere by the waters.

This park on First Street features a lake that spans three acres, a half-mile trail, picnic areas, and a playground where your kids can have fun.

Although you can do recreational activities like fishing and kayaking, you don’t need to spend a dime if you want to have fun here!

Fishing activities and boating may cost you a bit of money, but if your loved ones surround you, you can enjoy your visit to this place by just taking in the view of the lake and the landscape.

If you want to get active, you can walk through the trail, which is also safe for kids since it’s paved.

You can also sit by the waters and engage in deep conversations with your loved ones here at Town Lake at Firemen’s Park!

Drive by the Iconic Neuhaus Tower

As you drive or walk through 10th Street, you might see Neuhaus Tower.

This building is the tallest in the city, standing at 17 stories and 242,693 feet.

Constructed in 1979, it served as the office for the McAllen State Bank and is also known by locals as Chase Tower.

Over the years, many companies have acquired the tower and used it as offices and other commercial ventures.

Besides being the tallest building, Neuhaus Tower is also the first ever high-rise property ever constructed in McAllen.

Make sure to stop by this iconic tower and maybe even take pictures of it to share with your loved ones!

Other Free Things to Do Nearby

Although there are numerous places and activities you can do within McAllen, some places outside the city are also must-visit destinations.

Whether you’re commuting or traveling by car, this next destination is accessible and a must-see if you’re visiting the city.

Step inside the Impressive Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle

Exterior of the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle

Brent Coulter /

The Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle is one of Texas’ most beautiful and popular religious sites.

This church is located on Virgen de San Juan Boulevard in San Juan, just 10 minutes from McAllen.

Throughout the years, this shrine has received international recognition and the title Basilica from Pope John Paul II himself in 1999.

Enter this place of worship and see its grand and extraordinary altar.

Interior of the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle

Nagel Photography /

If you go around the church’s building outside, you’ll also find a magnificent mural depicting a religious statue and Jesus Christ over the waters.

There are also stained-glass artworks that depict different religious stories from the bible.

Whether you’re a devout Catholic or not, this is a must-visit place due to its divine beauty and magnificence.

Final Thoughts

Overall, McAllen is a city that is rich in culture and art.

There are many places to visit that are free or have a small fee, and the people here are friendly and welcoming.

McAllen has something to offer if you want to discover stunning architecture or see historical landmarks!

If you’re looking for a fun day trip or a weekend getaway, check out these free things to do in McAllen, Texas!

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