By B Ang
Touted as the best location for birdwatching in the Rio Grande Valley, Harlingen attracts thousands of enthusiasts especially during the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. Recognized by the American Birding Association, the festival features field trips to hotspots, lectures by keynote speakers and educational programs for children. About 249 species were spotted at 2010’s event. Other birdwatching venues include the World Birding Center, Ramsey Nature Park and Harlingen Thicket.
Situated at the southernmost tip of Texas, Harlingen is the perfect jump-off spot for exploring the Rio Grande Valley. Its mild, tropical winters and constant summer sea breezes off the Gulf of Mexico provide excellent conditions to indulge in various outdoor pursuits like golf, baseball and swimming. There is also a 3.2-kilometre hiking/biking trail along the Arroyo Colorado, a tributary of the Rio Grande River that meanders through the middle of town. For entertainment, Valley Race Park offers live greyhound racing from November through April while simulcast dog and horse racing are held year-round.
Some of the city’s earliest historic buildings can be found at Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum including Harlingen’s first hospital and the Paso Real Stagecoach Inn. In downtown, palm-lined Jackson Street has been Harlingen’s Main Street for over a century. Today, shops sell original Texas artwork, jewelry and gifts, and locally-owned eateries offer enchiladas and burgers. The area’s popular Market Days are held on the first Saturday of each month and feature antiques, collectibles and homemade items. Large, colourful murals are prominent in downtown Harlingen, many depicting the Valley’s history and culture. The Early Days portrays Harlingen’s early years, including Hispanic pioneers, steam locomotive and buildings prior to the Great Depression. Another, Oaxacan Dragon, is a familiar image in Mexican folk art and mythology.