Meeting in McAllen

Year-round sunshine and subtropical weather are big draws for meeting, convention, and wedding planners eyeing McAllen, Texas, as a special event destination. But don’t let the island-style ambience fool you – this is no sleepy little town. The city – the largest in Hidalgo county and the second largest in the Rio Grande Valley – is a dynamic part of one of the fastest growing metros in the state, and one of the most cost-effective and competitively priced. In 2009, Forbes magazine listed McAllen as one of the top ten best cities for recession recovery.

Undoubtedly two of the biggest attractions for doing business in McAllen are affordability and accessibility – hotel rates are some of the lowest in the state, and the McAllen Miller International Airport (MFE) is “right in the city,” according to Victor Castillo, convention sales director for the McAllen CVB. “The main hotels are within a two-mile radius of the airport.” Most of the hotels offer free airport shuttle service in addition to free parking. “Those are the little things that make it attractive.” Recent and upcoming conventions include the American Legion, North American Nature Photography Association, American Planning Association, Texas Transit Association, and Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas (CLEAT). “In fiscal year 2011 so far, we have booked about 24 events, eight of those at the convention center and the rest at hotels,” adds Castillo.

Where to meet

Built in 2007, the McAllen Convention Center accommodates meetings and conventions up to 1,200 attendees in a 154,000 square foot technologically-advanced facility. The 18.5-acre center features more than 25,000 square feet of meeting space and 60,000 square feet of column-free exhibit hall space, four ballrooms, and 16 breakout rooms.

Quinta MazatlanA must-see for brides or anyone looking for a beautiful country estate setting filled with native plant life is the 15-acre Quinta Mazatlan and World Birding Center. The historic 1930s home is ideal for groups up to 300. Planners can rent individual rooms or the entire mansion (after hours). For a unique meeting venue or holiday party, check out the historic Cine el Rey theater in the heart of McAllen’s new 17th Street entertainment district.

Where to stay

The following hotels offer meeting space and business facilities:

The 165-room, Spanish-styled Renaissance Casa de Palmas was built in 1918 and completely renovated to offer every modern convenience – 24-hour fitness center, 24-hour business center, restaurant, bar, private club lounge,  courtyard pool, and 6,500 total square feet of meeting space. The historic hotel is within walking distance of the downtown shopping and entertainment districts.

The 262-room Embassy Suites McAllen hotel is less than a mile from the airport and adjacent to the medical center and hospitals. Amenities include kitchens in every room with microwave, refrigerator, and coffeemaker, and complimentary daily breakfast.

The 193-room Holiday Inn Express and Suites offers more than 3,000 square feet of event space and five meeting rooms, plus business center, complimentary breakfast, fitness center, and indoor/outdoor pools.

Where to eat

McAllen is home to more than 600 restaurants, everything from the usual chains to one-of-a-kind establishments offering seafood, barbecue, Asian, Indian, and Mediterranean, to name a few.

Three of the most unique are Roosevelt’s at 7, a restaurant/ale house with a huge selection of craft beers and imports; Costa Messa fine dining restaurant with an extensive menu of both Tex-Mex and authentic Mexican specialties; and the Blue Onion, a healthy lunch/dinner alternative featuring fresh salads, sandwiches, and homestyle cooking that’s also vegetarian-friendly.

Where to play

McAllen Golf CourseMcAllen – along with much of the Rio Grande Valley –  is a birder’s paradise, with six wildlife refuges within an hour’s drive of the city that bring avid birdwatchers from all over the world. With 25 city parks, hiking and biking trails, golf, fishing, camping, and hunting, outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds will find plenty to do in McAllen.

It’s also a shopper’s paradise, with 40 of the top 100 retailers in the country represented here. It ranks as number one in the nation for retail sales per capita.

For art lovers, the monthly McAllen Art Walk is a self-guided gallery tour on the first Friday of every month September through May. Events and performances are also held by the Valley Symphony Orchestra and Chorale, and Broadway McAllen.

McAllen International Museum of Art and ScienceMuseums include the Museum of South Texas History, International Museum of Art and Science, and the McAllen Heritage Center. The 18-hole Palm View Municipal golf course is owned and operated by the City of McAllen and is open to the public.

Resources:

McAllen CVB, 1200 Ash Avenue, McAllen, TX 78501, 956-682-2871, mcallencvb.com

McAllen Convention Center, 700 Convention Center Blvd. McAllen, TX 78501, 956-681-3800, mcallenconventioncenter.net

McAllen-Miller International Airport (MFE), 2500 S. Bicentennial Blvd, McAllen, TX 78503, 956-681-1500, mcallenairport.com. (served by Delta, Continental, Allegiant Air, and American Airlines.)

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