Members of José de Escandón's colony settled in the area as early as 1749. Over the years, the course of the Rio Grande forced residents to move the town's buildings inland. From 1852-1902, the city served as the county seat, later moved to Edinburg. The first international toll suspension bridge was constructed in 1926 to Mexico's border city Reynosa. Today, the Hidalgo-McAllen-Reynosa International Bridge is one of the major ports of entry in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
The Valley's subtropical climate attracts outdoor enthusiasts year-round. Golfers can choose from the area's numerous courses. Nearby wildlife refuges attract birders from throughout the world.