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Why Winter in the RGV? Here's why!

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Story by Eryn Reddell Wingert

Photos Special to Welcome Home

When asked ‘Why choose the R.G.V.?’ Karen Price simply states, in her distinct southern drawl, “It’s just fun!” In 1999, after retiring from teaching, Karen and her husband, Jerry, left their home state of North Carolina to travel by R.V. During a stop in Nova Scotia, Canada, they met a couple who raved about South Texas. “They told us we had to come down here; we had no clue.” The Prices came down in 2001, spent three winters here, and eventually became permanent residents, also known as Converted Texans.

Karen shares how they have visited other states known for warmer winters but fell in love with the Rio Grande Valley because it’s more economical, and they wanted to dance. Yes, dance. “All we knew was South Carolina beach music, the shag. We wanted to learn the Texas two-step.” When the Prices made the decision to enjoy the local amenities year-round, they found their permanent home at Sunshine Country Club Estates in Harlingen when they visited for a dance.

The Rio Grande Valley, or RGV, is located at the southern tip of Texas, bordering Mexico. The region is made-up of four counties: Starr, Hidalgo, Willacy, and Cameron. It’s home to approximately 300 RV parks and resorts. The cost of living tops the list of its many appealing qualities. In 2020, U.S. News & World Report referred to the city of McAllen--located in Hidalgo County--as having the lowest cost of living for a metro city in the United States.

Sergio Contreras is the president and CEO of the RGV Partnership, a nonprofit that drives collaboration between local businesses and elected officials, with emphasis on transportation, health care, the economy, and, more recently, tourism. Tens of thousands of Winter Texans--retirees looking to escape cold weather--visit deep South Texas every year for extended periods. The Valley welcomes them with open arms, as Sergio succinctly states. “We see them as part of our community, part of our DNA.”

Larry Mainz and his wife, Jan, are Converted Texans by way of Wisconsin. Larry traveled the country as a truck driver before retiring in 2002. The couple made their home at Lamplighter Park in Palmview. Larry talks up the Valley at every opportunity, and his enthusiasm is contagious. “In order to sell something, you have to have a good product. The R.G.V. is a good product!” Larry agrees the low cost of living and proximity to Mexico are part of its appeal but emphasizes the friendliness of the people as a big draw.


“We’re a friendly bunch! We recognize the impact our Winter and Converted Texans have on the area, and we’re grateful for it,” says Kristi Collier, owner of Welcome Home R.G.V., which markets and promotes the Valley. For 13 years, Kristi has connected visitors to local businesses and services, leading the charge to ‘welcome home’ winter visitors each year with open arms. And communities and cities follow suit, hosting festivals and annual events specifically geared toward winter visitors. “It’s important to feel at home, even when you are a visitor,” says Sergio.

A welcoming community is a bonus, but a safe one is of utmost consideration for anyone visiting or moving to a new area. Like any city or region, the Valley is not without its faults, but when it comes to safety, Valley cities consistently rank high in the state and in the U.S. in surveys that utilize F.B.I. crime statistics. In 2019, McAllen ranked 4th-safest city in the nation by 247wallst.com and 26th in Texas (out of nearly 3,000) by backgroundchecks.org. The city of Mission, also located in Hidalgo County, ranks the safest city in the RGV and 23rd in the state by safehome.org.

Larry credits an abundance of law enforcement, both local and federal, with ensuring the safety of the community. He makes a point of engaging with local law enforcement at every opportunity. He reports his encounters are always friendly, including with the lead law officer in Hidalgo County. “We’ve run into the sheriff, and he always stops by and tips his hat to my wife.”

Retirees must also consider access to good health care. The RGV Partnership recently conducted an economic impact study on the RGV healthcare and bioscience industry that showed 43 percent of new jobs created between 2009 and 2019 were in this industry. The study states, “The RGV’s healthcare and bioscience industry is both large and diverse.” Sergio says the results of the survey signify the industry continues to grow. And, he says, “We continue to educate ourselves on the services that are needed.” He goes on to say the accessibility of health care is evident throughout the region, primarily in Hidalgo and Cameron counties, with a significant number of facilities ready to serve.

The Mainzes heard misconceptions about the Valley before their first visit and say they have found none to be true. Newcomers are often pleasantly surprised. In 2019, Welcome Home R.G.V. hosted a reunion tour in the Midwest and gave away a free stay offered by local resorts. A couple who had never visited South Texas won. Kristi reports, “We matched up their interests with the amenities of the park and gave them a two-week stay at Paradise Park in McAllen. They wound up buying a lot during their stay!”

There are approximately 300 RV parks and resorts in the Rio Grande Valley. In a typical season, parks and resorts are open to outside guests joining in on activities. When the Prices made the decision to enjoy the local amenities year-round, they found their permanent home at Sunshine Country Club Estates. Karen says the close proximity to so many other resorts expands the options. “These parks are so close, you can do more activities,” she says.

“Once they see the difference down here, they get it!” Kristi says. Karen and Jerry and Larry and Jan get it. Larry sums up the RGV like this: “If you’ve ever been to Disneyland, it’s like that; it’s a magical feeling!”


Check out our list of RV resorts and retirement communities in the Rio Grande Valley.


Events & Activities

Events and activities are here, there, and everywhere all winter long! From dances, jam sessions, entertainment, craft sales & markets to meals of all kinds - you won't be bored this winter! Visit our event calendar to see what you're missing!


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