Wintering in the Rio Grande Valley

When we retired in October 2003, we spent our first 3 winters in Florida, staying at the Escapees RV Parks in Bushnell and Wauchula and at the military campgounds in Tampa and Key West. Then, the itch to visit new places sent me to the Internet RV forums to look for other wintering spots. I read a lot of good things about the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) and decided to check it out.

In the context of winter RV destinations, the RGV is that area along highway 83 from Harlingen to Mission, Texas. Some might extend this eastward to Brownsville. I had visions of the towns along the valley being sleepy little villages and was surprised to find thriving cities with a combined population of several hundred thousand people. The area is 80% Hispanic and, since my first visit to Juarez, Mexico in 1959, I have always enjoyed their culture, especially the food and music.

Our first year in the RGV, we spent the first week looking at RV parks, trying to find one that fit our budget and had the amenities that suited us. That was not a trivial task since there are over 400 RV parks in the valley covering the full spectrum of price, leisure activities, and recreation facilities. We narrowed the list down to about a dozen and finally selected Texas Trails RV Resort. We enjoyed our stay so much that we returned over the years.

Most of these parks cater to the permanent and seasonal visitor, those that stay for a month or more, although overnight campers are welcome. Many have restrictions concerning children - at Texas Trails, children under 18 years of age may stay no longer than 2 weeks. The typical visitor is a retired couple with an average age I would estimate at 65-70 years.

The obvious reason to spend the winter here is the mild weather. The weather statistics for McAllen, TX show an average high temperature in January of 70 degrees. On the down side, the humidity can be high and the wind can blow for days on end at speeds of 15 to 20 mph and, beginning in March, the tempertures can often exceed 90 degrees.

If you want to start a lively debate on the Internet RV forums, ask, "Which is the best RV wintering spot, Florida or the RGV?" Here is my opinion. I prefer the RGV because it feels more "RV friendly" and is slightly more affordable. RVers that spend the winters in the RGV are called Winter Texans. Everywhere you go, you see signs that say, "Welcome back Winter Texans." Last year, I read a newspaper article that said the tax revenues increase 25% during the winter because of the increased spending of the Winter Texans. So, naturally, the politicians and businesses love this and go out of their way to make us feel welcome. In Florida, I get the opposite feeling. It seems that Florida would prefer that the developers buy the RV parks and convert them to condominiums. I believe, for a given price, one can stay at a nicer RV park in the RGV. Real estate prices are much lower in the RGV compared to Florida. For example, the Wilder RV resorts in Florida charge several hundred dollars more for a four month stay than what we are paying here at Texas Trails.

Pharr, TX to Lakewood, NM