Here is what you will not get in Harlingen: easy access to great museums and Michelin starred restaurants. However, there are things that counter it.
1) It is regularly rated among the 10 least expensive places to live in the USA.
2) Its main movie theater shows interesting classic films, operas on film, special events, as well as all the latest. The popcorn is excellent and the staff are very nice, and the theater is well maintained.
3) Brownsville is 30 minutes away for more shopping and film choices. Spanish cinema is easy to find here, by the way, on the big screens.
4) There are excellent places to eat. You have to search them out, but they are there. And, if you like fresh seafood, you are in luck.
5) McAllen, which has excellent restaurants and concerts and shopping is 30 minutes away.
6) Traffic that is mentioned here is ridiculously easy compared to any large city in the USA---SF, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago, LA, NYC, Boston, etc. You are 30 minutes away, in Harlingen, from the two solid sized cities noted here---McAllen and Brownsville. In essence, these metropolitan areas, that are basically within an hour drive of each other, are around 300,000 people all together---to get anywhere in LA is an hour drive, you know (Harlingen is 60,000, Brownsville 170,000, McAllen 142000). Harlingen is 30 minutes from the other two, McAllen to Brownsville is an hour.
7) For those who need good medical care, San Antonio, with its quaternary health care systems, is 4 hours away---UTRGV just opened up a medical school 30 minutes from Harlingen, and that will ramp up soon.
8) Violent crime is low.
9) The summers are hot and humid, but the winters are fantastic and pleasant. In Harlingen, you are 45 minutes away from one of the best beaches in the USA, and in winter it is room temp during the day to walk the beach.
10) Ultimately, you need to ask yourself how often you go the opera, the great museums, etc. of a given city. If these are things you do regularly, maybe you need to live downtown in one of the 3 biggest cities in the USA, or SF or Seattle. If not, save that for vacation, and live in an inexpensive place where it snows as often as the Cubs win the World Series. We are farther South than LA. We have airports that are easy to use and will easily connect you to big cities for vacations. The people are friendly, there are no state income taxes, and it is very cheap to live here.
I have lived 30 minutes from Harlingen for 2 years and go to the city about 10 times a month. I love it greatly. I also like Brownsville. Very pleasant places to live and retire.
Scott | Los Fresnos, TX