We enjoyed a fairly inexpensive seven-day spring visit to this semi-tropical town in 2009. Some of its highlights are listed below.
Culture and history . These two features are the most outstanding ones we experienced. The place is definitely Spanish and Mexican, both traditional and modern. We liked it, and did not mind being in an English-only-speaking minority here.
Recreation . All kinds, both indoor and outdoor. The zoo, for example, has many animal and bird species of all sorts and sizes, including alligators, rhinos, camels, storks, swans, and butterflies. It is also compact and well-arranged, making it easy to walk through with several rest and refresh spots spread about. Open: Mon-Sun, 9-5. Cost: adults- $ 9.50; seniors- $ 8; children- $ 6.50, under 2-free.
Other activities include tours (local and across the border), golfing, boating, swimming, sunning, surfing, sea-shelling, fishing, walking, birding (all kinds), fine arts, festivals, parades, beaches, shopping, dining, public parks, lakes and waterways, camping, movies, museums, old Fort Brown, architecture, galleries, colleges, and hospitality services.
Mexico itself (passports please!). It is just over the Rio Grande River border, one block south of Brownsville's historical old town. Our one-day very-informative guided tour of Matamoros there was well worth the $ 25 / person cost. This tour also stops at a popular combined five-star restaurant and souvenir-general-goods-outlet store located within walking distance of the old-town border bridge. Some of our tour compadres ordered steak dinners there; cost: about $ 10 each, with salad bar, drink and dessert included.
- Brownsville Historical . A must see for history buffs; it has many artifacts and old photographs. Learn about the early settlers, big-shot businessmen, ranchers and railroaders, the early missions, practices, and nuns, and the town's early politics. Open: Tues-Sat, 10-4. Cost: adults- $ 2; children under 15- $ 0.50
- Palo Alto Battlefield . This large field is where the first battle of the Mexican-American War (1846) took place. It is located on the far north side of town, and is operated under the US National Parks Service (NPS). It has a visitors center. Open: year-round, 8-5. Arrive well before 5-pm. Cost: free.
Lodging . Plenty of hotels, motels, apartments, apartments, and timeshares are available in the Brownsville area. The area is also built-up with modern stores and shopping centers.
Food . The busy main streets here, like, Boca Chica, Central, and other major boulevards offer many world-class dining choices, including, casual, fine, well-known chain, fast, mixed variety, International, Oriental, American, Southwestern, seafood , Texas BBQ, Mexican and so forth.
Their authentic casual Mexican meals are tasty treats. For example, the soft shell tacos contain a meat of choice, white cheese, and a big slice of avocado, which are served with fresh lime slices (for squeezing out the juice) and hot grilled or sauteed onions. Their regular three-course dinners are served with the following
- hot soup (starter)
- thick crisp corn chips and soft corn or flour tortillas with green salsa
- main course (mixed cold and hot items of choice) plus fresh lime slices
- dessert (sometimes a huge cookie).
These dinners are similar to but not the same as the four-to-five course Spanish ones served in certain southern restaurants. Also, the local groceries and open-air markets offer large selections of fresh fruit, melons, papaya, pineapples, peppers, and other vegetables.
Port Isabel and South Padre Island . These are popular dining and vacationing spots 19-miles NE of Brownsville. They are easy to get to diagonally on Hwy-48. These places offer family entertainment, like, pirate ships, dock or boat fishing, camping, boating, beaches, deep sea fishing, dining, shopping, and other attractions.
Winter-Texan places . Brownsville and its neighboring communities in the Rio Grande Valley have endless rentals in recreational vehicle (RV) parks for visitors from the colder northern climates who want to spend time here during the winter months. Their winters are mild and pleasant.
In summary, this palm-and-year-round-fruit-bearing-tree climate in southern Texas is conducive and enjoyable along with its varied and affordable attractions and activities. The non-summer months appear to be the most important ones for the guests from the far north.
Also, its visitors do not need to speak Spanish to get around well unless they want to know everything said. But, it helps to have an appreciation for the Mexican culture, and for the sprinkling of lime juice on some of the food items served at the local cantinas and restaurantes.
Further information and photos on the Brownsville region can be found below.