5 Remarkable Things You Can Do in Brownsville
Cruise down streets lined with palm trees; listen to the songs of wild, red-crowned parrots; and take in the rich Mexican culture of one of Texas’ most unique destinations: Brownsville. Nestled in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley near South Padre Island, the Lone Star State’s southernmost city is unlike any other. Full of spectacular things to see and do, from encountering animals from around the world to watching rockets launch from SpaceX’s Starbase, Brownsville has an abundance of adventures that belong on your bucket list. Better yet, it’s also easy to reach. Opened in 2020, the ultra-modern Brownsville South Padre Island Airport receives daily flights from Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston. So read on to discover some of Brownsville’s most remarkable experiences, then pack your bags for a trip you won’t soon forget.
Go On a Journey Around the World
Stroll past crashing waterfalls through a rainforest full of blue-crowned motmots, roseate spoonbills, and scarlet ibises. Feed a giraffe by hand or watch as bears sunbathe or play in the water. Step into a canyon home to free-flying blue and yellow macaws. Much more than a zoo, Brownsville’s Gladys Porter Zoo offers a globe-spanning voyage fit for Doctor Dolittle. Follow the 3/4-mile trail and you’ll encounter more than 370 species of animals and 225 kinds of plants. See Galapagos tortoises, spider monkeys, kookaburras, tree kangaroos, African lions, and more in distinct environments that represent Africa, Asia, Indo-Australia, and Tropical America.
While this is already a lot to see and do, we’re just getting started. Get up close and personal with small animals like Nigerian dwarf goats, a miniature horse, a miniature zebu, and more in Small World, and marvel at snakes, turtles, and a multitude of reptiles in the Herpetarium. Then you can discover the aquatic habitats of South Texas, from the open ocean to the resacas, at the Russell Aquatic Ecology Center. Watch as red snapper, black drum, and sharks swim in the 30,000-gallon Depp Water Exhibit and touch actual stingrays in the Stingray Touch Tank. Continue your immersion in the region’s flora and fauna at the South Texas Botanical Exhibit & Park, the zoo’s newest attraction. Let your kids play on the playground set within a garden composed entirely of native plants as you cool off under the misters at Martha’s Cove.
Beyond its impressive array of animals from around the world, Gladys Porter Zoo is also one of Brownsville’s best birdwatching destinations. Keep an eye out for wild egrets, great kiskadees, chachalacas, and red-crowned parrots, as all are commonly seen here.
Note: The Gladys Porter Zoo is located within the Mitte Cultural District, a vibrant part of town you’ll want to take your time to explore. Do so and you’ll encounter fascinating attractions like the Costumes of the Americas Museum and the Historic Brownsville Museum, as well as a weekly Farmer’s Market and events like the Sombrero Festival and the Holiday Village.
Explore Texas’ New Space City
Other places in the Lone Star State may call themselves “Space City,” but Brownsville is now a major hub for the exploration of the stars. Opened in 2019, Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starbase in nearby Boca Chica is the world’s first commercial launch site designed for orbital missions. While Starbase isn’t open for tours, you can watch one of its many launches from Isla Blanca Park on South Padre Island. Back in town, stop by the Elon Musk Mural in Downtown Brownsville before admiring the stars of the night sky at the Southmost Library Observatory. Home to a 14” Meade LX850 ACF telescope, the library and observatory hosts stargazing events throughout the year.
Ready to explore the final frontier? Find your way to Brownsville, Texas’ new Space City.
Discover the History of South Texas
Ten years after Texas won her independence from Mexico, another conflict would start in South Texas that had a colossal impact on the future of two nations. It was here, near Brownsville, that the first battle of the Mexican-American War took place. Led by future president Zachary Taylor, the U.S. Army defeated the invading Mexican forces in the Battle of Palo Alto. The battle was the start of a campaign that ultimately enabled westward American expansion while also sowing the seeds of the Civil War.
Immerse yourself in this pivotal chapter of North American history as you tour the Historic Battlefield Trail. Stretching for 10 miles, this paved trail takes you from Downtown Brownsville and the Mitte Cultural District north to the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park. Hike the half-mile trail here and you’ll find yourself immersed in the coastal plains that look very similar to how it would have to the battle’s soldiers. Stop along the way to check out the interpretive signs that showcase the battleground’s history, as well as its flora and fauna.
Although the trail offers an easy way to discover history, it’s also a great place to bike and run. The pathway is wide and features divided lanes, lights, and benches throughout, giving you plenty of chances to rest while you’re on the way to the battlefield (or for when you’re working up a sweat). Whether you’re looking to soak up the sun, explore history, or train for a marathon, the Historic Battlefield Trail is just the spot for you.
Play While Learning with Your Kids
In one moment, your boy or girl is a cook or a cashier in a festive café. In the next, they’re navigating a shrimp boat, give a weather report in front of a green screen, or experiencing a day on a farm. Full of hands-on, interactive exhibits for children of all ages, the Children’s Museum of Brownsville offers a wide range of immersive exhibits that educate and entertain. At Flex Air, they’ll feed a ball into a tube and watch it fly at high speed throughout an intricate series of interconnected pipes. Meanwhile, the Construction Zone has activities that’ll see your kids become architects and civil engineers. With 14 exhibits, there’s plenty here to keep you and your children busy.
Admire the Works of Cutting-Edge Artists
The Rio Grande Valley is known for its rich and distinct culture, and nowhere is that expressed more beautifully than through art. A showcase of the region’s Mexican and American heritage, the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art displays the works of artists from both sides of the border (and beyond). Check out the paintings, illustrations, sculptures, mixed-media pieces, and more that make up each rotating exhibit as you make your way through the 17,000-square-foot museum. Then stop by Crepe Town: Artisan Kitchen, the on-site restaurant that serves up hearty crepes, sandwiches, and entrees like mango salmon and chicken balsamico. Located in the heart of the Mitte Cultural District, the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art is a must-see anytime you’re in Brownsville.
Set within Texas’ tropical zone and boasting a rich Hispanic culture, Brownsville is a destination unlike any other in the Lone Star State. Discover it for yourself here.