It wasn’t my first choice. It wasn’t even my second, third or fourth choice, but we are still bound for a place we’d never heard of before: Brownsville, Texas.
It’s a really nice place,” my travel advisor said.” But I merely shook my head.
“Where the heck is Brownsville? And why would anyone want to go there?” I asked.
“It’s right on the Gulf of Mexico just near South Padre Island,” she added. “It’s a really pretty place with Spanish influence. And the beaches are out of this world.”
“Yeah, but I’ve never even heard of Brownsville. Never mind South Padre Island.”
“Trust me,” she said. “The price is right, and you’ll love it.”
Yes, I never planned in my wildest dreams that I would be bound for Brownsville, Texas, but now I can hardly wait to get there.
Brownsville is located on the southern tip of Texas, just across the border from Metamoros, Mexico, and just to the north of the Rio Grande River. But what does one do there? I needed to know. So, I opened a website to the area’s tourist attractions.
The news was good, especially since I am a fan of world-class zoos. Brownsville has one of the best zoos in the United States; the zoo is rated #1 of 4 major Brownsville attractions on TripAdvisor.com
The Gladys Porter Zoo is home to more than 16-hundred animals; the zoo is nearly 37-years-old (it was opened on September 3, 1971), and it’s built on 31-acres of land. Its Bear Grotto and Macaw Canyon sound exciting, but it’s the zoo’s Tropical America and Africa exhibits that have me captivated. It was easy to get a sampling just by clicking on the zoo’s virtual tour link.
A trip to Mexico is in order since it’s literally only a few minutes south, but so many people have advised us against driving over the border in our rental car. The Brownsville.org site has a link to Matamoros, Mexico, complete with Mexican border rules, so I check that out, too.
Yikes, it’s all in Mexican; I can’t read Mexican, but I find a “Visitors Guide” link at the bottom of the page. That takes me to an English version of the site where I find “quick facts,” “practical information,” and a list of sights to see.
The practical information page offers tips on entering Mexico, and sure enough, it looks like we’ll be entering Mexico without our rental car. But the site also covers “walking across the border,” right near the Gateway Bridge in Brownsville. So far, so good.
Lying just across the Rio Grande, Matamoros sounds like great fun with its open air markets, Mexican restaurants, and rich historical architecture. The city was begun in the late 18th century and now is home to nearly a half million people.
Tours and a Juarez Market Shuttle bus are available on the other side of the bridge, just near the Matamoros Visitors and Conventions Office. But the market is only a short 20-minute walk away. Pictures of the place remind me of Tijuana, a place I am not that fond of, but it’s a foreign country, so this destination goes on our must-do list.
But back in Brownsville, there are a number of museums calling to me, like the Children’s Museum and the Museum of Fine Art. Then there’s the city’s newest tourist attraction: Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site; it’s dedicated to the American Mexican War of 1846.
I’m not a Civil War fan, but there is something exotic about knowing that the last battle of the American Civil War was actually fought in Brownsville. And that Brownsville marks the southernmost beginning of the famous Chisholm Trail.
Brownsville is also home to several beaches, including the popular Boca Chica Beach, so we’ll have no trouble filling out 7 days.
But on the off chance that we do get bored with Brownsville, Mexico, and central Texas, there’s always birdwatching or deep sea fishing off South Padre Island. I wonder what it’ll feel like to wrestle my first tuna.
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Tags: brownsville texas, civil war history in brownsville, crossing the mexican border, gladys porter zoo in brownsville, things to do in brownsville, things to do in matamoros mexico