BROWNSVILLE – With stately palm trees and warm Gulf of Mexico breezes, Brownsville, Texas, offers the history, culture, traditions, language and people of two great countries all in one, great border destination. With an average of about 320 days of summer it’s no wonder why Brownsville is the best place to spend a day out enjoying all the wonderful treasures the city has to offer.
Steeped in a rich South Texas heritage and located on the banks of the Rio Grande River, Brownsville is a perfect two nation leisure travel destination with two beautiful Gulf of Mexico beaches less than half an hour away.
The relaxed Brownsville way of life plus the mystique of an exotic blend of culture, food, and people will charm you and the longer you stay the more you’ll love Brownsville.
Brownsville’s semi-tropical environment of purple bougainvilleas and exotic birds awaits you. Glorious sunrises and scarlet sunsets paint the skies everyday. Even in the center of the city, there is a lush natural landscape that borders numerous natural waterways, long since cut off from the once mighty Rio Grande, now locally known as resacas.
Brownsville’s roots are as deep as those of colonial Mexico and as strong as Texas. The city’s bi-cultural heritage comes alive at numerous special events throughout the year. There is the Charro Days Fiesta, which celebrates Brownsville and Matamoros bi-cultural heritage, Air Fiesta hosted by the Commemorative Air Force Museum and Latin Jazz Festival. Each is special to our area; each tells a different story that is Brownsville.
Always A Fiesta!
Brownsville’s eclectic mix of old Mexican charm and festive attitude make it the perfect bi-national travel destination. With year-round celebrations, natural treasures, one of the nation’s best zoos, and a history as big as Texas you won’t find anything short of exciting adventures in this exciting Rio Grande Valley destination.
Celebrations in Brownsville begin in January with “Taste of La Frontera”, a showcase of some of the best border cuisine in Texas. Brownsville continues the celebration with its internationally famous Charro Days Fiesta, Sombrero Festival and Air Fiesta and a slew of events and festivals throughout the year.
Charro Days Fiesta, begun 76 years ago, is an annual event where residents of Brownsville and its neighbor Matamoros, Mexico celebrate their rich cultural heritage with parades, carnivals, games, and costume balls. In a Mardi Gras-like fashion residents dress up in traditional regional costumes of Mexico and host a number of events throughout the streets of the Historic Downtown District.
A concurrent event adding spice to the Charro Days Fiesta is Sombrero Festival held in Historic Downtown Brownsville at Washington Park the last weekend of February. The 3-day event is like a big family-friendly block party where people can enjoy well-known Mexican, Country and local musical acts, food booths, and popular events like the Jalapeno Eating Contest, the famous Grito contest, Tortilla Frisbee Toss, and Frijolympics – a charro bean cook-off.
The celebrations continue in March with the world famous Air Fiesta – World War II and military aircraft take the skies and perform a number of breath-taking maneuvers, such as the re-enactment of Tora, Tora, Tora.
Fast forward to October and visitors can experience the eclectic sounds of the Brownsville Latin Jazz Festival. Inaugurated by the late, Tito Puente in 1997, this festival has become one of the most anticipated events in the city’s cultural calendar. Each year countless Latin Jazz artists from Latin America provide three days of entertainment of the highest caliber, advanced multi-cultural diversity, and have entertained thousands for 16 years. The Brownsville Latin Jazz Festival is widely recognized as the premier Latin Jazz festival in Texas and one of the best in the United States.
The Holiday Village, a recent but welcomed addition to the local holiday scene is an impressive display of cottages representing a variety of historic and prominent buildings of Brownsville. Lights adorn them inside and out, and large figurines are scattered throughout. Holiday Village is located within the Mitte Cultural District at Dean Porter Park beginning the last week of November to January 3rd.
Brownsville also hosts a number of city-wide community events throughout the year. In the past couple of years the City of Brownsville has continued its mission to promote a healthy and active lifestyle. Events such as Brownsville’s Biggest Looser and Cyclobia have gained a loyal following among the locals and surrounding communities. If your lucky you might just catch one of these events going on in Brownsville
Things to Do While Your Here
There is so much to do and see in this great border city that the following suggestions can help visitors map out several of their days while staying in Brownsville.
Mitte Culture District
“A DAY AT THE PARK” – DEAN PORTER PARK
The newly renovated Dean Porter Park offers a full day of activities including a visit to the Children’s Museum of Brownsville and Costumes of the Americas. After spending the majority of the day at the museums, take a dip in Sams Pool also located in the park. If you’re lucky, the Camille Lightner Playhouse will have a phenomenal evening production to complete a full day at the park.
The Children’s Museum of Brownsville
The Children’s Museum of Brownsville offers interactive stations where children can learn how to practice good hygiene, navigate a shrimp boat and build projects. While some children are shopping for fruit or tortillas in “El Mercado,” others can relax and have a raspa in “La Plaza.” Children can pick vegetables, milk goats and feed barn animals at “Back on the Farm.” Children can observe, create and be the weather at “The Weather Station.” A “Celebration Room” is also available for birthdays. The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday from noon-4 p.m. and is closed on Mondays. The museum is located at 5 Dean Porter Park. For more information, call (956) 548-9300 or visit www.thechildrensmuseumofbrownsville.com
The Costumes of the Americas Museum
The Costumes of the Americas Museum features The Pan American Round Table I’s collection of over 400 costumes from almost every country in the Western Hemisphere to “promote knowledge, understanding, and friendship among the women of the Americas.” In 1932, PART I members began collecting the native dress from the countries they were studying and compiling the history of each one, to help preserve the traditions, folklore and handicrafts of the different cultures. The museum features rotating displays of native costumes of the Americas, educational information on the historical and cultural points of interest in the Western Hemisphere, a research center for the costumes, visiting exhibits from other museums and displays of museum quality costumes over 100 years old and ancient textiles. For more information, call (956) 547-6890 or visit www.costumesoftheamericasmuseum.com
Gladys Porter Zoo
The Gladys Porter Zoo is an oasis nestled in the center of Brownsville. With 26 acres of lush tropical plants and 1,500 animals, the Gladys Porter Zoo is known for its successes in breeding endangered species of wildlife. Opened in 1971 as one of the first zoos in the country with no barred cages, most animal species are displayed in settings that closely resemble their own natural habitats. In a 3/4 mile trek, a visitor will encounter a diverse ensemble of 377 species of animals. Children love the petting zoo and the nursery with newborn baby animals. For more information, call (956) 546-2177 or visit www.gpz.org
Brownsville Museum of Fine Art
The Brownsville Museum of Fine Art is located next on 660 E. Ringgold in the Mitte Cultural District. This museum is dedicated to exhibiting the arts of the Rio Grande Valley and features a permanent collection including works by Chagall, Daumier, Samuelson, and Whistler. Local artists are often seen painting inside the complex and the museum offers art classes and art shows throughout the year. For more information, call (956) 542-0941 or visit www.brownsvillemuseumoffineart.org
“A DAY OF HISTORY”
Brownsville, named by the Texas Historical Society as “the second most important city, historically, in Texas” was founded in 1846. The first battle of the U.S.-Mexico War was fought in Brownsville and visitors can visit the battle site at the Palo Alto National Historic Site. The last battle of the Civil War was fought at Palmito Ranch Battlefield east of Brownsville on Hwy. 4.
Historic Brownsville Museum
The Historic Brownsville Museum, opened in 1986, houses a variety of exhibits that interpret events from Brownsville’s past. These exhibits include data from the earliest military fort in our area, the arrival of French teaching nuns and displays of agricultural and ranching tools. The museum is located in the old Southern Pacific Railroad Depot. The museum has an extensive display of artifacts and pictures from battles fought during the Mexican-American War and houses the Locomotive #1, the first train to bring cargo into Brownsville. Open Tuesday-Friday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturday from 2-5 p.m. The museum is closed on Sundays and Mondays. Minimum tour time: 1 hour. For more information, call (956) 548-1313 or visit www.brownsvillemuseum.org
Brownsville Heritage Complex
The Brownsville Heritage Complex is found in the heart of historic downtown Brownsville and is comprised of the Stillman House Museum, Brownsville Heritage Museum and Heritage Resource Center. Built in 1850, the Stillman House was occupied by Charles Stillman, an entrepreneur in Matamoros, and his wife, Elizabeth. The Heritage Museum has images of the historical evolution of the city from discovery and exploration through the first half of the 20th century. Historical walking tours are offered.
Open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The museum is closed on Sundays and Mondays. Minimum tour time: 1 hour. Admission: $4 for adults, $1 for children 12 and under; accompanied by an adult – free. The complex is located at 1300 Washington St., Brownsville. For more information, call (956) 541-5560.
Rio Grande Valley Wing of the Commemorative Air Force Museum
A living, flying air museum that contains fully operational vintage military aircraft from World War II and the Korean War, as well as memorabilia, equipment, artifacts, and uniforms dating from the 1920s. Visit our museum and take an exciting and educating tour through our nation’s WW II history. Watch the events unfold, from the preludes to war in Asia and Europe to the fall of the Third Reich and the defeat of the Japanese Empire. For more information, call (956) 541-8585 or visit www.rgvwingcaf.com
Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site
On May 8, 1846, the thunder of cannon fire rumbled across the prairie of Palo Alto, signaling the start of a two-year war between the United States and Mexico. Today, only six miles from the international boundary that resulted from this war, Palo Alto Battlefield Site preserves this scene of conflict and presents the history of this war through videos, displays, tours and a bookstore. This is the only unit of the National Park Service dedicated to telling the story of the war between the U.S. and Mexico. Exhibits cover war from both countries’ perspectives. The site is open daily from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and is located at 7200 Paredes Line Road, Brownsville (near intersection of F.M. 1847/F.M. 511). For more information, call (956) 541-2785 or visit www.nps.gov/paal
Palmito Ranch Battlefield
On May 12, 1865, Union and Confederate troops clashed on the northern banks of the Rio Grande east of Brownsville in what would be the last land battle of the Civil War. Troops had not heard of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox a month earlier. The battle lasted two days and the Confederates were victorious. A historical marker is 12 miles east on Hwy. 4.
“A DAY OF NATURE”
This “On the Border, By the Sea” city is also a bird watcher’s paradise with more than 500 counted bird species sharing the refuges and wild places in and around the area. The convergence of two major flyways afford the birder an abundance of Northern species migrating for the winter. Sabal Palm is a great place to bird watch and for water fowl, and don’t miss the opportunity to visit our pristine, undeveloped Boca Chica Beach.
Sabal Palm Audubon Center and Sanctuary
For nature lovers, no visit to South Texas is complete without a visit to the Sabal Palm Audubon Center and Sanctuary, which harbors one of the most beautiful and critical ecosystems of South Texas. Self-guided nature trails entice visitors to explore mature Sabal Palm and Texas Ebony jungle as well as the wetlands on this 557-acre sanctuary. Sabal Palm is home to the endangered ocelot, migrating birds, butterflies, Green Jays, Long-billed Thrashers, Buff-bellied Hummingbirds and other wildlife. There is an admission fee. Sabal Palm is located on Sabal Palm Road. For more information, call (956) 541-8034 or visit www.audubon.org/local/sanctuary/sabal
Boca Chica Beach
Beach lovers can experience the natural beauty of a pristine, undeveloped 7.5-mile beach called Boca Chica. The name refers to the mouth of the Rio Grande, which flows into the Gulf of Mexico, and visitors can see the natural boundary between the U.S. and Mexico.
“BIRDING IN BROWNSVILLE”
If a Rose-throated Becard has been at the top of your birding list, or if you’ve never seen even one rare neo-tropical bird before, there is a Valley full of birds waiting to be seen throughout the year.
The Rio Grande Valley’s warm climate offers a counted 500 different bird species. Both the Resaca de la Palma State Park and Sabal Plam Sanctuary offer birders and other nature lovers a complete program of guided field trips, seminars and other educational and fun events to explore the bio-diversity of South Texas and Northern Mexico.
Some of the rare neo-tropical birds seen recently in Brownsville and the Lower Rio
Grande Valley are the Clay-colored Robin, Groove-billed Ani, Grey-crowned Yellow Throat, Yellow-green Vireo, Tropical Parula and Buff-bellied Hummingbird. For recent bird sightings, visit http://sabalpalmsanctuary.org/
Brownsville is located at the southern beginning of U.S. Hwy. 77/83 on the Mexico border, and is 272 miles from San Antonio, 352 miles from Houston or 517 miles from Dallas. The Brownsville South Padre International Airport will welcome those arriving by plane. All these travel experiences are waiting for you in Brownsville where it’s Always a Fiesta.