Brownsville is Texas' southernmost city. Located right at the tip of Texas, Brownsville is situated on the banks of the famous Rio Grande River, directly across from Matamoros, Mexico. It is also just a short distance upriver from the Gulf of Mexico. In short, this location adds up to make Brownsville an ideal year around vacation destination.
The city of Brownsville itself is quite historic. It is one of the oldest cities in Texas, dating back to the time when Texas was a Mexican state. Following Texas' independence and subsequent annexation by the United States, Brownsville played a central role in the Mexican War. General Zachary Taylor and his troops were stationed at Fort Texas, near what is now the Fort Brown Golf Course. The first battle of this conflict was fought just a few miles north of Brownsville at Palo Alto. This site is now preserved as Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site and is open to the public seven days a week.
Gladys Porter Zoo
Another big attraction within the city of Brownsville is the renown Gladys Porter Zoo. Through the years Gladys Porter Zoo has garnered much national acclaim for its unique zoo exhibits and a vast array of animals. Today Gladys Porter covers 26 acres and is home to 1,300 animals. Among the Zoo's most popular exhibits are Macaw Canyon, the free-flight aviary, and the Tropical America display. The Zoo also features an excellent botanical garden and the ever-popular Small World children's area. Over 400,000 people visit the Gladys Porter Zoo each year.
A Two-Nation Vacation
Many visitors to Brownsville also take advantage of its border location to enjoy a "two-nation vacation." Walking or driving across the Gateway International Bridge places visitors into downtown Matamoros. Shopping and dining across the river in Matamoros is a great way to accent any South Texas vacation.
Brownsville's location close to the coast is also a big draw. Visitors to Brownsville have a couple beach options. Boca Chica Beach is located just east of Brownsville. Boca Chica, which was historically known as Brazos Island, stretches from the mouth of the Rio Grande River to the Brazos Santiago Pass, which separates it from South Padre Island, the other beach option for Brownsville visitors. South Padre is slightly further away than Boca Chica, but is still within a 20-minute drive from Brownsville.
Though both beaches are just a short drive away, they are entirely different. Boca Chica is an isolated, uninhabited stretch of beach, while South Padre Island is filled with modern restaurants, shops, and attractions.
There are also a number of outdoor recreational opportunities for visitors to Brownsville. In fact, in the past decade, Brownsville has become one of the nation's top destinations for birders. Birders visiting Brownsville will find easy access to the World Birding Center, the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, and several other top birding spots. Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and nearby Lower Laguna Madre bay is also popular. And, Brownsville also draws a number of hunters seeking whitewing dove, ducks, whitetail deer, turkey and more.
Throughout the year, Brownsville also sees a number of festivals filling its events calendar. However, the event in Brownsville each year is the annual Charro Days Festival. Not only is Charro Days one of the largest festivals in Texas, it is also one of the oldest. The "official" Charro Days celebration began in 1938. However, "unofficially," Charro Days dates back to the mid-1800s when the citizens of Matamoros and Brownsville first began coming together to celebrate their cooperative spirit. International cooperation is still the central theme of this week-long festival.