Whether this is the first time hearing about Brownsville, Texas or you are a local to the Rio Grande Valley, I have the perfect weekend guide of all the best things to do in Brownsville. Though many do not know about Brownsville, it is definitely a city to enjoy for a leisurely weekend. I would know, I have spent countless weekends in Brownsville because it’s where my family grew up and still reside. A lot of my childhood memories are from Brownsville and now that I am older (and slightly wiser), I have been able to “see” more of Brownsville than ever before. With the help of my tour guide (my grandfather), I recently experienced so many amazing things to do in Brownsville that I cannot wait to share them.
Brownsville is rich in Texas and U.S. history, has world-class bird watching, great biking trails, delicious Mexican cuisine, fascinating museums, and more. So whether you are passing through to South Padre Island, traveling across the world to bird watch or a local looking for a fun weekend – here is my weekend guide of the best things to do in Brownsville, Texas.
Full disclaimer – We were invited by the
The Best Things to do in Brownsville in the Mitte Cultural District
The best way to start your weekend in Brownsville is at the Mitte Cultural District. It has some of the best things to do in Brownsville with its rich history, museums, and outdoor activities. A few places to visit include the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art, Children’s Museum of Brownsville, Historic Brownsville Museum, Costumes of the Americas Museum, Old City Cemetery, Dean Porter Park, Linear Park, Brownsville Historic Battlefield Trail, Gladys Porter Zoo, and more.
Needless to say, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Brownsville’s Mitte Cultural District!
Brownsville Farmers Market
The Brownsville Farmers Market is a small but growing event that takes place every Saturday morning from 9 am to 12 pm at Linear Park in the Mitte Cultural District. Each week there are 15 to 20 local farmers and artisans selling fresh-organic produce, artisan teas, baked goods, coffee, cheese, farm eggs, honey, tamales, salsas, and more. Going to the Brownsville Farmers Market is not only a great way to support locals and their businesses but also an opportunity to learn about a healthier lifestyle. Moreover, it is the perfect way to begin your weekend in Brownsville and time in the Mitte Cultural District.
Children’s Museum of Brownsville
If you are visiting Brownsville with children, you MUST go to the Children’s Museum of Brownsville. I do not have children and even I thought this place was fun! The Children’s Museum of Brownsville is full of hands-on creative and interactive exhibits for children of all ages to play and enjoy. Interactive exhibits include a little grocery store, a restaurant, construction zone, health clinic, art room, and more. The children get to feel like adults interacting with each other in real
Costumes of the Americas Museum
One of the best things to do in Brownsville is visiting the Costumes of the Americas Museum for a unique and special experience. Though the museum is small, it exceeds in education and value. The Costumes of the Americas Museum displays over 600 indigenous costumes of the Western Hemisphere i.e. North America, Central America, and South America. Every few years there is a new exhibit showcasing different costumes from various countries to fit the theme. Currently, the new exhibit is “The United Americas” featuring costumes from the Pan-American Union.
Each costume is displayed with intricate details on beautiful mannequins and includes information about its significant history. In fact, my grandmother helped dress the mannequins for the grand opening! Furthermore, these costumes are 100% authentic. Each costume is donated from different countries to be displayed in the Costumes of the Americas Museum.
Brownsville Museum of Fine Art
One of the most unique museums in the Mitte Cultural District is the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art (BMFA) because it displays not only artists from around the world but locals too. The Brownsville Museum of Fine Art has collected over 500 pieces of fine art paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, and photographs to be displayed for specific exhibits. The exhibits change throughout the year, but what makes the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art special is their dedication to showcasing local artists. In addition to featuring international artists, BMFA has presented exhibits dedicated to a local high school teacher and their annual BMFA members. It is refreshing to find a museum of fine art that brings people near and far together to support their local community. This is why I recommend you visit BMFA during your weekend in Brownsville.
Historic Brownsville Museum
If you love history, especially U.S. and Texas history, one of the best things to do in Brownsville’s Mitte Cultural District is to visit the Historic Brownsville Museum. Here you can learn about Brownsville’s rich history in one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, the old Southern Pacific Railroad Depot. The railroad depot was built in 1928 and is not only recognized as a Texas Historical Landmark, but also the home to the Historic Brownsville Museum. The Historic Brownsville Museum showcases the events that led to the establishment of Brownsville including the Mexican Revolution, Civil War, Rio Grande Railroad, and more. In addition, the Historic Brownsville Museum also displays several historical artifacts from different battles and belongings from previous generations.
Furthermore, located next to old Southern Pacific Railroad Depot (and included in the Historic Brownsville Museum admission) is the Simon Celaya building. This building features an exhibition showcasing the story of the Rio Grande Railroad. The most fascinating piece is the 1872 Baldwin wood-burning, narrow
Brownsville Historic Battlefield Trail
If you love to be outdoors and bike, then you will love Brownsville. One of the best biking trails is the 9-mile Brownsville Historic Battlefield Trail. This trail connects the Palo Alto Battlefield through the city to the Mitte Cultural District on a safe route. In fact, this trail was once a railroad track built in 1904 that traveled all the way to St. Louis. So if you love to bike, you can start your early morning at Palo Alto Battlefield and bike to the Mitte Cultural District – just in time for the Saturday morning farmers market.
When my grandfather told me that I should visit Downtown Brownsville for the architecture, I did what most millennials do, shrugged it off. However, I went anyway and wow, Downtown Brownsville really does have some beautiful Spanish Colonial architecture. From a magnificent cathedral to an old military base and market, a simple drive to see all of the wonderful Spanish Colonial architecture is a must!
One of the most beautiful architectural buildings and a National Historic Landmark is Fort Brown which is within The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s campus. It is amazing to see how well preserved the Fort Brown buildings are and how the university has built around it. The Immaculate Conception Cathedral is also a wonderful sight to see and was built in 1856. Furthermore, one of my favorite buildings in Downtown Brownsville is Market Square which opened in 1852 as an open-air market.
Outdoor Adventures in Brownsville
One of the best things to do in Brownsville is being outdoors. The city has some of the best bird watching in the world, a historic battlefield, biking trails, beaches, and more. So on your second day in Brownsville, make sure you do not miss out on these amazing opportunities you cannot find anywhere else.
Resaca de la Palma State Park
People travel all over the world to visit Resaca de la Palma State Park to enjoy the vast landscape and to find over 200 bird species. Though the park is 2,000 acres large, only 1,200 acres are available to the public and 800 acres are for the federal government. The Resaca de la Palma State Park has five distinct habitats – woodlands, thorn scrub forest, resaca wetland, revegetation cropland, and open grassland. Visitors can enjoy the park on their own by biking (bike rentals available for $5.31) or by walking over 11-miles worth of trails featuring decks, boardwalks, and overlooks. You can also enjoy a FREE guided tram tour which lasts for one hour and leaves at 9 am, 11 am, 1:30 pm, and 3:30 pm.
The guided tram tour is the best way to go bird watching because it is very informative and fun. In fact, I have never considered myself a bird watcher until this tour because I had such a great time. I would spot birds left and right, and then the guide would help identify all the birds. A few popular birds to look for are the beautiful Green Jays, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Mockingbird, White-tailed Kites, and Green Kingfishers. Furthermore, Resaca de la Palma State Park is also a great place to find butterflies. The butterfly season is during September through November and the park will hold special butterfly walks along their trails. Resaca de la Palma State Park is truly one of the best thing to do in Brownsville and my favorite destination in the city.
Sabal Palm Sanctuary
Another great destination for bird watching and to enjoy Brownsville’s incredible landscape is the Sabal Palm Sanctuary. The Sabal Palm Sanctuary consists of 527 acres of land in a unique biodiverse habitat. It also contains the last remaining original Sabal Palm forest in the U.S. and provides breeding habitat for many endangered birds species. Needless to say, the Sabal Palm Sanctuary is truly a special destination and one of the best things to do in Brownsville.
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Visitors can also be guests of Sabal Palm Sanctuary by staying at their charming private bedroom upstairs via Airbnb. The bedroom is very spacious with a TV and a private bathroom. The entire space is warm and cozy with an ambiance that fits perfectly with the history of the Rabb Plantation at the Sabal Palm Sanctuary. Though the stay does not include any meals, there is a common area that has a mini-fridge and microwave for the guests to use. Moreover, a night at the Rabb Plantation is a lovely experience, especially for guests who want to be close to the sanctuary and bird watching.
Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Park
A visit to the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Park is a must for any history lovers. The battle of Palo Alto was the first battle in a two-year
In addition to the visitor center, guests can walk along several different trails within the battlefield. The most popular trail is the 0.5-mile Battlefield Trail which finishes at the battlefield overlook. Along the trail, visitors will find a number of exhibits that provide historical details of the battlefield. As briefly mentioned above, this trail is also the beginning of the Brownsville Historic Battlefield Trail which extends 9-miles to the Mitte Cultural District.
Boca Chica Beach
Another great thing to do in Brownsville in the outdoors is to head to the beach! Most visitors will flock to South Padre Island, but if you are looking to skip the traffic on the bridge or want a more secluded beach, then Boca Chica Beach is perfect for you. You can reach this beautiful 8-mile beach by driving from Brownsville and going east on Texas Highway 4 until you hit the sand. Yes, you can drive onto Boca Chica Beach! If you hit the
So with that said, Boca Chica Beach is open to vehicles where you can sit back and relax, fish, surf, build sandcastles, and more. The only downfall of Boca Chica Beach is that there are no services. So make sure you pack plenty of water, suntan lotion, towels, picnic, etc.
Where to Eat in Brownsville
When you visit Brownsville, one of the best things to do is simply EAT! You cannot find better Mexican food in Texas than in Brownsville.
A visit to Brownsville is not complete without dining at the Vermillion. Since opening in 1934, it has truly become a landmark in Brownsville. They serve a mix of American and Mexican cuisine with a side of warm hospitality. Their diverse menu includes entrees such as fresh ceviche, fried pickles, enchiladas, nachos, hamburgers, fajitas, tacos, and more. As their slogan says, “not fancy, just good!”, you will find everything to be delicious in a simple straight-forward approach.
My family and I never leave Brownsville without an order of nachos and you shouldn’t too! What makes the nachos at The Vermillion special is their housemade refried beans and hand fried tortilla chips. Keep in mind, I do not even like beans but these are to die for! You can then ask for either taco meat, chicken or marinated beef fajitas with tomatoes, lettuce, and avocado for the final touch. My mouth is watering just writing about it. Pair the nachos with a cold beer in a frozen mug and you have yourself a match made in heaven.
Must order: Fajita Nachos Deluxe with extra toppings!
El Ultimo Taco
If you want tacos you must visit El Ultimo Taco. They have been voted the best taqueria every year since 2014. It is an authentic Mexican experience from the food to the atmosphere, simple menu (in Spanish), and the most budget-friendly prices you will ever find – only $1.09 for a taco! You will walk out of this restaurant so happy and full after spending only five dollars.
There are four choices of meat – steak, pork, barbacoa (cow cheek), and
Must order: barbacoa tacos with all the fixings and Frijoles Especiales.
La Pale Frozen Fruit Bar
For a “sweet” Mexican experience, I recommend you visit La Pale Frozen Fruit Bar for delicious ice cream and the BEST paletas. A paleta is a popsicle made with water or fresh juice and only natural ingredients. La Pale sources all of their fresh produce from local farmers in the Rio Grande Valley. Furthermore, when you walk in, everything is made fresh right before your eyes. We watched their team peel and cut an entire box of fresh mango. In addition to fresh produce, La Pale also greets you with a warm welcome and a passion for their delicious frozen desserts. The combination of great hospitality and fresh ingredients is what makes La Pale’s paletas special.
Their paleta flavors are almost endless. A few flavors include mango, strawberry, raspberry, strawberry-kiwi, and more. Their most popular paleta is the Paleta Dragon. It is a footlong mango paleta drizzled with
Must order: strawberry-kiwi paleta or if you like a little kick, the Paleta Dragon.
7th & Park
One of the best things to do in Brownsville is beginning your day with a warm cup of coffee and fresh pastries at 7th & Park. This coffee shop is located in the heart of the Mitte Cultural District. So before you enjoy all the wonderful museums, head to 7th & Park to get your coffee fix. Or you can just stay and relax because 7th & Park has a great ambiance to get work done. Several aspects make 7th & Park special. From their friendly staff to their vibrant atmosphere and of course, coffee. Their menu has something for every coffee lover – cold brew, French press, hand-poured coffee, drip, espresso, latte, cappuccino, americano, and more. All using San Antonio’s beloved Brown Coffee.
Furthermore, this coffee shop is also a full-service bike shop. You can find everything you need for your bike from sales to service and repairs. Moreover, they also hold weekly events such as Yoga at the Shop, Mellow Monday Social Ride, and Saturday Gravel Ride. Needless to say, 7th & Park is a great local business bringing the community together by coffee and bikes.
Must order: Mexican Mocha – a latte with Mexican spiced chocolate.
Special thank you to all the wonderful recommendations from Ivonne. Ladies, if you need a manicure, pedicure, facial, massage, you name it – during your weekend in Brownsville, you must see Ivonne! She not only has the best recommendations in town but also the best beauty salon. Her work is phenomenal!
I hope you have enjoyed a little slice of Brownsville, Texas. It is truly a wonderful city to explore with plenty of things to do and see. To me, it’s like coming home, and when you meet the locals I think you will feel like family too.