Birds, Beaches and Battles around Brownsville
Overview of Attractions In and Around Brownsville, Texas
Brownsville is the largest city in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, an area of agriculture (and culture) along the Rio Grande, Texas' border with Mexico.
Brownsville is also the most southerly city in Texas, sitting right on the Mexican border. Just across the Rio Grande, in fact, is the Mexican city of Matamoras, and day-trips across the border are popular, especially with bargain shoppers.
The warm winters are a draw for Winter Texans and retirees. And the coastal beaches - for Brownsville is also directly on the Gulf of Mexico - are a draw yearround for sun- and surf-lovers. But particularly so during Spring Break, when college students from across the U.S. flock to the area and especially to nearby South Padre Island.
Brownsville is also one of the best birding spots in the world. Nearly 500 species of bird can be found in the area, which is situated along the routes of two major flyways.
The Los Ebanos Nature Preserve is an 82-acre preserve open from September through June, with birds visible all along the trails winding through the area.
The Sabal Palm Audubon Sanctuary is a 172-acre sanctuary owned by the National Audubon Society. It's one of the best extant examples of Sabal Palm forest and home to many wilflife species in addition to all the birds.
Then there's the Bird & Butterfly Paradise (in nearby Los Fresnos), open for tours of its bird and butterfly aviaries.
Still more birds - including a large collection of flamingos - can be found at the Gladys Porter Zoo, a favorite for generations for families and children. Brownsville's zoo is known for its openness - very few steel-barred cages contain the animals; rather, they are displayed in natural-appearing, open-air habitats. Display areas represent the animals of Tropical America, Indo-Australia, Asia and Africa.
The Historic Brownsville Museum is exactly that - a museum of the history of Brownsville and the area, told in photographs and artifacts.
The Brownsville Heritage Complex is home to the Brownsville Heritage Museum and the Stillman House Museum, which is inside an 1850 residence. The Brownsville Heritage Trail is a self-guided tour route through historic Downtown for viewing old homes and businesses.
The Museum of Fine Arts is also housed in a historic residence, an 1834 home known as the Neale House. It features a notable permanent collection and many rotating exhibits.
History buffs will want to visit two battlefield sites.
The Palmito Ranch Battlefield is the site of an engagement that took place after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender (news had not reached this far south).
The Palo Alto Battlefield is the spot where hostilities opened the Mexican War. Gen. Zachary Taylor - later U.S. president - camped at what was then known as Fort Brown, following Texas' admission to the United States, to establish the border with Mexico. Mexico found the act provocative (it was intended to be), and war ensued. Exhibits at the battlefield cover the war from the perspectives of both combatant nations.
The Commemorative Air Force Rio Grande Valley Wing is a museum with World War II displays, including many WWII- and Korean War-vintage aircraft that are still operational.
Day trips from Brownsville include South Padre Island (just 20-something miles away), the nearby Rio Grande Valley cities of Harlingen and McAllen, and Matamoras, Mexico, just across the border.
See also: Brownsville golf courses
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