Things to Do in Brownsville

Brownsville, Texas sits at the crossroads of two nations surrounded by vast expanses of fertile farmland and tropical wildlife refuges. In its early days, it was the site of some of the most important moments of this country’s history, but today it’s an outdoor lover’s playground. Explore Brownsville’s palm tree-lined pathways on a bicycle, meander through a tropical forest in search of rare birds, or discover the events that shaped America into the country it is today. These are just a few of the great things to do in Brownsville, so hop on your bicycle or assemble your hiking gear and get ready for an adventure.

Hit Brownsville's Bike Trails

One of the best ways to experience South Texas’ tropical beauty is by exploring the various biking trails in Brownsville. Whether you’re in to road cycling or mountain biking, there’s something for you here. Brownsville has 64 miles of bicycle paved and off-road trails and on-street bike lanes for you to traverse, including the nationally recognized Brownsville Historic Battlefield Trail. This nine-mile paved hike and bike path, flanked in parts by evergreen palm trees, runs north from downtown Brownsville to the Palo Alto Battlefield. Along the way, you’ll see many of Brownsville’s major attractions, such as the Gladys Porter Zoo and the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art, as well as many locals who are jogging or biking on the trail.

The winding trails and small climbs found in the 6.2-mile-long Monte Bella Bike Trail provides a fun challenge for experienced and beginner mountain bikers alike. The trail, located just northwest of Brownsville, is a popular hiking and jogging spot as well, so you’ll need to keep an eye out for. Head a little farther to the northeast, you’ll find eight miles of multi-use trails at Resaca de la Palma State Park, also known as one of the main birding areas in Brownsville. Didn’t bring your bike? No problem. Resaca de la Palma State Park offers bike rentals for use at the park.

Take a Walk through History

Brownsville has seen some of the most pivotal moments in American history. The first battle of the Mexican-American War, a conflict that would shape the future of both nations, occurred here in 1846. In 1865, the last battle of the Civil War happened at Palmito Ranch, just east of Brownsville. Start at the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site, located just north of Brownsville. Here you’ll walk the battlegrounds and discover how the battle was fought, what turned the tide in America’s favor, and the causes and effects of the war from exhibits within the park’s visitor center. On the other hand, Palmito Ranch contains a historical marker and an observation platform that affords a good look at the battlefield.

There are numerous historic sites in Brownsville that are worth visiting as well. The Historic Brownsville Museum, situated inside of a picturesque Spanish-style building constructed in 1928, is a good place to learn about the town’s history. Other historic sites in town include the Stillman House Museum and the Old City Cemetery Center, both of which were either or established in the early 1850’s. Most of Brownsville’s historic sites are nestled within the Mitte Cultural District, a collection of museums and parks that comprise the downtown area.

Festivals All Year Long

Brownsville is known as “Where the Fiestas Never End,” and for good reason. There’s almost always something going on here, and no two events are the same. Take, for example, the Charro Days Fiesta. This late-February fiesta celebrates Brownsville’s rich cultural heritage with a vibrant parade, dances, a golf tournament, and a carnival with more than 40 rides. For something more musical, don’t miss the Brownsville Latin Jazz Festival, a three-day event held in October that features performances from top-class musicians. The Brownsville Beer Fest, also in October, showcases some of the best craft and specialty beers from around the world at a 121-foot-long wooden bar, known as the “longest bar in Texas.”

Visit Brownsville’s website for a full listing of the town’s multitude of great events.

Go Birding in Brownsville

Birding in Brownsville is serious business. After all, the riverside border town is home to as many as 500 tropical species of birds at any time of the year. That’s due to its mild climate, lush tropical landscape, and strategic location within a major migratory bird path. What that means for you, and any other birder, is there are birds here that you may not see anywhere else in the country.

As you may expect, there are quite a few places you can go to spot some wildlife. Resaca de la Palma State Park, Sabal Palm Sanctuary, and Boca Chica Beach are all good birding locations, but the top choice may be the Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is home to more than 400 bird species, such as aplomado falcons, redhead ducks, and Altamira orioles, as well as the endangered ocelot. Each season brings with it a new set of birds to spot. To learn more about the types of birds that can be spotted in each season, visit the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge’s birding guide

Get a Taste of the Local Fare

South Texas, also known as the Rio Grande Valley, is one of the most fertile regions in the state. It leads the state in citrus production and is also a major producer of maize, sugarcane, and various melons. Brownsville offers a great way to get a taste of all that the Rio Grande Valley produces at its weekly farmers’ market. In the farmers’ market, you’ll find locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers, as well as raw honey, fresh gulf shrimp, baked goods, homemade jams, and more. The Brownsville Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday morning at Linear Park near downtown Brownsville.

Go to the Beach

Of course, any time spent in Brownsville has to include a trip to the beach. Brownsville is within 40 miles of two of the most pristine beaches in the state: South Padre Island and Boca Chica State Park. South Padre Island is a popular tourist destination in its own right. The island has a full set of restaurants and hotels, as well as the Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark and many places where you can rent a jet ski or go on a dolphin or whale watching tour. If you want to avoid the crowds, then the miles of untouched beach at Boca Chica State Park is for you. Here you can fish, swim, jog, relax, or watch a flock of pelicans soar overhead.

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