Gone to The Valley
In November, signs heralding the return of winter visitors start popping up at hotels, restaurants, and other businesses throughout the Rio Grande Valley. Welcome, Winter Texans! they proclaim.
Could we resident Texans be suffering from the Paradise is right under our noses syndrome? The wonderfully diverse Rio Grande Valley is a great place to vacation, year round, whether youre a nature-nut with an eye toward butterflies and birds or a fan of pop-culture kitsch like vintage jukeboxes and Elvis Presley memorabilia. And now that the Queen Isabella Causeway has been repaired, South Padre Island is once again an easy destination.
Spend a week in this palm-studded paradise, and youll be smitten. Take a tour of Matamoros with historian David Burlingames Bro-Mat Tours. Stroll the lush remnants of the Sabal Palm forest that once lined the banks of the Rio Grande. See pygmy hippos at Brownsvilles Gladys Porter Zoo. Tour Simon Vegas wacky collection of Elvis collectibles in Los Fresnos. Have a hat custom-fitted at George Kattans shop in Harlingens downtown historic district. Tour a citrus orchard. Take in the birds via canoe at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. Watch the antics of butterflies at Weslacos Valley Nature Center. See a movie at the refurbished 1942 Border Theatre in Mission. And remember, Mexico is just a short hop away. Whew!
Wed be remiss, of course, if we didnt mention the fantastic food. Breakfast tacos enjoyed by chandelier-light at Elvas in Brownsville, savory seafood soup at Casa del Taco in McAllen, chiles rellenos at Taqueria Victoria in Donna, pork-and-squash casserole at Julias in Los Fresnos, pizzas and salads at The Blue Onion in Weslaco all de-lish. If you dont know where to go, ask a native; the Valleys welcoming and kind people make a visit here especially memorable.
For specifics about attractions, lodging, restaurants, and tours, call the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, 956/968-3141; www.valleychamber.com. For links to the many bed and breakfasts throughout the Valley, try www.rgv-bedandbreakfast.com. And, for statewide travel information, drop by the Texas Department of Transportations travel information center in Harlingen, at the intersection of US Highways 77 and 83; call 956/428-4477.
From the January 2002 issue.