Postcards: Things to see in the RGV
By Eileen Mattei
I often tell friends and family who live in chillier climes
that winter is the best time to be in the Rio Grande Valley. After years of
exploring my adopted home, I’ve discovered 15 adventures that allow visitors to
experience the authentic Valley—beyond the wonderful sunshine, iconic palm
trees, and great Mexican bakeries.
- Behind the Scenes. The 65-foot Double Sunshine cruises the
Laguna Madre around the South Padre jetties, where dolphins abound, before
heading down the restricted-access Brownsville Ship Channel. The boat provides
front-row seats to observe the world’s largest “green” ship salvage yard; the
towering, sea-going oil platforms; and the Shrimp Basin
where about 100 net-draped shrimp trawlers are docked. The charter service
American Diving starts this four-hour cruise Thursdays at 9 a.m.,
December-March, from Sea Ranch Marina Pier. Reservations required.
- Citrus Collecting/Juicy Fruit. Pick your own red
grapefruit at Thompson’s Rio Pride Orchards in Weslaco, November-March,
Monday-Friday. This longstanding, family-operated orchard is one of the few
that lets you pick your own. Call ahead for a time, and to tour Donald
Thompson’s exotic citrus tree collection, which includes pomelos and Mandarin
limes. Or, get just-picked oranges and famous Rio Red grapefruit to go. Rio
- Iwo Jima Monument. The original model for the Arlington
Cemetery memorial dominates the skyline at the Marine Military Academy, near
Valley International Airport in Harlingen. Visit the Iwo Jima Memorial and
Museum before taking a free tour of the campus. Watch cadets parade to lunch
and join them in the mess hall ($10). 320 Iwo Jima Blvd., Harlingen. Call
956/423-6006, ext. 235, to arrange the MMA tour.
- Bygone Burials. Explore Brownsville’s Old City Cemetery
on a guided walking tour of a New Orleans-style graveyard. The above-ground
crypts and weathered headstones reflect more than 150 years of border life.
Brownsville Historical Association docents lead the tour ($5 for members, $7
for non-members) Friday mornings at 10; reservations required. Call the
Brownsville Heritage Complex at 956/541-5560. Or tour yourself: The Old City Cemetery Center, 600 E.
Jackson (corner of 6th and Monroe), has maps. Tuesday-Saturday, 10-4.
- Old Salts. Looking like a field of snow, the La Sal del
Rey salt lake, 28 miles northeast of McAllen, could be a mirage under the
bright sun with exotic birds in the distance. Your feet crunch on the lake’s
dried salt, leaving footprints that rapidly fill with brine. Go four miles east
of US 281 on Texas 186 and park at the US Fish & Wildlife Service kiosk on
the north side of the road. Hike one mile on a gravel path to the lake. Call
- Christmas Sights. Nighttime Christmas parades continue a
Valley tradition. McAllen’s parade goes up Main Street to Archer Park on
December 4 at 7 p.m. The next night brings the Christmas Posada—a procession of
Mary, Joseph, and a donkey looking for room at an inn. Anyone can join the
choir accompanying the posada. Archer Park stages free entertainment both
nights. Call 877/622-5536.
- River Watch. Slip through a wide gap in the border wall
in Mission (really, it’s legal here) and watch the Rio Grande flow past at the
Riverside Club. This restaurant, famous for its pork tenderloin sandwiches,
sits right on the river bank and offers pontoon boat cruises on the
international waterway. 214 E. Chimney Road, Mission; 956/581-1033.
More Rio Grande adventures in the November 2009 issue, including the Valley Nature Center, the new Resaca de la Palma State Park, murals, custom bookmakers, and islands of creatures at the zoo.
From the November 2009 issue.
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