Seven Days in the Valley
With so much to see and do in the Rio Grande Valley, this story could only touch on the area's his-tory and recreational opportunities. For information about attractions, lodging, and restaurants in the four-county region, call the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, 956/968-3141; www.valleychamber.com. Their free, in-depth guidebook contains a list of Chambers of Commerce throughout the region, including the Brownsville CVB (800/626-2639; www.brownsville.org), the McAllen Chamber and CVB (877/622-5536; www.mcallenchamber.com), and the Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce (800/531-7346; www.harlingen.com).
Also, drop by the Texas Department of Transportation's Travel Information Center at 2021 W. Harrison in Harlingen (open 8-5 daily; 428-4477), where you can pick up maps and brochures galore. The area code in the Valley is 956.
Attractions and Tours
Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, 7 miles south of Alamo, on FM 907 about 1/4 mile east of US 281; 956/784-7500; www.fws.gov. (Click on "refuges.") The Friends of the Wildlife Corridor operate canoe trips on the Rio Grande, 783-6117; www.corridorfriends.org.
Burlingame Bro-Mat Tours, personalized tours of Brownsville/Matamoros and interior Mexico; 233-1900.
Gladys Porter Zoo, 500 Ringgold St., Brownsville; 546-2177; www.gpz.org.
Historic Brownsville Museum, 641 E. Madison, Brownsville; 548-1313; www.brownsvillemuseum.org.
Sabal Palm Grove Audubon Center & Sanctuary, a few miles south of Brownsville; call for directions; 541-8034; www.audubon.org/local/sanctuary/sabal.
Hidalgo County Historical Museum, 121 E. McIntyre, Edinburg; 383-6911, www.riograndeborderlands.org.
Granny Clare's Citrus Orchard, 14748 Hoss Ln., Harlingen; 423-1191 or 866/878-7770; www.geocities.com/grannyclares.
The Iwo Jima Monument, 320 Iwo Jima Blvd., on the campus of the Marine Military Academy, Harlingen; 412-2207 or 800/365-6006.
Old Hidalgo Pumphouse, 902 S. Second, Hidalgo; 843-8686; www.hidalgotexas.com/pumphouse.
To reach the Los Ebanos Ferry in Los Ebanos, take US 83 west from McAllen to FM 886, go 3 miles south on FM 886, and follow the signs.
Little Graceland Museum, on the south side of Texas 100 East, Los Fresnos; 233-5482 or 233-4488.
International Museum of Art & Science, 1900 Nolana, McAllen; 682-1564; www.mcallenmuseum.org.
The Border Theatre, 905 Conway, Mission; 585-4122.
Smitty's Jukebox Museum, 116 W. State St., Pharr; 787-0131.
Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle, 400 N. Nebraska St. and US 83, San Juan; 787-0033.
Valley Nature Center, 301 S. Border, Weslaco; 969-2475; www.valleynaturecenter.org.
Kraatz Cactus Nursery, 1 mile north of Riviera on US 77; 361/296-3678.
Frank's Antique Emporium, 123 E. Jackson, Harlingen; 423-4041.
Kattan's Western Wear & Hat Center, 119 W. Jackson, Harlingen; 425-2575.
The Red Moon, 102 W. Jackson, Harlingen; 428-5011.
The Alamo Inn (801-B Main St.; 782-9912; www.alamoinnsuites.com), in Alamo, and the Inn at El Canelo, on a private ranch in Raymondville (956/689-5042; www.elcaneloranch.com), are two of the Rio Grande Valley's 17 bed and breakfasts, many of which cater to birdwatchers and all of which offer vastly different personalities, lodging rates, and amenities. To learn which one's for you, log on to www.rgv-bedandbreakfast.com. (The site also has great links to RGV nature attractions.)
Motels, RV parks, and hotels abound in the Valley (call the various chambers for details), including the colonial-style Renaissance Casa de Palmas Hotel (101 N. Main; 631-1101; www.renaissancehotels.com), which dates to 1918, in McAllen.
El Dorado, 755 Main St., Alamo; 787-8822.
Elva's, 1775 Central Blvd., Brownsville; 504-3371.
Emilia's, 605 W. Elizabeth, 504-9899; and 5182 E. 14th, 831-2442, Brownsville.
U-Mix Coffee and Juice Bar, 1805 Ruben Torres Blvd., 574-9119; and 83 Fort Brown St., 544-1117, Brownsville.
La Olla, 424 E. University Dr., Edinburg; 316-0868.
The Dairy Bar, 720 South "F" St., Harlingen; 428-4433.
Detours Coffee House, 115 E. Jackson, Harlingen; 423-7183.
Los Asados, 210 N. 77 Sunshine Strip, Harlingen; 421-3074.
Nelda's Bakery, 304 W. Tyler, Harlingen; 423-9301.
Julia's, 220 Ocean Blvd., Los Fresnos; 233-5653.
Casa del Taco, 1100 W. Houston Ave., McAllen; 631-8193.
The Blue Onion, 2017 W. Highway 83, Ste. 8, Weslaco; 447-0067. (A second location will open in McAllen soon.)
To Learn More
The bookstores at The Alamo Inn, Santa Ana Nation–al Wildlife Refuge, and Sabal Palm Grove Audubon Center & Sanctuary carry hundreds of titles related to the region's history, plants, and wildlife, as well as binoculars and gift items. All three stores are partners with a Texas company called Naturally Curious; for a catalog, call 888/258-4687; www.naturallycurious.com.
Jerry Thompson's A Wild and Vivid Land: An Illustrated History of the South Texas Border (Texas State Historical Assn., 1997) delivers an informative, fascinating read.
Over the years in Texas Highways, we have published many stories on Valley topics, including South Padre Island, Los Caminos del Rio, Brownsville architecture, the Los Ebanos Ferry, Smitty's Jukebox Museum, Sabal Palm Sanctuary, the Gladys Porter Zoo, aloe vera, and the citrus industry. See our archives at www.texashighways.com.
From the November 2002 issue.