Brownsville is a semi-tropical paradise of stately palm trees, ever-blooming bougainvilleas, exotic birds, and warm Gulf breezes. Steeped in a rich South Texas heritage and located on the banks of the Rio Grande, Brownsville is a perfect two nation leisure travel destination with Matamoros, Mexico, just steps away and two beautiful Gulf of Mexico beaches less than half an hour away.
The rich heritage of two countries separated by the once mighty Rio Grande, but joined by hundreds of years of tradition, history and family welcomes you. The many festivals throughout the year bring the local culture alive -- a great chance for you to join in on the fun. We're on the border, by the beach.
Brownsville offers contemporary fine arts, shopping, golf courses, and many hospitality services. Brownsville is a dynamic, bustling city with a great climate and lush landscape that is ready to welcome you with open arms.
Naturally speaking, Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine says that, "No matter what time of year you visit, birds and butterflies will be abundant here in this land ‘south of winter.'" As our guest, you get to enjoy all this, our favorable cost of living and many great values. This year, do like the birds, come, stay in Brownsville.
The Gladys Porter Zoo is a visitor-oriented zoological and botanical park, dedicated to the preservation of nature through education, conservation and research.
The Gladys Porter Zoo opened to the public on September 3, 1971. The facility was completely planned, built, stocked, equipped and then given to the City of Brownsville by the Earl C. Sams Foundation.
An average of 375,000 local people and tourists visit the Zoo annually, with an attendance exceeding 400,000 in the year 2001.
The Gladys Porter Zoo is located on 31-acres in central Brownsville, Texas. Additional Zoo facilities include: Administrative office, Education building, four concession stands, gift shop, maintenance facilities, animal diet kitchen, clinic and off-display breeding areas.
The Gladys Porter Zoo is owned by the City of Brownsville and is operated by the Board of Directors of the Valley Zoological Society. The Board of Directors is comprised of approximately 100 individuals who set Zoo policies and oversee that they are carried out in the best interest of the Gladys Porter Zoo and the purpose for which it was founded.
Gladys Porter Zoo has been an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) since 1978.
Address, Telephone & Fax
500 Ringgold Street
Brownsville, Texas 78520
Telephone (Information Recording): (956) 546-2177
Administrative Office: (956) 546-7187
Education Department: (956) 548-WILD (9453)
Open every day of the year from 9:00a.m. until 5:00p.m. with extended summer hours.
Children: (2-13 years): $6.50
Children under 2 years are admitted free
Gladys Porter Zoo offers group rates for large parties. Contact the Office Coordinator at (956) 546-7187 to schedule your group.
Gladys Porter Zoo offers special discounted admission rates to schools. Only school groups that are part of a state accredited school or licensed preschool are eligible for the school rates. View our school rates and special programs for school groups on our Education page .
The Old City Cemetery Center is managed by the Brownsville Historical Association and focuses on the history, architecture, art, and folk customs of the Brownsville Historic City Cemetery. The Center offers permanent exhibition focused on the cemetery, as well as rotating exhibitions focusing on these folk art customs. The mission of the Old City Cemetery Center is to advance life long learning opportunities about the history, architecture, art, genealogy and folk art customs of the Brownsville Historic City Cemetery and the surrounding Buena Vida Neighborhood through exhibitions, cultural events, and educational programs.
The Historic Brownsville Museum Association opened in 1986 and houses a variety of exhibits that interpret events from Brownsville's history. Built in 1928, the building is an example of Spanish Colonial Revival Architecture. The building has received a Texas Historical Marker and a listing on the National Register of Historic Places. A feature exhibit is a Baldwin wood-burning, narrow gauge railroad locomotive, the last one in the world of its kind.
Dedicated in 1850 , the land for this plaza was a gift to the City of Brownsville from the city's founder, Charles Stillman. The fountain was installed in 1929. In 1975 it was restored through a gift from the Yturria family who also gifted the decorative bandstand in 1976 and was once again restored through funding from the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation in 2006.
Sombrero Festival, a three-day event is held in the park the last weekend in February during the annual Charro Days celebration. It features local music, unique food-booths, popular events for participants and the world famous Charro Bean cook-off known as "Frijolympics".
501 Ringold Street 5 brownsville Texas
Sand Dunes and Empty Beaches
|Padre Island, the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world, stretches for 110 miles along the Texas Gulf Coast. The national seashore occupies miles of uninhabited island paradise, a place where sandy beaches are met by the warm and gentle waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Padre Island is named for Padre Jose Nicolas Balli, who built a mission on the island in the early 1800s to Christianize the native Karankawa Indians. The sand dunes north of city limits is the perfect getaway if you are looking for your very own private stretch of beach. Camping is allowed and free. Driving is allowed on the beach, you can drive nearly 30 miles on the sand until the Port Mansfield jetties. Four wheel drive vehicles are recommended for driving on the sand, otherwise you can drive to the end of the paved road, Padre Blvd, and climb up one of the tall sand dunes that borders the national seashore, where you have a stunning view of both the bay and Gulf. It is a great place to enjoy our beautiful sunsets over the Laguna Madre, sunrise over the surf, and a perfect spot to relax and look at the stars. This is a highly recommended activity for kids!|
City and County Beaches
|The beaches of South Padre Island are the number one attraction for many Island visitors.
There are no privately owned beaches in Texas, so everyone is welcome to enjoy every inch of the entire coast line. There are beach access points every few blocks along Gulf Blvd, or you can go to one of the county park beaches where you'll find pavilions with picnic tables, playgrounds, restrooms, and showers.
Travel Channel names South Padre Island as one of America's best beaches for family beach travel. When summing up America's best beaches, the Travel Channel says "Calling all soccer moms: It's time to kick off your work pumps and throw on your flip-flops. Treat yourself to a relaxing day at the beach. These kid-friendly beaches are just the place to unwind with the family. Don't worry. While you peacefully soak in the sun, your children will be entertained with plenty of activities on and off the beach. South Padre Island is perfect for vacationing families and honeymooners. This beach is for the value-conscious traveler."
Just remember to please leave only your footprints in the sand.
* Note: County beaches, particularly between access #5 and 6, as well as Isla Blanca Park are extremely crowded on summer weekends, and poorly maintained with lots of litter. City beaches are much cleaner. If you wish to drive on the beach, we recommend entering at access #6 and drive north for a few miles until crowds thin. Free beach camping is possible for 25 miles of open beach.
The Gulf of Mexico and The Laguna Madre
The waters surrounding our barrier Island provide for many unique opportunities. Surfing, swimming, fishing, dolphin watching, sailing, snorkeling, scuba diving, jet skiing, wind surfing, and kite boarding are just a few of the activities taking place daily in the Gulf of Mexico and Laguna Madre here at South Padre Island. Isla Blanca Park on the south end of the Island is commonly known as the best surf in the Gulf of Mexico, our gentle waves make South Padre Island the perfect spot to jump right in and learn how to surf. The Island boasts some of the best fishing in the country. Whether you are going fishing off of the jetty, wade fishing along the beach or in the Laguna Madre, or going on a bay fishing or offshore fishing charter, you are likely to hook into some red snapper, grouper, redfish, snook, flounder, trout, tuna, marlin and more. The Laguna Madre is a very popular spot for wind surfing and kite boarding, and is known as one of the best places in the United States to catch some good clean wind and ride in the beautiful shallow waters of the bay.
Sea Turtle, Inc.
|Sea Turtle, Inc. was formed to aid and assist in the protection of Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle - and to ultimately restore the ridley population to a level that will ensure its survival. Through the years Sea Turtle, Inc. has expanded its scope to actively support the conservation of all marine turtle species. To achieve its goals, they. provide educational programs to schools, tourist bureaus, civic organizations and new media. Sea Turtle Inc is committed to rehabilitating injured sea turtles for their return to the wild. Each day, a volunteer meets visitors at the facility and talks about the different species of sea turtles, their importance to the environment, and what we as individuals can do to pull them back from the edge of extinction.|
South Padre Island Dolphin Research and Sealife Center
|Discover the spectacular diversity of nature that South Padre Island has to offer. Learn about dolphins in the wild and sea life. Experience hands on marine life with various touch tanks and aquariums. Hold starfish, urchins, live snails, and other creatures. Help feed the octopus, moray eels, hermit crabs, sea horses and many more! Daily presentations on the dolphins of South Padre Island given by the local dolphin research team. Learn about our real-world dolphins; how they live and interact with both each other and their environment.|
University of Texas Pan American Coastal Studies Laboratory
|The Coastal Studies Laboratory's public display area contains representative species of fauna and flora from the immediate area of the Lower Laguna Madre, Gulf of Mexico, and South Padre Island. The laboratory is open for public visitation 1:30 to 4:30 P.M. Sunday through Friday. Organized school groups, civic and other groups should arrange to visit Monday through Friday 8:00 A.M. to noon. These groups should call at least one week in advance to arrange a time and date.|
South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center
and World Birding Center
|On its 50 acres near the convention center, the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center presents a model of the rich habitats that contribute to this very special place. Dune meadows, salt marsh and inter tidal flats are all represented here, along with thickets of native shrubs and trees that are irresistible to migrating birds in their season. South Padre Island is a crucial first landfall for birds making a difficult cross-Gulf migration from Southern Mexico and northern Central America. Especially after a spring storm, wooded lots of the island teem with an eye-popping rainbow of warblers, tanagers, orioles and thrushes. Wetlands harbor a range of shorebirds and waterfowl, while endangered species such as the Brown Pelican, Piping Plover and Peregrine Falcon may be found here as well.|
Wyland Whaling Wall #53
| The South Padre Island Convention Center boasts one of only 100 Wyland Whaling Wall murals. The mural titled "Orcas of the Gulf of Mexico," depicts life-sized killer whales and is number 53 of Wyland's Whaling Walls series. The murals are intended to increase awareness of dangers faced by the world's marine life.
Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historic Site
|The Port Isabel Lighthouse was constructed in 1852, near sites of Civil War Battle of Palmito Ranch (1865) and Mexican War Battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma. Of the 16 lighthouses originally constructed along the Texas coast, Port Isabel is the only one open to the public. With a perch 50 feet above the ground, it is always popular with photographers and other visitors, because they can enjoy great views of South Padre Island and the beaches. In fact, a number of couples have climbed the 75 winding stairs, including 3 short ladders, to exchange wedding vows on top of the tower. Facilities: The grassy knoll where the lighthouse sits is ideal for strolling and relaxing, and the facilities are for historical study and scenic viewing. Picnic tables are also available.
Museums of Port Isabel
|The MUSEUMS of Port Isabel is a complex consisting of three diverse facilities, the Port Isabel Historic Museum, the Treasures of the Gulf Museum, and the Point Isabel Lighthouse. All three are within walking distance of each other and are open year around to the public.
Treasures of the Gulf Museum puts the spotlight on three Spanish shipwrecks. Meeting their fate in 1554, just 30 miles north of Port Isabel, and brought to life with murals, artifacts and hands-on activities. Also featured is a Children's Discovery Lab, Ship Theatre and Nautical Gift Shop. Port Isabel Historical Museum is a state-of-the-art facility is located in the Champion Building. Built in 1899 as a dry goods store and residence, it now houses two exhibit levels, a theater, a gift shop and one of the largest collections of Mexican artifacts from the U.S. - Mexican War. The facade 'features the famous fish mural' painted in 1906 by a local fisherman. Constructed in 1852, the Point Isabel Lighthouse was built to protect and guide ships through Brazos Santiago and the barrier islands. In 1952, the Lighthouse was opened as a State Park and remains the only lighthouse on the Texas coast open to the public. The Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage which is on the grounds of the lighthouse, houses the Chamber of Commerce. The Keepers Cottage is open to the public. FREE history of the lighthouse display & local information.
South Padre Island Golf Club
|Golf Course Details - Around every every bend, after every hole at South Padre Island Golf Club you will find yet another reason our golf course is considered the finest in the Rio Grande Valley. Enveloped by nature and removed from the traffic and busy pace of this modern age, the course South Padre Island Golf Club is truly an oasis. Golfers come from far and wide to golf with us, won't you do the same? Pro Shop - The pro shop at South Padre Island Golf Club carries a range of golf equipment from many of the top name brands, at competitive prices. Practice Facilities - We offer a full size driving range, beautiful short game area, and large putting green to help improve your golf skills. There is no better time to improve your golf game. Don't forget: lessons are available from our full staff of golf instructors. Always strive for your best round. Restaurant & Bar - When you need a quiet place to visit with clients or to enjoy a relaxing moment after your round, stop by the clubhouse here at South Padre Island Golf Club. Our restaurant and patio are wonderful places to rest, surrounded by the beauty of our club, or host your next dinner party. The delicious cuisine from our kitchen will have you back each week for lunch and dinner.|
Gladys Porter Zoo
|The Gladys Porter Zoo is an oasis nestled in the center of Brownsville, Texas. With 26 acres of lush tropical plants and some 1,600 animals, the Gladys Porter Zoo is known for its successes in breeding endangered species of wildlife. In a mere ¾ mile trek, a visitor to the Gladys Porter Zoo will encounter a diverse ensemble of 377 species of animals and 225 species of plants. The park is divided into four zoogeographic areas: Africa, Asia, Tropical America and Indo-Australia. There is also a Herpetarium and Aquatic Wing, a Free-flight Aviary, Macaw Canyon, Bear Grottos, and a California Sea Lion exhibit. Small World features a nursery and an animal contact yard where children can touch and interact with domesticated animals. Large numbers of wild birds find sanctuary on the Zoo grounds, drawn to the plants and waterways that provide them with food and shelter.|
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge
|Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is located on the lower Gulf Coast about 25 miles east of Harlingen, Texas. It is the southernmost waterfowl refuge in the United States. It also provides habitat for 10 federally endangered or threatened species and has the most bird species documented (411 species) of any national wildlife refuge. Typical of the Texas Coastal Plain, the refuge is virtually flat with most elevations below 5 feet above sea level. The landscape is an interspersed pattern of meandering resacas (oxbow lakes), lomas (brush-covered sand/clay dunes), coastal prairies, and wetlands.
The south Texas landscape is a unique blend of temperate, subtropical, coastal, and desert habitats. Mexican plants and wildlife are at the northernmost edge of their range, while migrating waterfowl and sand hill cranes fly down for the mild winters. This combination makes Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge world famous for its birds, and home to a mix of wildlife found nowhere else.
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is the largest protected area of natural habitat left in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, an oasis for wildlife with few alternatives. The refuge's 45,187 acres become more valuable with each acre lost to development--valuable to wildlife and valuable to those who enjoy wildlife in wild lands. Ocelot, Texas tortoise, green jays, chachalaca, and javelina prefer the dense thorny brush land areas of the refuge, while alligator, least grebe, and black-bellied whistling ducks choose the ponds and resacas. Desert dwellers like roadrunner, verdin, and cactus wren inhabit the scrub areas, while species like roseate spoonbill, egrets, and herons join black-necked stilt, American avocet, and piping plover at the shore of the Laguna Madre.