RGV Day Trips: Brownsville, TX


The Rio Grande Valley is a special place with a rich culture and an interesting history. It may be hot, and it may not be riddled with skyscrapers, but we absolutely love it! There is so much to do with the family that involves little or no planning. 

Our new RGV Day Trip Series will feature some of our favorite spots to visit with the kids and give you an idea of how to spend your day. First up: Brownsville!

Quick Rundown of Our Day:

7:30 a.m. Snacks and tacos in the car as we left McAllen
8:40 a.m. Coffee and Hot Cocoa at 7th & Park
9:00 a.m. Gladys Porter Zoo
12:00 p.m. BBQ lunch at 1848
2:00 p.m. Back in McAllen with energetic kids after their quick afternoon car nap on the way home

Day Trip to Brownsville Texas RGV with the Family

Day Trip Meals and Snacks:

We love to pack easy snacks for longer car trips, so some fruit, sandwiches, dry snacks, and water bottles in a cooler in the trunk were a quick and easy way to be prepared for the munchies. We didn’t even touch it until the ride home, but we could have  extended our stay to include a picnic lunch and saved a few bucks on our day out. Brownsville has some beautiful parks (closest to the zoo: Dean Porter Park) that we will explore on a future trip!

Morning Coffee Run:

So, of course there are plenty of big-name coffee chains on the way to Brownsville from McAllen, but we were saving up for a little caffeine from a local coffee and bike shop that is literally across the esplanade from the zoo. We heard about 7th & Park from a friend and it was a fun way to start the day. The kids requested hot chocolate and my husband and I tried their drip coffee first. Later we returned for a “cappuccino to go” on our way back to McAllen.

Choo Choo in the Park:

This day trip included a short walk through the Southern Pacific Linear Park past the bike trails, an old restored caboose, and some beautiful sculptures. This park is literally right off the expressway on 6th Street, Exit 1.

If we had been here on a Saturday, the farmers market would have been in full bloom on this beautiful esplanade. On a Sunday it was mostly quiet with occasional groups of bicyclists zooming by on the bike lanes and trails. Side note: If you are a bike enthusiast, the lanes are very protected and go on for what seem like miles here!

Animals, Animals, Everywhere:

We joke about the zoo because it seems like every time we visit our membership has just expired. We still feel like it is always worth it for a family of 5, and know that the Gladys Porter Zoo and others around the state have a vested interest in the animals they shelter.

We always try and get there when the zoo opens so the weather is a little cooler and the animals aren’t all asleep. The kids love it and are completely ready to leave by noon. I have to admit that mommy and daddy have just as much fun as the kids when we go to any zoo or aquarium.

Across the road is Dean Porter Park and the Children’s Museum of Brownsville, which could have also filled the afternoon. The kids love to play there and take their time in each station. We love visiting children’s museums, such as San Antonio’s Doseum or Austin’s Thinkery, and any visit short or long is always a hit with the kids. 

The Lunch Dilemma:

Luby’s or BBQ? Today… Barbecue! Even on a day trip, it’s always fun to try out some local eats instead of the comfortable chain restaurant. We lucked out with some delicious barbecue at 1848, an unassuming joint down the street from the zoo. It took the kids longer to put on their seat belts than it did to drive there.

1848 has a compact kitchen, an aroma that lures you inside, and an air-conditioned dining hut. We had other restaurant ideas— Gazpacho’s or Spanky’s Burgers— but we’ll save those for another time.

If you make a day of it in Brownsville, we hope this quick guide gives you some good ideas. Of course, if you’re in the mood for a bigger trip outside the RGV, check out our Destination: Texas with the Family guide for more ideas.

Destination Texas with the Family

As always, we love to hear your favorite things to do and places to eat as well in Brownsville, TX. Leave your suggestions in the comments so we can try them all out!


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