Ventanas Magazine  
follow us: facebook twitter newsletter
Top Leaderboard  
Subscribe to
Advertise in
Pick it up at
Back Issues
2012 - Spring Issue
Vida Buena
Article: Joe Burgess
Photos: Joe Burgess
Share |
Located on the same latitude as Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the tip of Texas has an abundance of sunny surf, migratory bird havens, historic sites and all the fresh grapefruit and gulf shrimp you can consume.

    Photo Captions

Additional photography courtesy of South Padre Island CVB and Walter McDonald

Corpus Christi

South Padre Island


Corpus Christi - Beaches, ships, an aquarium, some intriguing museums and great food.

Everyone loves the dolphin show at Texas State Aquarium, but to actually touch the rays and be nose to nose with sharks and sea turtles is exhilarating. There are tanks duplicating a coral
reef and an offshore oil rig - The World War II aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Lexington, has been turned into a museum with naval aircraft from all eras, flight simulator and battle stations - The Corpus Christi Museum of Science & History provides treasures and replicas of world-famous shipwrecks as well as full-size replicas of Columbus' Pinta and Santa Maria -

On Water Street, the Texas Surf Museum admits that the best Gulf surfing occurs during hurricanes and tropical storms - The South Texas Music Walk of Fame is in the same cluster and on Shoreline is a striking memorial to Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. Despite my fascination with shrimp enchiladas at Water Street Seafood Company, I opted for the mesquite grilled pacific red snapper in garlic cream sauce. Should I mention that they have a 75-bottle wine list -

Corpus Christi beach areas include Mustang Island State Park and the northern tip of Padre Island National Seashore. Hiking, biking, camping and even driving on the beach is a hoot - Area birding is excellent at South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center -; and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge - Deep-sea fishing and cruises are plentiful -

For lunch, I located a delightful little café at Six Points called Hester's Café and Coffee Bar - And wouldn't you know that it opens into a wonderful antique and gift store called Bleu Frog Mercantile - Across the Harbor Bridge at North Beach, I ordered the gulf shrimp at Blackbeard's, which bordered on perfection. They serve 47 international beers and share lots of rock-and-roll paraphernalia and ghost stories - The Quality, Regency and Radisson hotels are right next door and on the beach.

Area festivals include the annual Whooping Crane Festival in February at Port Aransas - Buc Days (buccaneers) in late April highlights Spanish explorers and heritage - Corpus Christi First is a monthly celebration with art walks, the state's largest marina market, and the Harbor Bridge Walk -

South Padre Island - This modern beach resort is just 25 miles east of Brownsville.

The tip of this barrier reef isle, the world's largest, offers gourmet restaurants, seaside attractions, high-rise hotels and beaches facing both the Gulf of Mexico and Laguna Madre. Almost any water sport imaginable is possible, with rentals available - A world-class scuba diving destination, there are natural and man-made reefs, sunken ships and abandoned oil rigs - Skydiving is also in the mix - Cruises, deep sea and bay fishing excursions are a given -

And mates, the Black Dragon Pirate Cruises by the lighthouse in Port Isabel provide a two-hour interactive pirate-themed excursion including sword fighting and water gun battles - Sand Castle building culminates in October with the 25th annual Sand Castle Days - Lessons are available any time with local gurus of the art -

The South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center includes 43 acres of freshwater ponds, island scrub brush, brackish and saltwater marshes, boardwalks and bird blinds - There are lots of great seafood eateries on the island, and I chose Pier 19 Restaurant & Bar because happy hour ran all day! Good food, great conversation and even saw a dolphin rolling by - A variety of accommodations can be found on and off the island as well as sites for RVs and camping.

Traveling north on US 87 to Corpus Christi, the traveler passes through Kingsville, location of the King Ranch and museum.

Brownsville - Boasts a subtropical climate at the confluence of the Rio Grande and Gulf of Mexico.

The area is dotted with significant moments in history and a collage of bird and wildlife sanctuaries. Like Laredo, there are duty-free shops and great bargains -

The first two battlefields of the 1846 U.S.-Mexican War are preserved as part of the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Park - For those who believe the South will rise again, there is a marker east of Brownsville at the site of the Battle of Palmito Ranch, the last major skirmish of the Civil War that took place five days after the war ended… with Confederates claiming victory.

Area museums include Costumes of the Americas Museum representing indigenous and traditional textiles and garments -, the Historic Brownsville Museum in the ornate Southern Pacific Railroad Depot -, the RGV Wing of the Commemorative Air Force Flying Museum - and even the Little Graceland and Freddy Fender Museums - I also enjoyed Dalí's Divine Comedy exhibition, organized by the Las Cruces, New Mexico Museum of Art (!) at the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art -

Area birding excels where "nearly half of all bird species found in the continental United States… rest, feed, nest and migrate." A network of nine sites is overseen by the World Birding Center with visitor and education centers, nature trails and observation decks - In addition, there are two National Wildlife Refuges, the Sabal Palm Audubon Sanctuary - and the Gladys Porter Zoo, a 26-acre park known for its wildlife rehabilitation, birds and butterflies -

For local fare, I thoroughly enjoyed Cobbleheads Bar & Grill with its patio on the edge of a resaca (pond) -, but If you're up for resort options, check out Rancho Viejo - Festivals include a weeklong Charro Days and Sombrero Fest in February with mariachi and Tejano music and contests for jalapeño eating and tortilla tossing - The Latin Jazz Festival in October draws regional and national acts -

Laredo - Claims to be the southern border's largest inland port, and an exciting destination it is.

As a starter, the 40 blocks of retail shopping for Mexican wares along San Bernado Avenue is incredible and includes duty-free shops, a farmer's market and a wide choice of cuisine - - For accommodations, La Posada is a recently renovated boutique hotel facing the plaza and includes a pool, bar, two restaurants and underground parking - For my enchilada fix, I chose Palenque Grill on the loop and both the service and the margaritas were excellent. It stays open until 2:00 am -

Founded in 1755, Laredo's historic plaza area is anchored by the picturesque Cathedral of San Agustin, a Gothic Revival structure with a 141-foot bell/clock tower, and various heritage museums. In 1840, Laredo served as capitol of a sovereign state, the Republic of Rio Grande that included northern Mexico and South Texas. It dissolved after only 283 days in existence, but sufficient to support Laredo's claim to seven flags - Following the war with Mexico, the United States established Fort McIntosh, constructed at Laredo in 1849 to guard a strategic river crossing. Many of the original buildings are still in use and scattered amongst the modern structures of Laredo Community College. Paso Del Indio Nature Trail along the Rio Grande is accessed from the campus.

Jamboozie, a Mardi Gras style event in Laredo, kicks off a month-long celebration of George Washington's birthday that includes parades, carnivals, concerts, fireworks, parties and lavish pageants - US 83 connects Laredo to Brownsville, skirting Falcon Reservoir on the Rio Grande. San Juan, just east of McAllen, harbors a national shrine that includes a ¾-mile Way of the Cross depicted by 30 life-size bronze statues – ///

Ventanas Promotions
like us on facebook
Medium Rectangle #1
Medium Rectangle #2
Medium Rectangle #3
Medium Rectangle #4
Medium Rectangle #5
Southwest Subscriptions
Newsletter Sign-Up
Las Cruces Magazine