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The Rio Grande Valley itself is a Hidden Gem of Texas, but it’s also the home to a few must-see places for those who come to visit. From wildlife to food to unforgettable experiences - there are so many things you can see and do in the Rio Grande Valley. With warmer temperatures throughout the year, Southern Texas is a great place for an extended vacation, no matter the month. Here are a few favorite places to experience in the Rio Grande Valley.

1. Go Fishing at Falcon Lake

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Whether you are an experienced angler or just want to give it a try, there is no better place in the Rio Grande Valley than Falcon Lake. With an abundance of largemouth bass and channel catfish, it is rare to leave Falcon Lake empty handed. Spend a morning, afternoon, or an entire day at the lake and catch a meal or two!

2. Take the Los Ebanos Ferry 

Get a blast from the past with the last hand-operated cable ferry on the Rio Grande River. The 3 car barge is anchored to a Texas ebony on the U.S. side, which is how this little ferry got its name. Even if you just turn around and come right back, it is worth experiencing this piece of Texas history. This is one adventure that is dictated by the weather, however: if it is raining (or very windy), the ferry doesn’t operate.

3. Visit South Padre Island

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Not many people think of sunbathing, surfing, and sea when they think of the Lone Star State. South Padre Island actually has over 30 miles of beautiful beaches with great activities for every type of beach goer - from relaxing to adventurous. In addition to multiple activities, there is dining, nightlife, places to stay, and more. Forget Florida or California - choose the Rio Grande Valley for your next beach vacation!

4. Do Some Bird Watching

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The World Birding Center is a network of 9 unique birding sites, all different habitats offering different experiences. No matter the season, you can witness a treasure trove of wildlife at each destination. Come back throughout the year to get an entirely new experience at the same locations! You can observe over 500 different types of birds thanks to the World Birding Center.

5. Learn Something New at Hilltop Gardens

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One of the first commercial aloe farms in the country, Hilltop Gardens is a tropical healing garden and organic farm that offers a Sensory Walk, Healing Garden, Memorial Aloe Garden, Children’s Garden, Shop, Visitors’ Center and more for visitors to experience. The farm is dedicated to researching sustainable agriculture practices for other farms to implement. There is even a Mediterranean style farm house available as an inn!

6. Camp at Boca Chica State Park or Brazos Island State Park

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If you like tent camping, there is no better place for it than Boca Chica or Brazos Island. Hike to your camping spot, setup, then enjoy being surrounded by nature and only a stone’s throw from the beach! Check out wildlife, sing songs by the campfire, and maybe check out the new SpaceX launch site, currently under construction.

7. Go Wild at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

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Originally created as a refuge for migratory water birds, the refuge has since expanded to focus on conservation of shorelands, endangered species, and more. Encompassing more than 97,000 acres, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Walk a trail, ride your bike, participate in interactive programs or even spend the day fishing or hunting!

8. Hit the Golf Course 

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The Rio Grande Valley boasts more than 15 golf courses in a 50-mile radius, including two along the banks of the Rio Grande itself. Every course offers a different type of scenic outing, and you can be sure to find one to match your experience level. Spend a morning or afternoon on the links while also enjoying the unique local scenery.  

9. Marvel at the Art of Sandcastle Days

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If you are visiting in October, make sure to head over to South Padre Island for the annual sandcastle festival. A free event that showcases sand art masterpieces, plus live music and local art and food, is a great outing for the whole family. You can even take classes on sand sculpting!

10. Take Salsa Lessons

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Whether you just do a drop-in class at a local studio or check-out the annual Salsa Festival, there is a way for you to get in touch with your rhythmic side through Salsa. A popular style of ballroom dancing, even beginners will have a great time taking a class and learning the steps. Grab your partner and get moving!

11. Join the Fiesta During Charro Days 

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A carnival, a festival, parades.... This fiesta has it all and over multiple days! Going strong since 1937, Charro Days is the biggest celebration in the Rio Grande Valley and celebrates the unique culture and community the area has fostered. A border town with Mexico, Brownsville shares the celebration with Matamoros and the two mayors kick off the celebration with “Hands Across the Bridge” each year.

12. Stop at a Produce Stand

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There is nothing like fresh produce straight from the farm. You can sample the best of the area at any of the number of fruit stands that dot the sides of the road in the Rio Grande Valley. Apples, strawberries, avocados, okra, melons, honey, tomatoes… the list goes on. Each stand is different, so it is worth stopping at a few.

13. Spend a Romantic Night at the Inn at Chacalaca Bend

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Hidden in the curves of the resaca, The Inn at Chachalaca Bend “is a place of peace overflowing with life.” Natural landscaping, luxury lodging, and a feeling of gathering are a few of the many highlights of the Inn. A full hot breakfast is included with your stay, and many of the other hidden gems on our list are only a short drive away.