You’ll find Laredo, Texas right on the border between Mexico and the United States. It’s one of the oldest border crossing points and has a wonderfully colourful history.
Thanks to the blending of two distinct cultures, modern Laredo is unlike anything else in Texas. Not only is it the largest inland port, but it’s one of the most popular Spanish beach resort towns.
You’ll find all the modern amenities right alongside cobblestone streets of the Puebla Vieja slope. It was once the capital of the short lived independent Republic of the Rio Grande and is now the ideal getaway for beaches, lively entertainment, close knit community, and great festivals – including a month long celebration of George Washington’s birthday.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Laredo:
1. The Republic of the Río Grande Museum
In the San Agustín Plaza in the heart of downtown Laredo is the Republic of the Rio Grande Museum.
Built in 1830, it’s one of the oldest buildings in town and the Mexican vernacular architecture gives it a unique and inviting appeal.
Originally the home of the mayor, the building also served as the capital for the Republic of the Rio Grande.
The museum now displays exhibits meant to show visitors an authentic 1830’s home in Laredo. It’s one of the three most visited historic landmarks in town, along with La Posada Hotel and San Agustín Cathedral.
2. Lake Casa Blanca International State Park
Five miles north of downtown is Lake Casa Blanca, a reservoir that sits on the Chacon Creek.
It was formed in the 1950’s when a dam was built in order to create a recreational space for neighbouring counties.
Fishermen will enjoy the many bass, catfish, and carp found in the lake and everyone else will enjoy skiing, boating, swimming, mountain biking, hiking, cooking out, and camping.
3. Zacate Creek
Inside the city limits, and running ten miles south, is Zacate Creek. The creek played a significant part in the American Civil War when a Union Army of 200 men attempted to invade the town and destroy 5000 bales of hay.
Colonel Santos Benavides, commanding only 42 men, repelled the Union army three different times at Zacate Creek in what is now known as the Battle of Laredo.
Today, the town has developed the surrounding area into a park and greenway with a three-mile trail running along the creek.
4. The San Agustin de Laredo Historic District
Once the entirety of the town of Laredo, the historic district is now in the heart of downtown. The streets there are paved with brick and the beautiful architecture reflects Spanish and Mexican influences from the 19th century. This is the last place to see such examples of Spanish Colonization in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. It’s there that you’ll find the former capital of the Republic of the Rio Grande and the Cathedral – for which the area takes its name.
5. Lamar Bruni Vergara Planetarium
The planetarium is part of Texas A & M International University’s campus. It’s a unique teaching and learning centre that is open for public shows, field trips, and star gazing events.
It’s one of the most advanced planetariums in the state with upgraded technology that allows incredible views from Earth, but from any part of the known cosmos.
With the Digistar 5, you’ll feel like you’re in deep space, exploring new planets, and discovering the awe-inspiring beauty of our universe.
6. Fort McIntosh
First established in 1849, Fort McIntosh (then Camp Crawford) played important parts in the Mexican-American War and the American Civil War.
The Battle of Laredo took place nearby the fort. Some of the infamous ‘Buffalo Soldiers’, units of African American freed slaves, were also stationed here.
During World War I, For McIntosh served as a training facility, and during the second great war it was used by various units like the Civil Air Patrol and the Cavalry Brigade.
No longer an active military base, the fort is now a part of the Laredo Community College campus and is open to visitors year round.
7. Villa Antigua Border Heritage Museum
Built in the early 20th century, the Villa Antigua Border Heritage Museum was once a two-story brick home that housed Laredo merchant families.
It now represents the kind of grand home that populated the San Agustín District and made it so magnificent. The Italianate style is easily recognizable and a truly beautiful sight.
In 2002 the Webb Country Heritage Foundation acquired the home and began major renovations and reconstruction, as the home had been vacant for several years.
The museum now showcases regional history, industry, culture, and various ethnic populations.
8. Casa Ortiz
Built in the early 19th century, Casa Ortiz is now part of the historical district of Laredo. With incredible views into Mexico and beautiful gardens surrounding the home.
Originally a resting place for travellers coming from Mexico, it was known for gracious hospitality and gun fights between locals and raiding parties.
Also a refuge for Catholic clergy in the early 20th century when the Catholic Church was being persecuted in Mexico. It’s now part of the Texas A&M International University and used for events, tours, and educational sessions.
9. The Cathedral of San Agustin
The Cathedral is the seat of the Catholic Diocese in Laredo. In the heart of downtown, it’s congregation numbers over 280,000 members.
It’s a beautiful building that still retains all the lustre of a by gone era. For those that love history and architecture, this is a must see.
Visitors often enjoy sitting in the plaza outside the church for a good bit of relaxing people watching.
You may be surprised to learn that South Texas is one of the best destinations for birding in all of North America. Laredo is a particularly good spot thanks to its location on the Rio Grande River – which provides the perfect haven for many species of birds.
Peak season is in January and February when roughly 240 species can be found. If you are there in February, don’t miss the Laredo Birding Festival, complete with seminars to improve your birding skills and field trips to the top locations in town. In 2010 A female Amazon Kingfisher arrived in Laredo, a rare sighting indeed and the first for North America.
Blessed with a rich and diverse river eco-system, Laredo is home to hundreds of species of local and migratory birds, which include our very own prized birds: White-collared Seedeater, Scaled Quail, Gray Hawk, Audubon’s and Altamira Orioles, Green Parakeets, Muscovy Duck, Red-billed Pigeon and Clay-coloured Thrush.