The city of Brownsville is located in the southern tip of Texas, and to that end is close to the border with Mexico, meaning that you can expect a melting pot of cultures and influences when you are in town. There is a huge amount to do in Brownsville if you are in town for a visit, and with a population of over 175,000, you will find a range of attractions and eclectic events to suit all tastes.
For nature lovers there are zoos and parks to enjoy, and this is known as one of the best places to cycle in all of Texas, with a huge number of dedicated cycling trails, so if you want to get out and about on a bike then this is the place to come.
Anyone looking for some culture won’t be disappointed in Brownsville, as there are a wealth of museums here, as well as art galleries and even a museum dedicated to less well known arts such as textiles and costumes. In the downtown area of the city you will find historical buildings aplenty, and children won’t be bored with a range of educational yet fun attractions specifically designed with younger visitors in mind.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Brownsville:
1. Children’s Museum of Brownsville
If you are traveling with younger guests then the Children’s Museum of Brownsville is not to be missed.
Here you will find a full range of exhibits that aim to teach children about the world around them through a series of interactive galleries.
There are also hands-on workshops here and a range of programs and activities that children can join, and the collections here are suitable for children of all ages.
The emphasis is also on cooperative play and interactive learning, so that young minds will be challenged in a fun and engaging way.
2. Dean Porter Park
The Dean Porter Park is known as one of the largest parks in Brownsville and is spread over 25 acres of lush land alongside the Resaca waterway.
The park is full of attractions including areas such as Sam’s Memorial Pool and a water playground if you want to cool off in the summer months.
There are picnic cabanas if you want to stop for a bite to eat, or paved trails that cross all over the park if you want to go for a hike or a leisurely stroll.
There is even a Butterfly Garden here, and you will also find a spectacular area of open space meadow where you can relax and enjoy the scenery.
3. Commemorative Air Force Museum
The Commemorative Air Force Museum is dedicated, as the name suggests, to honoring those who fought in the Second World War, as well as educating visitors on all aspects of World War II history.
The museum has galleries that will take visitors through the most important events of this period of history, from the time before war was declared, right through to the fall of the Third Reich.
The museum also includes European and Asian history, and to that end there are also exhibits dedicated to the defeat of the Japanese Empire as well.
One of the most moving exhibits in the museum is the section that showcases the stories of the aviation pilots who belonged to the 201st Mexican Fighter Squadron, and you can also see period aircraft from World War II on display.
4. Brownsville Farmers’ Market
Held in the spectacular Linear Park in Brownsville is the peerless Brownsville Farmers’ Market which takes place every Saturday.
The market sells fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers, and you can also get baked goods and homemade items like jams and even soaps.
All the produce comes from the local area, so you will be supporting a farm to table philosophy if you choose to shop here.
5. Monte Bella Bike Trail
For some light exercise in Brownsville that will also let you take in some of the best of the local scenery, look no further than the Monte Bella Bike Trail.
The trail stretches for 6.2 miles through lush landscapes and is ideal for beginner bike riders as much of the terrain is flat, with only a few small hill sections in places.
Experienced riders can also enjoy the views from the trail and this is an excellent place to come to take in the flora and fauna of the area, particularly if you like bird watching, as you will likely see a plethora of local species as you pass along the trail route.
If you prefer not to cycle then you can also walk or jog in the area.
6. Brownsville Museum of Fine Art
The Brownsville Museum of Fine Art has the mission statement of introducing the community to local artists and thus enriching the cultural environment in Brownsville.
To that end, you will find a range of art work on show here, and there are also special programs for children that aim to share a love of art with younger visitors to the museum.
There are also cultural events held here such as lectures and musical concerts.
7. Camille Lightner Playhouse
The Camille Lightner Playhouse is a community theater in Brownsville and has been in operation since 1964. As a result, this theater has over 50 seasons under its belt, and is one of the best loved and best known theatrical venues in the South Texas area.
The aim of the theater is to entertain the population of Brownsville and you can expect a range of performances here including Broadway shows and musicals.
8. Costumes of the Americas Museum
The Costumes of the Americas Museum is not to be missed if you are in Brownsville and want to see a quirky museum that showcases some of the most beautiful textiles in the area.
As the name suggests, the museums aims to present costumes and indigenous dress from areas all over the Americas, and you can expect a riot of colors and different design styles here.
The museum is also dedicated to taking guests through the history of woven textiles in the Americas, and if you are interested in clothing and design then this is an ideal spot to learn more in a fun setting.
9. The Gladys Porter Zoo
The Gladys Porter Zoo is the place to come if you love animals and want to see them in a nature reserve dedicated to conservation and research, as well as educating the public about the environment.
The zoo is located on a botanical park that spans 31 acres and has been in operation since 1971. The animals in the zoo come from all over the world, and you can tour the area by taking a safari ride around the different sections of the zoo.
There is also the Russel Aquatic Center which features a whole host of marine life in a 30,000 gallon tank.
Other sections of the park include a gift shop, an education center, and concession stands if you want a bite to eat.
10. Sunrise Mall
Sunrise Mall is one of the best places to come in Brownsville if you are looking for some retail therapy.
The mall measure over 700,000 square feet and has more than 100 different shops to choose from.
There are anchor stores here such as Sears and JCPenney, and Sunrise Mall also has the claim to fame of being the largest mall in the county, so whatever you are looking for you will probably find it here.
Not only is this a great place to pick up some souvenirs, but there are also a range of dining options as well as a strong cafe culture.
11. The Historic Brownsville Museum
The Historic Brownsville Museum first opened its doors in 1986 and is housed in what used to be a Spanish Colonial Revival passenger depot that was abandoned.
As such, you will find pretty Spanish architectural features all over the museum, and there are Spanish style fountains, picturesque courtyards, and engine buildings for visitors to explore.
The museum will also take you through some of the history of the city of Brownsville from its foundation up until the present day, and there are a range of educational exhibits to answer any questions you may have.
12. Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site
The Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site, sometimes also known as the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park is the site of the first battle that occurred during the U.S. – Mexican War.
The site aims to commemorate this battle as well as educate visitors on the historical and cultural implications of the war, and to that end you will find an exhibit center which features a 15 minute video that will take you through some of the background.
There is a walking trail that you can follow that leads directly to the battlefield site, and there are walking tours with friendly and knowledgeable local docents, as well as other quirky activities like birding walks.
13. The Stillman House Museum
The Stillman House Museum was the former home of Charles Stillman, himself the founder of the city of Brownsville.
As well as Stillman however, a whole host of famous faces lived in this house, from Henry Miller, to the former President of Mexico, Porfirio Diaz.
The house dates from 1850 and opened as a museum in 1960, and you can see some delightful period architecture here as well as historical memorabilia from the 1800s.
14. The Arts Center
The Arts Center is a large performing arts venue in Brownsville that also works with the Texas Southmost College.
If you are an arts lover and want to immerse yourself in the cultural side of Brownsville while you are in town, then make sure that you check out what’s on here.
The theater works with Chamber Music America, as well as the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, and you can catch a huge array of theatrical performances and other shows here.
15. Linear Park
Linear Park sits on the site of what used to be the Southern Pacific switching yard, before it was transformed into a recreation area in 1988. The park is covered in lush scenery and is also the venue for the famous Brownsville Farmer’s Market if you happen to be here on a Saturday when the market takes place.
There is also a historic caboose on show here and trails that lead all over the park that allow you to take in the glorious views.
The main trail here runs for nine miles and follows the route of the Southern Pacific Rail Line that is now no longer in use.