Here are some of the top attractions in South Texas for a great history lesson.
With its diverse culture offerings more than a touch of Old Mexico, visitors to South Texas have numerous attractions to consider. It’s especially true for cities in the Rio Grande Valley – Del Rio, Eagle Pass, Laredo, and McAllen. Here are attractions in South Texas for all the history buffs out there.
Top Attractions In South Texas For History Lovers
Below, you’ll find popular tourist towns in South Texas with top attractions in each that are worth a visit. Bring the whole family!
Del Rio, Texas
Del Rio’s top attractions include Val Verde Winery, Texas’s oldest continuously operated winery, producing many award-winning wines. Val Verde Winery was established in 1883 by Italian immigrant winemaker Frank Qualia. Third-generation family members now operate the winery, and wine tastings are held regularly. The Val Verde Winery is a local landmark with scenic grounds.
Whitehead Memorial Museum is a top family activity. The small pioneer village shows visitors how the city’s early settlers lived and worked. It’s spread over two acres in the middle of Del Rio.
Eagle Pass, Texas
Eagle Pass is home to the only casino in Texas, with the Lucky Eagle Casino owned by the Kickapoo just outside the city limits. Piedras Negras in Coahuila, Mexico, is easily reached by taking the International Bridge to cross the border.
The town was originally Fort Duncan, established in 1849. Santa Ana and his army came through there on the way to the Alamo. Fort Duncan is now a museum open to the public.
After crossing the Texas border into El Paso, the Rio Grande River continues on to Eagle Pass, Laredo, Rio Grande City, McAllen, and Brownsville.
Goliad has a wealth of Texas history in its town and is one of the oldest towns in Texas. The following are worth seeing:
- Presidio La Bahia – a restored fort with a museum containing memorabilia from the Texas Revolution.
- See both the whitewashed walls of Mission Espíritu Santo tower and Zaragoza Birthplace State Historic Site while walking the grounds of its earliest settlers – Goliad State Park & Historic Site.
- Mission Nuestra Senora del Rosario – a Spanish mission in Goliad
- The historic downtown district, Courthouse, and famous hanging tree are worth seeing.
- Fannin Battle Grounds and the grave of Col. James W. Fannin Jr.
Gonzales is a small Texas town that greatly impacted Texas history. Visit the Texas History Museum District to see the cannon that fired the first shot of the Texas Revolution, a 19th-century jail, and a log cabin built in the 1840s. The district features five museums, including the Gonzales Memorial Museum that honors the Immortal 32–volunteers sent from Gonzales to aid the Alamo defenders.
Located on the North bank of the Rio Grande, visitors to Laredo will see Nuevo Laredo just across the river in Mexico. Laredo is the largest inland port of entry in the U.S. and offers a delightful blend of two cultures. The town is 268 years old and a great place to explore its historical exhibits and sites. A great place to start is the Republic of Rio Grande Museum. If time allows, visit the recently renovated San Agustin Catholic Cathedral and its adjoining plaza. Families will love the Imaginarium of South Texas, a science museum with kid-friendly activities.
Delicious and authentic Mexican food is available on both sides of the Rio Grande. Charlie’s Corona, El Quinto Sol, and Palenque Grill Loop 20 are some of the top-rated Mexican restaurants in Laredo.
If traveling on I-35 from San Antonio to Laredo, you’ll run into one of Texas’s twelve Travel Information Centers. I would definitely stop there and grab brochures, talk to the knowledgeable staff, and use the restroom if needed – they are nice.
The top attractions in McAllen are all about the arts; however, outdoor interests prevail. Such things as wildlife refuges, parks for birdwatching, numerous golf courses, and plenty of shopping will keep you busy as you stroll the city looking at its artwork. We suggest visiting the International Museum of Art & Science, and for more history, swing by the Veteran’s War Memorial Of Texas to visit the memorial outside.
Rio Grande City, Texas
Founded in 1848, Rio Grande City was once a significant trade center between Texas and Mexico. Its historic district features important architectural structures like the La Borde House, now operating as a hotel on Main Street and said to be haunted.
Fort Ringgold Forts and Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto Shrines are also worth visiting for some history.
San Antonio, Texas
One of the fastest-growing cities in the country is San Antonio. The city boasts many great attractions. Choosing just one is tricky, from the bustling Mercado to the San Antonio River Walk and the scenic Japanese Tea Gardens. Best of all, many of these attractions are free and open to the public.
No visit to the Alamo City is complete without stopping by the Alamo – the “Birthplace of Texas Independence” and still a sacred site for Texans. The Alamo Trust completed a lengthy site restoration. Starting March 2nd, visitors are invited to view the extensive collection of Alamo artifacts donated by Phil Collins.
Travel Tip: San Antonio River Walk is Texas’s most visited tourist attraction.
San Juan, Texas
This tiny Rio Grande Valley town is worth departing the beaten path to discover the Gelman Stained Glass Museum. The new museum showcases a breathtaking stained glass assembly compiled by a local doctor. His extensive collection of stained glass windows, primarily found in old church buildings, offers a cathedral-like experience. The Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle is another lovely local sanctuary available for tours.
History enthusiasts will especially like the Briscoe-Garner Museum. The museum features historical documents and exhibits connected to two Texas statesmen: former U.S. Vice President John Nance Garner and former Gov. Dolph Briscoe.
One of the oldest cities in Texas is Victoria, with several important historical sites. Visitors can explore 13,000 years of history at the Museum of the Coastal Bend. You can learn about the earliest people in the region and see artifacts left by the 17th-century French explorer La Salle. The Old Victoria Driving Tour features over 80 fascinating homes and properties, many listed on the Nation Register of Historic Places.
Zapata County was named for Col. Jose Antonio de Zapata, a rancher who rebelled against Mexico. The oldest town is San Ygnacio, settled in 1830 and located on the Rio Grande 30 miles south of Laredo. Mexican immigrants led by Jesus Trevino first settled it. The original sandstone house still stands today and bears a historical marker.
The famous Western drama “Viva Zapata,” starring Marlon Brando and Anthony Quinn in 1951, was filmed in San Ygnacio. The town is listed as a National Historic Place.
The Museum of South Texas History features the Coahuiltecan people, Spanish exploration, and regional history.
As you can see, there are several things to do in South Texas – so much history in this part of Texas. I hope you enjoy visiting some of these attractions in South Texas and many more out that way.