Explore Local


Summertime is right around the corner, but before the trip planning begins, here are a few ideas to check out right here in the Rio Grande Valley and consider taking a “staycation,” by filling the summer days or weekends with things to do, places to stay, and see located right here at home

  • Places to Visit 

The Rio Grande Valley is a birding hotspot and people from all across the country, and even the world, visit the tip of Texas to spot Whistling Ducks, Harris’s Hawk, Green Kingfishers, White-tailed kites, Peregrine Falcons, Green Jays, and see a few Chachalacas roaming the grounds.

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge 

Santa Ana is a protected wildlife refuge that protects more than 2,000 acres of native sub-tropical habitat. The hike starts at the visitor’s center, where visitors can read about the local vegetation and animals, and even get up close to some reptiles and feathered creatures.

As the hike begins, have binoculars handy to make identifying the birds in flight easier. The trail opens up and leads to the hawk watch tower and canopy bridge located next to each other. There are also free guided bird walks that are offered at various times of the year.

There are tram tours available throughout the year, and visitors can inquire about obtaining a permit at the front desk for a bike, as there are some trails that are more than 3 miles long. Aside from the beautiful birds, visitors can see ocelots or bobcats!

Alamo, Texas, $5 per vehicle, Monday-Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 956-784-7500

Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park 

Bentsen Park is the headquarters of the nine Rio Grande Valley locations that combined make up the World Birding Center hotspots. The park begins with a visitor center with gardens to explore. This park is closed to all vehicles, but visitors can walk, ride their bicycles, or catch a shuttle.

This park’s hiking trail is 1.5 miles. Points of interest at this park are the Visitor Center Gardens, Kingfisher Overlook, and Hawkwatch Tower. Kingfisher is located along La Parida Banco, an overlook point that sits on the water bank. Hawkwatch Tower is a two-story observation tower that gives visitors a view of Mexico across the Rio Grande River. Visitors can also take their own bicycles or rent one for $5 at the visitor center.

Mission, Texas, $5 entry, Monday-Sunday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., 956-584-9156

Other outdoor spots to visit: Estero Llano Grande State Park (Weslaco, Texas), Sabal Palm Sanctuary (Brownsville, Texas), La Sal del Rey (North Edinburg, Texas), and South Padre Island Birding Center. 

  • Unique Places to Stay

Looking to get away without having actually to get away? Check out these great spots in McAllen, Texas, that offer a touch of home and give guests a spa-like retreat feel to help relax without the pressure of traveling too far from home.

Casa ArteSana (Art Heals)

Owned by local artist Mitch D’Arte, this 500-square-foot studio apartment is the perfect tropical getaway allowing guests to ground themselves and meditate outside of the apartment’s beautiful gardens.

The space is located on D’Arte’s private property, and guests have access to a beautiful outdoor shower that is accented by a giant mural painted by D’Arte of Frida Kahlo. Art is found in every corner, and the apartment is decorated by original paintings and art, as well as flea-market finds that have been restored to give the space a unique and colorful look.

Guests can enjoy an infrared sauna, garden areas for yoga, a 1957 Shasta vintage trailer, and best of all, no cleaning fees. The apartment has a full kitchen, bathroom with a spa-like shower, desk for remote work, high-speed internet, a television to unwind, and accommodates three people. The grounds are filled with art and spaces to sit and relax. Outdoor chandeliers sparkle in the evenings, and the breeze moves the wind chimes.

Casita de McAllen

This Olde-Towne McAllen home was established in 1923 and was renovated in 2022. Its outdoor area, with its large trees, and variety of plants, gives the studio a relaxing vibe.

The home is hosted by Erica de la Garza-Lopez, who says they have had Winter Texan guests, virtual workers, traveling medical professionals, bird-watching enthusiasts, and even locals celebrating their anniversary.

The space has a romantic feel to it, and guests can enjoy local art placed throughout the Casita. The Casita has all the amenities needed for a comfortable and relaxing stay. The space is also pet-friendly.

Both homes are near McAllen’s Art District and Las Palmas Historic District. Dine at locally-owned spots like SALT, New American Table, or Espana.

These locations are available for less than $100 a night. For more details about Casita de McAllen, visit the Airbnb posting.

These are just a few ideas, but once the exploring begins, the Rio Grande Valley has many gems to offer. Kick off the summer by booking a tour of the region and discovering new places to eat, parks to play at, and places to stay!



Selene Guerrero