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    South Padre Island,

    Texas

    South Padre Island Convention Centre & CVB

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    Texas' Best Beach

    South Padre Island is a tropical oasis located off the southern tip of Texas. This barrier island offers the unsurpassed beauty of the Laguna Madre Bay and the Gulf of Mexico and is the ideal year-round destination for visitors seeking a getaway from the daily grind.

    The moment you cross the Queen Isabella Causeway, you feel like you’ve left all your cares behind – you’re now on South Padre Island time and free to experience your own tropical getaway. With 34 miles of beautiful white sand and clear emerald water, South Padre Island is one of the world’s most exquisite barrier islands – and the only tropical Island in Texas. Calm weather and water and more than 300 days of sunshine make South Padre Island a great place to live and visit all year. If you’re visiting in the summertime, the cool breezes blowing in your hair will refresh you as you sip an icy drink; in the winter, the warm sun will melt away your cares as you stroll down the beach in shorts and sandals. You can close your eyes, breathe deeply, and let go of all the worries you left behind when your trip to South Padre began.

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    Budget Travel Lists

    5 long weekend trips across Texas

    As the second largest state in the U.S., Texas delivers big when it comes to things to see and places to visit. A long weekend offers the perfect opportunity to check out more of what the state has to offer, whether you’re a native interested in exploring your own backyard or you’re a traveler looking to make the most of your visit. 1. Wind Down in Wine Country You don’t need to jet off to Napa Valley to enjoy a wine-filled retreat. Instead, head to the center of the state to enjoy the Hill Country, where over 50 wineries dot the rolling green hills. Founded in 1846, the charming city of Fredericksburg makes for a good home base for your weekend trip through Texas wine country. Here, you can take your pick from unique lodging options like a luxurious room at Hoffman Haus bed and breakfast, or a quaint cottage at Fredericksburg Herb Farm designed like the Sunday houses German settlers used when they came into the city on the weekends. To get going with the wine, stroll up and down Main Street where you’ll find many tasting rooms from popular wineries like Grape Creek and Narrow Path. Alternatively, you can hop on one of the town’s wine tours and shuttles to leave all the logistics to the professionals and visit multiple vineyards in the area. When it’s time to take a break between tastings, immerse yourself in the German heritage of Fredericksburg with a beer at The Ausländer, a cozy meal at Rathskeller, or a swanky dinner at Otto’s German Bistro. Want to balance your culinary explorations with a bit of history? Pay a visit to the National Museum of the Pacific War or the Pioneer Museum. The fun doesn’t stop at Fredericksburg’s borders, so carve out some time to check out the other attractions around the Hill Country. Outdoor lovers shouldn’t miss a hike up Enchanted Rock, a massive granite dome just 20 minutes north of Fredericksburg. Also worth a stop is Luckenbach, a tiny community that consists of a general store, bar, and dancehall where you can catch some excellent country music. Cypress Valley. Photo: Cindy Brzostowski 2. Hide Away in the Highland Lakes Region Why visit just one lake when you can visit multiple? Stretching west out of Austin, there’s a chain of lakes made by dams in the Colorado River known as the Highland Lakes region. Along this stretch, there are so many recreation options that you may have trouble deciding how exactly you should spend your long weekend. For starters, there’s all the boating, fishing, and swimming your little heart may desire at any one of the lakes, including Lake Buchanan, Lake LBJ, and Lake Travis. Those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground will be in heaven hiking the trails of nearby parks like Inks Lake State Park and Pace Bend Park. There’s even more fun to be had from deep underground all the way to the treetops. Go under the surface to see stunning cave formations on a guided cave tour at Longhorn Cavern State Park, which was developed in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Then there’s Cypress Valley, where you can join a zoom your way through the canopy on one of their ziplining tours. Better still, you can set free your inner kid and actually stay in one of the property’s gorgeous treehouses. Aside from those cozy nests, local accommodation options include lakeside resorts for anyone who wants to stay in style for the weekend like Lake Austin Spa Resort and Lakeway Resort and Spa. When all that adventuring gets your stomach rumbling, you can’t go wrong with a hefty chicken-fried steak and slice of pie at Blue Bonnet Cafe, or with some mouthwatering brisket alongside a side of their famous butter beans at Opie’s Barbecue. Galveston. Photo: Cindy Brzostowski 3. Go Out to the Gulf Coast If a beachy getaway is more your vibe, drive to Galveston Bay and the Gulf Coast just outside of Houston. You’ll probably want to spend most of your long weekend exploring Galveston Island itself, which offers a mix of historic sites and modern tourist attractions. Along with its beautiful old mansions and the historic downtown known as the Strand, one of Galveston’s draws is simply the beach. There are a few spots to pick from like Stewart Beach or East Beach. If you really want to get a lay of the land, go for a walk along the Seawall, which is 10 miles long and was built between 1902 and 1904 as hurricane protection. Eventually, you’ll come across the historic Pleasure Pier where you can hop on a ride or have a go at some carnival games. While you’re on the island, don’t forget to check out Moody Gardens, a popular destination that stands out with its three giant pyramids. One houses a 1.5-million-gallon aquarium, one is a rainforest exhibit, and one is a discovery museum. Conveniently right next door is Schlitterbahn waterpark, yet another local attraction calling for your attention. From Galveston, you can take the ferry across to Bolivar Peninsula to explore Fort Travis, the first fort established by the Republic of Texas in 1836, and has even more beaches. Alternatively, you can head north to Kemah, a city on Galveston Bay that’s known for it's boardwalk full of family-friendly entertainment. South Padre Island. Photo: Cindy Brzostowski 4. Get Some Sun on South Padre Island If you can make the time for the drive, another relaxing island destination awaits all the way at the southern tip of Texas: South Padre Island. While the journey out here might be long, you’ll be rewarded with whiter beaches and warmer temperatures. You may have heard of South Padre before as the hotspot for spring breakers, but there’s so much more here to enjoy than its wild reputation may let on. Of course, there’s the beach, and there are access points all up and down the eastern coast of the island. For fewer crowds, drive all the way up to the aptly named End of the Road, which is the northernmost point where the island’s main road ends. From there you can walk out over picturesque dunes to quieter expanses of seashell-covered beach without any resorts in sight. Wildlife lovers and families traveling with kids should pencil in time at two of South Padre’s most popular attractions: Sea Turtle, Inc and the South Padre Island Birding, Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary. Sea Turtle, Inc is an organization focused on rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing injured sea turtles, as well as educating the public about conservation efforts. At their center, visitors can check out the resident turtles as well as the ones there as patients. At the South Padre Island Birding, Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary, walk along the long, beautiful boardwalk to get an excellent opportunity for birdwatching. It’s not just about the birds here though—they also have an alligator sanctuary on-site, which is home to the 12-foot, 6-inch–long gator known as Big Padre. For sustenance, you have to have some seafood while you’re down here. Blackbeard’s, Ceviche Ceviche, and Sea Ranch are all good options. Big Bend National Park. Photo: Cindy Brzostowski 5. Escape to West Texas Going out to West Texas feels like entering another world. Things are quieter, the distances are longer, and the sky feels bigger. Since it might’ve taken you a good portion of your long weekend just to drive out here, one thing you definitely want to make time for is Big Bend National Park. Going right up to the border with Mexico, this 800,000-acre park has numerous trails across desert and mountains for hikers of all levels. Santa Elena Canyon is one of the park’s highlights and also happens to be a quick, easy hike to tackle if you don’t have too much time. For lodging, you can camp within the park, or you might rather rest your head in Terlingua, an old mining town turned quirky ghost town. Don’t worry, they have accommodations there like the chic, modern casitas at Willow House. Elsewhere in West Texas, one of the most popular places to spend the night is El Cosmico in Marfa where you’ll find unusual abodes like yurts, teepees, and safari tents. Speaking of Marfa, that small town is another gem of the area that beckons many creatives with its respectable art scene. From the Chinati Foundation to various smaller galleries, Marfa is like a contemporary art oasis in the middle of the desert. Out here, you won’t have any trouble seeing a sea of stars in the night sky, but for extra close viewing, check if you can catch a star party at the McDonald Observatory. When making your way in or out for the weekend, you may want to swing a trip to Monahans Sandhills State Park where pristine sand dunes make up an ocean of sand. While you’re free to explore the area on foot, a far more fun way is to rent a sand disk and surf your way down the many peaks—some up to 50-feet high.

    Family

    What's Your All-Time Favorite Family Vacation?

    Fun family getaways were the theme for our May/June digital issue of Budget Travel magazine (now available on BudgetTravel.com, in the Apple App Store, on Google Play, and for Nook and Kindle). To get into the spirit of things, we asked several of our staff members to share their favorite places for family vacations—here's what they said: "Learning to ski at Keystone Resort in Colorado!" —Robert Firpo-Cappiello, Editor in Chief "A family trip to Southern California when I was 11. We had a great time visiting Disneyland, Santa Monica Pier, Hollywood, and taking on all the big roller coasters at Knott's Berry Farm." —Kaeli Conforti, Digital Editor "My favorite family vacation was traveling with my mom, dad, and uncle to visit our Italian cousins in Southern Italy!" —Jennifer O'Brien, Marketing Manager "Cape Cod beaches and candy shops!" —Amy Lundeen, Photo Director "I'd love to spend a week at a ski resort with my family, preferably one in Utah!" —Whitney Tressel, Photo Editor "Summer trips to a tiny bungalow in upstate New York." —Ruthie Kaposi, Digital Project Manager "A tropical resort with water sports like kayaking and sailing onsite (like Montego Bay, Jamaica); it's safe, there's alcohol, and there are things to do for all ages." —Chad Harter, Lead Developer "We love getting away to our family summer 'camp' in the Southern Adirondacks of New York State. Nothing like a cool mountain lake, a kayak, a bit of fishing, and some singing around the campfire. Cannot wait!" —Maureen Kelley Stewart, Advertising Account Manager "We went to the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and then went to Cape Canaveral, Florida, and watched a shuttle launch before relaxing in Daytona Beach for a week." —Michelle Craig, Digital Ad Sales Planning Manager "St. Michaels, Maryland, on the Eastern Shore in July, for great crab eating, tall ships, and historic sights." —Elaine Alimonti, President, Publisher "The white, sandy beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama." —Dustin Gontarski, Compass Marketing "South Padre Island, Texas: family-friendly for kids from 1 to 101. We go with up to 30 family members every year." —Jo Neese, Neese & Lee Media "North Shore on the island of Oahu in Hawaii." —Lola Cohen, Advertising Sales Manager "Rome! With all that history, it awes at any age!" —Jeff Greif, Advertising Sales Manager Now it's your turn: what was your all-time favorite family vacation? Do you have a top spot you take the family every year? Tell us all about it below!

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    DESTINATION IN Texas

    Brownsville

    Brownsville () is a city in Cameron County in the U.S. state of Texas. It is on the western Gulf Coast in South Texas, adjacent to the border with Matamoros, Mexico. The city covers 145.2 sq mi (376.066 km2), and has an estimated population of 182,781 as of 2019. It is the 131st-largest city in the United States and 18th-largest in Texas. It is part of the Matamoros–Brownsville metropolitan area. The city is known for its year-round subtropical climate, deep-water seaport, and Hispanic culture. The city was founded in 1848 by American entrepreneur Charles Stillman after he developed a successful river-boat company nearby. It was named for Fort Brown, itself named after Major Jacob Brown, who fought and died while serving as a U.S. Army soldier during the Mexican–American War (1846–48). As a county seat, the city and county governments are major employers. Other primary employers fall within the service, trade, and manufacturing industries, including a growing aerospace and space transportation sector. It operates international trading through the Port of Brownsville. The city experienced a population increase in the early 1900s, when steel production flourished. It is frequently cited as having one of the highest poverty rates in the United States. Due to significant historical events, the city has multiple houses and battle sites listed under the National Register of Historic Places. It was the scene of several key events of the American Civil War, such as the Battle of Brownsville and the Battle of Palmito Ranch. The city was also involved in the Texas Revolution, as well as the Mexican–American War. Brownsville's idiosyncratic geographic location has made it a wildlife refuge center. Several state parks and historical sites are protected by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.