If you are a college student, high school student or family with school-aged kids in search of somewhere exciting to go this spring break, McAllen and Rio Grande Valley have a number of tourist hot spots you are sure to enjoy. In fact, the Texas gulf coast region is not only one of the state’s most popular spring break destinations, but South Padre Island topped the U.S. News & World Report’s list as the leading spring break destination, beating out many other exotic beach and island destinations.
One of the greatest things about McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley is accessibility. Neither area is a great distance from many college towns. All it takes is a short plane ride or a spring break road trip to reach the area. The proximity to the coastline makes it a prime spot for spring breakers looking to relax and unwind from the stresses of school.
What to Do in McAllen Over Spring Break
In addition to the Arts District, Friday night ArtWalk held on the first Friday of every month (between September and May), as well as local theatre groups and museums, the following are a few of the tourist hot spots college students and families with school-age children can enjoy when spending spring break in McAllen:
- The 17th Street McAllen Entertainment District: McAllen has an entertainment district catering to college students and visitors alike. Along the McAllen Entertainment District, you can find great food, any number of libations, live music, and dancing. There is no shortage of restaurants, lounges, cantinas, bars, grills, and nightclubs.
- The Zone Action Park: The Zone Action Park is a fun place to go if you want to relax, relive a little bit of your childhood, or challenge your friends at a variety of activities. The park offers a go-kart race track, bumper boats, batting cages, a top-rated miniature golf course, video games and more. There is also a restaurant where guests can indulge in a pizza, wings, soda or any number of snacks.
- McAllen Nature Center and Botanical Gardens: Whether you are a nature buff, or simply looking for a place to relax and unwind, you will not want to miss the city’s botanical gardens and forested nature park. On Wednesdays, guests can enjoy a leisurely stroll around the property on a bird and nature walk. Family nature walks take place on the fourth Saturday of the month.
- Park and Spray Ground: McAllen has a relatively new park where visitors can picnic, hike along walking trails, play volleyball on a sand court, skateboard, play basketball, or cool off in the park’s spray ground area. The spray ground area has canopies to keep you cool, while water shoots up from the ground in a synchronized pattern for all to enjoy.
Things to See and Do While on Spring Break in Rio Grande Valley
The Rio Grande Valley includes numerous cities and towns located along a Rio Grande floodplain near the Mexico border. If you are planning to visit here during spring break, here are a few of the things you may want to see and do:
- River Tour: The Riverside Club offers one- and two-hour river cruises along the Rio Grande on its 55-foot, custom-built pontoon boat. The boat has a covered section with cushioned seating available for 49 guests. In addition to the scheduled tours, the riverboat can also be rented out for private parties of 25 people or more. Reservations are advised.
- Rio Grande Valley Premium Outlets: Those spring breakers who are looking to do a little retail therapy may want to check out the 140 stores located at the Rio Grande Valley Premium Outlets. With stores such as Adidas, Banana Republic, Coach, Gap Outlet, Guess, Nike, Sony and more, you can alleviate your stress levels by doing a little shopping.
- Gladys Porter Zoo: Located in Brownsville, the Gladys Porter Zoo has an estimated 1,500 animals housed within 28 acres of lush grounds. The zoo is famous for success it has had with breeding endangered wildlife species. Between January and May, Saturday Safari allows kids to tour the zoo, experience animal encounters, and do a few arts and crafts activities. Snacks are included.
- Edinburg International Raceway: The Edinburg Raceway has drag races most Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Spectators can watch a race for $10-$15. Racers must pay $20 to race. Children under the age of 12 get in for free. Spring breakers are advised to check the raceway’s schedule to find out which races are scheduled during their intended visit.
Top South Padre Island Tourist Destinations
For those who want a little more of an island-feel during their spring break, there is South Padre Island, located in the nearby Gulf of Mexico. Here visitors can enjoy more than 34 miles of uninterrupted beaches, some of which face the Gulf Coast, while others look back towards the mainland.
The island’s website lists the top five reasons to spring break at South Padre Island:
- Wonderful spring break weather
- Clean, wide and extremely walkable beaches
- Plenty of beach activities including surfing, sailing, jet skiing, kite-boarding, wind-surfing, parasailing, kayaking, fishing, scuba diving, hiking, biking and more
- A hot nightlife
- Easily accessible from many Texas towns and cities
A few of the island’s most popular tourist destinations include:
- Sea Turtle, Inc.: The Sea Turtle Rescue Center is a cool place to go, particularly for families with school-age children. It is a hospital geared towards rescuing and rehabilitating various sea turtle species. Visitors can go there to see rescued turtles, as well as learn more about the plight of the sea turtle, existing conservation efforts, and the organization’s mission. Groups of ten or more are advised to book in advance.
- Dolphin Research and Sea Life Nature Center: This is another ideal spring break destination for families with school-age children. At the Dolphin Research and Sea Life Nature Center, visitors can tour through a variety of marine exhibits and touch tanks. The nature center also offers daily boat tours to take guests out to “meet the dolphins.”
- Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark: The Schlitterbahn Waterpark is a cool spring break destination for kids of all ages. Spring breakers can experience the thrill of riding on a water coaster, relax and float along a lazy river, and take their pick of more than two dozen water slides, rides, and other attractions.
- Clayton’s Beach Bar and Grill: Clayton’s has been recognized as the largest beach bar on the entire Texas coast. The bar opens daily at 11 a.m. and remains open long after the sun goes down. Guests can hang out with friends, listen to music, attend one of the bar’s signature events, dance in the sand or step up to the beach-front bar to grab a drink or indulge in any one of the delicious items on the grill’s menu.
Kids of all ages can find many hours of fun on South Padre Island. From golf and miniature golf to go-carting, from water slides to eco tours and sunset cruises, there is no shortage of things to do during spring break.
Dangers of Drunk Driving While on Spring Break in Texas
Many people use spring break as an opportunity to relieve stress and leave their cares behind. Families may look at spring break as a chance to spend some well-earned time together. Whatever your spring break objective may be, you must keep in mind the dangers and risks spring break may pose.
Whenever college students and others are on spring break, you can expect not only the consumption of alcohol to go up but the potential for drunk driving accidents to increase as well. Tipsy drivers are more dangerous on the roads as alcohol impairs driving abilities. With motor vehicle-related accidents one of the leading causes of death in the United States, the last thing you want to have happened is you, your friends or your family to sustain serious injuries or be killed in an accident on spring break.
Don’t Allow Your Vacation To Be Ruined: Learn How to Avoid Drunk Driving
Fortunately, a few simple steps can help spring breakers improve their chances of staying safe while on vacation and avoiding drunk drinking, as well as drunk drivers.
- Have a “dry” spring break – it doesn’t take alcohol to have fun.
- If you plan to go out drinking, designate a sober driver. Never drink and drive.
- Do not let others drive if they have been drinking, regardless of how many drinks they have had.
- Once you arrive at your spring break destination, leave your vehicle parked and either walk or use public transportation.
- Before going out on the town, have a well-laid plan on how you are going to get back to your hotel or where you can stay until you sober up.
- Host your own party, so you and your guests don’t have to go anywhere to have fun.
While you should expect police presence to increase during spring break, following the above steps can help minimize your risk of serious injury or death. If you observe a driver who appears to be intoxicated or driving erratically, report the matter to police right away. You could save a life.