Danita Delimont / Alamy

Step into the wild and spot rare feathered friends.

Travel + Leisure
July 08, 2014

Mission is a great jumping off point to explore Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, a premier wildlife destination in the state’s southernmost point. Birders across the world will tell you it’s a top birding destination thanks to its native species—many of which are tropical varieties you can only see here—and hundreds of winged migrators. Travelers can also bike to the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park and visit a butterfly sanctuary; just don’t forget to bring your binoculars.

World Birding Center

This 760-acre park, lush with native plants such as cedar elms and anacua trees, attracts thousands of nesting and migrating bird species, making this one of the best birding sites in the U.S. Look out for “valley specialties”—tropical birds you won’t find elsewhere in the country—such as green jays and plain chachalacas.

National Butterfly Center

Over 40 percent of the country’s 700 butterfly species live in or pass through Texas’ Rio Grand Valley. You’ll spot plenty of the beautiful insects as you make your way around this center’s blooming gardens. Also check out the new Visitor’s Pavilion, designed by Wendy Evans Joseph, also the principal architect of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.

Mission Hike and Bike Trail

A well-paved five-mile path from the edge of town leads to Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park. Mountain bikers can also off-road on trails through native trees and brush.

Delia’s Tamales

Stop in this South Texas institution for dozen or half dozen orders of the Mexican classic, from chicken or beef to jalapeño, bean and cheese. The restaurant also serves menudo, a rich stew traditionally made with beef tripe and chilies.

Indian Ridge Bed & Breakfast

Six rooms, all loaded with personality—there’s a Safari Suite and the Ranch House, for example—have access to this B&B’s tropical grounds and large swimming pool. While a continental breakfast is included in your stay, you can upgrade to the gourmet spread for dishes such as apricot stuffed French toast and spiced apple walnut pancakes.

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