Deep in the heart of South Texas along the Rio Grande River, 156 miles south of San Antonio, Laredo is a unique mix of two cultures at this crossroads of the United States and Mexico.
From serving as the capital of its independent Republic in 1840 to today’s status as the #1 inland port in the nation, Laredo’s legacy is still in the making, where 95 percent of the population is Hispanic or Latino.
Interstate 35, a major route for trade, runs from Duluth, Minnesota, to Fort Worth, dissecting Texas through Austin and San Antonio down to Laredo on the border between Texas and Mexico.
A culture steeped in history since 1755, you’ll find year-round sunshine, pleasant winter temperatures, and incredible cuisine. Come and stroll the narrow cobblestone streets, shop eclectic import goods along San Bernardo Avenue, or birdwatch along the riverbank and learn firsthand about the city’s border heritage and vibrant Tex-Mex lifestyle.
Here are 12 incredible things to do during a long weekend in Laredo, Texas.
Things To Do In Laredo
I love the history, museums, community arts and culture, planetarium, festivals, birding, golf, and nearby lakes.
1. San Agustin De Laredo Historic District
I was intrigued by the oldest area of Laredo, where Don Tomas Sanchez Barrera founded the San Agustin de Laredo Historic District in 1755. He handed out Spanish land grants to heads of households around the historic central plaza near the San Agustin Cathedral.
2. Republic Of The Rio Grande Museum
A historic house in the downtown San Agustin de Laredo Historic District, The Republic of the Rio Grande Museum, sits next to the La Posada Hotel and the San Agustin Cathedral. One of the oldest buildings in Laredo showcases photographs, books, and 19th-century furniture dedicated to the brief Republic of the Rio Grande, an independent nation led by insurgents fighting against Mexico. Today, Laredo flies seven flags (new Texas history to me) — the flag of the Republic of the Rio Grande and the six flags of Texas.
3. Villa Antigua Border Heritage Museum
Housed in a restored two-story, red-brick Italianate home constructed in the early 1900s, the Villa Antigua Border Heritage Museum served as home to two prominent Laredo families. After gutting by fires and suffering severe neglect, the residence was saved from demolition (thank goodness) by Webb County and the Webb County Heritage Foundation. Today, the building archives historical documents and artifacts, and it hosts educational seminars.
4. San Agustin Cathedral
The San Agustin Cathedral traces its origins to 1755; to Don Tomas Sanchez Barrera. The Cathedral is an impressive architectural structure dating to 1872. I lingered to gaze at the colorful stained-glass windows and golden interiors.
5. Casa Ortiz
Another Texas Historic Landmark with the Laredo Heritage Foundation and part of the noted center of Laredo, Casa Ortiz is one of the oldest and continually-used residences in Texas. Don Jose Reyes Ortiz constructed the beautiful Spanish Colonial-style home on the 1826 land grant.
The Texas A&M International University manages the restored home and hosts tours, events, and seminars. Folklore tells us that gold was buried somewhere on the property.
6. Lamar Bruni Vergara Planetarium
The Lamar Bruni Vergara Planetarium at Texas A&M International University houses one of Texas’s most-advanced planetariums with an excellent digital projection system and powerful surround sound.
We saw a stunning video of the northern lights where the aurora borealis exploded right over our heads. You’ll see additional programs about humpback whales, dinosaurs at Patagonia, and extreme weather showing massive calving glaciers, tornado destruction, and prolific wildfires where you can almost feel the heat.
7. Cultivarte Laredo
Join Laredo’s community of art, cultivating ideas, and re-imagining artist spaces, growing community impact. Three street murals involve the city of Laredo Fine Arts and Culture Commission. The goal of Cultivarte Laredo is to support a hybrid artistic studio space for rising local artists to showcase their work.
8. Washington’s Birthday Celebration
Honoring the 125th George Washington Birthday Celebration, Laredo hosts an international party that has grown to more than 28 events in 33 days since 1898. You’ll see an international parade, magnificent fireworks displays, an air show, pageants, a carnival, music, the international bridge ceremony, and the award-winning Jalapeno Festival. The WBC Museum inside La Posada Hotel houses dazzling costumes and memorabilia that reveal Laredo’s historical past.
9. Laredo Birding
I’m glad I brought my binoculars. Laredo’s diverse river and creek ecosystem is home to hundreds of migratory and local birds, such as the green parakeet, scaled quail, gray hawk, and clay-colored thrush. Unique to Laredo, four kingfisher species live here, the ringed, belted, green, and the rare Amazon. You can participate with the local Audubon Society in the early February birding festival and several bird counts during the year.
10. Laredo International Sister Cities Festival
Join the Laredo International Sister Cities Festival in mid-July for 3 days of worldly shopping at almost 200 booths featuring products from Mexico, Central, and South America. I found great earrings and bracelets here. The Holiday Market by Sister Cities happens in mid-November with more shopping.
11. MAX Golf
Rated one of the top 50 municipal golf courses in the U.S., the MAX Golf Course is just north of the city, with stunning views overlooking the Rio Grande. This par-72 golf haven boasts a Robert Trent Jones signature designation, a beautiful new clubhouse, excellent food, and a large, fully-stocked pro shop.
12. Lake Casa Blanca
Lake Casa Blanca is a reservoir 5 miles northeast of Laredo on Chacon Creek where you can swim, waterski, kayak, and fish. Trails for biking and hiking lead you through scenic landscapes where birds are prolific. Play baseball, tennis, volleyball, or basketball, with a choice of 55 camping sites with electricity and 11 sites with full hookups. Your Texas State Park Pass gets you into 89 state parks for free for the year.
Best Restaurants In Laredo
I’ve chosen three Laredo restaurants to feature: fine dining, a tapas bar with flamenco dancing, and a food hall with various eateries.
Border Foundry Restaurant And Bar
Pete Mims’s family history dates back to 1907, when his grandfather opened the Border Foundry in Laredo, a metal fabricating and casting business. Forging long-lasting relationships and taking pride in the work are essential ingredients at the fine-dining Border Foundry Restaurant and Bar.
What To Order At Border Foundry
- Drink: Scotch or whiskey from a lengthy list of liquors, rums, tequilas, gin, and vodka
- Starters: Shrimp cakes or fried frog legs with jalapeno tartar sauce
- Pizza: Pizza Parillada with rib eye, onions, avocado, queso, and cilantro crema on a black bean base
- Mains: Prime tomahawk steak or the Berkshire pork ossobuco
- Bonus: My gulf shrimp carbonara served with linguini, carbonara sauce, and thick bacon did not disappoint.
Casa Lopez Tapas Bar
Explore authentic foods from the Basque region of Spain and enjoy jubilant live flamenco shows every Saturday night at Casa Lopez Tapas Bar.
What To Order At Casa Lopez Tapas Bar
- Starters: Cold and hot tapas like table de queso, Manchego, and Idiazabal cheese served with fresh fruit
- Mains: Tortilla Espanola, Spanish potato tart with onion
- Bonuses: Chistorra, sauteed basque sausage with onions and red and green peppers; and shrimp in garlic olive oil with red sauce and fresh cilantro
Golondrina Food Park
Focusing on local, chef-driven food trucks, Golondrina Food Park features two full-service bars, a pet-friendly dining area, and an air-conditioned indoor food hall. You’ll find Bar Nido, Nomada Burgers, Mulas Taqueria, Tito’s Snacks, El Horno Pizzeria, Gloria’s Coffee Bar, and Picato Mucho.
What To Order At Golondrina Food Park
- Nomada Burgers: The blue cheese bacon burger topped with a giant onion ring; or the breakfast burger loaded with cheese, avocado, egg, and sausage
- Mulas Taqueria: Rib-eye tacos
- Gloria’s Coffee Bar: Invierno latte with caramel apple
Best Hotels In Laredo
Laredo’s only four-diamond hotel, the La Posada Hotel, and the famous Laredo Mansion Bed and Breakfast top my list of best hotels in Laredo. You’ll also find Embassy Suites by Hilton, the Marriott family of hotels, and other brands.
La Posada Hotel
Laredo’s only four-diamond hotel, the historic luxury boutique La Posada Hotel, presides in four landmark buildings. The old Laredo High School is the main entrance to the hotel, housing the lobby, ballroom, front desk, Zaragoza Grill, The Tesoro Club, and meeting rooms. The ballrooms exist in the old 19th-century convent, while the elegant 1800s Bruni Home houses the Tack Room Steak House. Two museums, the Rio Grande Museum and the WBCA Museum, reside inside the hotel.
The hotel also encompasses three restaurants with bars, two swimming pools, covered parking, and two tropical courtyards. The hotel’s symbol, a Spanish doubloon with a profile of King Phillip V, is inlayed on the lobby floor. Luxury, comfort, fabulous food, and first-class hospitality abide.
The Contemporary, Victorian, French, and Mexican suites make up the Laredo Mansion Bed and Breakfast in the renovated century-old Peter Leyendecker House. One king and three queens have comforts and amenities such as original stained glass, separate bathrooms (some with soaker tubs), antique tiling, carved wood, and wrought iron. And some have direct balcony access. We enjoyed unwinding with an ultra-comfortable bed, luxury linens, spa amenities, and a delicious continental breakfast.
Pro Tip: Download the Visit Laredo app.
Walking the historic streets of Laredo today, you’ll discover why it is a central hub for international trade with Mexico. You’ll also appreciate the alluring murals, art scene, historical heritage, and exquisite dining.