Ryan Robinson takes you for a ride in the passenger seat of his RV, off the grid, deep among the dramatic rock formations of the Utah Desert. Robinson and friends chill by the fire, tell stories, and of course, rig a one of a kind highline over the Looking Glass Arch in Moab, UT.
A transformation of sorts is taking place at RV parks and resorts in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas as growing numbers of younger RVers make the temperate valley their winter home.
“We’re seeing more younger Winter Texans than ever before. They have more money, and they are more adventurous,” said Kristi Collier, who founded Welcome Home, Rio Grande Valley in 2007. Welcome Home RGV hosts a variety of events and publishes newspapers and magazines that cater to the Winter Texan market.
WelcomeHomeRGV.com and the printed Welcome Home Winter Texan Weekly are among the best informational resources for activities and upcoming events across the Rio Grande Valley and a wonderful complement to TexasCampgrounds.com, which highlights places to stay.
But while the Rio Grande Valley has always been a favorite destination for “Winter Texans,” Collier said her staff is working with activity directors and managers of RV parks and resorts across the valley to assist them in providing widest possible range of activities and events that appeal to today’s RVers, who are increasingly younger and more active than the Winter Texans who populated the valley 10 or 15 years ago.
“Now, across the valley, there is so much more to do. They have meals, dances, craft shows and tours,” Collier said, adding, “There are 178 parks on my radar. You have some with every kind of amenity you could possibly want — tree-lined streets and pull-through sites with casitas — and no frills parks. You can stay at a park with no amenities or activities and go to a park the next street over that has dances on Friday nights.
Collier said Welcome Home, Rio Grande Valley is also working with parks to update their websites. “We are finding that people are using QR codes and they’re looking to social media to find out what’s going on,” Collier said.
The Rio Grande Valley has many attractions, including:
— Gladys Porter Zooin Brownsville: This zoo features lush tropical landscaping and more than 1,600 animals.
— Riverside Club: This family owned and operated Riverside Club Bar & Grill and Special Event center has been a popular gathering place for over 30 years for locals, tourists, bird watchers and nature lovers who bring their friends, their cameras and their zest for enjoying the good life along the Rio Grande. The club offers Rio Grande River tours on a pontoon boat, which can also be rented for private events.
— South Padre Island Sandcastle Trail: South Padre Island is home to a collection of castles called the Sandcastle Trail. Roughly 30 sand sculptures are located throughout the Island, sculpted by professional sand artists from the local area and around the world.
— South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Centerin Corpus Christi: The 182-acre garden features a 2,600 square-foot screen butterfly house as well as orchid and bromeliad conservatories. The nature center includes native habitat and natural wetlands that are home to a variety of wildlife.
— SpaceX Boca Chica Launch Site: This site, across the water from South Padre Island, is where some of the nation’s most advanced rockets are being launched. The SpaceX website has information about upcoming launches and other activities as well as activities on South Padre Island.
— U.S.S. Lexington Museumin Corpus Christi: Commissioned in 1943, the U.S.S. Lexington is one of the most famous World War II era aircraft carriers. Her planes destroyed 372 enemy aircraft in the air, and 475 more on the ground.
— The World Birding Centerin Mission: This center is a $20 million collaborative effort involving the the Texas Park & Wildlife Department, Rio Grande Valley Communities and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which features more than 500 bird species, making it one of the top birding destinations in the country.
In addition to providing information on things to see and do across the valley, Welcome Home, Rio Grande Valley offers tours to the Gladys Porter Zoo and SpaceX. RV parks and resorts are also increasingly organizing tours to other destinations, from South Padre Island near Corpus Christi to San Antonio to see the Christmas lights along the River Walk, a beautiful urban park that winds its way along the course of the San Antonio River, and the historic Alamo Mission, the site of the famous 13-day battle in 1836 as Texas fought for its independence from Mexico.
Many RVers also like the convenience of being able to cross the border at Progresso to obtain low-cost medical and dental care as well as prescription medicines.
Here’s a sampling of RV resorts across the valley that still had availability for the upcoming winter season as of late August:
— Bentsen Palm Village RV Resortin Mission: This park’s amenities include an organic garden, a wood shop, a craft room, and 10 miles of hiking and biking trails. The park also offers pontoon excursions on the Rio Grande River as well as free loaner bicycles, canoes and kayaks.
— Fun-N-Sun RV Resort in San Benito: This 1,435-site, pet-friendly, 55-and-over resort features both RV sites and rental accommodations. Amenities include a brand new, state-of-the-art fitness center. Popular onsite sports activities include bocce ball, tennis, pickleball, horseshoes, softball, volleyball and water volleyball. This resort also has a dance hall and offers line, country western and swing dance lessons as well as square, round and ballroom dancing. Other activities include RC racing on an RV race track and plane runways.
—Lakewood RV Resortin Harlingen: This 301-site, 55-and-over resort offers RV sites and rental accommodations and is just minutes from the spectacular vistas of the Padre Island National Seashore. Amenities include a fitness center, ballroom and banquet hall. Activities include line, country western and swing dance lessons, wood carving, ceramics, water aerobics and sightseeing tours.
— Llano Grande Lake Park Resort and Country Club in Mercedes:This park complements its swimming pools and spas with an 18-hole golf course, pickleball, tennis and shuffleboard courts, an RC race track, a wood shop and art studio as well as a 12,000-square foot event center.
— Oleander Acres RV Resortin Mission:This park is a great place for nature enthusiasts. Not only is it located near the World Birding Centers of the South Texas Rio Grande Valley, but it features more than a dozen butterfly gardens that attract about 100 different types of butterflies. Oleander Acres offers RV sites and park model RV rentals. Amenities include leash-free dog runs for big dogs and small dogs. The park is about an hour’s drive from Brownsville and South Padre Island.
— Southern Comfort RV Resortin Weslaco: This 403-site, 55-and-over resort offers both RV sites and rental accommodations. Guests enjoy the park’s onsite amenities, including the woodshop, computer club, the craft shop and dance hall. Open year round and most popular during the winter months, Southern Comfort also offers sightseeing tours.
—Sunshine RV Resortin Harlingen: Following a recent expansion, this resort now features 1,027 sites, including pull-through sites and rental accommodations. Amenities include a fitness center, a craft and woodshop, an on-site restaurant and a dance hall with a stage. Activities include Zumba, water aerobics, weekly dances and jam sessions and other live entertainment. The park also offers guided tours.
—Tropic Winds RV Resort in Harlingen:This 531-site, 55-and-over resort is just 45 minutes from South Padre Island. Park amenities include a fitness center, swimming pool and spa as well as bocce ball, pickleball and horseshoes. Guests enjoy onsite amenities and planned activities in addition to exploring the sandy beaches of South Padre Island, where fishing, boating and water skiing are in abundance.
— Victoria Palms RV Resortin Donna: This 1,122-site, pet-friendly, 55-and-over resort offers RV sites and rental accommodations and year-round entertainment, including game shows, concerts, Karaoke and jam sessions, and activities ranging from organized bike trips to dance lessons, water aerobics and water volleyball. Amenities include a fitness center, bike trails as well as pickleball, tennis, bocce ball, shuffleboard courts and horseshoes. The mayor attended the recent grand re-opening of the newly renovated Activity Center. The improvements included new flooring installed throughout the entire building, including the restaurant and business offices, fresh paint, as well as the redesign and upgrade of the lobby layout which now features digital displays.
— VIP La Feria RV Parkin La Feria: This big rig friendly park has two heated swimming pools; two whirlpool hot tub spas; a large rec hall with live music and shows as well as kitchen and banquet facilities; horseshoe pits and fenced dog park areas.
Jeff Crider, President and CEO of Crider Public Relations, has been involved in covering the campground industry for over 25 years. Jeff has worked as a freelance writer for publications such as RV Business, Motor Home Magazine, Trailer Life, Highways and other Affinity Group Inc. publications since 1995. He has also successfully pitched many of the nation's top tier media outlets, including CNN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Financial Times, Reuters, The Associated Press and National Public Radio. In addition to writing, Jeff is also a talented photographer and humanitarian.