Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Mission, TX

  • Published 2022/12/01

Right on the edge of the U.S.-Mexico border lies a scenic city known for its natural attractions and amusement destinations: Mission, Texas.

It’s part of Hidalgo County and two metro areas, McAllen–Edinburg–Mission and Reynosa–McAllen.

As of the 2020 census, the place is home to 77,058 people—a vibrant community that welcomes all who want to experience the city’s wonders.

This city is known as a birding site, and the National Butterfly Center can also be found here.

Aside from the wildlife and natural attractions, Mission has plenty of man-made destinations where you’ll learn about history and make memories with the whole family.

Here are the 15 best things to do in Mission, Texas:

Visit the National Butterfly Center

A sign at National Butterfly Center

Vic Hinterlang /

The National Butterfly Center on Butterfly Park is as magical as it sounds.

It’s a private nature preserve under the care of the North American Butterfly Association, and it’s the most diverse buttery sanctuary in all of the U.S.

Sitting on the edge of the Rio Grande river, this attraction is the habitat of more than 240 species of butterflies.

A turtle at National Butterfly Center

William Cushman /

The insects are native to the Rio Grande Valley region, and the center aims to preserve them against the threat of habitat loss.

You’ll encounter fluttering wings amongst gorgeous flowers in the 100-acre habitat when you visit.

At the National Butterfly Center, you’ll find the most unique butterflies in spring and summer, like monarchs and Mexican bluewings.

Learn about the Past at Mission Historical Museum

Given how the city is located on the edge of the border, it’s not surprising that this city has a storied past.

You can learn all that and more at the Mission Historical Museum.

Located along the busy 9th Street, this attraction is easy to spot with its beige facade and green grounds.

You can tour the various permanent and temporary exhibits detailing the region’s tumultuous history.

From old artifacts and period clothing to infographics and books, there are plenty of items to check out.

The organization also holds educational programs and other activities, like film showings and performances.

If you’re a history buff, include the Mission Historical Museum in your itinerary.

Spend an Afternoon at Bannworth Park

There are many community parks in Mission, but you’ll never guess that the low-key Bannworht Park is among the top favorites of locals.

It’s located in the city’s eastern portion, along Shary Road.

This attraction is surrounded by residential homes and brings together local families.

Visitors are more than welcome to enjoy the amenities of the 18.5-acre destination.

Check out the 7/8-mile running trail or the soccer fields if you’re after more physically demanding activities.

Those with dogs can let their furry friends run and play at the Banworth Dog Park.

If you want a more relaxing activity, the scenic Bannworth Pond and the surrounding picnic areas are the perfect places to hang out.

Spot Birds at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park

View of Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park

Jean-Pierre Louis from Austin, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The picturesque Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park on Bentsen Palm Drive is one of the region’s biggest attractions, so it’s a definite must-add to your itinerary.

It’s located on the western edge of Mission, right next to the river it’s named after.

Within the 764-acre preserve, you’ll find plenty of attractions for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts.

This includes the World Birding Center headquarters, which gives you opportunities to see more than 358 native avian species that reside in the region.

The Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park also sits adjacent to the National Butterfly Center, so you should also keep an eye out for colorful wings in your periphery.

Aside from wildlife viewing, you can explore the rest of the state park for marvelous views of the natural environment, especially the sections near the Rio Grande.

If you want to stay overnight, reserve a slot on the primitive campsite!

Make a Splash at Quinta Las 4 Luna’s Waterpark

When the days become hot and humid, Mission’s residents gather and cool down at Quinta Las 4 Luna’s Waterpark.

This aquatic attraction is located along Moorefield Road, right on the border of Mission and La Homa.

It features jungle-themed attractions and vibrant designs–from the food to the palapas, traditional Mexican huts with palm-leaf roofs serving as visitors’ shelters.

Aside from these quaint structures, you’ll enjoy the enormous pools and thrilling slides.

After your time in the water, visit the snack bars and restaurant for filling meals and refreshing drinks.

Don’t forget to take pictures with the friendly parrot mascot at Quinta Las 4 Luna’s Waterpark!

Explore Anzalduas Park

Aside from Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park and National Butterfly Center, there’s another riverside natural attraction in Mission: Anzalduas Park.

It’s located on the southernmost edge of the city, with around 96 acres of scenic grassland and trees.

In their leafy crowns, birds native to the region flock to rest, nest, and hunt for fish swimming in the Rio Grande.

Because of this, Anzalduas Park has become another prime birdwatching destination in Mission.

Bring your binoculars and a lot of patience as you wait to see the colorful birds flying about in the canopies.

Besides bird watching, you’ll enjoy the serene atmosphere and the marvelous river views during your visit.

You can also go boating and fishing from the ramp near the entrance.

Play a Few Rounds of Golf at Shary Municipal Golf Course

Whether you’re an enthusiastic beginner or a seasoned pro, you’ll have an amazing time playing at the Shary Municipal Golf Course.

This public golfing facility is located in the very center of Mission, and it’s considered one of the city’s top attractions during winter months.

That’s because of the almost-tropical climate of the area, so there’s no snow or frost preventing players from enjoying the course.

At Shary Municipal Golf Course, there’s also plenty of space for every golfer—the course has 27 holes!

In addition, the management operates a fleet of 60 electric golf carts, making travel to each hole a breeze.

After your game, don’t forget to check out the clubhouse for some refreshments.

There’s also a fully-stocked golf shop in case you forgot golf equipment like clubs, balls, and tees.

Cruise along the Beautiful Rio Grande

The lengthy Rio Grande is the main body of water shaping Mission’s southern borders and, by extension, the United States.

This body of water starts from Colorado, winding through a 1,896-mile path before it empties in the Gulf of Mexico.

From El Paso to Brownsville, the river’s path creates the U.S.-Mexico border, making it a geographically important natural feature.

It also irrigates the surrounding land, which resulted in the state parks and nature preserves on its banks.

From Mission, you can tour the nearby sections of the river.

Join a river cruise like Riverside Club or Riverside Dreamer Cruises to explore the winding paths and secret bends.

In addition, several businesses in Mission offer charter services into the more isolated river sections.

You can try fishing for fathead minnows, red shiners, many types of trout, and largemouth bass.

Bond With the Family at Bentsen Palm Community Park

Along Inspiration Road, you’ll find an elongated park that follows a concrete water channel: the beautiful Bentsen Palm Community Park.

This 63-acre destination is another local favorite, with spacious grounds dotted by palm trees.

You’ll find plenty of sports facilities, such as lighted tennis and basketball courts, baseball fields, and shuffleboard courts.

There’s also a two-mile jogging and walking trail with segments following the scenic waterway.

If you’d rather hang out with the family, stay in one of the picnic shelters and let the kids enjoy the playgrounds.

You’re also welcome to visit the two-acre pond on the farthest edge of Bentsen Palm Community Park.

It’s a picturesque attraction with its own pier, making it a great landscape photography subject.

Tour the Historic The Bryan House

The gorgeous Bryan House is primarily an events place, but that hasn’t stopped people from visiting and appreciating its beauty.

Located on Mile 2 Road, this immaculate property is surrounded by forests and well-manicured grounds.

It’s not surprising that the place is a favorite venue for weddings, birthdays, and other special celebrations.

The Bryan House also holds heritage tours.

Join one during your visit and learn the storied past of the attraction, from its establishment in 1909 to its restoration in 2014.

The management also holds a neighborhood farmers’ market from November to May.

Don’t forget to check out the fresh vegetables, seasonal fruits, and other high-quality local produce available!

Explore the Mission Hike and Bike Trail

Check out the Mission Hike and Bike Trail if you want to explore on foot or on a bicycle.

It starts near Trinity Street and Conway Avenue intersection, spanning five miles before ending at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park.

Along the way, you’ll pass through the scrubland habitats, which become more prevalent the farther you are from the Rio Grande river.

You’ll also cross two scenic bridges, so stop for a minute or two to appreciate the views.

While the asphalt pavement makes for easy riding and walking, there isn’t much shade on the Mission Hike and Bike Trail because of the small trees, so make sure to bring sun protection and extra water for rehydration.

Once you arrive at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, you’ll enjoy the cooler temperatures and attractions inside it.

Other Things to Do Nearby

If you think your mission to have fun isn’t complete, why not visit these other locations just a few minutes away?

See Rare Cacti at McAllen Nature Center

In McAllen, you’ll find another nature preserve showcasing the region’s wildlife, vegetation, and habitats: McAllen Nature Center.

Formerly known as the McAllen Botanical Gardens, this attraction is one of the favorite green spaces in the city.

It spans 33 acres, with areas for bird watching, scenic nature trails, and benches where you can rest after exploring.

Keep an eye out for butterflies among the flowers and cacti.

McAllen Nature Center is just 10 minutes from downtown Mission, so it wouldn’t be hard to reach!

Cool Down at Aqua Planet Waterpark

Around 15 minutes from Mission, there’s another attraction for those who want to cool off from the blazing Texas sun.

Aqua Planet Waterpark is located on Jackson Road in Pharr, another low-key city in Hidalgo County.

Like Quinta Las 4 Luna’s Waterpark, this attraction has gigantic slides, large pools, and shelters.

There are two main pools, a shallow one for kids and toddlers, and a deep one for everyone else.

If you’re looking for more destinations to splash about and have fun with the family, add Aqua Planet Waterpark to your itinerary.

Play Hard at Xtreme Jump McAllen

McAllen has another family-friendly attraction, especially for those who love being active: the thrilling Xtreme Jump McAllen.

This indoor amusement center is just 11 minutes from downtown Mission, so reaching it would be easy and quick.

You’ll enjoy power trampolines, modified basketball and dodgeball arenas, rope courses, and foam pits here.

Xtreme Jump McAllen is a favorite place for parties of all kinds, from kiddie birthdays to corporate team building.

Marvel at the Exhibits of the International Museum of Art & Science

Alternatively called IMAS, the International Museum of Art & Science is one of McAllen’s crowning jewels.

It features Latin American art and collections from Europe, Japan, and other countries.

For the science part, the attraction has exhibits showcasing images from the Hubble Space Telescope, a science playground, and rotating displays about biology, agriculture, and other areas of study.

If you schedule ahead, you can catch the events conducted at the International Museum of Art & Science.

These include children’s education programs, art shows, film showings, and seasonal celebrations.

The International Museum of Art & Science is just 15 minutes from Mission, so ensure you include it in your itinerary.

Final Thoughts

Mission is one of the best-kept secrets of the Rio Grande Valley, with natural attractions, lots of wildlife, and diverse habitats.

There are also fascinating man-made destinations like bike trails, historical homes, and water parks.

When planning your itinerary for your trip, use this guide to find the best things to do in Mission, Texas!

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