Top things to see and do in Mission

It’s a year-round fiesta in Mission, Texas

by Kimberly Schoenberger
A white peacock butterfly at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas
A white peacock butterfly at the National Butterfly Center. — Photo courtesy Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce

Located at the very tip of Texas along the Mexican border in the Rio Grande Valley, Mission is the heart of the American citrus industry and home to the only butterfly centre in all of the United States. It is well-known for its annual Texas Citrus Fiesta, just one of many attractions the city has to offer.

Texas Citrus Fiesta

“One of the big events is our Texas Citrus Fiesta,” said Yuriko Ramirez, director of tourism and community development at the Mission Chamber of Commerce. “(It) has a coronation of the Citrus Queen and it’s as if it is royalty for the city of Mission.”

Held each year in January, the fiesta always has a massive turnout—upwards of 100,000 people flock to the festivities to enjoy a fun fair, cook-off, parade, costume show and the Citrus Queen’s coronation.

Mansion on Shary

The citrus industry in Texas would not be the same without John Shary, who first established a small citrus market when he moved to the Rio Grande Valley in 1912.

“He was very influential in the entire state, and he was living here in the valley,” said Ramirez. “His residence, his mansion where he used to live, really brought a lot of attention to this area.”

Through his incredibly successful and rapid-growing business endeavours, Shary eventually earned himself the title Father of the Texas Citrus Industry. In just over a decade, the man managed to plant the valley’s first commercial citrus orchard, establish the first modern citrus packing plant and set up the building blocks for what is now an international industry.

The Mansion on Shary, built and lived in by Shary himself, is now one of the most historic landmarks in the area and is open to the public for tours and events.

National Butterfly Center

Another attraction that draws people from all over the country to Mission is its National Butterfly Center, open seven days a week year-round.

“It’s the only butterfly centre in the United States,” said Ramirez. “It’s both indoors and outdoors. The indoor section has an exhibit and is kind of like a small museum, then the outdoor goes into trails so you can go and see all types of butterflies.”

The centre covers over 100 acres, consisting of a botanical garden, observation areas, educational exhibits and a plant nursery. The primary goal of the centre is “educating the public about the value of biodiversity, the beauty of the natural world, the wonder of butterflies and the powerful role they play in maintaining healthy ecosystems and sustainable food resources.”

Bentsen State Park and World Birding Center

Bentsen State Park, an outdoor recreational facility for camping, kayaking and hiking, is also the location of the World Birding Center. Visitors to the centre have the opportunity to learn about the indigenous birds and other wildlife of the area in either English or Spanish, and can walk through the many trails to see the animals in their natural habitat.

The park itself spans 760 acres of natural Texan plains—a long way to go on foot. Not to worry, though: visitors can ride a tram to see all of the park’s sights or even ride on bikes on the trails. Guided tours are available for those who want professional insight into the amazing wildlife at Bentsen.

Border Theater

For more than 50 years, the Border Theater in Mission has been providing patrons with films, performances and a traditional Pueblo-style atmosphere.

“What this means is that when you go into the theater, it has very traditional Mexican murals all over the walls,” said Ramirez. “It is registered in the National Register of Historic Places.”

Opened on April 3, 1942, the Border Theater features a large, one-screen theatre with premium sound and a concession stand. It is available for private event rentals and school tours. In 1997, it was registered as a Texas Historic Landmark.

La Lomita Chapel

In terms of history, the Rio Grande Valley has an assortment of very important destinations—one of which is La Lomita Chapel.

“It’s a religious shrine,” said Ramirez. “It’s very important because it was one of the very first shrines established here in the entire Rio Grande Valley. It brings people here from all over.”

The chapel was built in 1865 by French architect and devout Roman Catholic Rene Guyard. Through time, the chapel grew to become a significant base for the Calvary of Christ—a group of missionaries who travelled throughout the Rio Grande Valley performing various Catholic ceremonies and spreading the word of the church. Today it is visited by tourists and historians alike to provide a glimpse into the history of the valley.


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