Top 12 Free Things to Do in Laredo

Last Updated on January 14, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Laredo is filled with culture, history and natural beauty just waiting to be explored. And the good news is, you can experience many of the highlights of this south Texas border city without spending a dime.

ActivityDescription
Stroll Down San Bernardo AvenueEnjoy a walk along a historic street with shops and restaurants.
Splash at the Max A. Mandel Park FountainsCool off in park fountains and enjoy playgrounds.
Self-Guided Downtown Walking TourExplore downtown’s history and architecture on foot.
Birdwatching on the Rio GrandeSpot native birds along the river.
Jamail Skate ParkA skate park for various skill levels.
Laredo Center for the ArtsVisit art exhibitions and engage in creative activities.
Historic Bridge No. 1Walk over a historic bridge with river views.
TAMIU Art GalleryExplore art exhibitions at Texas A&M International University.
Zaragoza StreetExperience local culture with street performances and shops.
Fasken Recreational TrailsHike or bike along 22 miles of trails.
El Cenizo House MuseumVisit a historical adobe home from 1847.
Concerts and PerformancesAttend various free arts events in the city.

From riverside walks to festivals brimming with music and food, Laredo offers affordable fun for travelers of all interests and budgets. Here are the top 12 free things to do when visiting Laredo.

Stroll Down San Bernardo Avenue

Name and Location: San Bernardo Avenue in downtown Laredo, TX

History and Significance: Historic main street with preserved 19th century buildings.

What to Expect: Walkable shops, restaurants, and attractions with traditional architecture.

Visitor Information: Free to stroll, downtown area open daily.

Take a leisurely stroll down brick-lined San Bernardo Avenue in Laredo’s historic St. Peter’s District. This pedestrian-friendly corridor is packed with restaurants, bars and shops housed in charming 19th century buildings.

Stop to see the elaborate facade of St. Peter’s Church, pop into unique boutiques, or relax in one of the plaza areas while mariachis play festive music. With its lively ambiance and Mexican-influenced architecture, San Bernardo is wonderful for window shopping and soaking up Laredo’s culture.

Splash at the Max A. Mandel Park Fountains

Name and Location: Max A. Mandel Park in Laredo, TX

History and Significance: large park with interactive water fountains.

What to Expect: Play in the spraying fountains on hot days. Nearby playgrounds and trails.

Visitor Information: Park open daily, free access to fountains.

On hot days, cool off running through the dancing fountains at Max A. Mandel Park, located right off I-35. The park contains several fountain areas perfect for splashing and playing, with both ground sprays and raised platforms.

Pack a picnic to enjoy under the shady trees when you need a break. Kids can burn off energy at the large playground and parents can work up a sweat using the exercise stations. With so much to do, it’s an ideal spot for families looking for free, fun outdoor options.

Self-Guided Downtown Walking Tour

Name and Location: Downtown Laredo, TX

History and Significance: Explore Laredo’s historic downtown on foot.

What to Expect: Follow the walking tour map to see key sites and architecture.

Visitor Information: Maps at visitor center, free self-guided activity.

Learn about Laredo’s unique history and architecture with a DIY walking tour of downtown. Print a map ahead of time or just follow the numbered plaques embedded in the sidewalks. Highlights include St. Augustine Cathedral, Jarvis Plaza, City Hall, the Republic of the Rio Grande Capitol building museum, and the elegant La Posada Hotel.

Many of the historic structures have intricate architectural details to admire. Discover hidden corners of downtown and immerse yourself in Laredo’s past and present.

Birdwatching on the Rio Grande

Name and Location: Rio Grande river banks in Laredo, TX

History and Significance: See birds migrating along the river corridor.

What to Expect: Bring binoculars and view diverse birds in their riparian habitat.

Visitor Information: Free access to riverbanks, prime viewing in winter.

Grab your binoculars and head to the Rio Grande River for excellent birdwatching opportunities. Spot native species like green jays, kiskadees, chachalacas and the rare trogon. Join one of the free birding tours with the Rio Grande International Study Center to learn about the diverse avian life.

For do-it-yourself viewing, head to spots like Father McNaboe Park, Rio Grande Trail Park, or Riverside Park and look for herons, egrets and more. It’s a great way to admire Laredo’s nature through wildlife viewing.

Jamail Skate Park

Name and Location: Jamail Skate Park in Laredo, TX

History and Significance: Premier public skate park facility.

What to Expect: Skateboard, BMX, scooter at the park’s ramps, rails, bowls. Bring your own equipment.

Visitor Information: Open daily, free admission. Safety gear recommended.

Kids and kids at heart will have a blast at Jamail Skate Park next to Independence Hills Park. The park contains ramps, rails, bowls and pipes suitable for all skill levels, from newbie to advanced. Bring your own board, skates or bike and protective gear to try out this 24,000 square foot concrete playground.

Work on new tricks and techniques as you take in views of Lake Casa Blanca International State Park across the way. Designed by pro skaters, it’s one of the best free skate parks in Texas.

Laredo Center for the Arts

Name and Location: Laredo Center for the Arts

History and Significance: Performing arts theater hosting concerts and shows.

What to Expect: See live music, plays, dance performances in an elegant theater.

Visitor Information: Show schedule and tickets online.

From live-figure drawing sessions to hands-on art activities, the Laredo Center for the Arts offers free creative fun. Browse the rotating fine arts exhibitions in the contemporary gallery spaces. Let the kids enjoy the children’s area with hands-on projects and games.

Sign up for free art lessons and workshops like pastel painting or fused glass making. With dynamic public events and education for all ages and skills, the center fosters community connection through the arts.

Historic Bridge No. 1

Name and Location: Bridge No. 1 over the Rio Grande in Laredo, TX

History and Significance: Historic suspension bridge built in 1889, now pedestrian only.

What to Expect: Walk across for views of the river and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

Visitor Information: Open daily, free access. Valid ID required.

For scenic riverfront views, walk across the historic Pedestrian Bridge (Bridge No. 1) over the Rio Grande. This small wooden footbridge first opened in 1889, making it one of the oldest bridges still in use on the border.

In the center of the bridge, a marker shows the boundary line between Texas and Mexico. Enjoy Customs and Immigration Museum located at the Texas entrance which offers free admission. It’s a nice spot to watch boat traffic on the river and feel immersed in the border culture.

TAMIU Art Gallery

Name and Location: TAMIU Art Gallery at Texas A&M International University

History and Significance: On-campus art gallery hosting rotating exhibits.

What to Expect: See diverse art shows and collections on display. Free cultural venue.

Visitor Information: Open Tu-F, free admission.

Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) is home to a free contemporary art space that hosts rotating exhibits, readings and receptions. See gorgeous works by students and professionals artists in media like painting, sculpture, textiles, photography and ceramics.

Events like live music and poetry readings also take place in the sleek gallery. Don’t miss the Sculpture Garden on the grounds, showcasing large-scale installations among the grass and trees.

Zaragoza Street

Name and Location: Zaragoza Street in downtown Laredo, TX

History and Significance: Historic pedestrian street with restaurants and shopping.

What to Expect: Outdoor promenade closed to vehicles. Stores, restaurants with patio seating.

Visitor Information: Open daily for pedestrians.

Walking down vibrant Zaragoza Street in central Laredo, you can window shop, people watch, and take in live music for free. Historic buildings house colorful stores bursting with Mexican handicrafts, leather goods, and pottery.

In the small plaza areas, you can catch mariachi bands and folkloric dancers showing off their talents. Pick up affordable treats like fruit cups and elote (roasted corn) as you explore the sights and sounds. Zaragoza Street encapsulates the Mexican culture of Laredo.

Fasken Recreational Trails

Name and Location: Fasken Recreational Area in Laredo, TX

History and Significance: Park area with over 5 miles of biking and hiking trails.

What to Expect: Paved and unpaved trails for all skill levels, nature viewing.

Visitor Information: Trails open daily, free access. Bring water.

Lace up your sneakers or hop on a bike to explore the 22 miles of trails at Fasken Recreational Area. Located on a former ranch, the trails wind through rugged south Texas landscapes including thorn scrub brush and mesquite trees. Keep alert for wildlife like javelina and foxes.

After your peaceful nature walk, cool off at the trailhead Splash Pad. With options for all ages and fitness levels, it’s a nice spot to stretch your legs without spending any money.

El Cenizo House Museum

Name and Location: El Cenizo House Museum in Rio Bravo, near Laredo, TX

History and Significance: Historic adobe house turned local history museum.

What to Expect: Exhibits on border history. House furnishings preserve 1920s period style.

Visitor Information: Open Wed-Sat, small admission fee.

Step back in time with a visit to this 1847 adobe home offering free tours. Restored with period-appropriate furnishings and decor, El Cenizo House depicts early Laredo living in intricate detail. Docent-led tours provide insight into the rooms and artifacts that represent the families who once lived here.

Stroll through the surrounding gardens growing crops and herbs of the era. It’s an engaging way to learn about Laredo’s culture and settlements in the 19th century.

Concerts and Performances

Name and Location: Venues in Laredo, TX

History and Significance: Various venues host live music, theater, and shows.

What to Expect: Find local and touring acts performing in Laredo. Genres vary.

Visitor Information: Check venue sites for upcoming event schedules.

From live music to theater, Laredo offers a nice lineup of free arts performances. Gather the family for one the free concert series at Market Plaza or Independence Hills Park, spanning jazz to Tejano. Watch free Shakespeare in the Park performances at San Agustin Plaza downtown.

Other local venues like Laredo College and Laredo Center for the Arts also host occasional free plays, film screenings, author talks and more. With its thriving creative community, you’re sure to find quality entertainment that fits the budget.

Annual Celebrations

Name and Location: Citywide events in Laredo, TX

History and Significance: Festivals celebrating local culture and history.

What to Expect: Parades, music, food, entertainment at various public celebrations.

Visitor Information: Event calendars list major celebrations. Most are free.

Laredo celebrates its culture with many lively free festivals throughout the year. Fiesta de la Flor honors the heritage of founding father Jose de Escandon. Jamboozie celebrates Washington’s Birthday with parades, concerts, and more.

Meanwhile, the Laredo International Sister Cities Festival highlights the diverse global connections of this border town through music, dance, food and artisan booths. These spirited community gatherings offer family-friendly fun and insight into Laredo’s traditions.

Conclusion

From the Rio Grande’s banks to vibrant downtown streets, Laredo gives visitors many options to experience authentic local sights and sounds at no cost. Nature lovers, culture enthusiasts, foodies and families can all craft an itinerary overflowing with free things to do.

Whether learning new skills through interactive art, listening to Tejano beats in a sunny plaza or cooling off riverside, Laredo serves up endless affordable adventures. With its unique border culture and generous community spirit, this south Texas town offers budget-savvy travelers rich experiences money can’t buy.

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