1. There IS stuff to do.
One of the things I hear all the time in Laredo is that there is nothing to do. The problem with that statement is that it is an absolute. Of course, there is SOMETHING, to do. We just have to be willing to find it and do it.
When Critters And Crayons launched last March, it started as a blog trying to find what there was to do in the South Texas City of Laredo. The timing co-incided with Summer Camp announcements. We found over 50 Summer Camps and Programs being offered in Laredo, many for free or for around $100 per week.
As we ventured out and about, our family was able to find a lot of great family activities occurring year round in Laredo which led to the “Where To Take Your Kid In Laredo” Page.
And every month, we find there are more events and activities, mostly on Saturdays, than we can actually attend which we profile in the Community Round-Up.
You don’t and won’t see us at everything in the Community Round-Up Page or even on the “Where To Take Your Kid In Laredo” Page. That’s because there is actually more to do on a daily basis than we could possibly do if we spent every day out on the town.
There ARE things to do here. There are great recurring events and fabulous seasonal and visiting events to Laredo that are perfect for families. For instance:
LCC Environmental Science Center (LCC ESC)
The Pier At Lake Casa Blanca
There are 6 Splash Parks here
And there is a lot more to do for our families covered in the Community Round-Ups and Where To Take Your Kid In Laredo Pages. Check them out. If something’s missing. Let me know. We’ll get it in there.
2. Real Estate.
If you go to real estate sites and compare prices per square footage for homes for sale in Laredo and those for sale in larger cities, you’ll know what I’m getting at here. Go ahead. Do it. Price Houston. Austin. Northern Virginia. Anywhere in California. Some of those places might be larger with more amenities per capita (like Starbucks with drive-throughs), but you’ll likely be paying for it with a heftier mortgage note.
3. Commuting means something different here.
“Oh, my goodness. You live so far out there!!!” People who live in Green Ranch probably get that all the time. That’s because it might take a full half-hour to traverse to the opposite side of town. (Note: Green Ranch residents do have to tackle the Mines Road trucking district which actually can add some minutes to a “Laredo commute”).
But, to people from big cities, commuting means something entirely different. In San Diego, I know people who leave work at 3 o’oclock to make the 2 hour ride home using the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System. They had to buy their home that far away because it was the only way they could afford to live within a 2-hour radius of work. Anyone here ever had to get home from a commute into Washington DC? Don’t dare get into the High-Occupancy Vehicle lane which is what all highway lanes turn into before morning light. Angry commuters will report you in a heartbeat. Yeah. Commuting isn’t quite like that here.
4. Parking is awesome.
Even in the close city of San Antonio, parking can be difficult. Been to the Alamo or on your way to the Children’s Museum? How much did you pay? Flown out of an airport at San Antonio and left your car in the extended stay lot? Did you do it for free? Nope? You won’t find that in most places, especially larger cities.
Here, we drive up to a movie theater when it starts, pay for our popcorn and sit down as the previews finish. Then, we hop in our cars and leave. Same goes for any major drama production or major festival or event. Flying out of the Laredo International Airport? Leave your car there at no cost.
I remember getting a ticket in DC after driving around trying to find legal parking so we could go to the Smithsonian. I ended up finding a spot 3 blocks away and I ended up toting 2 toddlers in a double-stroller in heat and humidity to the museum. I set my watch alarm to give us 45 minutes to make it back to the car to be sure my parking meter minutes didn’t run out. When I arrived at my car, sweating and out of breath, I met a tow truck operator preparing to lift my vehicle while pointing to my ticket. It appears that my legal parking spot at a parking meter was a tow zone at 3 times of day. Awesome.
5. Nature abounds.
The sights and smells of nature might not be for everyone. But, I’ve lived in major cities where the air quality could be measured by the color of the smog above our heads. And, I’ve lived in places where sights were a perpetual sea of tan (which admittedly has a desert beauty all its own). We have a gorgeous lake here, wildlife, plant life and opportunities to get out and experience nature throughout the year.
Kayaking the Rio Grande with Big River Outfitters is a great activity.
Out on a hike, we received a lesson in the flavors of yucca leaves and pepper grass…
We walked pretty dew-covered trails past rocky, stratified bluffs following the river…
And even had the chance to test our sense of adventure…
6. The food is awesome.
Some of the things I have learned to love: Molletes. Panela Cheese, Bolillo Bread, Tacos Al Carbon. Taco Tote Chicken Adobado Tacos on Corn Tortillas (seriously, love that stuff). Mole. Pico De Gallo. Gorditas (and I don’t mean from Taco Bell).
The only thing I have to inform anyone new is that “Barbacoa” does NOT mean “Barbecue” in Spanish, no matter how much of a false cognate it appears to be. I have to admit that it was delicious when I thought I was ordering BBQ. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that.
We seriously eat “Molletes” twice a month in my house now. Love ’em.
And on the food topic- We have monthly Farmers Markets, a Feldmans full of liquor, Lavash bread flat bread, prosciutto, cheeses and even organic and all-natural toiletries and cleaning products. A couple of HEBs stock a good amount of organic, whole and natural staples (like that beautiful seed, quinoa). These same HEBs even have a pretty nice Asian food section. The HEB Plus carries Go-Chu-Jang and another HEB has Kim-Chi. Don’t know what that is? I rest my case.
That says “Go-Chu-Jang”
7. Culture And Beauty
Our kids have a chance to experience a new culture. They know the piñata song and sequence because there aren’t too many parties without them. We can attend Día de Los Muertos exhibits in October/November and experience the beautiful sights of Las Posadas in December. Last year, the trees in front of the Laredo Center For the Arts were fully decorated with gorgeous handmade piñatas for Las Posadas and the sight was just gorgeous to sit under.
Photo from artwork at Gallery 201’s Facebook Dia de los Muertos Exhibit featured on Que Fregados
While here, our kids (and we) have an opportunity to learn or improve in another language. Many local school programs offer a dual-track in Spanish and English starting in Kindergarten. When my kids are on a playground, I have found that, even though they tend to speak only English, and some kids speak primarily in Spanish- that they all seem to be able to play together pretty effectively in the exact same language.
And when, or if, any new folks leave Laredo, there are countless import shops offering special Mexican wares like inexpensive tile, beautiful pewter pieces, pottery and furniture that make wonderful, exotic gifts but also special home decor.
Above: A scene at Vega’s “Arte En La Avenida” the 4th Saturday of Every Month. Some of the most beautiful handmade and cultural items you can find in Laredo are here.
8. We are central.
Laredo is to Texas what Germany is to Europe. We are right in the middle of stuff. If there isn’t enough to do here, hop in your car and head to San Antonio, Austin, Fredericksburg, Corpus Christi, or Houston. Many folks with ties to Mexico head South into the neighbor country. There are a lot of places we could live where a 7-hour drive leads us to a place that doesn’t look a whole lot different than the place we just left. I lived in one of those places for awhile. I prefer this one.
9. There are some great people here.
There really are. Sure, jerks live here, too. But, jerks are everywhere, really. THAT is an absolute I’m pretty sure can be proven true.
The statement that good and nice people can be found everywhere is probably equally true.
Thank goodness, we have plenty of those here, too.
I happen to have met many of them.
I might be one.
As long as you keep your “torta” sandwich-grabbers off my mollete.
10. It’s not too cold.
This is definitely a glass half-full perspective.
We spent well over a hundred days over one-hundred last year. I cannot lie. It can be more than a little taxing when your car tells you that it is 120 degrees outside. The heat and humidity in the Summer actually makes the idea of spending an extra 20 minutes cleaning your mini-van sound like something that can wait another four months on the “To Do” list.
But here is the up-side. The first day that the temp drops to 99 degrees, your acclimated body knows it and you will swear you haven’t felt a breezier day than that so you’ll be out and about and more functional than most of the world’s population.
Also, our Winter is most other’s Fall. Sure, this means our kids make “dirt angels” instead of “snow angels” but it also means no gray, slushy mess in the house, no slipping on ice, no wet snow boots and heavy layers of winter gear. It means sweet leggings and boots weather for an entire season or two- by far the most fashionable of all seasons for us tummy-covering moms.
South Texas Border Dirt Angel-ing…
Yes, it gets really, really, really, really hot here.
But, you won’t ever be too cold, either.
So, that’s about it.
That’s my stab at 10 Reasons to Like Laredo…