Pandemic or no pandemic, 81-year-old JJ Wood and his wife, Ruby, of Nashville, Tennessee, are planning to make their annual winter trip to VIP La Feria RV Park in La Feria, Texas, just as winter Texans have during the cold season for the past 14 years.
“We went down there to begin with because we had some friends that decided to go there,” JJ Wood recalled.
The Woods loved the cleanliness of the park as well as the heartfelt friendliness of park staff and the people who camp there that they have spent every winter there ever since. “When you see a sign that says, ‘Welcome home, Winter Texans,’ they mean it!” Wood said.
The affordable prices for RV sites in the Rio Grande Valley compared to other snowbird destinations as well as affordable medical and dental care and prescription medications across the border in Nuevo Progreso, Mexico, are additional enticements, although non-essential cross-border travel has been temporarily restricted due to the pandemic.
But aside from spending the winter with good friends in an affordable location, Wood said the Rio Grande Valley offers many natural and historical sites to keep visitors entertained during the winter months.
These attractions include the World Birding Center in Mission, a $20 million collaborative effort involving the Texas Park & Wildlife Department, Rio Grande Valley Communities and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which features more than 500 bird species.
VIP La Feria RV Park, for its part, offers Winter Texans a convenient base camp to enjoy the Rio Grande Valley. The park offers two heated swimming pools, two whirlpool hot tub spas, a shuffleboard court, a large recreation hall, horseshoe pits. The park also has fenced dog park areas.
Several Good Sam Parks accommodate snowbirds in the Rio Grande Valley:
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 and tennis courts as well as a 12,000-square-foot event center.
Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort in Mission: This park’s amenities include an organic garden, a woodshop, 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.
Pleasant Valley Resort in Mission: With a swimming pool, hot tub and planned activities, this park has a full menu of activities to engage guests. An enclosed dog run and self-service RV wash give travelers opportunities to get refreshed.
Seven Oaks Resort in Mission: Boasting seasonal sites and lots of room, this park entices snowbirds to stay and participate in a vibrant social scene. A year-round heated pool and spa boost guests’ comfort levels.
Fig Tree RV Resort in Harlingen: A massage therapist and a heated pool and hot tub give guests ample opportunities to unwind in the Texas sunshine. A rec hall, putting green and exercise room provide plenty of opportunities to get the heart pumping.
Palm Gardens MHP & RV Resort in Harlingen: RVers can feel at home with a pool and spa, two laundromats, mailroom, cable TV and Wi-Fi. Meticulous landscaping and mature shade trees combine to create a pleasant environment. Wide, paved streets allow easy access for big rig RVs.
Palmdale RV Resort, Los Fresnos: Showcasing recently paved streets, new restrooms and showers, and a renovated pool, this park has invested in the future. With only 200 sites, the park cultivates a sense of community and friendship.
Other popular Winter Texan destinations in Texas include San Antonio, whose attractions include the River Walk, a beautiful urban park that winds its way along the course of the San Antonio River. Also popular is the historic Alamo Mission, the site of the famous 13-day battle in 1836 during Texas’s war for independence from Mexico. Good Sam Parks in the San Antonio area include:
Stone Creek RV Park in Schertz: This park, which Good Sam considers one of the nation’s top 10 pet-friendly parks, includes two large off-leash dog parks with agility equipment. The park also features family and adult pools and a hot tub. Some of its RV sites also have covered patios.
Texas Freedom RV Village in Gonzales: This pet-friendly park features oversize RV sites, immaculate showers and restroom facilities, and free WiFi.
Mission City RV Park in San Antonio: This newly renovated park entices travelers who seek to camp close to popular destinations. The park offers easy access to the San Antonio Rodeo and is only a short ride from the Alamo, Riverwalk and other downtown sights.
Popular Winter Texan parks in the neighboring Texas Hill Country parks include:
Buckhorn Lake RV Resort, Kerrville. This resort is a short drive from popular Hill Country attractions, including Fredericksburg, Bandera, Boerne and Luckenbach. Hiking trails, a creek and comfortable amenities keep guests comfortable and active.
New Braunfels RV and MH Park in New Braunfels. This park puts guests just a short distance from the Guadalupe, Comal, Blanco and San Marcos rivers. Also close by are Gruene Hall, Schlitterbahn and Tanger Outlet Malls. After a busy day, guests can relax in a roomy site with lots of amenities.
Summit Vacation & RV Resort, Canyon Lake. Located near the shores of a favorite Texas playground, this resort offers Guadalupe River Tubing, Mini-golf and pools. Roomy RV spots and well-appointed vacation rentals give this destination a wide appeal for travelers.
Parks that are popular with Winter Texans in the greater Austin area include:
Pecan Park Riverside RV Park in San Marcos. This RV-only campground has beautiful frontage along the San Marcos River, which is popular with river-tubing enthusiasts. Many of the RV sites are shaded by mature pecan trees. Amenities include an indoor swimming pool and hot tub, a kiddie pool, two off-leash dog parks and nature trails.
La Hacienda RV Resort & Cabins in Austin: This resort features RV sites and cottage rentals, swimming pools and a hot tub, a fitness center, a dog park, a playground and a clubhouse and pavilion for special events.
Oak Forest RV Resort in Austin: Located 10 minutes from the downtown area, the park puts guests close to Lake Walter Long, with 1,269 acres of boating and fishing fun. Guests can enjoy the resort-style pool, fitness center and bocce ball courts when not exploring nearby attractions like golf, the University of Texas and Travis County Expo Center.
While the pandemic remains a concern for many travelers, most Winter Texans are heading back to their favorite parks this winter, including Ron and Shirley Woodson, who have been full time RVing for the past year and a half. The Woodsons will be going back to VIP La Feria RV Park in their 32-foot Jayco Precept Class A motorhome.
“The pandemic changed our travel plans significantly this year,” the Woodsons explained in an email. “We planned to leave VIP last March, head west to visit national and state parks in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California. Next, we would travel to Kentucky and Ohio to spend time with family. Instead, we stayed hunkered down at VIP ’til June, thankful we had an official place to be. All those parks we planned to see were closed!
“As we traveled in June, we took the Natchez Trace from beginning to end. We were able to social distance and enjoy seeing new things. We got to spend a little time with family, but not as much as we hoped. We are heading back to VIP for another season, (but we are) a bit more cautious about making big travel plans for the future.”