What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Yes, South Padre Island. It's about 25 miles up the road and was really a surprise for us. It's slowly being discovered as Spring Break is crowded and you'll want to stay away. But the rest of the year is fantastic. Beaches, bars, restaurants, things for kids to do like a sea turtle rescue place, etc. Port Isabel is also a neat town. South Texas is another world and felt like an overseas assignment in and of itself. - Apr 2018
Nothing in Matamoros that we are allowed to do but South Padre Island is a half hour into Texas across the border and it is beautiful. There are also some interesting historical sights related to the Mexican American war. - Aug 2016
The Brownsville Zoo, Boca Chica beach is normally empty and you can drive onto the beach and camp. The tacos sold out of the parking lot on the otherside of the park are pretty good. - Aug 2015
Sadly, not much. Anything fun or interesting is in Brownsville or the lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas. Brownsville has a regular movie theater and a discount theater (where new movies go to die after they run their span in the regular theater.) South Padre Island, TX is about 45 minutes away and is a nice place to spend a day at the beach, but don't expect any nice resorts or "beach nightlife." It's a big spring break destination in March, but other than that it's a lazy island. There aren't very many green spaces down here in the south Texas desert, so don't expect a lot of outdoor activities, though you could probably find a soccer club pretty easily. Matamoros itself has a few movie theaters that are generally OK, though a grenade was thrown inside one last year. Movies are in English w/ subtitles or dubbed in Spanish. - Feb 2012