It"s a exorbitant time come visit Del Rio and also its sister city in Mexico, where holiday bargains and natural beauty beauty abound.

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As the sunlight floats on the horizon in Del Rio, Texas, this heat Friday evening, car pour throughout the U.S.-Mexico border, clogging Hidalgo Street right into the town of Ciudad Acuña. Street vendors stake out corners where they'll offer fruit drinks and also snacks. Shopkeepers stand in the doors of their establishments, beckoning shoppers come peruse shelves brimming through merchandise.

Two mariachis, every sporting a bolero and cowboy boots, stroll casually amongst the revelers. As quickly as they spy a team of American turistas, they flash practiced smiles and begin plucking their guitar strings. "Oh, oh, oh, cuando caliente el sol," they complete in unison, the last of the well-known ballad melting right into the velvety darkness of the night.

"I love Mexico," says longtime Del Rio residents Dee Money, who occasionally leads groups into Ciudad Acuña. "I like the people. I like the culture. I like the traditions. Us really do have the ideal of both worlds here."

These 2 cities--Del Rio, Texas, and also Ciudad Acuña, Mexico--call us sisters. Castle share the financial institutions of the Rio Grande, which creates the global border. However they've likewise managed to create a deep and abiding friendship, identified by necessity and also mutual respect.

Of all the Texas border towns, locals case this is the cleanest and friendliest. Indeed, you deserve to cross the border with few hassles here. Somber guards and also the mile-long international Toll Bridge have the right to be rather imposing because that first-time visitors. But once across, you're greeted by residents and also merchants eager to share your rich culture and traditions.

"It's one more country, and you have to be respectful of that," states Susan Cottle-Leonard, tourism and convention manager of the Del Rio room of Commerce, "but it's very friendly town."

Pilot john Mitchell agrees. "I have been to Mexico many times and also visited countless different border towns," the san Antonio resides says, "but Ciudad Acuña is different. Girlfriend can quickly cross the border below for an excellent food, entertainment, and also the exhilarating environment of Mexico."

An Oasis in the DesertTravelers have long been attracted to this oasis ~ above the Rio Grande. The American indians who inhabited the area much more than 4,000 years earlier left in-depth pictographs on cavern walls, currently a kind of primitive history book etched in stone. Spanish missionaries planted a church below in 1635 and also christened the spot mountain Felipe del Rio. The was called not for the Rio Grande yet in respect of mountain Felipe Springs, i beg your pardon still provides up come 90 million gallons of spring water every minute.

Some will certainly remember Ciudad Acuña as the nighttime home of renowned disc jockey Wolfman Jack, who blasted the border from the 1 million-watt XERF-AM simply south of the city. Today, travelers of every ages pertained to enjoy the area's raw herbal beauty and the excitement of a border town.

Lake Amistad is the embodiment that the friendship between the two countries. 3 rivers--the Rio Grande, the Pecos, and also the Devils--all converge right here to form one of the biggest lakes in Texas, with more than 850 mile of shoreline. Two big bronze eagles sit on the 6-mile leg that spans the lake, signifying the partnership in between the 2 countries. Locals remember the it was on this clues that several U.S. And also Mexican Presidents stood, shook hands, and sealed the bond of cooperation.

Anglers and boaters come search the largemouth base and huge catfish life in the lake. Nature lovers involved hike, bike, and also experience the wide-open spaces. But invariably, many tourists eventually uncover themselves drawn to Ciudad Acuña, with its broad, welcoming key street lined through shops, restaurants, bars, and hotels. The city's wide an option of curios is specifically popular in November once visitors watch to get a head begin on vacation shopping.

Shopper's ParadiseCesar Peña take away a knife native his pocket and offers the sharpened blade to his customer. "Go ahead, senorita," the owner of Casa Uxmal implores. "Scratch the plate. It's actual Talavera. You can not hurt it. If it's genuine Talavera, the glaze will not come off."

In addition to the prized Talavera pottery, vendors offer rustic jaw furniture and beautiful mexican pewter. There's likewise blown glass, wrought iron, leather goods, and also home accessories of every kinds. Tourists can also find vibrant serapes, noodle blankets, and also studded sombreros. However, the an obstacle most shoppers challenge is choose the high quality items native a sea the imitations.

"The ideal thing to carry out if you're trying to find quality is come look everywhere," Senor Peña suggests. "Compare the quality before you decision what come buy."

Friends Donna Moody, Linda Dorris, terry Pool, and Janice Petty, all from san Angelo, have long planned regular shopping excursions come Ciudad Acuña. "We've been coming here because the sixties once we were simply teenagers," Donna says. "We every love mexican decorative items. That's component of gift Texan, i guess. And we prefer to bargain. Everybody desires a good deal."

Shopkeepers suppose customers to haggle end the price. "Always, everybody make the efforts to acquire a much better price," Senor Peña says with a smile. "Everybody is cost-free to try. That's democracy. I carry out the very same thing."

SISTER ACTWhere to shop: U.S. Travelers may bring ago $400 worth of to buy for an individual use duty-free. Casa Uxmal has the best selection of mexico pewter, Talavera pottery, and also pine furniture. El Patio specialization in wrought stole furniture and also home accessories. Protect against by The White horse Leather keep for cowboy boots, belts, saddles, and spurs. Don't overlook the shops in Del Rio. La Antigua and also Buffalo Girls space two of our favorites. Mail crate Plus, situated on Veterans Boulevard in Del Rio, will certainly gladly ship your purchases home.

Where come stay: over there are many chain motels in Del Rio, including the Ramada Inn (rates begin at $55; <830> 775-1511 or 1-800-272-6232). In Ciudad Acuña, the new Best west Villa real (rates start at $45; 1-800-528-1234) is simply minutes native the border crossing. Villa Del Rio, the area's just bed-and-breakfast, has three guestrooms and also an adobe cottage collection among century-old palms, magnolias, and pecan trees. Rates variety $85- $195; 1-800-995-1887.

Where come eat: Long prior to George Strait placed it ~ above the map in his tune "Blame it On Mexico," "Ma" Crosbys to be serving the lethal margaritas. They serve quail, frog legs, and bass from Lake Amistad, in enhancement to classic Mexican favorites. Lando's, additionally on Hidalgo Street, provides a much more upscale food selection with steaks, seafood, and Mexican specialties. In ~ La Macarena Restaurant and Bar, situated off the main street at 295 Madero, the steaks and also homemade fries room wonderful, add to they're deemed to have actually the ideal margaritas in town. Restaurante Santa Marta, whereby the menus are melted onto plyboard, and Mi Tierra, well-known for the tasty salsa con crema, are additionally excellent for much more traditional meals. If you're worn down of Mexican, shot Avanti Italian Restaurant in Del Rio.

MORE information FOR your TRIPRenting a houseboat ~ above Lake Amistad: from October 31 through April 30, a 56-foot houseboat prices $995 plus taxes for 3 days, two nights top top the weekend or four days, 3 nights ~ above weekdays. A 59-foot boat rents for $1,495, and a 65-footer is $2,395. Every one of these boats sleep 10. Contact Forever resorts at (830) 774-4157 or 1-800-255-5561.

Peek in ~ the pictographs: Seminole Canyon State Park and also Historic Site near Comstock is the ideal place to check out the old pictographs. Fate Bell Shelter contains some of north America's earliest rock paintings, carbon-dated in ~ 4,000 years old. Tours space 10 a.m. And 3 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

Insider's tip: examine your insurance allowance policy prior to taking your vehicle into Mexico. Some domestic policies and also rental agreements don't cover crashes across the border. If friend don't want to feather for the extra coverage, park your car at the border, and walk across the global Toll Bridge, or you deserve to take a taxi or bus right into Ciudad Acuña. Be sure to bring some proof of U.S. Citizenship, just in case you have problems.

Del Rio chamber of Commerce: 1915 Veterans Blvd., Del Rio, TX 78840; (830) 775-3551, 1-800-889-8149, or

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"The Friendliest little Border city in Texas" is indigenous the November 2002 worry of southern Living. Since prices, dates, and other specifics room subject to change, please check all details to make sure it's tho current before making your take trip plans.