If you like South Padre Island, bar hopping, lots of live music, and some good food - this article is dedicated to you. Our goal on this winter vacation to South Padre Island was to catch some warm weather, hit the bars and listen to some live music each day, play some golf, and enjoy some good food - and then head home after a week to detox and diet! A word of advice to those who are going to bar hop in South Padre you should consider taking the Metro bus that picks you up and drops off every 1/2 hour.
We head south each winter to escape the cold weather in Austin - when I told this to some Minnesotans visiting South Padre island they laughed at me and said it was minus 12 when they left. When we arrived In SPI the wind was howling and the temperature was 35 degrees below normal - 36 t0 42 degrees without the wind chill. Our first objective to escape the cold weather in Austin was not met and I had to buy two space heaters for the RV. Unfortunately, the weather remained in the 30s and 40s with the blowing 15 to 30 miles an hour until the day before we had to leave - sunny and 76!
Besides the weather, one of the reasons we keep coming back to South Padre Island is because of all the live music, good food, fun bars (with excellent drinks like Wanna Wanna's Turbo, and lots to see and do, all within 5 or 6 miles of each other plus friendly tourists (mostly winter Texans trying to escape the freezing weather up north) and fun locals and it's never very crowded. Here is a link to fun vacations to South Padre Island - South Padre Island Winter Vacation and map of South Padre Island loaded with lots to see and do.
Since the weather was horrible, as soon as we arrived we bundled up and set out to exceed our second objective of bar hopping to listen to some good music. I'm happy to report that we exceeded our expectations on this objective. During the winter most of the bars and restaurants on SPI have live music - some from 1 to 3, others from 4 to 6 or 7 to 9, and several for the late night crowd 8 or 9 to midnight. Each day we would wake up, check the weather and music schedule, and plan our day which typically included at least 3 different bars a day! On our first couple days we enjoyed music and drinks at:
Fun day and a half with great music and lively bars but when I headed to bed that second night I was wondering how I'd be able to keep going at that pace for five more days. All of the music we saw was free but it cost me a fortune in drinks, appetizers, tips for the singers and aspirin and Bloody Marys for the headache.
After a few days of music, bar hopping, and good food it was time to get some exercise so we rented a cart and played 18 holes of golf at South Padre Island Golf Club. Didn't get a lot of exercise but really love this course - it's fun, challenging, scenic as it plays along the bay, reasonably priced, and home to some fun holes - here's a link to our review of South Padre Island Golf Course. Good time and there was no wind and the temperature which was 45 the day before was 65 - I was ready to shed my heavy jacket, gloves, and knit cap and put on shorts and a tee shirt!
Gosh, we had gone almost 8 hours without music and a drink, but I was getting a little exercise walking from the cart to the green! And just in the nick of time the beverage cart lady showed up to serve us a Bloody Mary and a couple beers for the rest of the holes. She had her headphones on which I had to borrow for a couple minutes to get a short music fix. Objective achieved!
All of the golfing exercise forced me into the closest bar and restaurant in Port Isabel. We started with "Professional Drummer & Singer" Larry Battle at White Sands Bar & Restaurant - he couldn't carry a tune as he sang mellow songs from the 40s to the 60s. One drink and we were out of there - both of us shaking our heads! Port Isabel is small and doesn't have quite as many bars - however, Roland Z (who sings a variety of hits from the 70's and 80's, as well as, country favorites - (a big step up from Larry) at the American Legion Post 498! Yup, just like you're thinking - an older calm mix of World War I, WW II, and Vietnam vets plus some free popcorn - we laughed when the bartender offered everyone at the bar a small basket of Ruffle Chips. A little sterile but nice friendly people.
Over the next few days we would bundle up (I looked like the Michelan Man with multiple layers of clothes), run to the car, then run to the bar to eat, drink, and listen to music. On New Years Eve day we listened to:
After that we bounced around to couple bars, watched the fireworks at Louie's, and headed home freezing. We tried to stay up to watch the ball drop on TV - it's tough getting old or is it all the previous days bar hopping catching up with me!
New Years day we set off to Clayton's Beach Bar & Grill ("the biggest beach bar in Texas") for the annual Polar Bear Dip and New Years Day Beach Party. As we drove to the bar the 30 mile per hour wind was blowing the Jeep all over the place and the temperature was 39 with a wind chill of 20 - we figured no one would be crazy enough to put on a swimming suit and rush down the beach and jump into the Gulf of Mexico. Wrong! It was packed with crazy people in swimsuits and costumes. Some went far enough out to swim, others went in to their waist, and some just dipped their toe in the ocean and ran back to the beach for towels and clothes. Lots of shivering and shaking! We were freezing with 3 layers of clothes, gloves and hats. It was so cold we left after the dip and missed a good band (playing outside!) with the lead singer dressed as a polar bear, lots of dancing, drinking, and a costume contest.
After a day of rest, we were back at it: First stop at Laguna Bobs for Jul and the Chrome Wheels Band but it was closed due to the weather - it's an open air bar on the bay and it was 38 degrees with a wind blowing at 30 miles an hour - when is it going to warm up? We saw a beautiful sunset and we stopped by D Pizza Joint and listened to Gene Sibley - great voice, lots of familiar songs, and excellent guitar playing. And then on to one of our favorites - PadreRitaVille to eat and listen to J. Michael Laferty who bills himself as playing "pop rock Americana from the Tropical Tip of Texas." Great evening of music and not very crowed because everyone else was home staying warm.
Wednesday was a full day of music, beer, food, and fun. It started at Coral Reef with Mario Rosales, a mafia Las Vegas looking Italian, with a good voice but horrible one liner jokes between each song. For example: you know why lions don't like cheetahs - they don't like fast food! Next up was the Painted Marlin and Andrew Minkler. An excellent classical guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, playing horns, guitars, and keyboards with a beautiful setting looking out over the bay where the sunsets are unbelievable.
Have you ever been to a crab race? Only on South Padre Island! This was our first crab race and we loved it. It was at the Quarterdeck Bar in the Isla Grande Hotel. So here's how it works: the MC lists all the racing crabs on the La Jaiba Downs board and then gives the odds of winning. On each race you pick who is going to win. Winners get Quarterdeck dollars to spend on beer, drinks, etc. At the start of each race the MC brings out each crab, all of which are colorfully painted and named (ie, Bull Crab, Imitation Crab, Taxi Crab, Hells Shell, Kilter Drablousky, Holy Crab) and he gives you the crabs odds of winning, and he tells you a little bit about the crab - for example, Montezuma's Revenge's odds are 3 to 2 and he was sired by Diarrhea, Klingon was sired by Starship Enterprises from Uranus and is an 7 to 1 favorite. All 8 crabs in that race are put under a deep dish and someone from the audience pulls the rope to lift the dish off the crabs and the race begins. The crowd starts to cheer and the MC ( who I swear was pretty tipsy and very funny) starts a dialog on the race - "they are off, Local Lopez is humping Bull Crab, Imitation Crab is off to a fast start and chased by Herman's Crag). Lots of laughs and we won one race for a free beer!
Crab racing got us hungry and several people had recommended D Pizza Joint. D Pizza Joint offers a variety of pizzas, appetizers, salads, and more. Gene Sibley was playing so we got to enjoy some excellent music and a great pizza.
Holy Moly - the sun was shinning on Thursday, there was no wind, and the temperature was 60. We immediately took off a couple layers of clothes, shed the gloves and hat and went for a bike ride down to the beach. Not quite warm enough to go swimming but the sun and warm weather sure felt good!
As fun as it was riding bikes and enjoying the sun, we had a mission which meant we still needed to hear some additional singers. First up (1 to 3 PM) was a packed house at Coral Reef Lounge with Leslie Blasing who channeled everything from Shania Twain to Etta James, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson and even Dean Martin! Lively, funny, and an excellent voice and it didn't surprise me that she was voted Female Vocalist of the Year for 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, and Entertainer of the Year for 2014, 2015 and 2016 awarded by the Winter Texan Times. That was followed by Chuck and Earl (love these guys) and a beautiful setting at Tequila Sunset. After a few hours at Tequila Sunset we walked next door to listen to Nate Humble at Laguna Bobs. .
We didn't know who was playing at Palm Street Pier but we needed an oysters on the half shell fix. Low and behold, Leslie was playing so we got to listen to her with a lively packed house and some great oysters. There was a large group of locals and Winter Texans who have gotten together for fun and frolic over the last several years. This year all of the 15 women and some of the men were wearing a variety of funny glasses. Turns out that over the years they would sing along with anything that came close to resembling a microphone - a bottle of catsup, a pepper shaker, a fork, a tabasco bottle, etc. So this year they made themselves some banners that said Condiments and Leslie had them come up and sing a song.
During our week stay in South Padre Island we stayed at one of our favorite RV Parks - South Padre Island KOA. Here's just some of the reasons we love South Padre Island KOA: it's a quarter of a mile from a good beach and access to the bridge to Port Isabel; it's within walking distance to good restaurants, Schlitterbahn, and fun bars; the sites are excellent and some have patios with views of the bay; the staff is friendly and the Park is well maintained; the cabins (some are 6 feet from the Bay) are excellent if you don't camp. Here is a link to our review of South Padre Island KOA.
Some of the restaurants we sampled on this trip included:
What a fun few days on South Padre Island - I don't know how I'll be able to survive at home with no live music all day!