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Padre Paradise

It may be October, but it is, after all, Texas—so don’t start thinking your beach-going days are over! One of the hottest (both literally and figuratively) spots in the Lone Star State is South Padre Island. From the green nature trails and the water parks, to the sunsets and the unique beach competitions, it isn’t just for spring break anymore.

If you do make it to this island in October, you won’t want to miss the Sand Castle Days Family Fun Festival. This internationally renowned competition is back for the 23rd year, drawing both amateur and master sand castle builders alike. From October 20-24, families can sign up for lessons, then participate in Saturday’s amateur competition (unless you’ve already got some serious castle-building skills). Later, check out the Litter Campaign trash art competition, peruse food vendors and listen to music. Mom, Dad, start practicing now—cash prizes are awarded to the winners!

For a change of pace from the hot sand and even hotter competition, don’t forget that South Padre boasts some beautiful scenery. Go for a stroll along the gulf beaches, or check out the peaceful Laguna Madre side and enjoy a watercolor sunset. Get up close and personal with nature on the Laguna Madre Nature Trail, where you can investigate 40-50 species of local birds, learn about the bay alligators and get explanations about fish and turtles. Entrance fee is $5, and the trail is open until dusk.

For a completely different view of the beach, take a jaunt along the shore—with a horse for a guide! Ponies are available at the stables for kids ages 3-5 to ride in a roped-off area with a parent; children must be at least 6 years old to ride their own horse on the beach. Cost ranges from $45-$65 for a 1-hour to 1-hour and 45-minute ride.

After an exhausting day, you’re probably wondering where to rest your head. Whether you’ve come with just your spouse, or you’re bringing along a group of 20, South Padre Beach Houses and Condos offers up beach and bayside lodging to fit any need.

Now that you know South Padre Island isn’t just for spring breakers, pack your bags and hit the road for this destination that is sure to keep the whole family entertained for a weekend … or longer.