This south Texas border town, 150 mi/240 km southwest of San Antonio and one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S., is dominated by trucks carrying goods between Mexico and the U.S. It's rich in Hispanic culture: Spanish is spoken everywhere (shops, restaurants, schools), and citizens of Laredo and its sister city, Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, spend a good deal of time hopping back and forth across the border to bargain-hunt. (Mexicans go to Laredo to buy clothing and electronic equipment, and Texans cross over to find Mexican and colonial-style handmade furniture, crafts, jewelry and clothing.)

In addition to shopping, popular across-the-border activities in Nuevo Laredo include bullfights and dining out (try Victoria's 3020, El Dorado Bar, Cadillac Bar or El Rincon del Viejo). On the U.S. side, visit Fort McIntosh (established 1848), the Republic of the Rio Grande Building and Museum (documenting the short-lived republic that existed January-November 1840) and St. Augustine Church (circa 1872).

Laredo is also a major departure point for buses and trains going into the interior of Mexico (for example, to San Miguel de Allende or Mexico City). Remember to take your passport.

Every February the community stages a two-week blowout in honor of George Washington's birthday. Originally designed to be a distinctly U.S. holiday, the party has evolved over the past century into an international celebration of friendship between the two Laredos.

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