It’s time to have fun in the Valley — even in these hard economic times.

Six local Chambers of Commerce have teamed up and developed a dynamic new program — Stay-cations. Stay and Play! That’s what it is all about. Stay in the Valley and visit the myriad of activities that bring thousands of people here throughout the year.

“This will help not only the economic picture of the Valley, but also will help individuals in their own economic situations,” said Nancy Millar, vice president McAllen Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We’ve created a way to help people vacation and the Valley’s economic picture by keeping people in the Valley.”

The promotion is the brainchild of Martha Noell, president and CEO of the Weslaco Chamber. She said, “This is not one thing that a few people put together. Everyone put time and effort into this. Since it’s a slow time of year for our hotels, we thought it would be a great way to encourage people to stay at the local hotels, have a good time with their family and learn about what the Valley has to offer.”

Alamo offers a bed and breakfast package with a birding outing. Weslaco has a ton of fun — touring the aloe vera farms, visiting their museums (including the World’s Smallest Museum) and historic sites, hiking through their nature sites - Frontera Audubon, Valley Nature Center, and Estero Llano Grande State Park, go geocaching (geocaching.com), dine, golf and shop.

Each city has hotels/motels or bed and breakfasts offering special rates to entice you to stay in the Valley. Simply call the Alamo, Edinburg, Hidalgo, McAllen, Mercedes or Weslaco Chamber of Commerce, and they will tell you the lodging locations. When making reservations or upon check-in, tell the hotel the visit is part of the Stay-cation program and packets full of information will be distributed.

So, is there more? There sure is. Edinburg lists their famous Museum of South Texas History, the railroad depot, World Birding Center or perhaps a Roadrunners Baseball game. A moving experience will be had at the Hidalgo Country Veterans War Memorial or check out their Tejano Walk of Fame. Call Edinburg’s Chamber and they’ll even put special packages together as requested.

Golfing, swimming, birding and butterflying are available in most of the cities. Hidalgo suggests taking in a Dorados football game or concert at Dodge Arena, walk where the South Texas settlers walked in the “Birthplace of Hidalgo County,” visit the historic Hidalgo Pumphouse Museum, and, while there, see the Rio Grande Rails Model Train.

Mercedes, of course, offers discount shopping deluxe in their Rio Grande Valley Premium Outlet Mall. Packages include shopping and golfing excursions from their new La Quinta Inn and Suites.

As the Stay-cation literature says — Experience a kayak trip on the mighty Rio Grande, enjoy cool pools or just settle in with a book and dine in the comfort of a hotel room or B&B.

McAllen has fabulous hotels which offer up their own packages. Keep checking the Stay-cation website at vacationrgv.com as the chambers will continuously update as more items become available. Listed here are just a bit of what the cities have to offer.

Such a deal — a home away from home excursion. Costs less, but tons of fun. Give it as a gift, make it a weekend or a week or more. The program will continue until Aug. 31.

“We’re really excited about sharing our community with our community,” said Noell. “We know a lot of tourists come down here and enjoy the Valley. I think we don’t get to enjoy what we have to offer. This is an opportunity to do that.”