Spending a Weekend in Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi souvenir shop
Danno Wise

Corpus Christi is the most centrally located beach destination in Texas. As a result, it is a popular stop for both in-state and out-of-state visitors alike. However, location alone isn’t what draws people to Corpus. The “Sparkling City by the Bay” has a wide variety of attractions, restaurants, activities and, of course, beaches to fill out anyone’s vacation itinerary.

Experience Attractions 

To begin with, Corpus is home to some of the state’s most impressive attractions. Topping the list is the Texas State Aquarium. Designated as the “Official Aquarium of Texas,” the Texas State Aquarium offers a unique blend of education and entertainment to the more than half a million visitors that come through its doors each year. The vast majority of the Aquarium’s displays focus on marine life that is indigenous to the Gulf of Mexico and Texas bays and estuaries. There is also a full slate of daily programs, including: You “Otter” Know This; Dolphin Presentations; Dive Encounters; Reptile Report; Birds of Prey; and much more.

The Texas State Aquarium is a great place to spend an entire day and is also an “all-weather attraction,” making it an ideal place to go on those rare foul weather days in Corpus Christi.

Right next door the State Aquarium is an equally impressive attraction – the USS Lexington. “The Lex,” as it is commonly known, is a former World War II-era aircraft carrier that serves as a museum and features a number of exhibits, as well as a museum, flight simulator and breathtaking views of Corpus Christi Bay. Visitors can spend a full day exploring all the levels, exhibits and nooks and crannies of this retired aircraft carrier. Or, they can do a “quickie” tour by just seeing the main exhibits and flight deck (which, by the way, showcase a variety of Naval aircraft).

There is also a 3-D theater on board the Lexington and the ship hosts a number of special programs, including overnight camping during the summer and a haunted house during the month of October.

Amusing Rides

Corpus Christi also boasts a few well-known amusement centers – Hurricane Alley, Funtrackers Family Fun Center, Schlitterbahn Water Park and Treasure Island Golf and Games.

Hurricane Alley is located right next to Whataburger Field (more on that later) and features a number of attractions, including The Shredder surf simulator, a 12,000 square foot wave pool, numerous slides and rides, a restaurant, bar and, most unique, a baseball-themed spray deck. During the summer months, Hurricane Alley also offers Tuesday and Friday night “Dive In Movies.”

Funtrackers Family Fun Center is Corpus Christi’s original family amusement center. While Funtrackers offers visitors a variety of activities, their three most popular attractions are the bumper boats, go-karts, and mini golf. Funtrackers also has a full-service restaurant and a wide variety of kiddie rides.

Schlitterbahn, which is one of Corpus’ newest attractions is located on the island portion of Corpus Christi. The fourth location in the Schlitterbahn Park chain across Texas, Schlitterbahn Corpus Christi is much more than just a water park. Schlitterbahn Corpus Christi features not only a ton of great rides but also a full-service hotel, the Veranda Restaurant, a golf club and tennis courts, making it as close to an all-inclusive resort as can be found along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Also located on the island side of Corpus is Treasure Island Golf & Games. This themed mini golf course also features a full arcade and is a great place for the whole family to unwind, relax and play a little putt-putt.

Beyond these large, well-known attractions, Corpus has some smaller and/or often overlooked attractions that are well worth the time to visit. While it is rarely overlooked, the Selena Monument is one of Corpus’ smaller attractions. Located on the seawall near the People’s Street Pier, the Selena Monument greets a seemingly endless stream of visitors night and day. Other local attractions include the Art Museum of South Texas, Texas Surf Museum, Tejano Roots Hall of Fame, the Corpus Christi Museum of History and Science, and Heritage Park, which is comprised of a dozen restored historic homes along with the Lytton Memorial Rose Garden.

Put Your Toes in the Sand

Of course, a weekend spent in Corpus isn’t just about seeing attractions, it is also about going and doing. Beaches, obviously, are a big draw for visitors to Corpus Christi, and are attractions that aren’t just viewed, but “experienced.” The more popular beaches for visitors to Corpus Christi are Mustang Island State Park, north beach, and Padre Island National Seashore, or PINS as it is known locally. North Beach is actually a beach on Corpus Christi Bay and is located right next to the USS Lexington.

It is a popular spot for beachcombing, swimming and just laying around on the beach.

However, the island side beaches are what really draw the crowds. Mustang Island is located between Port Aransas (which is at the northern tip of Padre Island) and the Padre Island National Seashore, which comprised the lower 70 miles of Padre Island. The majority of the Padre Island National Seashore requires four-wheel drive to access, but both Mustang Island State Park and Padre Island National Seashore offer long structures of undeveloped beach for visitors to enjoy.

Whether on the beach or in the bay, fishing is one of the most popular activities among Corpus Christi visitors. Both Mustang Island State Park and Padre Island National Seashore offer miles of beach access for surf fishermen. Bob Hall Pier is another popular spot for anglers looking to fish along the beachfront. Packery Channel reopened not too many years ago after extensive lobbying by fishermen and other nature enthusiasts is another great drive-up spot for fishermen. Additionally, the Corpus area offers a number of great bay fishing access spots for drive-up fishermen and kayakers, including the extremely popular Lighthouse Lakes Kayak Trail, which was the first saltwater kayak trail opened by Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Boating anglers have even more options.  Corpus Christi is a great, centralized launch point for boating fishermen to access numerous bays, including the Upper Laguna Madre, Corpus Christi Bay, Nueces Bay, Oso Bay, Redfish Bay, Aransas Bay, Baffin Bay and the Land Cut.

Birding is another popular outdoor activity. In addition to birding along the beaches, Corpus offers visitors access to parks and nature trails such as the Hans & Pat Suter Wildlife Refuge. Several portions of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail are also located in or around Corpus. The Corpus Christi Bay Loop and Mustang Island Loop are both in Corpus Christi, while the Brush Country Loop, Kingsville Loop, La Bahia Loop, and Aransas Loop are all located within a short drive of Corpus. Although each of the loops features a wide variety of aviary species, while visiting the Aransas Loop, birders have a very real chance at spotting rare Whooping Cranes.

Then again, not all activities to be had in Corpus Christi involve natural surroundings. Sports fans have the option of attending minor league baseball, ice hockey, and indoor football games. Whataburger Field consistently voted as one of the best minor league ballparks in America, is home to the Class AA Houston Astro affiliated Corpus Christi Hooks. The Corpus Christi Ice Rays, members of the North American Hockey League, area Tier II Junior Hockey team, while the Corpus Christi Fury competes in the Southern Division of American Indoor Football.

Both the Rays and the Fury play home games at American Bank Center. They can also attend collegiate games at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, which fields NCAA Division I teams in both men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, and track.  

But, beyond all there is to see and do, anyone spending a weekend in Corpus Christi will need both a place to stay and somewhere to eat. There are numerous outstanding restaurants located throughout Corpus Christi.  The Downtown Grill serves up unbelievable breakfast, while Executive Surf Club is a popular hangout with great burgers. Brewsters, located right across the street from Whataburger Field, is a great spot to get a pre-game meal on the way to a Hooks game. Waterstreet Seafood Company provides a menu full of great seafood dishes.

Landry’s and Joe’s Crab Shack are well-known chains that have unique locations in Corpus – Landry’s is aboard a boat docked at the City Marina, while one pier over a 3-story Joe’s overlooks Corpus Christi Bay. The Republic of Texas Bar & Grill is located high above Corpus Christi (the 22nd floor of the Omni Hotel, actually) and offers great food mixed with breathtaking views of Corpus Christi Bay. Located right at the base of the JFK Causeway, Doc’s also affords great views of the bay, albeit in an open-air atmosphere.

And, of course, Corpus is home to the extremely popular Whataburger fast food restaurant chain and the two-story Whataburger on Ocean/Shoreline drive is a place many visitors feel they must eat at while in town. Really, Corpus offers far too many great restaurants to name, so finding a great place to eat is not a problem for visitors.

There are also far too many great hotels to name. On mainland side, water view hotels like the Holiday Inn Marina, Best Western Marina Grand, Omni, and Emerald Beach Hotel are all quite popular and located conveniently close to most of Corpus’ major attractions. Over on the island, visitors can choose from a myriad of condominiums, beach houses, and hotels. Scattered throughout the city, both mainland and island side, is just about every chain hotel one can imagine, most of which have multiple locations.

In Corpus Christi, visitors will find there is literally an accommodation option to fit every need and budget.

So, whether you are traveling alone, taking the entire family, or spending a few days with that special someone, Corpus Christi is an ideal place for a weekend getaway.