Corpus Christi is the quintessential beach city. Perched on the Texas Gulf Coast, it is nestled in a picturesque bay and protected by barrier islands. From the laid-back attitude of the locals to the beautiful beaches and natural spaces, this “Sparkling City by the Sea” is the perfect place to relax and enjoy some sun, sand, and salt.
With a thriving art community and a rich historical heritage, Corpus Christi also has a number of diverse cultural experiences and museums to offer as well. Here are our top picks of ways to enjoy all that Corpus Christi has to offer.
1. Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
Corpus Christi is renowned for its bird-watching opportunities, and one of the best places to partake of this relaxing pastime is at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.
Established in 1937 as a refuge for migratory birds, its 115,000+ acres are home to an abundance of wildlife, including rare whooping cranes, spoonbills, bald eagles, herons more than 400 other species of birds. Vigilant visitors can also spot alligators, bobcats, coyotes, white-tailed deer, sea turtles, and other coastal creatures.
The refuge encompasses saltwater and freshwater marshlands, oak savannas, and sandy prairie, as well as barrier islands, offering an exciting cross-section of all the coastal wildlife habitats.
Located just an hour outside of Corpus Christi, this is a great spot to watch the wildlife or just enjoy the serenity of nature.
Insider’s Tip: If you want to see the migratory whooping cranes, plan to visit in the winter: December-February.
2. Art Center of Corpus Christi
This landmark of the vibrant Corpus Christi art scene is dedicated to nurturing and promoting regional artists and art as a service to their diverse community. The Art Center features beautiful artwork in a wide range of mediums, as well as classes and art workshops, in a beautiful bayfront setting.
No matter how many times you visit, you will have new art to peruse, as all of the exhibits rotate monthly or bimonthly to highlight new artists. Some of the dynamic past exhibits have included Stephen Fisher Photography, Jill Haglund’s expressive florals, and the work of The Nexus Art Collective.
If you see a piece at the Art Center that speaks to you, you can take it home as the art exhibited is also for sale.
Insider’s Tip: Take a clay pottery class at the Barry Brown Clay Studio, located inside the Art Center.
3. Art Museum of South Texas
The beautiful and modern Art Museum of South Texas is situated on Corpus Christi Bay and flooded with light and beautiful views from its abundant floor-to-ceiling windows.
The museum, run by the South Texas Institute for the Arts, features more than 1,850 works of art on permanent display and a rotation of special exhibitions. If you want to enhance your viewing experience, guided gallery walks are hosted on the second Saturday of each month.
Visitors can also take advantage of their classes and programs. From kids and family to adult classes and art contests, there are numerous ways to unlock your creative side. For cinephiles, the H-E-B Theater screens short films about artists as well as independent films.
Insider’s Tip: Admission is only $1 on the First Friday of every month.
4. Bike Corpus Christi
One of the best ways to take in the Marina Arts District and the sea wall is by utilizing Corpus Christi’s new bike share program. Now, tourists and locals alike can rent a bike at one of the many rental stations and bike to great the attractions in the downtown area.
Each rental bike is equipped with seven gears, lights in front and rear, a bell, and a basket for stowing your belongings. The cost is only $3 per hour and just requires an app on your phone to get going. The bike program, though young, has been off to a roaring start. Bike Corpus Christi reported that, in the first six weeks, more than 1,200 riders had already utilized the program.
Insider’s Tip: Be sure to bring your own helmet, as they are not provided with rentals.
5. Blackbeard’s on the Beach
Whether you are there to unleash your inner pirate, spot a ghost, or just to enjoy some great seafood and rock and roll memorabilia, you’re sure to have a great time at Blackbeard’s on the beach.
This vibrant purple building is one of the oldest standing structures on North Beach and is a local favorite that sees generations of revelers return to take in the fun atmosphere and great food. The Baja tacos and seared tuna are favorites here, and you can enjoy them alongside a great beer, margarita, or their signature drink “The Grog”.
Blackbeard’s also features nightly live music from great local talent. Styles range from country and blues to oldies and classics. This family-friendly venue is a great place to stop for a fun meal.
Insider’s Tip: You can eat free on your birthday, up to $12 value.
6. Corpus Christi Bay Trail
One of the best ways to take in the sights of Corpus Christi while enjoying the fresh sea air is on the Corpus Christi Bay Trail. This paved trail spans nearly 9 miles and passes some of the top attractions, including the Corpus Christi Marina, Art Museum of South Texas, and the Museum of Science and History, as well as 6 area parks and sections of Oso Creek and Oso Bay.
Popular with walkers, bikers, and skaters alike, the trail largely runs parallel to Shoreline Boulevard offering numerous points of interest and places to stop along the way. Bird watchers also enjoy walking the trail for a chance to see brown pelicans and other coastal birdlife.
Insider’s Tip: Parking for the trail can be located at various points along the way, including Bayfront Park, Cole Park, or the Texas A&M University Corpus Christi campus, which sits at the trail’s southern end.
7. Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History
Whether you are interested in the local ecology, prehistoric residents, Civil War history, or artifacts of the 1554 shipwrecks of the San Esteban and Espíritu Santo, the 40,000 square foot Museum of Science and History has exhibits that are sure to excite and educate you.
Situated in the Sports, Entertainment, and Arts (SEA) district, this immersive museum presents visitors with a host of interactive exhibits designed to spark curiosity. The H-E-B Science Center allows kids to play and learn about science while adults can take advantage of seating areas to relax.
The museum is currently also home to a Smithsonian-designed exhibit title “Seeds of Change,” which charts the way the old world and the new changed each other in the age of exploration.
Insider’s Tip: The museum offers free admission days on the first Thursday and first Sunday of each month from November to March.
8. Fishing Excursions
Whether you like casting your line from a boat deck or with your feet firmly planted on land, Corpus Christi has great saltwater fishing to accommodate you. From the more sheltered waters of the Laguna Madre and Corpus Christi Bay to the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, fishing enthusiasts can pull in redfish, black drum, flounder, speckled trout, and more.
One of the favorite sport fish in the Gulf of Mexico is the red snapper, prized for both its taste and the exciting fight it puts up. You’ll need to hop on a fishing charter boat during the short red snapper season and travel the nine miles into federal waters to try your hand at catching one of these massive pink fish. Other sport fish found in the Gulf of Mexico include blue marlin, dorado, swordfish, and yellowfin tuna.
Insider’s Tip: Pull up the fishing report before you head out to check conditions at your chosen spot. If you want to fish for red snapper, keep an eye out for the announcement of the season, typically released around May for that year.
9. Hans & Pat Suter Wildlife Refuge
The Hans and Pat Suter Wildlife Refuge is one of the best spots in town for bird watching. Traverse the 1-mile trail and 800-foot boardwalk for stunning views of Oso Bay and a variety of coastal habitats, including marshes, mudflats, and woodlands.
Bring a picnic lunch and sit at one of the tables or viewing platforms to take in the views and abundant wildlife. This trail is great for all skill levels and members of the family, even dogs are welcome, as long as they are kept on leash.
Insider’s Tip: Bring a pair of binoculars to get up close and personal with the numerous wading birds you will see along your trek.
10. Harbor Bridge
Arguably one of the most iconic images in Corpus Christi is the night view of the Harbor bridge. A local institution since its construction in 1959, this through arch bridge spans the Corpus Christi ship channel, allowing more than 20,000 cars a day to travel between downtown and the North Beach area.
Though the bridge is photogenic during the day, the nighttime light display is not to be missed. Illuminated by more than 11,000 color-changing LED lights, the bridge sparkles in the night sky and is reflected in the water below for a dazzling and unforgettable scene. The display is changed seasonally and in honor of certain occasions, such as Veteran’s Day.
The existing Harbor Bridge is slated to be retired and demolished in 2021, but the new Harbor Bridge, currently under construction, will also feature the now-iconic nightly light display.
Insider’s Tip: One of the best places to view the bridge at night is on the North Beach side, near the aquarium.
11. Harbor Playhouse Community Theatre
Another local institution is the Harbor Playhouse, which has been entertaining theatergoers for nearly 100 years. This community theater is renowned as one of the finest in Texas and is sure to delight with a wide range of shows, talented local actors, and impressive production quality.
The Harbor Playhouse also offers classes and educational opportunities to inspire a new generation of theatergoers to fall in love with art and expression.
Insider’s Tip: Every December, the Harbor Playhouse puts on a spectacular production of A Christmas Carol, which would be a perfect new tradition to add to your holiday repertoire.
12. Horses On the Beach
There is nothing so romantic as an image of riding a horse down the beach, and, thanks to Corpus Christi Horses on the Beach, you can make that vision a reality. No matter what your riding experience is, all riders 8 and up are welcome to come partake in this magical experience along the beautiful beach of South Padre Island.
If you’re looking to up the romance factor a step farther, you can opt for a sunset ride and literally ride off into the sunset amid balmy ocean breezes and spectacular views.
Insider’s Tip: Rides are by reservation only, so make sure you book in advance.
13. Hurricane Alley Waterpark
If you’re looking for a more pulse-pounding way to enjoy the water, Hurricane Alley Waterpark might be right up your, well, alley. Try your hand at surfing on the Shredder surf simulator or race down the Storm Chaser, a high-speed racer slide. There are also exciting tube rides like the 6-story Cat 5 and the twisted Momentum.
Little kids and big kids alike will have plenty of options to keep them entertained and happy all day long. All this water park fun also comes complete with beautiful views of the Harbor Bridge and Corpus Christi Bay.
Insider’s Tip: Start your visit off with a relaxing float in the “Gulf Stream” lazy river and plan your exciting day as you drift around the park.
14. IceRays Hockey
While the sultry Texas heat may not inspire thoughts of winter sports, Corpus Christi’s own Ice Rays hockey team definitely has a fan following. Around 3,000 people attend each game, cheering on their South Division tier II junior team.
This action-packed sport fits in nicely in the land of football lovers, and the exciting games are punctuated by great entertainment, including light shows and guest entertainers. Hockey season runs January through July and home games often feature promotional nights, such as Military Appreciation Night and Family 4-Pak Night.
Insider’s Tip: If you can’t make the game in person, you can watch online on their website.
15. K Space
Another outlet for artistic expression, k space contemporary is a non-profit organization to both present and promote works of contemporary art. This alternative art space is the oldest in the Coastal Bend region and is dedicated to presenting works by under-represented artists and works that are difficult to exhibit in other, more traditional, art spaces.
Located downtown, this gallery is a finger on the pulse of the vibrant art community of Corpus Christi and the coastal bend. The rotating exhibitions mean that, no matter how many times you go, you will have something new and thought-provoking to ponder.
Insider’s Tip: The staff is knowledgeable and enthusiastic about all of the art and happy to answer any questions you might have.
16. Laguna Madre Windsurfing
Corpus Christi is known as a windy city, due to the trade winds constantly billowing in from both the Sargasso and Caribbean seas. Thanks to these winds, and the shallow waters of the Laguna Madre, Corpus Christi is also known as one of the best places in the country for windsurfing.
Situated between the mainland and Padre lsland, this hypersaline lagoon is warm and shallow with a sandy bottom, creating the perfect conditions to enjoy the sport. Whether you are already an expert windsurfer or want to try your hand at it for the first time, you will find everything you need here. Numerous shops along the beach offer both equipment rentals and lessons from accredited instructors.
Insider’s Tip: Bird Island Basin is known to be one of the best windsurfing launch locations in the country.
17. Lazy Beach Brewing
While Corpus Christi may not be known for its microbrewery scene, Lazy Beach Brewing is holding its own as a firm local favorite. They have been serving up a rotation of 15 different varieties of handcrafted beers since 2014, with names like Choppy Waters DIPA, Lovers in the Surf, and Corpus Christi Blonde.
Spend an evening at their taproom, sampling from the ever-changing beer list or enjoying one of their hard kombuchas while you snack on delectable treats from the food trucks parked just outside. Kids are welcome until 8 pm and there are a variety of non-alcoholic kombucha and Texas-made sodas for them to choose from as well.
Insider’s Tip: The patio is dog friendly and they have water bowls for your four-legged friend upon request.
18. Mustang Island State Park
The more than five miles of coastline along this barrier island make it a perfect spot for some beach day fun. Mustang Island’s beautiful beaches are ideal for sunbathing, swimming, fishing, or building sandcastles. There are also hiking and mountain biking opportunities across the interior of the island, and 20 miles of paddling trails for kayakers to enjoy.
If you want to extend your visit, there are 48 water and electric campsites and 50 primitive campsites where you can pitch your tent for the night to wake up to the sound of ocean surf and sea birds.
Insider’s Tip: It is recommended that you make reservations, especially if you want to camp, as the park often reaches capacity during the summer.
19. North Beach
This vibrant beachfront area is home to what are arguably two of the city’s most popular attractions, the USS Lexington and the Texas State Aquarium. The beautiful golden sand beach, formerly called Corpus Christi beach, is a classic spot to enjoy all your favorite beach activities. It offers cabanas and picnic tables, lifeguards, and free parking, as well as a concrete Beachwalk and two fishing jetties.
If you’re looking to get out of the sun for a bit, there are a number of great shops, attractions, and restaurants all within walking distance of the beachfront. Enjoy great seafood or pick up a few souvenirs while you take in the beautiful views of Corpus Christi Bay.
Insider’s Tip: Relax between visits to the USS Lexington and Texas State Aquarium and dip your toes in the warm waters.
20. Padre Island National Seashore
This beautiful undeveloped barrier island boasts 70 miles of protected coastline, dunes, prairies, and tidal flats. It is renowned for its beautiful beaches, abundant wildlife, and exciting recreation opportunities.
The park offers something for everyone, with vehicle and pedestrian-only beaches, camping options, great fishing, and bird watching, and excellent kayaking and windsurfing spots.
Home to the nesting grounds of the endangered Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle, some lucky visitors will even get to see a sea turtle hatchling release, as conservationists release thousands of tiny turtles to make their way into the Gulf of Mexico.
Insider’s Tip: The sea turtle hatchlings will be released whenever they are ready, and it can happen at any point during the summer. If you want to witness this incredible event, be sure to call the Hatchling Hotline at 361-949-7163 to get updates on when the next one will be.
21. Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve and Nature Center
Situated on the Southside of Corpus Christi, Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve and Nature Center is a 162-acre nature preserve that seeks to educate the public about the coastal ecosystem and the need to preserve it. Visitors can meander along hiking trails or explore the center’s many interactive science exhibits.
Kids will love the playground designed as a giant birdhouse and hopping along the concrete stones that cross the pond outside the visitor’s center. The trading post will trade nature items kids find at home with items found in the park. One visitor traded a molted June bug shell for some shed rattlesnake skin.
Insider’s Tip: The Learning Center is open Monday -Saturday from 8 am to 5 pm, but the trails are open every day from dawn to dusk.
22. Selena Museum
Selena Quintanilla-Pérez was a beloved icon of Tejano music and a Corpus Christian. Though her life was cut tragically short in 1995, her native city still adores her and keeps her memory alive through the Selena Museum.
This homage to the Queen of Tejano music is filled with stories and artifacts from her meteoric rise to fame. See her favorite stage outfits, numerous awards, and even her beloved red Porsche.
Insider’s Tip: Once you are done touring the museum, visit her bronze statue memorial, Mirador De La Flor, located along Shoreline Boulevard.
23. Republic of Texas Bar & Grill
Perched on the 20th floor of the Omni Corpus Christi, the Republic of Texas Bar and Grill is well known for its delicious food, fantastic wine list, exceptional service, and, most notably, its incredible panoramic views of Corpus Christi Bay.
This is the perfect spot to enjoy a romantic evening or celebrate a big occasion, with an impressive array of incredible menu options prepared by Executive Chef Daniel Rosa. From lobster tails and prime cut steak to escargot and venison, there is something to satisfy every palate.
Insider’s Tip: If you just want to drop by to drink in the view, and maybe a cocktail or two, they host a daily social hour from 5:30-7:00 pm.
24. Snoopy’s Pier
Local fisherman Ernie Butler opened Snoopy’s Pier in 1980 to serve great simple seafood alongside impressive views of the Laguna Madre. Patrons can enjoy a simple menu of all the Gulf favorites, from fried or boiled shrimp to the catch of the day and crab cakes. There is also an ice cream shop, serving Texas’s favorite Bluebell Ice Cream.
Snoopy’s is definitely best known for its relaxed and fun atmosphere, exemplifying the beach life. The deck hangs out over the water, making it a truly “on the water” dining experience. And, whether you arrive by car or boat, Snoopy’s can accommodate you.
Insider’s Tip: The sunset view from Snoopy’s Pier is one of the best in the city, so be sure to time your trip accordingly.
25. South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center
Opened in 1987 to showcase the local flora and fauna, the South Texas Botanical Gardens is a charming and serene place to relax enjoy the beauties of nature. The 182-acre public garden has been developed into a wonderland of both native and exotic plants.
Stroll along the nature trails or the wetland boardwalk to see beautiful native plants and animals or visit one of the eleven special exhibits including a butterfly house, orchid and bromeliad conservatories, rose pavilion, sensory garden, and plumeria garden.
The gardens also feature a reptile room, exotic parrot collection, birding tower, and a hummingbird garden.
Insider’s Tip: Bird lovers can take part in the annual “Birdiest Festival in America,” held at the gardens each April.
26. Texas State Aquarium
The animal inhabitants of the Gulf of Mexico are on full display at the Texas State Aquarium. One of the largest aquariums in the country, it boasts more than 360 different species of animals and a wide range of engaging exhibits representing different gulf habitats, both above and below the water.
Visit the dolphins at Dolphin Bay, watch the mesmerizing jellyfish in the Floating Phantoms exhibit, or visit Islands of Steel, their largest exhibit, which shows the habitat created around the massive oil platforms dotting the waters of the Gulf.
You can also get hands-on with starfish and feed stingrays at Stingray Lagoon. Educational programs, including dive shows, feedings, and performances at the Hawn Wild Flight Theater, showcase the animals living there and stress the importance of conservation.
The aquarium also has a Second Chances Wildlife Rehabilitation Program, which rehabilitates and then releases injured wildlife of the Texas Gulf Coast.
Insider’s Tip: The aquarium can get crowded on the weekends, particularly in the summer months and during peak times of 11:00 am-3:00 pm. Try visiting during the week or come earlier or later in the day to avoid the main rush.
27. Texas Surf Museum
Corpus Christi may not be known for stellar surfing spots, but that didn’t stop the founders of the Texas Surf Museum from choosing it as the home of the only surf museum in the state of Texas. This kitschy homage to hanging ten is dedicated to teaching everyone about the unique style of Texas surf culture and to promoting and teaching the sport of surfing and conservation of the beaches.
The collection features both permanent and traveling exhibits, keeping the experience fresh and fun for new or returning visitors. Browse the myriad of photos and surf memorabilia that line the walls, learn about the physics of watersports, or relax in a chair made of surfboards and take in a surf film.
Whether you are a surfing enthusiast or just looking to kill an afternoon, the Texas Surf Museum is definitely worth a visit.
Insider’s Tip: As the museum says “Like the waves, the museum is always free”, but donations are much appreciated.
28. USS Lexington
Towering 19 stories over the shoreline of Corpus Christi Bay sits the USS Lexington, a retired aircraft carrier turned museum. Nicknamed “Lady Lex” and the “Blue Ghost”, she was decommissioned in 1991 after 48 years of service and an illustrious battle record during WWII in the Pacific Theater. The USS Lexington was also the first US Air Craft Carrier to have women on her crew and was used as a filming location for the film Pearl Harbor.
Now a museum, the USS Lexington offers self-guided smartphone tours and guided tours, where you can learn about life on board. Wander about below ship or venture up to the deck, where 20 aircraft illustrate the history of naval aviation.
They also have a 3-D mega theater, virtual battle stations, and a flight simulator to bring its exciting naval history to life. Recently, Lockdown on the Lex was added, which features two different escape room scenarios, each playing into the ambiance aboard the ship.
Insider’s Tip: For a spookier experience aboard this reportedly haunted ship, don’t miss their haunted house, held in October each year.
29. Wednesday Night Regatta
If you find yourself at the Lawrence Street T-Head on a Wednesday evening, you’ll be treated by the sight of the sailboats in the Wednesday Night Regatta sailing out against the setting sun. Organized by the Corpus Christi Midget Racing Fleet (CCMORF), this weekly social race has been breaking up the work week for sailors and onlookers alike since 1995.
Bring a picnic dinner and a camera and join the crowd in the bleachers at the Lawrence Street T-Head or claim a spot along the sea wall for a great view of the good-natured race as the sun sinks into Corpus Christi Bay.
Insider’s Tip: If you want to join in the race rather than watch it, send a message to the members of CCMORF offering a hand, or just show up at the marina before the race and see if anyone is shorthanded.
30. Whataburger Field
Corpus Christi is home to the original Whataburger and locals are loyal to their hometown fast-food favorite. They also love the Corpus Christi Hooks, the hometown baseball team that plays at Whataburger Field. This Minor League baseball team is owned by the Houston Astros.
Built on the location of old cotton warehouses, the stadium features architecture that harkens back to that past, and the video board is framed by antique cotton presses. The stadium has more than 5,500 seats and a host of kid-friendly areas, including a fun zone, a youth baseball field, a climbing wall, and a trampoline. Enjoy a family atmosphere, lots of Whataburger merch, and great views of the ship channel and Harbor Bridge while you cheer on the home team.
Insider’s Tip: Whataburger Field is perfectly positioned to see the nightly light display of the Harbor Bridge.
Corpus Christi is a vibrant and eclectic mix of diverse historical heritage, surf culture, and industry. The best way to find your new favorite spots is to get out there and explore, talk to the local Corpus Christians, and don’t be afraid to try something new.
If you are ready to make your beach life dream a reality and are looking to buy a home in Corpus Christi, we’d love to help. Search through Corpus neighborhoods and learn all about living in Corpus on our blog!