The Texas Gulf Coast offers museums, an aquarium, an aircraft carrier, and beaches. Here’s where to go during a weekend in Corpus Christi.
For those yearning for the sound of crashing waves one day with a cultural excursion into art and history museums on another, followed by a naturalist-led kayak tour and beaching all in the same weekend, then Corpus Christi is the destination. With the sunny days and nearly empty beaches, thanks to the school schedule, visitors can enjoy world-class beaches on one side and a rich marine life Intracoastal waterway on the other side of the Texas Gulf Coast. Though the scenery is beautiful, Corpus Christ has museums and attractions, like the U.S.S. Lexington, the Texas State Aquarium, and art and history museums. Visitors will find all that and more on a weekend getaway to Corpus Christi.
An easy and relaxed getaway, Corpus Christi is a gas tank away from many Texas destinations. To make the most of your time, take off on a Friday for a long weekend on the Texas Gulf Coast. With so many activities in and around Corpus Christi, visitors might want to arrive early in the day on Friday or even Thursday night.
Driving in it’s hard to miss the U.S.S. Lexington moored in Corpus Christi Bay. As a major attraction to the area, it’s one of the top places to see. The U.S.S. Lexington is a vintage WWII Essex aircraft carrier (CV-16). Nicknamed the Blue Ghost, the flight deck is outfitted with several aircraft of the era.
The self-guided tours allow for lots of rambling across the decks for most visitors. For the WWII armchair historians, hop on a guided tour like the Hard Hat Tour or the Flight Operations Tour. There are even paranormal tours since it is rumored to be haunted. The U.S.S. Lexington offers a late-night paranormal investigation, sure to raise the hairs of its participants. Additional admission and advance registration are required for all guided tours.
With 3D Mega Theater, escape rooms, a flight simulator, and a cafe on-site plan to spend half the day exploring the U.S.S. Lexington. It also offers multiple decks, each with exhibits to see.
It will be a hit with those interested in airplanes and WWII history. However, the views of the bay and the rest of the coast are pleasant and easy for everyone to enjoy from the flight deck.
Texas State Aquarium
After learning about what floats on the water, I suggest spending the rest of the day discovering what swims in the water. The Texas State Aquarium is one of the top things to do in Corpus Christi and a must for a weekend in Corpus Christi.
The Gulf of Mexico is the world’s largest gulf and is rich in marine life. I was amazed by the wildlife all around Corpus Christi, so I wanted to learn about the aquatic animals of the Gulf of Mexico, along with birds and river otters.
Some of my favorite exhibits included the sunken shipwreck display with sharks swimming among the ship’s holes. As a bonus, visitors can also see sharks from behind the tank. The Dolphin Bay features daily shows, an underwater viewing area, and a covered outdoor seating area.
The Gulf of Mexico is home to sea turtles, and the whole region is passionate about Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle. So I suggest heading to Tortuga Cay for the turtle program.
The Texas State Aquarium offers feeding and touch tanks as well. The stingray touch tank at the Stingray Lagoon is a fun activity for animal lovers. Additional encounters include snorkeling with the sharks, but fish feeding is also a popular animal encounter if that’s too much. Both require additional admission.
The Texas State Aquarium features some coastal birds, like Caribbean flamingos, scarlet ibis, and macaws. Visitors will find a 4D theater and a splash pad area for the kids.
Doc’s Seafood and Steaks for a Sunset Dinner
I recommend heading to the JFK Causeway area for the rest of the evening. Diners can enjoy a sunset and then head to the last activity of the day. It’s the Texas Gulf Coast, and when I head to the coast, I have one thing on my mind—seafood. At home, I am a grilled and sautéed fish eater, but on a getaway, I crave fried seafood platters and an ice-cold beer.
With a deck overlooking the Intracoastal waterway, Doc’s Seafood and Steaks offers a refined menu of seafood and steaks with table service. Diners will find grilled and blackened seafood, fish sandwiches, and salads on the menu. For land lovers, Doc’s cooks burgers, chef-cut steaks, and chicken.
During my visit, I chose their fried seafood lover platter with fried shrimp, a fried fish filet, and a crab cake. I added a local beer, and I was perfectly content watching the boats cruise and the birds fly.
The first floor is for those looking to watch the sunset with a cocktail. The Waterline by Doc’s offers an extensive cocktail and frozen drink menu with live music on select nights.
Glow Row Glow-in-the-Dark Guided Kayak Tour
I wanted to learn more about the wildlife-rich Intracoastal waterway that separates the mainland of Texas with its series of barrier islands. It’s home to various bird and marine species, most more active after the sun sets.
With Glow Row, visitors get a 75-minute guided kayak tour in a clear acrylic tandem kayak with LED lights powered by a LED paddle. Along the route, kayakers will glide over shallow water to see fish, crabs, and seagrass.
During my paddle, I saw carp jump into the air and needle gars slice through the water under my kayak. Seeing the cranes and herons fish under cover of darkness was thrilling. We used the light of the moon and stars to pilot our kayak around the small islands and near the docks and piers. Our guide kept us in the shallow waters where larger boats could not go.
With a choice of tours, visitors can find one that mirrors their interests and location, with tours departing from North Padre Island, Port Aransas, Rockport, and beyond. Reservations are required, and prices start at $39.95 per person. Glow Row Glow-in-the-Dark tours operate from March until November. There is a weight limit of 400 pounds per vessel with two paddlers required.
Where to Stay in Corpus Christi
For a weekend getaway that blends culture and history along with outdoor activities, I recommend staying in the center of the action in downtown Corpus Christi. The Omni Corpus Christi Hotel features 475 rooms and suites, some with views of the Corpus Christi Marina.
Guests will find a AAA four-diamond restaurant on the property, a coffee bar, a fitness center, and an outdoor pool with a sundeck. The parking garage is next to the hotel and offers self-park and valet parking.
Corpus Christi features dockless scooters by Lime and Blue Duck Express for early risers looking to explore the area. For new riders, it’s easy to hop on a ride. Just download the app, attach a payment method to the account and go.
With wide sidewalks and few pedestrians, scooters are a fun way to explore the area. When finished, riders should prop their scooter on its kickstand, and the app finishes the ride. Be mindful of scooter parking, the Omni requires scooters to be parked across the street.
Elizabeth’s at the Art Museum of South Texas
My favorite thing to do on the weekend is to enjoy brunch. Inside the Art Museum of South Texas, visitors can enjoy floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the water at Elizabeth’s. Menu items include fresh ingredients infused with Mediterranean flavors. I recommend the Fattoush Salad or the Hummus, and for starters, the breadboard is a must.
Elizabeth’s seasonal flatbreads combine sweet and savory flavors like the Strawberry Bacon Flatbread with brie and mint. Don’t push away from the table without nibbling on the Lemon-Rosemary Cake with cream cheese buttercream and blueberry compote. I thought it was worth every carb.
Art Museum of South Texas
After brunch, enjoy some art and architecture at the Art Museum of South Texas. Originally completed in 1972 and designed by notable architect Philip Johnson, the space is constructed out of poured concrete and shell aggregate. In 2006 Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta oversaw an expansion that blended the two spaces into one.
Museumgoers will find contemporary works in the Art Museum of South Texas, like the hanging glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly. The permanent collection features 1850 pieces of art including an impressive display of Spanish Colonial art with pre-Columbian works, silver pieces, and oils.
Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History
I found the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History nearby the art museum. The promise of shipwrecks beckoned me through the door, so I headed to the interpretive area about the Texas shipwrecks.
In the first exhibit, I learned about the French explorer Sieur de la Salle and his ship, La Belle, which sunk in Matagorda Bay in 1686. With artifacts from the ship, visitors learn about the perils of sailing during that time.
In addition to the La Belle shipwreck, the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History displays artifacts from the Spanish ships the San Esteban and the Espiritu Santo that sunk off Padre Island in 1554. The display includes silver coins, a gold bar, and part of a keel.
There’s more to the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History. Museumgoers can learn local history in the Kennedy Gallery, which features furniture from the Victorian era. It tells the story of early Corpus Christi with vignettes, including a saloon and general store.
Corpus Christi Hooks at Whataburger Field
From spring until fall, the Corpus Christi Hooks play under the stadium lights at Whataburger Field in the shadow of the Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge. The AA affiliate team for the Houston Astros takes to their outdoor field where every seat is a good seat.
The Whataburger Field features hospitality suites, grass berms, and many seats overlooking the field with views of the ship channel in the distance. Find an assortment of dining, including hometown favorite, Whataburger. There’s a playground and even a pool for the kids.
After enjoying the history and nature, followed by the art and culture of Corpus Christi, it’s time to enjoy its famed beaches. But first, be sure to have breakfast on your last weekend day in Corpus Christi.
Bien Mérité for Breakfast
On a tip, I headed to an authentic French bakery in Corpus Christi, Bien Mérité Bakery. Inside a pink building along a quiet industry block, I found tawny croissants proofed and baked to perfection. It was hard to choose just one with all the variations. Order the French Breakfast Plate and Caprese Toast options for those wanting a more substantial meal. The barista-made coffee is a perfect complement, and matcha and chai are also available.
The lunch menu offers continental sandwiches like Chicken Curry Salad and Caprese Salad. Don’t miss the dessert case with the macarons or the cookies that are as big as a pancake. The cakes by the slice (including gluten-free and vegan) are eye-popping. Bien Mérité a must for the dessert lover.
I recommend grabbing some sandwiches and cookies to take to the beach for lunch.
Padre Island National Seashore
As the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world, Padre Island National Seashore combines a beautiful and uncrowded beach and a valuable ecosystem. Its natural dunes, coastal prairies, and the Laguna Madre, one of six hyper-saline lagoons, are home to hundreds of different species of animals.
Visitors interested in the wildlife of the Padre Island National Seashore should stop by the visitor center. As a refuge for the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, the most endangered sea turtle species, teams of scientists and volunteers have dug up eggs to ensure their safety since 1978. Each spring female sea turtles come ashore. They lay their eggs in the sand and then head back to the Gulf of Mexico. After hatching in a protected area, the tiny hatchlings are released in June as crowds watch and keep seabirds from snatching the tiny turtles as they march toward the water.
Activities at Padre Island
Beach aficionados will love this spectacular beach that features miles to spread out. However, visitors won’t find restrooms or cell service on the beach; they are only at the visitor center. The beach is 60 miles long and requires a 4×4 after the first few miles. Shelling is popular at this beach, and shellers can take their finds as souvenirs.
Opposite the beach on Laguna Madre at Bird Island, kiteboarding is popular, and lessons are available. Fishing is allowed with a valid Texas fishing license complete with a saltwater stamp.
Padre Island National Seashore features two campgrounds featuring first-come, first-serve camping. The Malachite campground is close to the visitor center and on the gulf side of the park. Campers will find flush toilets, cold-water rinse showers, and a dump station. Sites do not have hookups. The Bird Island Campground is located on the laguna side of the park. Only chemical toilets are found in the campground, and additional services are located at the Malachite Visitor Center.
Mustang Island State Park
For beachgoers who want to be closer to Corpus Christi, Mustang Island is a popular beach close to the JFK causeway. It features five miles of coastline and coastal sand dunes that reach 30 feet in height.
Mustang Island State Park is popular with families, beachcombers, and water sports enthusiasts. In addition to the surf, over 400 bird species have been recorded during the spring and fall bird migrations. For paddlers, the Mustang Island Paddling Trail offers 20 miles on the Corpus Christi Bay side of the park.
Camping is available with 48 sites with water and electricity and 50 primitive sites. A bathhouse with showers is located in the park.
Catered Picnic by Pretty Picnics
Beach days are hard to beat, though a catered beach picnic by Pretty Picnics does precisely that. With various packages, find the perfect backdrop to enjoy the beach. My party snacked on a charcuterie board with fruit, cheese, deli meats, and sweet treats, including white chocolate-dipped strawberries, perfect for a special event like birthdays or date nights. The Pretty Picnic experience included a fringed white canopy covering a low table with rattan ottomans and a beach rug. And don’t worry, everything was weighted down, and they cleaned up after the picnic.
You can make arrangements in advance at several beaches in the area; most picnics are two hours long.
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Plan a Weekend Getaway to Corpus Christi Texas
After a weekend enjoying the cultural sites and beachy wave sounds in Corpus Christi, I might have looked at a real estate app on Monday morning. The weather is beach-perfect after mid-March, and it’s even a popular getaway for Thanksgiving break, so don’t think Corpus Christi is a summer-only getaway. When planning your trip to Corpus Christi, greater Texas, or anywhere else in the Southwest, let Wander with Wonder be your guide.