Visiting the Corpus Christi area for summer break? Here's your travel guide.

·9 min read

Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect that the Corpus Christi Cathedral was built about 80 years ago.

Located on the South Texas Gulf Coast, Corpus Christi offers cultural experiences, shopping, hospitality, local food and popular attractions.

Tourists can spend their whole vacation in the Sparkling City by the Sea or drive out of town and spend time in the surrounding area, including Port Aransas and Rockport.

America Segura, brand manager for Visit Corpus Christi, said last year was a record-breaking year for tourism in the city. She said while major cities open this year, the center is not expecting to have as strong of a year as last year because "travelers look to experience other places that have been closed for a couple years."

"We do, however, expect that the summer travel season will be more similar to 2019, meaning we are expecting this summer to be one of the strongest travel seasons ever for Corpus Christi," Segura said. "When we say Corpus Christi is the Gulf Coast Capital, we truly mean it. ... That is because Corpus Christi has something for all travelers."

Family attractions

If you're headed to the Corpus Christi area with your kids in tow, chances are your activities will have to be kid-friendly.

Guests relax in Hurricane Alley Waterpark's Gulf Stream Saturday, May 28, 2022.
Guests relax in Hurricane Alley Waterpark's Gulf Stream Saturday, May 28, 2022.

It's summertime, so you'll want to stay cool. Head to Hurricane Alley Waterpark in Corpus Christi and race your family down the Storm Chaser water slide. If you're in Aransas Pass, visit the city's Aquatic Center, which includes three pools, three slides, a high dive and low dive and a rope net.

Perhaps your family is on the competitive side. The Corpus Christi area has several escape rooms, skate parks, arcades and local activity businesses, including In The Game Funtrackers amusement park and Play Extreme Sports, a paintball center.

For those wanting a more scenic route, visit the South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center and Texas State Aquarium. You can find both flora and fauna at the Botanical Gardens. At the aquarium, you'll be able to see dolphins, sea turtles, otters, sharks, flamingos, ocelots and jellyfish, to name a few.

Restaurants

If there's one thing people in Corpus Christi like, it's eating delicious food.

Sitting on the Gulf Coast, the Corpus Christi area knows how to prepare seafood, along with barbecue, Mexican cuisine and juicy burgers.

Castaways Seafood and Grill's taco and margarita trial special Mango Marley margarita and Mahi-Mahi taco.
Castaways Seafood and Grill's taco and margarita trial special Mango Marley margarita and Mahi-Mahi taco.

If you're looking for a casual dining experience, visit Executive Surf Club in downtown Corpus Christi or Castaways Seafood and Grill in Port Aransas. Both offer tasty seafood options and alcoholic beverages.

Trying to grab a quick bite to eat? Corpus Christi is home to several fast food restaurants, including Pete's Chicken-N-More and Vick's Famous Hamburgers.

For couples on a romantic vacay, consider dining at the Republic of Texas Bar & Grill on the 20th floor of the Omni Corpus Christi hotel. Reservations are required for this fancy eatery, which features quail, escargot, oysters, lamb and lobster.

More: Check out these 12 South Texas restaurants in the surrounding area

More: Here's a dozen restaurants where you can grab a juicy burger

More: Here's a guide to the top BBQ restaurants

Selena

If there's one thing you should do while visiting the Sparkling City by the Sea, it's visiting all things Selena. The Queen of Tejano is treated as a deity in Corpus Christi.

The Selena Memorial Statue is still standing strong in downtown Corpus Christi despite the sea wall and T-head surrounding it being flooded.
The Selena Memorial Statue is still standing strong in downtown Corpus Christi despite the sea wall and T-head surrounding it being flooded.

Be sure to visit Selena's memorial statue, The Mirador de la Flor, in downtown Corpus Christi and grab a selfie. Other Selena "landmarks" include her gravesite at Seaside Memorial Park on Ocean Drive and her old home on Elvira Drive, with a mural of her located down the street.

Side by side on Leopard Street are Q-Productions, Selena’s family music studio, and the Selena Museum. Look at childhood photographs of Selena, her iconic outfits, gold and platinum records and more. Be sure to purchase some of Selena's merchandise, including clothing, hats and DVDs, before leaving.

In Executive Surf Club's courtyard in Corpus Christi, Selena has her own star on the South Texas Music Walk of Fame along with more than 90 other musicians. Afterward, head to Hi-Ho Restaurant and dine in one of the Mexican eateries Selena used to eat at back in the day.

More: Back to Business: Why Hi-Ho Restaurant believes in hard work and delicious food

Beaches

With nearly a dozen sandy beaches you can visit in the Corpus Christi area, you'll be able to find that sweet spot to sunbathe at.

Some of the beaches require a $12 parking permit, so be sure to purchase one at participating Stripes stores, H-E-B, the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, the Corpus Christi Visitor Info Center, the Nueces County Padre Balli Park Headquarters Office, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, City Hall, participating Circle K stores or participating Murphy Oil USA stores.

A boy walks along Rockport Beach in, Texas, on April 28, 2022.
A boy walks along Rockport Beach in, Texas, on April 28, 2022.

Texas' first Blue Wave Beach — meaning it is kept clean, is managed responsibly and has a focus on the protection of human health and the environment — is Rockport Beach.

Amenities at the beach include a water ski loop, free boat launch, fishing piers, a walking trail, picnic cabanas, a windsurfing launch area, volleyball courts, playground areas, birdwatching opportunities, restrooms and showers.

If you're coming to Corpus Christi and want a beach in the downtown area, McGee Beach is the best choice. The seaweed-free place offers a laid-back experience where you can enjoy fishing, sand volleyball and walking along the Corpus Christi seawall.

More: Ready to hit the beach? Here's a guide to 11 sandy spots in the Coastal Bend area

More: Corpus Christi's iconic seawall was completed in 1941 to protect downtown

Historical landmarks

With more than 90 historical landmarks in Nueces County alone, get ready to discover the past of the Coastal Bend.

Heritage Park in Corpus Christi
Heritage Park in Corpus Christi

Twelve historical Corpus Christi homes, many of which are recorded as historical landmarks, are based at Heritage Park. The oldest one, Merriman-Bobys House, dates to 1851. Each home pays tribute to the area’s ethnic and cultural diversity.

More: Littles-Martin House holds history of Corpus Christi's Black community

If you're looking to admire some architecture, consider visiting the roughly 80-year-old Corpus Christi Cathedral in the city's business district or head out to the Stella Maris Chapel in Aransas County, erected in the 1850s.

Boat tours

There's a reason Corpus Christi is known as the Sparkling City by the Sea: water.

There's no better way to experience the area in all its aquatic beauty than from a boat from local businesses offering a bounty of boat tours to suit anyone's fancy — including the little ones.

If you're looking for a chance to get away from civilization, the Jetty Boat ride in Port Aransas will take you on a five-minute trip to San Jose Island. The natural, undisturbed barrier isle offers visitors a chance to enjoy a private beach, go fishing or birding, and explore hidden treasures including seashells and sand dollars along the island coast.

For a tour plus a fun, interactive show, Port Aransas also has Red Dragon Pirate Cruises. Take a family adventure on the high seas, featuring pirates, sword fights, a water gun battle, tales of the sea, treasure hunting and dolphin watching near Port Aransas' Turtle Cove.

More: Boat tours offer chance to see the Coastal Bend as it's meant to be seen

Camping

Coming to the Corpus Christi area for a relaxing camping trip?

Most campsites include activities for families such as fishing, surfing, birdwatching and other opportunities to enjoy the scenic natural beauty of the Coastal Bend.

Located along St. Charles and Aransas Bay, Goose Island State Park has campsites along the bay and under oak trees. Each camping area has a restroom with showers, and all sites have access to water and electricity. At Lake Corpus Christi in Mathis, you can swim, paddle, fish, boat and water ski. On land, you can camp, hike, bike, geocache and birdwatch.

Wanting to stay on the beach? Head to Padre Balli County Park, Padre Island National Seashore or Mustang Island State Park. If you want to go camping with amenities, consider visiting Padre Balli County Park. If you enjoy a primitive camping experience, the other two beaches are your best bet.

Live entertainment

There are 30 concerts and comedians visiting Corpus Christi this summer.

Not to mention, local venues House of Rock and Brewster Street Ice House will have plenty of free shows available to the public.

Koe Wetzel and special guest Ray Wylie Hubbard perform at ACL-Live at The Moody Theater on Jan. 18, 2020, in Austin, Texas.
Koe Wetzel and special guest Ray Wylie Hubbard perform at ACL-Live at The Moody Theater on Jan. 18, 2020, in Austin, Texas.

Country lovers can rejoice because Kevin Fowler, Randy Rogers, Koe Wetzel, Cody Johnson and more artists will head to Concrete Street Amphitheater and Brewster Street Ice House in downtown Corpus Christi.

Comedians Tom Segura and Brian Regan will visit the American Bank Center.

Rock ’n’ roll listeners can jam out to several tribute bands playing hits from Deftones, Rage Against the Machine and more.

More: Summer entertainment: Here are all the concerts, comedians coming to Corpus Christi

Shopping

You know you can't leave Corpus Christi without some souvenirs for family back home and yourself.

There are plenty of local businesses in the surrounding area that won't make a huge dent in your wallet.

Sew Bonita sells gifts for all, including air fresheners, candles, stickers and keychains.
Sew Bonita sells gifts for all, including air fresheners, candles, stickers and keychains.

Swing by Sew Bonita and Made in Corpus Christi, two local gift shops that sell merchandise catered to locals and tourists wanting to feel like a local.

Downtown Corpus Christi also has several shops for younger people to get the latest vintage tee, bucket hat and ripped pair of jeans to complete their look.

Nifty and thrifty: Here's a guide to the best resale clothing stores in Corpus Christi

Shop local: Here's 10 Corpus Christi businesses to visit for your shopping

Antique stores: A guide to antiquing in the Coastal Bend

Museums

The Corpus Christi area has a museum for everyone.

Art lover? Covered. World War II know-it-all? Got it. Gnarly waves, bro? Tubular.

The Art Museum of South Texas is in Corpus Christi and features two floors of artwork. Plus, dine in Elizabeth's at the Art Museum before you leave. Another artful place is Dinah Bowman's Gallery in Portland. Travel over the Harbor Bridge and appreciate work from local artists.

More: Portland artist Dinah Bowman proves following your dream is worth the risk

If you're looking for more historical museums, check out the USS Lexington Museum on the Bay and Tejano Civil Rights Museum. The former focuses on World War II history and has three escape rooms, while the latter showcases the struggles Hispanics faced to gain civil rights.

Corpus Christi's three other museums are the Museum of Science and History, Texas State Museum of Asian Cultures & Education Center and Texas Surf Museum. The Texas Surf Museum, which is free, is the only surf museum in the Lone Star State.

MORE COVERAGE

More: Bay Jammin' Cinema Series returns to Cole Park for summer with 11 family-friendly films

More: From Brockhampton to 'Surfing Jesus:' How to decode Corpus Christi slang like a local

John Oliva covers entertainment and community news in South Texas. Contact him at john.oliva@caller.com or Twitter @johnpolivaConsider supporting local journalism with a subscription to the Caller-Times.  

This article originally appeared on Corpus Christi Caller Times: Here's your summer travel guide to the Corpus Christi area