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At the edge of the Gulf and on the border with Mexico, Corpus Cristi is primed and ready to delight those looking to get their fill of sun and sand. Plus, beyond the beaches and never-ending waterfront walks are a host of other attractions. Explore the inside of a former battleship, turn a critical eye on modern art at a local gallery, or seek out an urban park to watch the world go by while your read a book. No matter your interests, there are plenty of things to do in Corpus Cristi during your next vacation to Texas’ southern border.
Urban meets historic in Corpus Cristi’s downtown streets, where pockets of Spanish and Victorian architecture have remained among the city’s newest high rises. Downtown, you’ll find the area’s best museums, galleries, and services, as well as an expansive waterfront lined with parks perfect for a stroll at any time of day.
Technically included in Central City, North Beach is where you’ll find the city’s densest population of tourist-friendly attractions, eateries, and nightlife options. Beachfront bars and restaurants line the boardwalk, a wide variety of hotels offer sweeping views of the bay, and top attractions like the Texas State Aquarium and USS Lexington are just a short walk away.
Stretching over 130 miles (209 km), Padre Island and Mustang Island act as a barrier between Corpus Cristi and the Gulf of Mexico. Essentially one massive beach, these two stretches of sand are, for the most part, blissfully undeveloped. Escape here with a rental car to comb the shores for seashells or take a hike, either in Mustang Island State Park or Padre Island National Seashore.
Get the lay of the land with a long walk along the Bayfront, where paved paths beckon joggers and rollerbladers to get in a quick workout, cotton candy vendors hawk puffy clouds of sugar, and you’re just steps away from Corpus Cristi’s biggest attractions, like the Texas State Aquarium and USS Lexington. For off-the-beaten path adventures in town, consider hunting down the city’s urban parks, scattered regularly along the waterfront and hidden away down quiet residential streets.
To get away from it all, rent a car and take a day to explore the beaches of Padre and Mustang Island. These narrow strips of land protect Corpus Cristi form the Gulf’s white-capped waves and offer a secluded getaway for anyone willing to put in the effort to make it out of town. Anglers can bring their poles to the jetty on Mustang Island to fish from shore, and seashell searchers will love spending time combing the sands and explore the dunes in Padre Island National Seashore.
Take a few hours to explore the marine creatures at the newly renovated Texas State Aquarium, where animals are rehabilitated and released back into the world as a part of ongoing environmental protection work. Check out touch pools where you can get up-close and personal with hermit crabs, and examine the marine critters and creatures in simulated natural environments that range from alligator-infested swamps to the habitats formed by offshore oil platforms (only in Texas!). Outside, Dolphin Bay’s resident Atlantic bottlenose dolphins team up with experienced trainers to teach visitors about the dolphin behavior and habitats. Just down the street, the USS Lexington offers an in-depth look at a decommissioned aircraft carrier. Head inside this naval ship-turned-museum to check out everything from officer bunks to big guns and learn about its service in the US Navy.
Away from the waterfront, the Art Museum of South Texas and Corpus Cristi Museum of Science and Industry offer air-conditioned respites when the afternoon sun bakes the beach a bit too much. With rotating exhibits and excellent permanent works, these cultural institutions are definitely worth a look.