21 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Corpus Christi, TX
The city of Corpus Christi is perfectly located between the Fishing Capital of Texas in Port Aransas and the longest undeveloped natural barrier island in the world on Padre Island National Seashore. The natural beauty of the area and the Corpus Christi beaches beckon outdoor enthusiasts.
The soft and sandy oceanfront goes on for miles, creating an outdoor playground for fishing; surfing; horseback riding; and simple family fun, like building sandcastles next to the waves.
The two most magnificent treasures in the Corpus Christi region are Mustang Island and the Padre Island National Seashore. Both areas have impressive beaches with a wide footprint and comforts that enable you to spend a full day by the water.
The cultural mix of Corpus Christi is not to be overlooked. From the Hispanic and Asian cultures that each have museums in town to the arts culture on display in public venues like the Harbor Playhouse, you can feel an eclectic mix of influences throughout the town.
There are plenty of tourist attractions in Corpus Christi to fill a vacation, from museums to the SEA District entertainment area downtown, where you will find nightlife action and waterfront restaurants. To learn more about the many sightseeing opportunities in the area, read our list of the top attractions in Corpus Christi.
See also: Where to Stay in Corpus Christi
1. Padre Island National Seashore
Padre Island National Seashore, located south of Corpus Christi, is the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world and stretches about 66 miles from end to end. This is a must-visit for anyone visiting Corpus Christi. It is run by the national park service and is a preservation effort of an area that represents just two percent of natural habitat that used to cover 13 million acres of the Texas and Louisiana coastline.
Thanks to its location along the Central Flyway — a major migratory bird route — it's a birder's paradise, and home to 350 different species. In fact, nearly half of all North American migratory bird species can be spotted here at certain times throughout the year.
It's also a haven for marine life such as sea turtles, including endangered species reintroduced to the area (check out the official website for details of programs that allow visitors to view the sea turtle releases).
Due to its preserved natural surroundings, the Padre Island National Seashore beaches are popular for RVers and campers who want to spend the night in this peaceful paradise. You can camp with a proper permit, and a suitable vehicle is necessary for driving on the sand.
Your best public access point is at the Malaquite Visitor Center, where you can access a great information office and restrooms.
Address: 20420 Park Road 22, Corpus Christi, Texas
Official site: www.nps.gov/pais/index.htm
2. The Blue Ghost: USS Lexington
Commissioned in 1943 and a major player in the Pacific theater of WWII, the massive aircraft carrier USS Lexington should be part of any visit to Corpus Christi. Now a naval museum, "The Blue Ghost" was so named for her dark blue camouflage and Japanese claims to have sunk her only to have her appear in action elsewhere.
Highlights of a tour include the chance to see numerous vintage aircraft, as well as having a close-up look at the command deck and quarters. Also notable are the attraction's huge collection of detailed scale models, simulators, and games, a fun escape room experience, as well as the thrilling Fighter Pilot 3D movie in the Mega Theater.
Guided tours are available. If you have the stamina, go for the four-hour long Hard Hat Tour, which takes you into the very bowels of this huge ship. Overnight camping experiences are also available. After you spend time touring the USS Lexington, you can grab lunch at the Pier 99 restaurant located onshore next to the ship.
Address: 2914 N. Shoreline Blvd, Corpus Christi, Texas
Official site: www.usslexington.com
3. Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
The 70,000-acre Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, along the Texas Gulf coast, sits approximately 50 miles north of Corpus Christi and is well worth a day's visit. Established as a winter home for endangered whooping cranes, the refuge is also home to alligators, snakes, and numerous other species of birds living among the area's expansive tidal flats, salt marshes, grasslands, and freshwater ponds.
The refuge has easy walking trails and a scenic, one-way driving route with easy access to trailheads and scenic stopping points. This is a spectacular opportunity to see the whooping crane, which migrates through the area in the winter months.
The tall observation tower that overlooks the wetlands is the best vantage point for birding and appreciating the landscape.
Address: 1 Wildlife Circle, Austwell, Texas
Official site: www.fws.gov/refuge/aransas/
4. Texas State Aquarium
The Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi provides fascinating information and fun displays relating to the rich aquatic life to be found in the Gulf of Mexico. Of particular interest is the Living Shores exhibit with displays relating to Laguna Madre (a body of water in the heart of Corpus Christi) that include seahorse and crab exhibits, along with one of the largest touch pools in Texas.
The Texas State Aquarium is committed to conservation, so you will learn about their efforts like the Wildlife Rescue Program during your visit, as well as the museum's involvement with the conservation of coral, sharks, sea turtles, and other marine life.
The most popular display is Dolphin Bay. This massive 400,000-gallon exhibit houses Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, complete with an underwater observation area. Also worth seeing is the Hawn Wild Flight Theater, which hosts avian acrobatics from various birds of prey. For younger kids, there's also a fun splash park and a fossil dig site, as well as unique animal encounter programs.
Address: 2710 N. Shoreline Blvd, Corpus Christi, Texas
Official site: https://www.texasstateaquarium.org/
5. Walk the Beaches
Corpus Christi beaches are some of the best along the Texas Gulf Coast. With a wide variety and more than 100 miles of beaches to choose from, there are plenty of options to find something that is suitable for your itinerary.
If you are staying in downtown Corpus Christ, North Beach, next to the USS Lexington, and McGee Beach, which has a pedestrian promenade alongside it, are two great options within the city.
If you are looking for an oceanfront experience, you can go to Cole Park Pier in downtown Corpus Christi. It is located along Ocean Drive and sits right on Corpus Christi Bay. It has a skateboard park, a pier, an amphitheater, and a large children's playground.
Some of the other Corpus Christi beaches are fantastic for recreational activities, like windsurfing, horseback riding, and paddleboarding. Whitecap Beach, South Packery Channel Beach, and Mustang Island State Park Beach are all good options.
The most stunning beach in Corpus Christi both in terms of natural beauty and a day-at-the-beach experience is Padre Island National Seashore, with its undisturbed beauty.
6. South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center
Consisting of a first-rate Orchid House and a fine hibiscus garden, the South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center is a pleasant way to enjoy nature's colorful floral bounty. The center is designed in a park-like setting, with walking paths, sitting benches, and a sensory garden.
In addition to the popular orchid greenhouse, you can visit the reptile room and butterfly house. Be sure to walk around the grounds and see the resident blue-and-gold macaw named "Rio," the African grey named "Buddy," and "Lucy" the yellow naped amazon. Regular lectures are offered at the botanical gardens, as well as occasional free orchid classes.
Address: 8545 S. Staples Street, Corpus Christi, Texas
Official site: www.stxbot.org
The Corpus Christi backdrop of palm trees swaying in the ocean air adds to the allure of booking a tee time for golf while on vacation. The OSO Beach Golf & County Club is a public course that has plenty of both.
The fairways are lined by palm trees and bunkers with lakes throughout, although the course itself is played over flat terrain. The 18-hole golf course is located just south of the downtown area.
It opened in 1949 and was designed by John Bredemus, who co-founded the Texas PGA, and it remains a popular course in Corpus Christi today. The golf course has a nice clubhouse for relaxing after your round, and golf instruction is available.
Address: 5601 S Alameda Street, Corpus Christi, Texas
Official site: https://www.osobeachgolf.com/
8. The Art Museum of South Texas
One of the top cultural attractions in Corpus Christi, the Art Museum of South Texas is housed in a splendid modern facility on the city's waterfront. Focusing on the region's multicultural heritage, the facility hosts a rich and diverse program of lectures and workshops, with permanent and visiting exhibitions of the visual arts.
A unique element to this art museum are the hands-on spaces, like the Artcade Interactive Space for kids and the Digital Studio, where you can see art creation in progress. Be sure to grab lunch at Elizabeth's Cafe overlooking the harbor.
Address: 1902 N. Shoreline Blvd, Corpus Christi, Texas
Official site: www.artmuseumofsouthtexas.org
9. Mustang Island State Park
Mustang Island is one of the most popular spots along the Texas Gulf Coast, with its tall sand dunes and quintessential beach experience, and one of the easiest ways to enjoy it is at Mustang Island State Park. There are five miles of beaches at the state park, and this is a great location to spot local wildlife like blue herons and sea turtles.
This is a perfect beach for day use and for mixing in other things to do, like hiking, bird-watching, kayaking, and fishing. The roads within the state park are nice for scenic drives, especially at sunset.
Since it is a state park, you will find easy access to the pet-friendly beach, ample parking, showers, and portable restrooms. The state park beach is lined with a number of picnic gazebos and plenty of wide-open space for flying kites, swimming, and putting up beach umbrellas.
The park offers overnight camping and RV site reservations. Be advised that there is a day-use fee for accessing the park and beach.
Address: 9394 State Highway 361, Corpus Christi, Texas
Official site: https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/mustang-island
10. Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History
As much fun for adults as it is for kids, the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History features a variety of exhibits relating to the cultural and natural history of South Texas. Specific attractions worth seeing include shipwreck cargo, a children's area, and local reptile displays.
Also of interest is the museum's fine collection of old carriages, displays relating to the culture of the area's native peoples, and a look at the ecology of this vast coastal region. Fun educational programs are also available, including excursions to the surrounding countryside and wildlife sanctuaries.
Outside the museum is the Xeriscape Learning Center and design garden. It is a brick walkway with a landscaped garden and chairs with gazebos that explain the seven principles of Xeriscape: things like planning and designing a landscape, analyzing soil, selecting plants and turf, using mulch, efficient irrigation, and maintenance of gardens.
Address: 1900 N. Chaparral Street, Corpus Christi, Texas
Official site: www.ccmuseum.com
11. Selena Museum
Selena Quintanilla-Pérez is a beloved figure in Corpus Christi, both a source of pride and sorrow. This best-selling Latina singer was famous during her all-too-short lifetime for her success as the Queen of Tejano music, but her life was cut short in 1995 at age 23, when she was shot and killed.
The Selena Museum is where fans can visit to honor the singer and learn about her many accomplishments in her short life. The museum opened in 1998 with exhibits that include stories about her life, a reproduction of her recording studio, as well as costumes she wore on stage. The museum also features her numerous awards and personal items like her Porsche.
Fans can also visit Selena's final resting place in Seaside Memorial Park. A local artist memorialized her in a life-size bronze statue that stands on the seawall, appropriately titled Mirador de la Flor (Overlook of the Flower).
Address: 5410 Leopard Street, Corpus Christi, Texas
Official site: https://q-productions.com
12. Bob Hall Pier
Located on Padre Island in Padre Balli Park, Bob Hall Pier extends 1,240 feet into the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. While there's a small fee to use the pier, it's well worth it for the spectacular views.
While you can simply enjoy a stroll and take in the view and fresh ocean air, you may well be tempted to join the multitude of fishermen to be seen here regularly. Because of its length, those who are fishing off the pier are able to catch deepwater fish without setting foot into a boat.
The Bob Hall Pier is a fun experience for tourists, who will see an abundance of people angling for the catch of the day, as well as plenty of vendors selling tackle and bait. For those who need lessons or don't have luggage space for a rod and reel, the Tackle Loaner Program is a convenient way for tourists to enjoy the experience.
The area around the pier is a great spot for sunbathing, swimming, and surfing. Facilities near the pier include a bathhouse, cabanas, and campsites.
Address: 15820 Park Rd 22, Corpus Christi, Texas
13. Glow Row
One of the great charms of Corpus Christi is its bays and waterways and one of the most unique experiences in the city is Glow Row night kayaking. The clear two-person kayaks are outfitted with 4,400 lumens of LED lights mounted to give you an exciting view of the marine life below the water.
The guided eco-tours operate through shallow water, sometimes only 1.5-feet deep. Tours are about 1.5 hours with the chance to see coral, shrimp, stingrays, baitfish, and often larger fish swimming beneath the kayak.
Glow Row is the only company on the Texas coast that is nighttime U.S. Coast Guard Certified. Evening trips leave out of North Padre Island in Corpus Christi, and the paddle trip takes you around four to five islands adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway.
There are seven different glowing colors that you can choose from on the kayak, which adds to the excitement of a night trip. Trips generally run from March through November and are contingent on safe weather conditions.
Official site: www.glowrow.com
14. Texas Surf Museum
When the average person thinks of surfing, Texas is likely one of the last locations that comes to mind. In fact, the Texas shores along the Gulf of Mexico are very popular with surfers, and the Texas Surf Museum proudly chronicles the state's own surfing history, as well as looks at the long history of the sport worldwide.
Permanent exhibits include hundreds of photographs, surfing paraphernalia, interesting facts, a film, and even a bench made out of surfboards. The museum also features multiple changing exhibits that explore a wide variety of topics, including cultural aspects of the sport, the physics of watersports, and marine life.
The museum is tucked away in the middle of a small district that has a cluster of boutique shops and restaurants, many of them relating to surfing. The museum is open daily, and admission is free.
Address: 309A N. Water Street, Corpus Christi, Texas
Official site: www.texassurfmuseum.org
15. K Space Contemporary Art Studio
Corpus Christi has an artsy vibe downtown, with venues like the K Space Contemporary Art Studio. This is a non-profit contemporary art space in downtown Corpus Christi, and it is just one of several galleries supporting local artists.
The K Space studio has a consignment shop in the front of the gallery featuring over 61 local artists selling everything from jewelry and glassworks to paintings and photography. K Space is free to visit and hosts regular exhibitions featuring regional artists.
You will likely notice the arts influence of K Space around town, as many of the murals you see were painted by the group's summer mural arts program. This is a nice place to visit if you are looking for a unique souvenir created by local artists.
Address: 623 North Chaparral Street, Corpus Christi, Texas
Official site: https://www.kspacecontemporary.org/
16. The Corpus Christi Bay Trail
A great way to see all that this beautiful coastal city has to offer is to take a hike or bicycle ride along the Corpus Christi Bay Trail. Stretching almost nine miles from end-to-end, this superb trail network is ideal for sightseeing, running past many of the city's top attractions, including the Museum of Science and History and the Art Museum of South Texas.
Along the way, you'll encounter plenty of things to do, including marinas, concert venues, a university campus, and six parks with great views over the water. It's also a great spot for birdwatchers, with regular sightings of brown pelicans and falcons.
17. Centennial House
Built in 1849, Centennial House (also known as the Britton-Evans House) is the oldest building in Corpus Christi and was also used at one time as a Civil War hospital. Now fully restored and furnished with period antiques and artifacts, this fine old home is open to the public for tours.
The house sits on a hill overlooking Corpus Christi Bay. Beyond its historical significance, the Centennial House has also served as a hurricane shelter due to its solid structure, built from crushed seashells, that enables it to stand up to hurricane-force winds.
Address: 411 N. Upper Broadway, Corpus Christi, Texas
Official site: https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=11837
18. Harbor Playhouse
The performing arts venue of The Harbor Playhouse is the oldest continually operating community theater in Texas. It opened in 1925 as a community theater, adding artistic and cultural significance to Corpus Christi.
The Harbor Playhouse has a year-round roster of musicals and plays, as well as cultural programming that is open to the public. Be sure to check the schedule of upcoming shows before your trip to Corpus Christi, and spend an evening at the theater supporting the local arts.
Address: 802 N. Chaparral Street, Bldg. #2, Corpus Christi, Texas
Official site: https://www.harborplayhouse.com/
19. Heritage Park
For anyone who enjoys seeing historic homes or architecture, Heritage Park in downtown Corpus Christi should be on your list. There are 12 homes on the square, each with unique historical significance to Corpus Christi. The park itself is shaded, with nice walking paths.
All the structures are designated as Texas Historical Landmarks and have a connection to the ethnic diversity that is the foundation of the city. The oldest home in Heritage Park dates back to 1851. Each home has a marker in front detailing its history. The homes feature a range of architecture, serving as the backdrop for community events that often take place at Heritage Park.
Address: 1581 N. Chaparral Street, Corpus Christi, Texas
20. Museum of Hispanic Culture
Corpus Christi has a wonderful blend of ethnicities and the Museum of Hispanic Culture showcases one of the most prominent cultural influences in the city. This small museum located in the Lichtenstein House in Heritage Park has a collection of artifacts, clothing, and arts from various countries. The small museum is free to visit and provides some insight into the cultural backbone of Corpus Christi.
Address: 1617 N Chaparral St, Corpus Christi, Texas
Official site: https://ichtx.org/museum-of-hispanic-culture/
21. Packery Channel Nature Park
The small roadside Packery Channel Nature Park is a great little stop if you are looking for something to fill an hour. It is a quaint nature park, with lots of recreational opportunities right in the center of Corpus Christi, including a beautiful birding boardwalk, a kayak trail, and fishing access.
There are signs along the boardwalk indicating the plant and animal habitats that are located throughout the park. Look for the monarch butterfly way station, which provides attractors like milkweed, shelter, and nectar sources for the migrating monarchs.
Bird species in the park include warblers, the painted bunting migrating bird, and a number of wintering birds like the yellow-rumped warbler. There are many lookouts on the boardwalk where you can sit and rest and soak in nature.
Address: 14218 S Padre Island Drive, Corpus Christi, Texas
Where to Stay in Corpus Christi for Sightseeing
You have lots of options when it comes to lodging in Corpus Christi, from vacation homes and luxury resorts to hotels located downtown and just outside the city center. Below are some highly rated hotels in convenient locations:
- The Lively Beach Resort on Mustang Island is just over the bridge from downtown Corpus Christi, so you are located by the ocean and natural surroundings but just a few minutes from the city. This type of riad-style modern lodging that sits right on the beach with eco-friendly amenities is representative of Corpus Christi's efforts to preserve the environment and makes this destination so special.
- The Omni Corpus Christi Hotel is the top luxury hotel in the city and occupies a waterfront location in the Marina Arts District. Rooms come with balconies that look out over Corpus Christi Bay.
- The mid-range hotels are predominantly clustered along Highway 358, several miles south of downtown. The new SpringHill Suites, with its outdoor pool, is a good family option, with large rooms that have mini fridges and microwaves.
- With a saltwater pool, the new Hampton Inn & Suites is in the same area on a quiet side street, steps to a number of chain restaurants and close to a shopping mall.
- Nearby, the well-priced Fairfield Inn & Suites is close to La Palmera mall and has well-appointed rooms and an outdoor pool.
Day Trips from Corpus Christi
Numerous fun attractions and areas of outstanding natural beauty lie within driving distance of Corpus Christi.
One of the most popular drives is to the Rio Grande Valley, near the border with Mexico 130 miles south. Here, you'll find the Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum (formerly the Rio Grande Valley Museum), which encompasses a collection of historic buildings including the home of the town's founder, the Paso Real Stagecoach Inn, and the town's original hospital, along with collections of historic artifacts, documents, and photos.
Other day trips of note include the short drive north to the small towns of Fulton and Rockport on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail. Here, you'll find Fulton Mansion State Historic Park, a three story Victorian mansion built in 1877, and the Rockport Center for the Arts housed in a 19th-century mansion and home to numerous visual and performing arts productions.
Rockport is also home to the Texas Maritime Museum with its displays relating to the state's maritime history from Spanish exploration to the modern day quest for offshore oil and gas.