My family and I love going to the beach, and with Corpus Christi being just a hop, skip and a jump away from many of us in the South, it’s a natural summer destination. Searching for shells, building sandcastles, and playing in the waves make for an amazing vacation, but I do like to check out attractions beyond the beach, as well. When you’re looking for a break from the surf and sand, check out these seven free or cheap attractions that the whole family will enjoy.
1. Tour the USS Lexington
The USS Lexington, a vintage Essex Class aircraft carrier, is the most highly decorated aircraft carrier of World War II. After 48 years of service, it was decommissioned and brought to Corpus Christi in 1992, where it has served as a floating museum ever since. The museum offers five different tours that cover the whopping eleven decks of the vessel. The kids can play on virtual battle stations, see the inner-workings of an aircraft carrier, and, for an extra $4, even launch into battle on the Lexington’s flight simulator. Each ticket purchase will also grant you access into the 3D movie, which my 4-year-old son absolutely loved! The USS Lexington is a great family attraction—just be sure to wear your walking shoes, as the carrier is over 100,000 square feet! Admission is $13.95 for adults and $8.95 for children. But be sure to check their website, as there is often a printable coupon!
2. Watch wildlife on the Coastal Bend
The Coastal Bend, which is the flat land along the coast, contains numerous parks and trails and is home to some of the most amazing wildlife in the country. While strolling one of the many parks, you may encounter whooping cranes, woodpeckers, pelicans, herons, hawks and so much more. The best part about most of the parks and nature trails along the bend is that they are free! The majority offer great spots to lay out a blanket, have a picnic, and let the little ones run around. Some of the best parks to check out include the Hazel Bazemore Park and Blutcher Park, which are both conveniently located from the bay. To find locations and learn more about the parks along the Coastal Bend, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife site.
3. Watch the sailboat races
If you’re fortunate enough to be in the area on a Wednesday night, head down to the marina to check out the Wednesday night sailboat races! These races have been a staple in Corpus Christi for years, and they’re definitely worth checking out. The boats are divided into four fleets, each of which has its own start and finish. Both professionals and amateurs alike come here to race and put on a fun show. Last time I attended the sailboat races, there were tons of families in the bleachers, and the kids were all having a blast! Races are held every Wednesday night year-round and begin at 5:30 p.m. during daylight-saving time and at 6:00 p.m. the rest of the year. My favorite part of the sailboat races? They’re free! To learn more about Wednesday night racing, check out CCMORF.
4. Ride the Harbor Ferry
No trip to the beach would be complete without a ferry ride, and Corpus Christi is no exception! The Harbor Ferry, which runs daily from May through September, traverses the water from downtown to North Beach. The ride itself is always enjoyable, but the highlight of the ferry ride is the dolphin sightings! Dolphins in the area are known for following ferries because they can get a boost of speed by catching the ferry’s waves, so chances are high that you’ll spot a few of these guys riding alongside you! The price is right, too—the Harbor Ferry is $3 per person for a roundtrip ticket.
5. Visit the South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center
If you enjoy relaxing amongst nature then the South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center is one stop that you won’t want to miss. This botanical garden boasts a 2000+ orchid collection along with a rose garden, a hummingbird garden, and even a butterfly garden! If you tend to use photos from your summer getaway for your holiday cards, the backdrops found in this nature center make for some amazing photos! The South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is located just minutes from the bay. Tickets are $7 for adults, $3 for children under $12, and free for children under 3.
6. Visit the Art Museum of South Texas
If you feel like getting out of the heat and taking in a little knowledge while you’re on your vacay, head over to the Art Museum of South Texas. Although much of the permanent collection is regional art, the museum regularly has visiting exhibits that, in the past, have included Picasso, Warhol, Kahlo and other legends. The museum also offers a gift shop, as well as a cafe that has a beautiful, uninterrupted view of the bay. The Art Museum of South Texas is conveniently located on the waterfront, and admission is reasonably priced at $8 for adults and free to children under 12. However, the museum usually has a printable coupon on their website, so make sure to check out their site before heading out!
7. Enjoy Whataburger on the Bay
Okay, I know what you’re thinking—Whataburger?—but this isn’t just any Whataburger! This two-story, 6,000 square foot restaurant sits right on the bay with an outdoor patio on the second floor that overlooks the beach and the marina. Whataburger, which started in Texas in 1950, opened this flagship location in 1999 and quickly became one of the top must-see tourist attractions in Corpus Christi. There aren’t many inexpensive restaurants that offer such outstanding views, so order yourself a chocolate malt, pull up a chair and enjoy the scenery! Another perk of this eatery is that it’s open 24 hours—in case you get a hankering for a cheeseburger in the middle of the night!