Corpus Christi (called Corpus by the locals) is Texas's largest coastal city and the gateway to Padre Island. While Corpus Christi isn't on the way to much of anything except itself (and the islands off its coast), it offers enough to fill a visit in its own right, or a multi-day trip from San Antonio, Austin, or Houston. The name is Latin for "Body of Christ".
Before there was a Corpus Christi, there was settlement in the area by the local Karankawa tribe, and was a trading site for native people throughout the area. Early French and Spanish explorers came to the area in the 17th century, and by the early 19th century smugglers used the future site of Corpus Christi as a staging point for moving contraband into Mexico.
Corpus Christi is located south of the Nueces River, and so it was in disputed territory during the Mexican-American War. General Zachary Taylor camped in Corpus Christi for nine months as they established the Rio Grande as the southern border of the United States. During the American Civil War, the city was bombarded by Federal gunboats.
Visitors hoping to see remnants of Old Corpus Christi in their original locations might be a little disappointed, as much of the city was destroyed by the 1919 hurricane; however, some restored historical buildings survive in downtown.
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While weather is an attraction in Corpus Christi, it can be very hot. Storms and cold fronts frequently miss the city entirely, leaving Corpus Christi hot, humid, and occasionally oppressive. Winters are very mild, with freezing temperatures exceedingly rare.
During the summer, it is usually possible to cool down a few degrees by heading closer to the water - but it will still be hot and humid.
Wind coming off the Gulf of Mexico is nearly always present, and is sometimes quite strong. This helps to cool visitors, especially at the beach.
All in all, visitors to Corpus Christi will almost never need a winter coat, and will frequently not even need a light sweater.
Smoking is prohibited by city ordinance in any enclosed workspace, which includes restaurants and bars. Smoking in outdoor patios and seating areas at restaurants and bars may be allowed, depending on their distance from doors. Permitted areas will be designated by signs.
Corpus Christi Convention and Visitors Bureau 101 N. Shoreline Blvd., Ste. 430, +1-800-678-6232.
Corpus Christi is primarily served by Corpus Christi International Airport (IATA: CRP) which is located within city limits. Served by American Eagle, United Express, and Southwest Airlines, with nonstop flights to Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston George Bush Intercontinental, and Houston Hobby respectively. Flying into the local airport may be slightly more expensive than flying into cities with larger airports.
Some visitors (and many locals) choose to use San Antonio International Airport (IATA: SAT) which is about two and a half hours from Corpus Christi, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (IATA: AUS), which is about four hours by car, or George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston (IATA: IAH), also about four hours by car. Frequent flights to many destinations make these convenient airports, even given the additional travel time from Corpus Christi.
- Greyhound, 702 N Chaparral St, ☎ . 9AM - 11:30PM. America's ever-present Greyhound bus service offers transportation to Corpus Christi. Travelers should be aware that there are two bus stations in Corpus Christi. With few exceptions, tourists will want the main Corpus Christi station, and not the Corpus Christi West station, which serves western suburbs containing few attractions for visitors. Service from San Antonio takes roughly three hours and costs around $35.
There is no passenger train service into Corpus Christi. A train can be taken to San Antonio or San Marcos, and bus or rental car service will get you from those cities to Corpus Christi.
By far, most visitors to Corpus Christi drive. The city is at the southern end of Interstate 37, about two hours south of San Antonio. It is also about two hours north of Brownsville and the Mexican border.
From Houston, US-77 will take you south through several small towns. US-77 connects with Interstate 37 just west of Corpus Christi.
While Corpus Christi is ostensibly laid out in a classic city-block style, the adaptation of that system to the local geography can make navigation a little confusing. Nevertheless, there are several main roads that traverse nearly the entire city, and these can be used to orient yourself if you find yourself lost.
The Corpus Christi Convention and Visitors Bureau has some up-to-date visitor information on the area such as maps, bus routes and accommodations as well as activities ranging from attractions, museums and performing arts to nature and outdoors.
Most visitors and locals travel around Corpus Christi in cars. Most likely, a rental or personal car is the best way for you to see the city.
The main routes one needs to know to get around efficiently in Corpus Christi are I-37, South Padre Island Drive (TX-358), the Crosstown Expressway (TX-286), and Ocean Drive/Shoreline Boulevard (Ocean Drive is an extension of Shoreline Blvd. for about seven miles along Corpus Christi Bay).
I-37 brings you into town from the west and ends on Shoreline Drive downtown on the Bayfront.
Shoreline Blvd. is a section of about four miles in downtown Corpus Christi along the bay. It begins in the area of the Art Museum of South Texas and leads south, becoming Ocean Drive. Following Ocean Drive takes one through the most scenic part of the city and to its end at the Naval Air Station and Texas A&M.
South Padre Island Drive does not go to South Padre Island (a frequent mistake made by visitors), but is the southern section of Padre Island Drive. It is a section of 358 running from I-37 down the southern side of the city from northwest to southeast and ending on Padre Island at Padre Island National Seashore. (Technically, from I-37 to Bear Lane (just south of TX-44) is North Padre Island Drive, but you will often hear locals referring to the whole road as South Padre Island Drive.) Along it is the main shopping and dining area for the city. Locals will invariably refer to South Padre Island Drive as S.P.I.D., with the letters always pronounced separately. Visitors should remember that there will not be signs reading SPID. Instead, many read NAS-CCAD (for Naval Air Station and Corpus Christi Army Depot) or TX-358.
Connecting the northern end of S.P.I.D. (just past N.P.I.D.'s southern end) to the downtown area near where I-37 ends is the Crosstown Expressway.
The Harbor Bridge takes drivers over the ship channel from downtown to Corpus Christi Beach, a popular destination for tourists.
By public transit
Corpus Christi has a citywide bus service, including a small trolley (actually a bus). It is run by the Corpus Christi Regional Transit Authority.
There is no Metro, subway, or any other form of a city rail service.
Car rental services can be found at the airport or along S.P.I.D.
- Art Center of Corpus Christi, 101 North Shoreline Dr (Downtown). Has a collection of art from local and largely unknown artists. Water garden in front.
- Artesian Park. Corpus Christi has many small parks, such as Artesian Park, scattered throughout the city. For those into the paranormal, Artesian Park is another reportedly haunted Corpus Christi locale.
- The Bayfront. The downtown area along Shoreline drive, which is formed of concrete steps leading down to the water's edge. It is essentially the heart of Corpus Christi and is a terrific area for family evening strolls or running alone in the early morning. It extends over two miles from Magee Beach along the Marina and T-heads, past the American Bank Center (stadium/coliseum) to the Art Museum of South Texas and the port area. Vendors may occasionally be found here selling cotton candy or renting pedicabs or pediboats. Festivals such as Buccaneer Days ("Buc Days" by the locals) and the Fourth of July celebrations are held here with fireworks being fired out over the water. Some of Corpus Christi's best known restaurants are located only a block away on Water Street.
- Corpus Christi Cathedral. Corpus Christi also has numerous churches, perhaps the best known of which is the Corpus Christi Cathedral. Located on the bluff overlooking the downtown area, the current building has existed since the 1940s, but the "church" as a congregation, has existed since soon after the founding of the city in the 1840s. (Interesting sidenote: The cathedral is not officially named after the city it's in, but rather after the Body of Christ.)
- K Space Contemporary Gallery, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. W-Sa 11AM-5PM. In the historic Kress Building on 415 Starr Street between Chaparral and Mesquite Streets in the downtown area. Non-profit art organization that showcases local, regional and national contemporary art. Free.
Miradors are small, gazebo-like structures found along the Corpus Christi bayfront. Inside each is found a small plaque commemorating some aspect of the city's or of the area's history. They are delightful places to relax in the shade while looking out over the city's downtown waterfront and Corpus Christi Bay. The name is from Spanish verb "mirar" (meaning to look) and means "one who looks (or watches)".
- Mirador de la Flor. A memorial to Selena Quintanilla Perez better known simply as "Selena" who was murdered in 1995 by her deranged fan club president and boutique manager. Includes a life-size bronze statue of the singer.
Corpus Christi has a selection of museums that frequently surprises visitors.
- Art Museum of South Texas, 1902 N. Shoreline Blvd, ☎ . Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 1-5PM, Closed Monday.
- Texas State Aquarium, 2710 N. Shoreline Blvd., ☎ , fax: +1 361 881-1257. 9AM-6PM daily, closed Thanksgiving and Christmas. See water-related exhibits and creatures. You can even work with a dolphin trainer if you contact them ahead of time (and spend a lot of money). 10.50 Children, $15.50 Adults, $4 parking.
- USS Lexington Museum on the Bay, 2914 N. Shoreline (The huge ship in the bay!), toll-free: , fax: +1 361 883-8361, e-mail: email@example.com. 9AM-5PM Winter, 9AM-6PM Summer, daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas. WWII aircraft carrier become museum. See naval life, the ship, and aircraft complement. Adults $13.95, Children $6.95, Parking $3.
- Texas State Museum of Asian Cultures and Education Center, 1809 North Chaparral (across street from Harbor Play House), ☎ . 10AM to 4PM Tu-Sat Closed Sun & Mon.. $5 adult, $3 students, $2 children over 5.
Most visitors to Corpus Christi come for the water. The Corpus Christi area has miles of warm sandy beaches, which are easily accessible, if crowded. Water ranges in temperature from the mid 50s during the winter to the mid 80s during the summer. Beach access is usually free.
- Corpus Christi Beach (North Beach) (Across the Harbor Bridge from downtown). While small, it is usually not terrifically crowded, and is convenient to other tourist attractions like the Texas State Aquarium and the USS Lexington.
- Cole Park, Ocean Drive (just south of downtown).
- Barrier islands. Most popular of all are the barrier islands located just off the coast. Mustang Island and Padre Island are less than 30 minutes from town, and provide plenty of recreation for visitors and locals alike.
- Sailboat races. Every Wednesday.
- Corpus Christi Hooks. AA-level minor league baseball from March through September. The Hooks are affiliated with the Houston Astros and play in the beautiful new Whataburger Field, near downtown, with local flavor galore and outstanding views of the bridge and ship channel.
- Corpus Christi IceRays. North American Hockey League ice hockey is played in the American Bank Center during the winter and spring months.
- Windsurfing at Bird Island Basin (Padre Island National Seashore). One of the top spots in the nation for windsurfing!
- Birdwatching. Located on the central flyway, a major bird migration route, Corpus Christi is a terrfic spot for birdwatching. Almost 45% of all North American species have been spotted on Padre Island National Seashore alone.
- Magee Beach (downtown on Shoreline Drive near the Marina).
- Harbor Ferry. The Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority (CCRTA) runs a waterborne pedestrian ferry across the Corpus Christi Bay and the Ship Channel during the Spring and Summer.
- Hurricane Alley, 702 East Port Ave. 11a-6p. Hurricane Alley is a small waterpark on North Beach. $25 for adults, $20 for kids under 4 feet and seniors, $15 after 3:30PM.
- La Palmera Mall, 5488 South Padre Island Drive #5002 (At SPID (TX-358) and Staples Street).
- Moore Plaza.
- Sunrise Mall.
Corpus Christi is a good place to get gulf seafood -- especially shrimp and oysters. In addition to the local places mentioned (and the hundreds of others not mentioned), there is a large variety of the usual nationally-known chains, usually to be found on S.P.I.D. or on Saratoga: Outback, Cracker Barrel, T.G.I. Friday's. Golden Corral, P.F. Chang's, Macaroni Grill, Johnny Carino's, Olive Garden, etc. plus all the usual fast-food and pizza delivery chains.
Corpus Christi is the birthplace of Whataburger, a fast-food chain, and Whatabugers can be usually found within five minutes, regardless of where you are in Corpus. They are also renowned for the unusually high (for a fast food chain) quality for their burgers.
Though there are some excellent seafood restaurants locally, don't forget other options, like buying your own seafood from one of the many small, local seafood markets which buy their seafood from local fishermen, oystermen, and crabbers, and prepare it yourself. Not all the restaurants buy their supplies locally. You can also buy shrimp directly off the back of the shrimp boats as they come in with the morning's catch around 11AM at the t-heads downtown on the bayfront.
- Aka Sushi (on Water Street downtown and on Everhart near SPID.). Good sushi. Good atmosphere.
- Blackbeard's (in North Beach near the U.S.S. Lexington). Well-known locally for its burgers. Local legends say the restaurant is haunted. Family atmosphere. Good food.
- B&J's Pizza. At two locations: the original on SPID and the new one on Staples. Great pizza and sandwiches with an enormous beer selection.
- Cafe Maya, 2319 Morgan Ave, ☎ . Excellent Mexican food in an unexpected (strip-mall) location. Try the stuffed avocado and the fried ice cream. Live music on weekends. $10-20.
- City Diner, Water St. Good, classic American food such as burgers, steaks, chicken-fried steak, seafood, etc. in a classic '50s-style diner atmosphere and building. $10-15 per person.
- Crawdaddy's. Cajun food on Starr Street across the street from K Space Contemporary Art Gallery. Crawfish, shrimp, red potatoes, sausage, boudain, beer, Karaoke frequently (though most singers here are not very skilled. Loud, obnoxious outdoor speaker blaring the bad Karaoke up and down the street lets you know when you are within one-two blocks. Don't let that put you off though. The food is still good, though a little steeply priced for the amount you get.
- Doc's. Seafood on Padre Island under the JFK Causeway. Good seafood and usually a singer. Expect to pay $20-$30 per person including a drink.
- Dos Comales, 227 N. Water (Downtown). Traditional Tex-Mex.
- Executive Surf Club, Water Street Market, 309 N Water St, ☎ . Burgers, sandwiches, appetizers, salads, 30 beers on tap. Live music. Downtown Corpus Christi. $20-30.
- Fajitaville, 221 South Hotel Pl. Three-story dining and entertainment complex on North Beach. Fajitas, spirits and bay views. Beach access from ground-level bar.
- Golden Kitchen, Staples. Good Chinese buffet and Mongolian barbecue (stir-fry). Some American food available. Reasonable prices around $11 per person including drink. No alcohol.
- Hu Dat. Excellent Vietnamese cuisine at reasonable prices at two locations: on Ayers and next to the D'Lounge near the corner of Staples and Saratoga.
- Island Italian. Good Italian food on Park Road 22 on (north) Padre Island. Reasonable prices, good amounts. Wine and beer available.
- La Playa (the Beach). Excellent Mexican seafood at three locations in town. All started from the original location near the intersection of South Padre Island Drive (S.P.I.D) and Rodd Field Road and have grown within the last five years. Expect to pay $15-$25 per person.
- Niko's. The steak was the size of the plate. A stand alone building located in a shopping center on Staples and Saratoga. A little pricey, but what a meal.
- Nuevo Cafe, 1124 Ayers St. Poblano soup is their signature item. Sandwiches, salads, desserts. Local art adorns the walls. Open for lunch only. In the Six Points neighborhood.
- Padre Pizzeria. Gourmet pizza on Park Road 22 on (north) Padre Island.
- Seawall Food & Spirits, 520 S Shoreline. Walk-up restaurant with outdoor dining on Magee Beach near downtown.
- Small Planet Delicatessen & Bakery, 3812 S. Alameda. Deli sandwiches and wide selection of desserts.
- Taqueria Jalisco. Good Mexican food in a clean, family atmosphere at reasonable prices ($10-$15 per person). This is a local chain so there are several locations throughout town.
- Thai Cottage, 5830 McArdle. Thai cuisine.
- Thai Spice (Downtown). Good Thai food.
- U&I Restaurant, 309 S. Water. Seafood and steaks.
- Urban Fare Cafe, 425 William (Downtown), ☎ . Gourmet pizza, soups, sandwiches, Indian cuisine, coffee and tea.
- Wallbangers (on Staples). Best burgers in town in a classic Oldies atmosphere. Expect to pay $10-20 per person depending on the size of burger.
- Water Street Oyster Bar, Water Street Market, 309 N Water St, ☎ . Gulf seafood fresh daily. Nice place to eat in the marina area of CC. Kind of loud. Excellent happy hour from 4-7 with 1/4 pound peel and eat shrimp for $3 and a dozen raw oysters for $3. One of the top places locally for seafood. $20-30.
- Yardarm Restaurant, 4310 Ocean Dr, ☎ . Tu-Th from 5:30PM. Great seafood and dining experience. Rich, French-style seafood, views of the bay, and an attentive staff. And you can wear shorts. $16-33.
Many of the following clubs have websites or are listed in the phone book.
- 21. A large club with terrific bands usually playing light or classic rock, Latin music, blues or jazz. Classy. Upscale.
- Cassidy's Irish Pub.
- Dewey's. Serves beer, has a pool table, the TVs are usually on ultimate fighting and a rugby field is being built out back next to their patio for the local rugby team.
- D'Lounge. Classy. Upscale. Wonderful place to relax. Olaf, one of the bartenders, won the local 2007 competition for the best martini in town.
- Doctor Rockit's Blues Bar (Downtown on Chaparral near Starr). Great blues and rock bands in a bluesy atmosphere. Good bar.
- Havana Club, Schatzell St (in the Bank of American building). One of the classier night clubs in time with a beautiful new interior.
- The Keg Room. A nice, neighborhood bar that has been around forever on the corner of Alameda and Airline
- Murdock's. A sports bar with a few dozen TV screens and several pool tables.
- The Back Room. Adjacent to B&J's pizza, the Back Room has over 300 types of beer in bottles and over a dozen on tap. You can get your pizza or sandwiches in B&J's and bring it into the back room to watch sports on the big screen TV. The establishment is kid-friendly and many families have birthday parties there.
- The Executive Surf Club (corner of William and Chaparral). A Corpus Christi classic with well-known south Texas bands playing on an enclosed patio. Excellent food such as burgers and shrimp poor-boys and a great selection of beers on tap in a relaxing atmosphere.
- The Lighthouse.
- The Martini Bar. Good selection of beer and alcohol, huge room, terrific Karaoke competition on Tuesdays sometimes drawing crowds of 100-200 or more.
- The Office. Classy. Upscale. Relaxing, cozy place on Padre Island for a quiet drink.
- The Office 2 (on Staples past Saratoga). Classy. Upscale.
- The Pelican Lounge, Park Road 22 (on Padre Island). Good food and bands. Texas hold'em tournaments every week. Good local bands. Pool tables and shuffle board available.
- Best Western Marina Grand Hotel, 300 North Shoreline Blvd., ☎ , fax: +1 361 883-7702. This 12-story tower on the marina is out-of-the-ordinary for the Best Western chain. Nice views up and down the coast from most rooms, easy access to CC downtown. Free breakfast in roof restaurant. $80-150, seasonal.
- Hawthorn Suites Corpus Christi, 1442 South Padre Island Dr., ☎ .
- Las Brisas Condominiums, 4000 Surfside Blvd, ☎ . Right on the beach, with a breath-taking view of the bay and the city. Tennis courts, a swimming pool. Close to downtown and the marina, next to the South Texas Aquarium and the Lexington Aircraft Carrier. One-, two-, and three-bedroom condos for a lease of at least three months.
- Omni Corpus Christi Hotel, 900 North Shoreline Blvd. (Downtown Marina District), toll-free: . The AAA Four-Diamond hotel offers sweeping views of the bay, award-winning dining at the Republic of Texas Bar and Grill and complimentary high speed wireless Internet access.
- Sea Shell Inn Motel, 202 Kleberg Pl (Exit Harbor Bridge, seen on the right.), ☎ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Motel located on Corpus Christi Beach
- The northern tip of Padre Island National Seashore is about 45 minutes away from downtown Corpus Christi. The photo below is of a sunset as seen from the park headquarters area in September, 2007.
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