Corpus Christi, TX

While not technically on the coast, Corpus Christi offers one the best beach vibes in Texas, as visitors play in and beside the blue waters of Corpus Christi Bay.  There are tons of things to do in town, both ON and OFF, the beaten tourist path.

If you want museums, Corpus has them.  Start by learning about natural and man-made history of town at the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History, where you can view full-sized replicas of Columbus’s ships – the man Corpus claims as its forefather given the prominent Spanish influence all over town.  Fast forward a few hundred years in seafaring technology and visit the USS Lexington, a WWII aircraft carrier turned museum.  I highly recommend making a reservation for a “hard hat tour” and dive into the belly of the beast below deck.  While there, walk over a few blocks and pet a stingray at the Texas State Aquarium.  I also recommend the Texas Surf Museum downtown which has a number of vintage boards and information on Texas’s hidden surf culture.

All this learning is sure to work up an appetite, and any trip to downtown Corpus should include a stop at Whataburger by the Bay, the double-decker flagship restaurant of this Texas burger chain which started in Corpus Christi in a wooden shack.  The Executive Surf Club is a great place to grab a beer, fried shrimp, and sandwiches.  Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a surfer to get in.  But, if you are in the mood for pizza, look no further than Panjo’s Pizza, the thin-crust original serving up slices since the 1960’s.  Friday and Saturday nights, Panjo’s features “Bubba and the Boys” a good-time ragtime piano and brass group.  You’ll be singing along in no time.

If you are looking to spend some time under the Corpus sunshine, you can join the sunbathing masses at McGee Beach which is right next to downtown or Corpus Christi Beach (formerly North Beach) just over the bridge by the USS Lexington.  Those interested in a drive can head to North Padre Island on the Padre Island National Seashore or Mustang Island State Park.

And finally, for adventure junkies, one of the best kept secrets of Corpus is the constant wind blowing through the air, making it one of the best places in the world to kite surf.  If you want to try to capture the wind and have it carry you over the bay, set up a private lesson with Pro Kite Surf.  After 3 hours or so, you’ll have it down.