The further south we journeyed in Texas, the warmer I expected it to get on our winter camping adventure. But instead we discovered that even southern Texas can experience freezing temperatures from time to time. Thus our plans for “fun in the sun” on Texas beaches were muffled by winter coats, hoods, and mittens, and instead we found ourselves looking for inside entertainment–and heaters. But whether your weather is frigid or balmy, here’s a look at all the family fun you can discover in Corpus Christi and beyond:
In Corpus Christi:
Padre Island National Seashore
The main reason for our visit to Corpus Christi was so we could check out the national seashore, and we can now understand why so many people love the region. Once you are out on NPS property, there is nothing else there but Texas Gulf shore–no commercialization, no rental communities, no traffic. As an added perk, the national seashore allows on-beach primitive camping so you can fall asleep and awake to the sounds of the ocean. The NPS visitor’s center has a very small interpretative area, but it offers special programming like turtle hatchling releases and bird watching on the central flyway, as well as beach cleanup initiatives and the NPS Junior Ranger program.
The less remote Mustang Island is in many ways similar to Padre Island. The beach at Mustang Island seemed to have less trash pushed ashore compared to what we saw at Padre Island National Seashore. The kiddos loved walking Mustang Island beach looking for shells, even though we still had to wear winter coats and gloves because the temperatures were so cold! We found quite a few different shell types–and discovered we have quite a knack for picking up shells that are still occupied. Don’t worry: We left those behind where they belonged.
According to TripAdvisor, a visit to the USS Lexington is the No. 1 thing to do when visiting Corpus Christi. Visitors can tour this World War II era aircraft carrier–complete with 11 decks–and experience first-hand a slice of military history.
Texas State Aquarium
Not far from the USS Lexington is the Texas State Aquarium. This space features more than 320 species of animals as well as dive shows, animal feedings, training sessions, and hands-on programs. Later this month the aquarium will more than double when it opens its new Caribbean wing, which features a 400,000-gallon shark tank.
Beyond Corpus Christi:
Port Aransas ferry
This one’s for grins and giggles, as my father would say, but most kiddos will get a kick out of taking the free car ferry across to Aransas Pass. Parents will appreciate that it is free!
The Fulton Mansion, located in Rockport, Texas, offers a glimpse into what life would have been like for one of Texas’ affluent families living in the late 1800s. The home boasted some of the time period’s most cutting-edge innovations, including gas lighting and flush-toilets.
We explored the house using the QR code cell phone audio tour (which runs off of the home’s free WiFi service) and the kiddos completed a printed scavenger hunt that kept them engaged during the tour. The small visitor center has some great kid-friendly displays, as well as a very nice gift shop.
Sea Shell Shoppe
The Sea Shell Shoppe first opened in 1946 and is considered the oldest running gift shop in Rockport. It is a fun place to explore just about any type, color, and size of shell you can imagine. When you walk into the shop your eye doesn’t know where to go first, from the displays featuring giant shell specimens to the shell-filled baskets lining the walls and miscellaneous pieces of shell art. Shop owner Deborah also shares wonderful tips for finding shells in the area.
The Aquarium at Rockport Harbor
Although we didn’t make it to the Aquarium at Rockport Harbor before it closed for the day (boo!) our online friends over at Morrises on the Map said it’s a fun (and free!) family stop. It’s even pet-friendly too. Hours of operation are limited, so be sure to check the website before you go. Also check out the list of free summer programming available, including family movie nights and craft events.
So that’s a quick roundup of family-friendly things to do in the Corpus Christi area and beyond. Any stops you would add? Leave us a comment below.