If you want your toes in the water and booty in the sand this summer, there are plenty of beach destinations within driving distance of Collin County. Corpus Christi, Texas, is a 7-8 hour drive from our neck of the woods, and it’s basically a straight shot down I-35 with a left turn on Highway 37 just after San Antonio.
There is no shortage of family- and kid-friendly activities in Corpus Christi. Whether you’re looking for your typical beach trip or would like to mix in some culture, the eighth most-populated city in Texas will deliver.
Where To Stay in Corpus Christi
There are plenty of Airbnb and VRBO rental options in and around the city. But if you want a hotel stay, here are some hotel recommendations in Corpus Christi:
Downtown Corpus (closer to Nueces Bay):
Emerald Beach Hotel // The only downtown hotel located directly on the beach, this one boasts a recreation area, indoor pool, and beach cabana room options.
Omni Corpus Christi Hotel // With no shortage of Omni-level amenities, this hotel is the farthest away from the South Padre Island beaches, but still right in the middle of the action.
Holiday Inn Corpus Christi (Downtown Marina) // As its names suggests, this hotel is right across the street from the marina, as well as within walking distance of several family-friendly restaurants and activities.
Best Western Corpus Christi // Very similar to the Holiday Inn!
Midtown Corpus (in between Downtown and Padre Island):
Comfort Suites near TAMU Corpus Christi // This hotel is located close to the Naval Air Station and is just a quick few minutes drive over the JFK Causeway to the Islands and Gulf of Mexico.
Embassy Suites by Hilton // Located on South Padre Island Drive, this hotel is a nice middle ground between the downtown attractions and the Gulf of Mexico beaches.
Where To Eat in Corpus Christi
Downtown Corpus Christi Restaurants
Joe’s Crab Shack (the one on the T-Head by the marina) // This chain restaurant just hits better when on the water! There is so much yummy and fresh seafood, but they also offer a standard kids menu in case some mac ‘n cheese is necessary.
Harrison’s Landing // This restaurant is a must for the floating patio alone! It also boasts a gift shop, bar, and boating.
Landry’s Seafood House // Right next door to Harrison’s Landing, another tasty option that’s within walking distance of the downtown hotels.
Water Street Oyster Bar // Don’t worry, they have more than just oysters!
Executive Surf Club // This place may sound fancy, but it’s a casual spot with live music! Adjacent to Water Street Oyster Bar.
Whataburger by the Bay // It wouldn’t be a Corpus Christi roundup without mentioning Whataburger! This two-story Whataburger is not the original, but it’s conveniently located and fun to swing by for a meal that doesn’t involve seafood. (While the first burger stand doesn’t exist anymore, you can visit a replica at the original location for nostalgia – but it doesn’t serve food.)
Restaurants On or Near Padre Island
Snoopy’s Pier // This casual spot is located directly over the JFK Causeway and is, of course, right on the water. Grab a spot by the railing, and hopefully you’ll see some dolphins!
Scoopy’s Ice Cream Shoppe // Adjacent to Snoopy’s, you are obligated to come here for ice cream after Snoopy’s. It’s written in Corpus Christi law.
Other great family-friendly dining in Corpus Christi
What To Do in Corpus Christi
Downtown Corpus Christi Attractions
USS Lexington // This WWII aircraft carrier now houses a naval aviation museum. It’s an incredible experience, but since it’s a dark ship sitting out in the sun all day, it is blazing hot on deck. You can view it from the street if that’s a more enjoyable activity with little kiddos.
Texas State Aquarium // I suggest heading to the USS Lexington as early as possible (it opens at 9am, and these two attractions are right next door), then move to the Texas State Aquarium, which offers glorious air-conditioning. There are touch pools, an aquatic nursery, and a shark exhibit. It’s an absolute must-do if you are planning a trip to Corpus Christi!
Art Museum of South Texas // This may not be high up on the priority list, but it’s a lovely (and ahem, air-conditioned) spot with tons of cool stuff to look at. Plus, kids 12 and under get in free. Definitely drive by the Watergarden feature at the front of the museum on your way to the aquarium!
Cole Park // Head to this large park area on the bay for some energy-burning fun. There’s a big playground, along with an amphitheater, running trails, skate park, public restrooms, and outdoor spaces with grills.
McGee Beach // This beach area is in the heart of the city, on Corpus Christi Bay. Kids will enjoy the calmer waters of the bay. It is free and open 24/7 with public restrooms. It’s easy to do Cole Park and McGee Beach in the same day, although you will have to drive and park at both.
Selena Memorial Statue and Museum // The Queen of Tejano Music was born in Corpus Christi, and her shrine is located right on the bay (in between the Holiday Inn and Best Western, actually!). It’s a pretty moving area, and I suggest visiting the statue if you don’t have time for the museum. It doesn’t matter if you know her music or not!
What to Do on Padre Island (Gulf of Mexico beaches):
Padre Balli Park // This is what you came for! Padre Balli Park is a must-do, all-day affair on Padre Island, just over the JFK Causeway. There are no entrance fees, but you do have to pay for a parking permit if driving onto the beach. There are picnic tables, public restrooms and showers, and rentals. Pack your lunch and cooler, and enjoy!
Padre Island National Seashore // It’s the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world! You can camp, go for the day, stay on the mainland and drive out, the possibilities are endless. It’s an incredible national treasure; however, there are adequate beaches outside of the Park if you’d rather not pay fees or explore.
Other beach areas to explore
Mustang Island State Park // JP Luby Beach // Whitecap Beach // North Padre Sea Wall
Corpus Christi’s Sports & Recreation
Hurricane Alley Waterpark // Kids and adults alike will have a blast at this outdoor waterpark. There’s a wave pool, lazy river, kiddie area, plus tons of giant water slides.
Whataburger Field // Home to the Corpus Christi Hooks, you can watch a minor league baseball game for a little change of pace. If you’re not exhausted, you could do the waterpark during the day then catch some baseball at night.
Party Boat Bay Tour // Hop on a party boat for a fun tour of Corpus Christi Bay! It’s BYOB and located right by Harrison’s Landing for an easy lunch option.
Whew! Did you get all that? As you can see, there is so much to do in beautiful Corpus Christi, Texas! From museums and parks to beaches and baseball, get ready to have one memorable family vacation the next time you head south to this sparkling city by the sea.