Approaching Corpus Christi from the north, a traveler has no choice but to view the numerous oil refineries that run along the southern portion of Nueces Bay. Since this was my first visit to Corpus, I had certain preconceived notions about it and oil refineries were in no way part of that vision. I had imagined blue waters, clear skies, and lush hotels–not a shore lined with smoke stacks burning off stinky emissions.
Luckily, the winds blow from the south. Once past the initial view and the initial shock, the Corpus Christi of my dreams lay just past all that industry. Due to our shoestring budget, my husband and I chose to stay at the Hampton Inn in the northern part of the city. It is, unfortunately, close to the southern-most refinery, but also happens to be a particularly nice hotel with excellent service, friendly staff, and very clean rooms. We highly recommend this hotel to anyone who does not mind driving a little further to the south beaches.
The Hampton Inn is also, luckily, upwind of the constant odiferous reminder of the area’s most prodigious business. In addition, nearly the entire coastal portion of the Corpus contains pristine beaches, first-class hotels and restaurants, and environmentally friendly attractions, which handily offset the less positive aspects of the city.
One of these attractions is the Texas State Aquarium. This aquarium is a smaller affair than say, SeaWorld, but its location near the USS Lexington as well as its proximity to our hotel made it a particularly enjoyable attraction. Small enough even for the elderly to enjoy, it can be viewed during the expanse of a leisurely afternoon. The dolphin show runs twice a day and can be seen from outside in the upper level or inside, down below water level from a blissfully air conditioned sitting area. We did both. I have read some disparaging reviews about the admission price to this “smallish” aquarium, but one must understand the enormous costs of properly running and adequately maintaining a living, breathing aquatic world such as this. The attractions are clean and the animals are beautiful, healthy, and obviously well taken care of–which, at the end of the day, should be the top priority.
If you’re interested in historic naval vessels, the USS Lexington Museum on the Bay is the way to go. Currently celebrating its 20th year in Corpus Christi, the Lex is a fun, affordable day. Manned by some of its heroes, it is an impressive presentation of a working aircraft carrier. Speaking of aircraft, its display of former naval aircraft is memorable. Check out the Lexington’s five self-guided tours–one for every fitness level.
Because we could stay for only a few days, we did not have time to check out South Padre Island–our goal for the next time out. And there will definitely be a next time. While one of our briefest vacations, it was one of the most fun, relaxing jaunts we’ve had a long time. I’m so glad we didn’t let the initial view deter us. It’s a little like getting to the heart of the artichoke–once you get past the bitter, outer leaves, there’s a sweet gem waiting on the inside.
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