While many folks think cowboys, armadillos and barbeque when they envision the Lone Star State, anyone actually from Texas knows it’s as complex as seating arrangements at a divorced couple’s kid’s wedding.
Like most tourist destinations, Corpus Christi will come up on the map for its coastal beauty, Gulf shore restaurants, the lure of beachcombing at Padre Island. You might enjoy great burgers as well as seafood there, too, or just get your crazed shopper on at its Palmera Mall or outlets.
Directly east of Corpus Christi are Padre Island and Mustang Island, where you’ll find the splendid Padre Island National Seashore. The city is also near King Ranch in Kingsville, the inspiration for the book that became the James Dean-Rock Hudson-Elizabeth Taylor classic “Giant”. (Dean actually died toward the end of production, so this film is especially significant.)
But one of the chief draws for this beautiful city is the same that excites artists from Madrid to San Francisco. It’s the perfect locale to ply one’s craft, with its gorgeous landscapes, Spanish-style architecture, and year-round clement weather, coupled with affordable housing. For unlike New York or San Francisco, artists can actually rent or own properties in this city: rentals for a 1BR apartment, for example, run about $700 to $1100 depending on location and other particulars.
For your vacation to Corpus Christi, you can either fly into its airport or into San Antonio and then rent a car. If you’re budget-minded, there’s even a Greyhound bus that is perfectly enjoyable and super cheap that runs from downtown San Antonio into what the natives just call “Corpus.” (The name “Corpus Christi” means “body of Christ.”)
Your first visit in this charming seaside city should definitely be the Art Center. The venue itself is stunning, with an old mission Spanish-style building replete with oversized archways and statutes. The generous space is as welcoming as a Texas home, and you’ll be treated to a mad flash of images as you tiptoe inside. And tiptoe you should, because you do not want to rush this sensational experience.
Artists of every stripe showcase their paintings, clay works, jewelry and you name it. You can take an art class, sign up your kid for summer camp and have a delicious meal at the on-site restaurant.
Upcoming events include “Celebrating Women in Art Education” July 1-31 with an opening reception July 3 (5-7pm) According to the website, “This exhibit seeks to recognize the distinguished women in higher education across the southern part of Texas. We will be highlighting 11 universities and 21 women who are not only teaching but actively pursuing their personal art careers. These women are an inspiration on many fronts. Many of these women have gravitated to multimedia; melding and combining media as diverse as the sources of inspiration they find in their daily lives and their roles in society. The Art Center of Corpus Christi and associated art programs celebrate these exceptional women!”
The center will also feature an artist specializing in thrown pottery later this summer, who will show off his signature platter that is over 51″ in diameter!
Yes, this is as much New Orleans-Paris-Greenwich Village stuff as Texas, right?
Where to stay
- The Emerald Beach Hotel is right on the water, and while a tad pricy, the luxury is incomparable. It offers direct access to the Emerald Cove, features an on-site restaurant and a heated indoor pool as well as free Wi-Fi, has a fitness center with whirlpool, and touts a children’s playground and a game room with pool tables and ping-pong tables. The Sandpiper Restaurant serves meals daily, and a bar with lounge area attract locals with their unique, tropical-type drinks. It’s approximately four miles from both the USS Lexington Museum and the Gabe Lozano Sr. Golf Course, and is within walking distance of the Art Center.
- Best Western Marina Grand is even more luxurious, and is consistenly rated very highly by travellers. It’s just up the road from the Emerald on Shoreline Dr., overlooking the water. It sports a generous outdoor pool, restaurant overlooking Corpus Christi Bay, free breakfast, and easy proximity to the Texas State Aquarium. Make sure you rent a car and travel up and down this area; it’s stunning. Then walk along the beach and look for sand dollars. It’s easier to find whole shells here than in many other parts of the world.
- Fortuna Bay Bed & Breakfast offers something the high-end chain hotels cannot: personalized service and that get-to-know-a-family feel many people enjoy while travelling. Its owners’ site touts it as “an incredible hideaway on Texas North Padre Island, cradled between the Laguna Madre and the Gulf of Mexico.” Very simply styled and modestly priced, you’ll be enchanted.
To book your flight to Tejas, your best bet’s Southwest or American from LA.
Oh yes, brush up on your Spanish. Corpus Christi’s residents reflect the demographics of the state: a majority are Hispanic.
Eat lunch or dinner at least once at P.F. Chang’s. While delectable Chinese food may not be the first thing you think of when you envision a Texas meal, think again. The style of the decor is elegant and the food incomparable. Get the egg rolls and the sauce that’s pure heaven. Something about the ginger.