CORPUS CHRISTI — This is it, people. The moment we’ve been waiting 15 months for. Travel restrictions have been officially lifted. It’s time to travel!

That being said, I thought it was the perfect time to take y’all to a place that would be great for summer, specifically for those wanting to take short trips and stay within the state. I’m talking about Corpus Christi, which is only a four-hour drive away and has so much to do. There’s the Texas State Aquarium, museums galore, seafood, shopping and best of all (especially for a Florida gal like me) – the beach!

OK, insert caveat: Memorial Day weekend was when I decided to take my family down south. All weekend, it was raining. A lot. So it wasn’t exactly the best beach weather. But I will take a wet, rainy beach over none any day!

But first, let me take you through the Texas State Aquarium. It was gorgeous, innovative, and educational, and the best part was watching my two-year old run from window to window pointing and yelling, “Fish! Fish, mommy!”

We began our aquarium adventure with the outside exhibits called Boardwalk Gardens, where we got to see exhibits featuring sea turtles, a dolphin show, playful otters and other types of sea life. There is also a walk to a pier that takes you right into the Gulf, with a gorgeous view of the city on one side, the USS Lexington on the other, and the everlasting horizons of the gulf.  

Back inside, after taking a short snack break at the Shoreline Grill, we wondered into one of the two main cultural exhibits, Gulf of Mexico. All of the exhibits and animals here are featured species that can be found in the Gulf of Mexico, and there were numerous “touch pools” where you could gently feel different types of fish, starfish, and even tiger sharks. My personal favorite was the room with the jellyfish. Watching them float around with ultraviolet lights causing them to look iridescent just gave me a serene, peaceful experience while I was in there. Of course, my daughter was amazed, but even more wonderful to me was seeing my 12-year-old’s eyes light up. He’s the one that usually pretends he has seen everything, and yet he looked around in wonder just as if he were two again. There was even an exhibit that allowed you to touch the jellyfish (very carefully).

Following the Gulf Exhibit is one called Caribbean Journey, which is a two-floor experience. From fish and snake terrariums, to a gorgeous outdoor “jungle” featuring up-close flamingos, exotic birds, bats and sharks, this was by far one of our favorite areas of the aquarium. There was another touch pool here for rays.

The last place we went through before the gift shop was the H-E-B Caribbean Sea Exhibit, which combines the oceans “most infamous predators” such as the sandbar shark, barracuda and porcupinefish, all swimming in and out of the remnants of a real-life Caribbean shipwreck.

After completing our tour in the gift shop (a wonderful shop feature unique clothing and accessories), we left the aquarium and wandered past the one part of the building we didn’t go to: the H-E-B Splash Park! The splash park is an interactive water playground that even has an area for digging for dinosaur fossils.

After the aquarium, we decided that since we are by the ocean, a dinner of seafood was a must. Joe’s Crab Shack was the venue we picked, and it was amazing! From a steam pot full of snow crab legs, lobster claws, and mussels, to strawberry lemonade served in take-home light-up glasses, the meal was very enjoyable. My daughter, Gwennie, even had a drink called a “Shark Nibble,” which is blue-tinted fruit juice that comes with a shark toy full of red grenadine that the waitress poured into the drink causing a “shark attack.” Gwennie found playing with the shark to be very amusing! We ended the meal sharing a “sundae sandwich,” which was build-your-own ice cream creation with a bunch of toppings to choose from.

The next day we decided to hit up the beach. After paying for a $12 annual beach pass that allows entrance onto most of the beaches along the Corpus Christi coast, we found ourselves at Mustang Island State park, which has a long stretch of beaches and nature trails. While we didn’t stay very long, due to the fact that it was off-and-on raining throughout the day (and weekend), we did enjoy the couple of hours we had of swimming and building sand castles. With better weather, the beach would have been very enjoyable, especially with so many different beach areas to choose from along the coast.

Overall, Corpus Christi was a very fun and entertaining experience for my entire family. There is so much more to do then just the aquarium and beaches, but the aquarium is a must-see for anyone who loves the oceans and sea life. Kids of all ages will be amazed and entertained, and I can honestly say it was the best aquarium I’ve ever been too. You can find out more information and purchase tickets at https://www.texasstateaquarium.org/.

For more Corpus Christi trip ideas, visit https://www.visitcorpuschristitx.org/index.aspx.