Where exactly the city at the Gulf of Mexico got its name from is yet to be clarified definitely. According to legend, the Spanish discoverer Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda reached this point at the Nueces River delta on Corpus Christi day 1519. However, ist is more likely that the name was established more than 200 years later in 1760, when settlers from the Rio Grande Valley came here. In 1839, after the Texan declaration of independence, the city was founded as a trading post. In Civil War, the region decided by referendum to join the southern, Confederate side. This led to Corpus Christi being attacked from Union vessels in August 1862, resulting in wide-spread destruction of the city.
Thus, it is almost an ironic piece of history that today, the warship USS Lexington is one of the city’s most important attractions. The aircraft carrier, built in 1942, saw action in the Pacific Theatre of World War II and after that mainly served for training purposes at the US East Coast. It was decommissioned in 1991. The majestic ship, which offers enough space for 110 aircraft and 2600 soldiers, today is listed as a National Historic Landmark and serves as a museum. Visitors will get access to the command centers and several other places on the ship, which is also known by its nickname Blue Ghost. They will also learn that the USS Lexington played a central role in the 2001 blockbuster “Pearl Harbor”. The USS Lexington Museum can be found in Corpus Christi Bay across from Downtown and is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm.
But Corpus Christi’s significance for the military cannot only be found in museums. Since 1941, a naval air station is located on Truax Field just outside city limits. The base is mainly used for training purposes for new recruits; some 400 graduate from here each year. On the same grounds, there is also the world’s largest repair center for helicopters, the Corpus Christi Army Depot. More than 6000 people in the city are employed by the military. However, the largest employer in town is the port, which is among the 50 largest in the world by cargo tonnage, mostly agricultural and petroleum products are handled here.
The city population has by now become minority-majority; more than 54% of inhabitants are Hispanics. The 2010 Census found close to 99,000 households in Corpus Christi with 2.75 persons on average. The median age of the city population was 33 years.
Among further attractions next to the USS Lexington is the Texas State Aquarium (2710 N. Shoreline Boulevard, open daily 9 am to 6 pm), where apart from many fish species, frogs, dolphins, otters, alligators and many other animals can be seen as well. The largest of the tanks holds 1.5 million liters of water, in others, a coral reef and the habitat around an offshore oil rig have been reconstructed. However, the subtropical climate prevalent in the city, marked by warm temperatures and a steady wind year-round, invites visitors to stay outside. One place to go is the South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center (8545 South Staples, open daily from 8 am to 6 pm). Among others, the exhibition contains a rose garden, a butterfly house and a Garden of the senses. The Nature Center’s surroundings are popular with travelers coming to Texas for birdwatching. Among the city’s museums, the Corpus Christi Museum (1900 N. Chaparral Street) is worth mentioning, dealing with history, natural history and archeology. There are artefacts on the history of the city and the extended region and also parts of the world’s oldest salvaged shipwreck. The exhibition also explains how reptiles have adjusted to the area’s conditions. In contrast, the Art Museum of South Texas (1902 Shoreline Boulevard) deals with the arts with a focus on American artists and those from the greater area. Since 2005, Corpus Christi is also home to the unique Texas Surf Museum (309 N. Water Street), which has an exhibition centered around the history of windsurfing, showcasing historic surfboards, the reconstruction of a surfboard repair shop and others.
Many visitors use Corpus Christi as a base to explore the extended area. In the surroundings, there are a number of places worth visiting, for example the Hans and Pat Suter Wildlife Refuge on the western coast of Oso Bay. This protected habitat can be discovered via a network of hiking and biking trails. It is widely considered to be one of the best places to watch birds, especially water fowl. Also easily accessible from the city is the northern half of Padre Island, which is for the most part protected as a National Seashore. Next to other animals, various species of sea turtles make their home there.. Another popular day trip destination is Mustang Island located off the coast vis-a-vis to the city. The island is 40 kilometers long and is in large parts covered by Mustang Island State Park.