Tag Archive: TX


Surf Texas!

Corpus Christ bayfront

The biggest of many surprises when I first came to Texas was Corpus Christi.  It is, after all, not often that the words “beach” and “Texas” are spoken in the same sentence outside the state.

No matter how many outside stereotypes it may up-end, though, Corpus Christi is quintessentially Texan.

Corpus Christi marina

Corpus was once on my regular travel circuit, but it had been years since my last visit when I arrived on this trip.

Corpus Christi seawaal

The first thing I notice is that the city has since not only acquired a skyline, but has razed blocks of old and unsightly buildings that once faced the bay.

Statue on Corpus Christi seawall

I could cut here to photos of magnificent sunrises over seashell-strewn beaches and there’s no lack of them within a 20 minute drive.

To reduce Corpus Christi to a stretch of sand and sea horizon, though, ignores some of the best part of the experience.

The city is wrapped around Corpus Christi Bay, sheltered from the Gulf by the northern end of Padre Island.

Corpus Christ bayfront parasailor

Here the Gulf has a distinctly Tex-Mex flavor, and the town exudes the same warmth and hospitality which seems to characterize all of South Texas (see my related post on San Antonio’s King William District).

 

 

 

A publicly accessible bayfront stretches more than 6 miles from the Convention Center to Swanter Park, passing through several other parks along the way.

 

 

It’s a magnet for walkers, joggers, and cyclists and a great way to begin any day.

 

 

World’s largest Whataburger, in the city where the chain was born

 

South Texas Music Hall of Fame, Corpus Christi

I turn away from the bay on Water Street and stumble upon an eclectic collection of sights that in combination could be located absolutely nowhere else.

 

The statue of Tejana music star Selena on the seawall is only one of many places where residents and fans pay homage.
Her star is among those on the South Texas Music Walk of Fame, which highlights other musical notables who were either born or lived in South Texas.

 

Selena memorial, Corpus Christi seawall

Selena memorial, Corpus Christi seawall

Some of the better known include Freddie Fender, Guy Clark, Selena, Christopher Cross, Kris Kristofferson, Rusty Weir, Doug Sahm, and Bill Haley.

More about it here.
 

 

 

 

 

Texas Surf Museum, Corpus Christi

Whether you’re a surfer or not, The Texas Surf Museum is great fun in a kitschsy sort of way. It’ll leave you humming ’60’s California surf tunes for the rest of the day!

More about it here.

 

 

 

Next door I find a great latte at Coffee Waves. I add it to my collection of “anywhere but Starbucks” coffeehouses!
Just over the Nueces River bridge sits the aircraft carrier USS Lexington, now a floating museum.

USS Lexington, Corpus Christi

Mess hall kitchen, USS Lexington, Corpus Christi

There’s enough hardware on this vessel – planes, engines, compressors, pumps, gauges, switches and dials – to keep any war buff or engineer mesmerized for weeks, but I found the living quarters far more engaging.

Crew’s quarters, USS Lexington, Corpus Christi

As I roamed this part of the ship I had a very palpable sense of the many who had lived aboard the Lex during its 48 years of service.
More about it here.

 

 

 

 

Just a stone’s throw from the Lex is the Texas State Aquarium. It may not be the world’s largest or most ostentatious, but it contains sea and shore life painstakingly selected only from species native to Texas.

Texas State Aquarium, Corpus Christi

Texas State Aquarium, Corpus Christi

 

Some great sculptures mark the entrance, and anyone with kids in tow will be glad to know that even here they’ll find the obligatory porpoise show.

More about it here.

I find myself on more than one evening – including my final night – having dinner just a couple of blocks from the seawall at the City Diner & Oyster Bar.  The atmosphere is classic 40’s diner, the service is friendly, the prices reasonable, and the food outstanding.  Like many popular local eateries, City Diner has no web site, but more information, including reviews, can be found here on Yelp.

I cross the river bridge for the last time.  Below me an oil tanker passes through the channel and oil rigs dot the sea horizon.  As I head northward I’m startled by a sight I never expected to see:  A wind farm stretches for miles, hundreds of vanes stirring in the breezes.  Texas is nothing if not a place of contradictions!

Wind farm just outside of Corpus Christi

Advertisements

San Antonio’s hidden gem

Each year millions of tourists visit San Antonio’s Seaworld or Fiesta Texas theme parks and its Riverwalk without ever realizing that its uniquely charming King William Historic District is less than a mile from the Alamo.

King William Historic District home, San Antonio, TX

King William is a neighborhood of elegant homes dating back to the late 1800’s, when prosperous immigrant merchants from what was to later become Germany made it their home.

Much of it has been renovated in the past two decades following a long period of decline.

The District can be reached from downtown by following the Riverwalk south, but I usually opt instead for a healthy dose of neighborhood atmosphere by walking through La Villita to the intersection of Alamo and St. Mary Streets.

That’s where Rosario’s Mexican Café & Cantina sits behind an historic storefront at the hub of a collection of restaurants, bars, and galleries.

 

Rosario’s Mexican Cafe & Cantina, San Antonio, TX

 

Rosario’s serves authentic Mexican (not to be confused with Tex-Mex) food in a fun atmosphere full of neon and great people-watching; San Antonio residents come here from all parts of the city.

This place has been a favorite of mine since it first opened in a location just down the street, and a meal here is a ritual part of my every visit to San Antonio.

 

On most Friday and Saturday nights, when there’s often live music, a waiting line spills onto the sidewalk.  Fortunately, the place is cavernous and the line moves quickly.

 

The Filling Station, San Antonio, TX

 

 

 

The historic flavor of this little business district also survives at the whimsical Filling Station a block to the north.

Tito’s Mexican Restaurant, San Antonio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Across the street and to the south is Tito’s Mexican Restaurant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

King William Historic District home, San Antonio, TX

King William Historic District home, San Antonio, TX

 

A turn into the streets behind it ushers sidewalk strollers into to quiet neighborhood of broad streets that frame two dozen blocks packed with delightful architectural images of an even earlier time.

 

 

 

King William Historic District home, San Antonio, TX

King William Historic District home, San Antonio, TX

 

 

At the heart of King William is the community of Germans who settled Texas in large numbers beginning in the 1840’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

King William Historic District home, San Antonio, TX

King William Historic District home, San Antonio, TX

Their traditions of brewing, sausage-making, and music fueled a fusion of American, Mexican, and German cultures unique to Central Texas.

King William Historic District home, San Antonio, TX

King William Historic District home, San Antonio, TX

Within a generation of the Germans’ arrival, the ablest among them owned San Antonio’s largest flour mill, meat packing house, and breweries.

King William Historic District home, San Antonio, TX

King William Historic District home, San Antonio, TX

 

Their newfound prosperity led them to create a residential compound convenient to downtown along a stretch of the San Antonio River.

 

King William Historic District home, San Antonio, TX

King William Historic District home, San Antonio, TX

While homes in parts of King William are modestly charming and their architecture distinctly Texan, they become  more elegantly extravagant with each passing block.

 

King William Historic District home, San Antonio, TX

King William Historic District home, San Antonio, TX

 

 

 

There is an eclectic mix of architectural styles, and bed-and-breakfasts scattered about the neighborhood present a great alternative to downtown’s mega-hotels and cheesy motels.

 

 

 

Pioneer Flour Mill & Guenther House Restaurant, San Antonio, TX

Pioneer Flour Mill & Guenther House Restaurant, San Antonio, TX

The tower of the old Pioneer Flour Mill stands watch at the southernmost end of King William.  The name of the Guenther family which owned it survives today both as the name of the District avenue that passes it, and as the name of the Guenther House restaurant which sits in the tower’s shadow.

The King William District is part of artsy, funky Southtown, and if you’ve still got spring left in your step after walking King William you may want to wander less than a mile further south on Alamo, where the Blue Star Brewing Company serves up artisan beers right next door to the Blue Star Contemporary Arts Center.

Even further south, if not walkable, is the San Antonio Missions Trail, and if you, too, were disappointed by the Alamo mission’s unassuming profile and footrpint this is where you’ll find Franciscan missions that can hold their own with the missions of Southern California.

If your visit is timed to include a First Friday of the month, street vendors selling art and jewelry join Southtown’s mix of galleries, art spaces, vintage stores, and live music fills the air.

Whether in daytime or nighttime, a trip to San Antonio without visiting King William is incomplete.